Brainstrummings from a Bug-Eyed Bookworm

Tiff is a PhD student in English literature at UC-Berkeley. She takes no prisoners, bars no holds, holds no bars.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Sucker (fish) For Pedicures

One Sunday afternoon, while on a visit with my family in Singapore, I discovered the joys of being eaten alive by tiny fish. Sitting on the edge of a pool, dangling our feet in the water, my friend May, her boyfriend Tong, and I all watched in fascination as tiny sucker-fish nibbled (or gummed, or whatever toothless fish do) away at the skin on our feet. All for the sake of beauty. Well, and novelty. For May and me, it was a combination of both. For Tong, it was definitely the novelty.

I've only very recently in my life realised the pleasure of having pretty feet. Or rather, prettier feet. My toes are so long that they're practically prehensile. Actually, I don't mind this--the only problem is that the long toes make it difficult for me to find comfortable closed-toe shoes. When I walk, the toes tend to jam against the front of the shoe, which has produced a thick callus on the tips of some of the longer ones. On the up-side, my callused toes are perfect if I ever want to play the guitar with my feet.

In any case, I discovered a few years back, when I went for my very first pedicure, that part of the treatment involves soaking your feet in warm water, exfoliating them vigorously, and clipping all the dead skin off with a pair of metal cuticle-removers! One time, I went for a pedicure after a weekend of hiking, and the poor woman must have removed at least a pound of dead skin from my feet, accumulating it all in a little pile to show me after she had finished, much to the mutual disgust of us both.

So when our friend Sheryl, told May and me about her "fish spa" experience at the Qian Hu Fish Farm, we were intrigued. There had been mention of the pedicuring fish in an episode of the TV series, Ugly Betty, where a female character, attempting to exploit her boss's foot fetish in order to seduce him, gets her feet groomed by little fish. The possible pain factor is played up a lot more, but Wilhemina insists, "If housewives in Singapore can handle it, then so can I."

"So does she succeed in seducing him?" Sheryl asked.

"She does," May answered.

Although she didn't feel that her feet were more seductive per se, Sheryl gave the fishies a glowing review. (She had taken her aunt as well.) She said her feet felt very clean and as smooth as baby skin. Plus, they had gotten rid of a little persistent wart on one of her toes.

"Expensive?" we asked.

Not that bad. Ten dollars for half-an-hour, and a free shuttle bus from the MRT subway station to the fish farm.

So it was set. That Sunday, May and I (and later, Tong) decided to check out these ravenous fish and what they could do about our feet.

The Moment We've All Been Waiting For.

The three of us arrived at Qian Hu Fish Farm, and upon the payment of ten dollars, each of us received a towel, a pair of sandals, and a little cubby-hole in which to store our shoes.

We then proceeded to the "fish-spa" area, which was a sheltered outdoor pond, with a big "mist-producing" thingie in the middle for effect (not seen in picture). Big signs implored customers not to stick their hands into the pool.
Tentatively, we dipped our feet into the pool and waited for a nibble. And the nibbles abundance. Once we kept our feet motionless enough not to alarm them, the fish swarmed and began sucking away at the edges of our feet and ankles and shins. The sensation was ticklish at first, but gradually, one got used to it. It felt as if a million teeny-tiny vacuum cleaners were nosing at my feet. And it was sort of soothing and mesmerising to watch.

(Note: the toenails were painted before I dipped my feet into the pool. Now, I'd pay a whole five dollah extra for fish who could paint toe-nails as well.)

This is May looking very happy (and her boyfriend Tong next to her, spellbound by the fish.)

After our half-an-hour was up, we dried out feet with our towels, and walked back to the counter to retrieve our shoes. Were we satisfied? May and I agreed our feet definitely felt cleaner and smoother. But after examining my toes, I decided that although the fish had helped with the dry, callused skin on my toes, that the difference wasn't significant. I probably needed about six hours with the fish...make that six hours with extremely starved fish.

Overall? It was a fun experience. Unique. And we got to try something which women in America would consider exotic and frou-frou for a much more affordable price.

A Footnote.
For what it's worth, here are 'before' and 'after' pictures of my feet. Like all 'before' and 'after' pictures promoting weight-loss/hair-restoring/breast-enhancing/skin-improving treatments, they were taken in very different lighting and from very different angles.

Note the dead skin and calluses on the tips of all the toes except the big one.



At 7:22 AM, Blogger Adams said...

wow that's weird. My brother Sam was just extoling the wonder of fish nibbling at his feet! He just left S'pore for Australia.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Amazing Hypatia said...

Hmmm...Wow...I don't think I have ever heard of this before...Interesting concept, and definitely a novelty for me. I wonder if I will ever be able to sustain a single pedicure on my teacher's salary...

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great idea! I do pedicures for a hobby and this is really something that I had not heard about. You have very pretty feet and the little fish did a great job removing dead skin!


At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great idea! I do pedicures for a hobby and this is really something that I had not heard about. You have very pretty feet and the little fish did a great job removing dead skin!



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