Read, Write, Run, Roam

Something’s fishy with feet in Bangkok


Image from USA Today

Yesterday’s beauty spa story reminded me of another “beauty” experience: getting a fish pedicure.

Fish pedicures weren’t that well known then. (Ugh, I’ve become a hipster when it comes to spa treatments.) There was one in Virginia at the time, but the health department shut it down pretty quickly.

You might be thinking, if it wasn’t sanitary in the U.S., what makes you think it was sanitary in Bangkok?

Stupidity, readers, stupidity.

I’m kidding…sort of. Nibbling fish as a spa treatment–icthyotherapy, for Scrabble lovers–has been around for a long time. These fish, which exist in nature, only nibble on dead skin and leave the rest of your feet (or hands, or legs) soft as a baby’s bottom.

Or so I had heard. I wasn’t interested in trying it, but I was visiting a friend in Bangkok, and we kept walking past a “fish pedicure” place on our way to the subway.  We saw mostly Thai people quietly sitting with their feet in the water, looking relaxed as fish swarmed around their feet. Finally, my friend said, “Let’s try it.” And I said, “ummmm, okay,” because RHOB does NOT show weakness. I’m like the Chuck Norris of pedicures.

We paid for ten minutes and put our feet in the water. “Hold still,” a British patron advised us. So I did. And then I immediately yanked my feet back out.

It was awful. Does anyone remember Gulliver’s Travels? I felt like Lilliputians were driving tiny arrows into my feet. “It’s like dipping your feet in champagne,” the Brit said. It was decidedly not like that.

The fish don’t just nibble on the bottom of your feet—they go on the sensitive, thin skin on the top of your feet and ankle bones. While it didn’t exactly hurt, I’d suddenly feel a bite from one aggressive fish that got a little TOO close to my very much alive and sensitive skin.

I’d like to tell you I handled this experience with dignity and grace. But I got a serious case of the giggles instead. So did my friend, which only made it worse.  “I hate this,” I whispered, and we started laughing out loud, drawing stern looks from the receptionist.

Still, I kept my feet in the water and willed myself to relax. Not just because I had paid a whopping $6 for the experience, but because that’s the point of travel—to experience new things, to be a little uncomfortable, and to have great memories. At the last minute, literally, I started to relax. It wasn’t so bad after all. And when it was over, my feet really did feel amazing.

It was a worthwhile experience—one that I’ll never try again.

No. Freakin’. Way.

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