Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some fish ate my feet today, and it was awesome!

Tom, Lauren and I went to Seoul with the sole purpose of getting our soles chomped on by fish. I'd read about 'Dr Fish' cafe's before I came to South Korea, and when I found out that there were a few in Seoul I got excited and made it happen.

Dr Fish cafes come from a Turkish tradition of using freshwater fish to bite or suck away the dead and unhealthy skin on your feet and stimulate the growth of new skin. The fish are sometimes use to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions, but since 2006 Dr Fish treatments have been available globally to anyone who wants them.

On the day of the event we got up early to make sure that the fish would be hungry and we made our way to the cafe. We went to the Namu Gunul in Gangnam. For anyone who wants directions - get off the subway at exit 6, walk about 250m until you see the BSX store. The cafe is on the second floor - go through the doors to the right.

The Dr Fish service costs 2000 won (about $3) but you have to buy a drink from the cafe as well. Once we'd finished our drinks, one of the staff members came to help us out. First, we had to roll up our jeans and wash our feet. Pro tip - don't wear skinny jeans! Half of my pants were saturated for the rest of the day. Then, we got to dip our feet in the pools.

At Namu Gunul there's two pools - they're about a foot deep, a foot wide, and 6 feet long. The one I spent the most time in contained Garra rufa, the 'traditional' Dr Fish. They're about an inch long and they treat your feet by sucking on them. The treatment is not for the ticklish although I coped okay, when they're on your feet it feels a little like being shot with jets of warm water - my feet felt like they were buzzing.

In the next tank along there are Chin-Chin's, a Chinese breed which are much larger than the Garra rufa and a lot more brutal. Garra rufa are toothless whereas the Chin-Chins aren't so you can feel each chomp - it's like being tickled be someone with long fingernails. Tom has no patience for my analogies and says it feels like your foot is being eaten by a fish.

It should be noted that although Lauren had her feet in the Chin-Chin tank first, when Tom put his in, all of the fish swarmed to him. Gross.

Before we went we had a few people tell us that Dr Fish places are unhygienic and a breeding ground for bacteria. We made sure our feet weren't cut or grazed and we checked out the cleanliness of the water first. If I get feet AIDS I'll be sure to let the blogging world know.

Here's a teeny-tiny video, the best kind:

After about 20 minutes, the attendant told us our time was up so we washed our feet again, dried them off and wandered out. My feet feel amazing now - soft and smooth - and I can't wait to give it another go.