Ahhh, taking time out to pamper yourself while you’re on holidays is one of the good things in life. But Intrepid’s Jane Crouch wasn’t quite so sure, when she heard that this relaxation therapy would include fish…
“Madam, you like fish massage?” “When I heard these words for the first time in a busy tourist precinct of Bangkok, visions of some Monty Pythonesque wet fish dance came to mind. What happens? Will they pummel and beat me with wet fish? Will they apply chopped up oily fish over my body in some kind of moisturising mud pack-like way? Or might they some how use scaly fish to exfoliate me as they run them over my body?
By the third offer of a fish massage, I thought ‘what the heck – nothing ventured, nothing gained’. After all, my new year’s resolution was to do as many ‘new things’ as possible, and this sounded like it would qualify! So I followed one of the spruikers back to his premises and found what looked like a big aquarium filled with all the same kind of fish. They were little brown fish, all about 6-8cm long.
The ‘massage’ component took place if I sat on the edge of the tank and put my feet in. These little fish would come and nibble the dead skin off my calves and feet, and supposedly leave them all silky smooth and feeling relaxed. A young lady at an adjacent tank seemed to be enjoying herself, so I agreed to a 15 minute ‘massage’ for 150 baht (US$5). Very tentatively, I lowered my legs into the water and the fish began to swarm around them. After little frights and shudders and pulling them back up a couple of times, I relaxed and put my legs back in and let the fish go for their lives, hopefully eating up all my flaky dead skin. I laughed and laughed, much to the amusement of the local staff, as it was a very ticklish and weird sensation.
Some of the venues call themselves Doctor Fish, saying they will help cure skin diseases. (A somewhat dubious claim I think, and apparently they have been banned in the USA.) But from my experience I’d say that 15 minutes of giggling, grinning and smiling is a wonderful relaxation therapy. I am convinced my calves came out smoother, but perhaps I need baby piranha to make a difference to the callous on my feet!”
Note: If a fish massage sounds like something you’d like to try, good news is they are not hard to find these days and your Intrepid group leader can help. Venues have proliferated across SE Asia and are readily available during Intrepid trips to Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia.
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* photo by Angelica Tan – Intrepid Photography Competition