Fish spas were all the rage in Southeast Asia several years ago. I passed by various such spas in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on numerous occasions but I never could muster the courage to walk in and give it a go. The thought of having hundreds of fish nibblling on my feet was simply…err.. gross. The fish spa fad tapered off somewhat in the past year or two and I didn’t see those spas again.
So, there I was in Kuala Lumpur, strolling around the massive Pavilion mall with my pal, Nellie, when we came across a large sign advertising a fish spa in the mall. Nellie said that she’d tried it once before in Thailand and it was a very cool experience – seriously, that was all the encouragement I needed! We headed straight for the spa and there was no looking back.
We were greeted at the entrance by a very friendly lady who explained how it worked. You roll up your trousers, sanitise your feet, then sit at the edge of a large basin and hang your legs in the water. Within moments, fish would start nibbling at your feet, ridding them of those dreaded dead-skin cells. The lady went on to explain that it was not only a very natural way to get a quid pro quo foot scrub (you get clean, smooth skin while the fish get some grub), but that it was also a good way to improve blood circulation. She added that many people often walked away with a light-headed sensation after a 30-minute session. I bet! I asked her what species of fish were used. “Two types”, she replied, “the @#%^!*^@# [I had no idea what she said but later found out that it's called Garra Rufa or doctor fish] which sucks at your skin, and a Malaysian river fish [uh huh!] which has small teeth and they nibble”. Cool. “As long as they’re not piranhas!”, I remarked. She looked at me with slight disdain – my lame attempt at some humour obviously didn’t impress her.
I paid for a 30-minute session, washed my feet with a disinfectant of some sort, then slowly lowered my legs into the basin. Within minutes, schools of fish had gathered around. My legs and feet were probably the equivalent of a ten-course gourmet meal at a 3-star Michelin restaurant as they munched, nibbled, sucked, gnawed and nipped every square inch. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling except that it felt rather quirky… and ticklish! However, as the minutes passed and my mind got used to the idea, the tickling sensation subsided and it actually felt very relaxing.
The time sped by and before I knew it, the lady was standing by my side to announce that my 30-minutes were up. I lifted my legs out of the water, then washed and blow-dried my feet. The result: …and I’m not kidding…. the skin on my feet have never felt so smooth! I walked away feeling great (no, not light-headed); my feet felt terrific and I was happy to indulge the fish with a gourmet meal!
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