a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Oct, 2019

Fish feet

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

Lynn‘s comment on my previous post made me wonder if I was making our trip out to seem perfectly horrible. Yes, we got stuck on a hot train in Paris while we were practially fainting with fatigue and jet lag. Yes, I had to use a squat toilet when I really didn’t expect it. Yes, we broiled under the Thai sun and clutched our stomachs as we decided what ramen we were going to buy at the 7-11. Yes, we were afraid to cross the street for the first two days. I’m serious when I say that these things may have been uncomfortable, sure, but this wasn’t a horrible trip. We were challenged in ways that were new to us, and that isn’t a bad thing. I was learning things about myself, and this is something that’s important to me.

This might seem like a no brainer but the kid and I swiftly figured out that we had to slow down. We do things quickly here at Casa Fishbowl. We are fast walkers. We get out and get things done. Well, guess what? When you’re in a hot climate all that rushing might kill you. So when we walked, we forced ourselves to slow down. It was hot there, really hot, and we would exhaust ourselves if we kept our usual pace.

Hot climates demand a slower pace. Different breathing. A leisurely attitude. And as I learned, the occasional mango popsicle, which helped a lot.

There are massage parlours on every other corner in Patong, especially as you near the busy more touristy area near the beach. Many of them look the same. They’re set up like a shop, the front of which is a wide glass window. Sometimes, the staff (mostly female) stand outside the store to entice customers. Sometimes they are all dressed alike in a loose uniform, like jean shorts, or neon pink t-shirts.

They call out to passersby in their distinctive Thai accent: “Massaaaage? Massage?” Sometimes they wave laminated menus, or hand them to you as you walk by, which is an arm’s length when you’re walking down the narrower sidewalks near Patong Beach.

There are signs outside the shops that list of what kind of massages are available. Given the reputation that Thailand has in this area, some of them are more direct (“NO SEX”). Inside, the sides of the shop are generally lined with massage tables and Lay-Z-Boy style chairs for foot massages.

The youngest was interested in getting a massage but it never actually happened. We did, however, opt for another service they offer there: a fish spa, a.k.a fish pedicure. We had passed it on the way to Patong Beach and thought it’d be a fun and memorable experience during our adventure in Thailand.

What is a fish spa? Well, it’s simple. You sit on a bench that overlooks a very large aquarium that’s populated with an army of small fish (I learned afterwards they are toothless garra rufa fish) that nibble the dead skin on any part of your body that is submerged in water.

How fun!

How novel!

What a great memory this will be!

And it’s cheap, too!

We paid our money (10 minutes cost us each 100 Thai baht, which was about four bucks each), took off our sandals, sat down, and plonked our feet in the water.

First dunk in the fish spa, Thailand

IT TICKLES, fish spa, Thailand

The swarming was immediate and complete. Words fail to fully describe the feeling of fish nibbling on my lower quarter. It didn’t hurt, in fact, at first it was terribly ticklish, especially when the little buggers got between my toes. It felt like someone lighting tapping a hair brush over my legs and feet, or someone pulling scotch tape off my skin.

I encourage you to pause and try to imagine what it feels like to have hundreds of tiny sucking fish mouths EATING DEAD PARTS OF YOUR BODY.

dunked in the fish spa

Fish spa fish tank

I tweeted about it and someone made a comment. I can’t remember what she said but it left a bad feeling. THAT was when I decided to Google fish spas in Thailand. (I recommend you do yourself a favour and not look at photos from articles about fish spas, including one about a woman who had to have her toes amputated after having a fish pedicure.)

I suddenly wondered why, of all the dozens and dozens of massage parlours we’ve seen during our forays into the city of Patong, why this was the only fish spa we’d seen. And if fish pedicures were so awesome, why haden’t I seen them at home?

I was pretty upset with myself afterward. Normally, I research these kinds of things beforehand, but this time I didn’t. And here’s the worst part: The youngest also had a blister on her toe from her new sandals. I seriously questioned my parenting, or lack thereof. After all, I let my daughter dunk a FLESH WOUND into a fish tank full of tiny piranhas and maybe even fish poop and bacteria and clearly I had to start considering the possibility of amputation in a hospital where little English was spoken. Would our insurance even cover medical care related to something so idiotic and self-inflicted?

Ugh. Anyway. After that we walked the rest of the way to the beach. I prayed to god that the exfoliating properties of sand and a good swish around in the salt water would be enough to disinfect her feet.

(Here’s where I should point out that I shouldn’t have worried so much because we were both FINE. For the record, we still have all of our toes. Sigh.)

It rained while we were at the beach (more water on our feet, yay!). We sought shelter under a large beach umbrella and stayed to enjoy the view. It was pretty.

Patong Beach in the rain

We got soaked but forged ahead to the local shopping mall, where we dried off (a bit). (How they deal with the deluge that comes with monsoon rain over there has to be a whole separate post.) We picked up a few things at the grocery store and went home. On the way, the youngest saved a frog from imminent death. It was on the sidewalk, about to hop into the road. It was a reminder that even though we were surrounded by traffic we weren’t actually far from wilderness.

That night I crashed at 8 p.m., which was a good thing because we had an early start the next day. We had something very exciting planned! I didn’t know it at the time but it would turn out to be one of the highlights of our trip, one that made the heat, the exhaustion, and the fish feet all worthwhile.

2 Responses to "Fish feet"

1 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Visiting the elephants at Green Elephant Sanctuary (warning: lots of photos!) - a peek inside the fishbowl

October 27th, 2019 at 1:43 pm


[…] my previous post I wrote about a questionable spa treatment we received while we were in Thailand. Thankfully, nothing bad happened as a result. (Yay us!) I […]

2 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive A bite of Thai food - a peek inside the fishbowl

November 15th, 2019 at 12:39 pm


[…] post, I will write a bit about dealing with our first health-related issue (and no, it wasn’t a foot or toe infection!). More on that, […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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