Whilst in Cambodia recently, my girlfriend and I decided to try one of those ‘fish massage your feet’ things. The theory is simple: certain fish love eating your dead skin, a statement which absolutely gives me the creeps and it should you too. By sitting with your feet submerged in a fish tank populated with a certain breed of fish, the little fellers will swim up to you and gently nibble away the dead skin. You get a foot massage and a pedicure. The fish get dinner. The owner of the fish tank gets a few dollars. Everyone’s a winner, right?
I’ve been aware of these things for a while. A few years ago, someone set up a similar enterprise right near my old office on Dale Street in Liverpool. It didn’t last too long – I think the place is now some trendy barbers, or at least it was last time I walked past. And in fact, I wonder if the practice has now been outlawed in the UK altogether, on the grounds that the fish aren’t capable of knowing when they’re full and thus stopping eating, and that they end up eating so much dead flesh that they actually quite literally eat themselves to death. I’m not entirely sure.
Either way, we decided to at least give it a go, presented as we were with the opportunity to do so, and thus we climbed up atop a tank within which were circulating several dozen (seemingly) hungry fish. We lowered our feet in. The fish swam up, intent on sampling their latest meal, and began to nibble away.
And yet within seconds, said meals (feet) were swiftly withdrawn. What can I say – the sensation of these tiny little fish all chewing at your feet was just too weird to stand, and both Trang and I were forced to pull our feet away within the first few seconds.
We did try again once or twice. On one occasion I think I managed to keep my feet submerged for perhaps three or four seconds, before again having to abort mission. It wasn’t painful, and nor was it unpleasant. It was slightly ticklish, but not displeasingly so. What can I say – it was just very, very, very weird.
So there you have it. I’ve jumped out of aeroplanes before, with little else than a parachute standing between me and a splattering death on the ground below. I’ve scuba dived off the coast of Mozambique, surrounded by whales and dolphins. I’ve drank with crazy Russians on the trans-Siberian railway, and spent days on end hurtling around winding, slippery mountain roads on motorbikes mostly made of plastic.
And yet, I’m apparently not brave enough to allow a dozen small fish to gently chew at my toes for more than a few seconds.