Monday, January 24, 2011

Ichthyotherapy, or the one where fish eat my feet

Since I'd never been to Thailand before, I decided to spend a few extra days in Bangkok after the conference finished up.

I've been pretty lazy the last few days, spending a good amount of them sitting by the pool reading in between stuffing my face with all the foods I can't find in Beijing, but by evening, I'm ready for an adventure.

When I spotted a fish tank in the front of a nearby spa, I knew what had to be done. Some of my Korean friends have raved about these fish that eat off all your dead skin (I should add a gross disclaimer right about now). The thought of fish nibbling away at my feet freaks me out, but I've always been (disturbingly) fascinated by the prospect of such an elegant exfoliating solution.

So my friend Nate and I decided to take the "plunge" last night. For a paltry $4, we were able to stick our feet in this tank for 15 minutes. They have a 30 minute option, but I didn't think I could handle it.

I'll be straight up. That was possibly the longest 15 minutes of my life. There's nothing particularly painful about it all, but it's just kind of creepy and uncomfortable. The worst is when the fish go for between the toes, or nibble at the cuticle.

But don't get me wrong, I don't regret it. Especially now that my feet are silky smooth. Kind of. Actually I probably need hours more treatment for the little guys to eat away at all the calluses I've built up over the years.

Let me make this educational for you, since that's how I was raised.

I did a little bit of wiki-research to look up the name of the fish. Apparently they're called Doctor Fish. The scientific name is Garra Rufa, and in "non-medical contexts" (sounds ominous) the fish is called the reddish log sucker (even more ominous).

Apparently the 'treatment,' sometimes known as ichthyotherapy, is banned in several U.S. states because cosmetology regulations require "tools" to be discarded after use, but it's too expensive to throw away the fish after one use.

I try not to think about the sanitation of it all, though. Kind of creepy to think that some fish was just eating someone else's skin and now gets to eat yours...

Tune in next week when I kick things up a notch and try leeching and medieval bloodletting. Or maybe I'll go all the way and go for a shark massage.

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