Oooh, that tickles!

Kenko Reflexology and Fish Spa (product reviewed by Gary Jones on 2008-06-30)

Feeding the fish

Katie and I recently went up to KL for one last time before we head home in August. We had a few bits of shopping to get for relatives, and we went around the usual huge malls, including Mid Valley Mall. One of the latest fads that seems to be hitting Malaysia is that of fish spas, and the one we found was Kenko Reflexology and Fish Spa.

In short, you put your feet (there are also full body treatments available at certain places) into a pool of fish, and they eat all your dead skin, leaving your feet all smooth and your pores unclogged. The fish are called Garra Rufa or “doctor fish” and come from hot springs near Kangal, Turkey. They are used to treat those suffering from skin conditions like psoriasis. The popularity of the fish spa caught the attention of the Japanese and Koreans who introduced this therapy to their Fish Spa Resorts. The fish, with their tiny teeth, help exfoliate dead skin cells, lighten minor scars and is said to relieve those with psoriasis and minor eczema. The fish are also fed normal fish food at night, and the water is heavily filtered and treated with ultraviolet light to kill viruses and bacteria. The craze spread to Singapore where Kenko has 13 outlets, and at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, the fish spa was brought for the first time into a shopping mall.

As we’d seen and heard about it due to a place in Melaka opening, we’d thought we’d give it a go. The price was RM38 (£5.84) for 30 minutes, and the time doesn’t start until you’ve removed your shoes and socks, washed your legs from the knees down, and touched your card “in”. We were directed to a round pool (with the smallest fish) that has 5 spaces, separated by metal bars that held a table up in the middle above the pool. Two men were already sitting there, and they welcomed us, and asked if this was our first time as we tentatively put our feet into the pool.

Almost immediately, and unlike other fish, they swim straight for your feet and start having a nibble. Now I’ve not got ticklish feet (it’s a mind over matter thing), but even I was struggling for composure as they attacked all sides of my feet; Katie was in fits of giggles, just like many other customers it seems when others came in later. After a while, the feeling became more like pins and needles and I found it easy to ignore and though Katie was trying to read a book, I don’t think she got very far with it!

After 10-15 minutes in the “starter” pool, I decided to try the next pool, which contained medium (relatively) sized fish. With bigger teeth, these fellas caused a more intense feeling, that tickled less, but felt more like an electric shock (not painful). Katie tried it for a few seconds but decided she couldn’t stand it and went back to the other pool.

Finally, a space became available at the pool with the biggest fish, so I took my chance and moved over. There’s a sign saying that pregnant women, anyone with un-recovered bruises or people with a variety of conditions shouldn’t use this pool! The fish in this pool were easily 4 inches long, and when they bit you, you know about it. I have to say that on occasions, the feeling from this pool was one of pain; not enough to make me stop and take my feet out, but enough to think “Ow!”. If you can let your mind wander off to something else, then it’s definitely bearable.

After 30 minutes, our card numbers flashed on the screen and we got out and washed our feet. My feet did perhaps seem smoother, but that might have been due to having had them in water for the last half-hour. Certainly there was still dead skin on the bottom, so I can only conclude that this treatment would need multiple visits, rather than expecting it to be a one-hit result. I wouldn’t say no to having another go, as it is a unique experience, but only due to the novelty factor, rather than expecting any serious health benefits.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****

By Gary Jones

Husband, dad of twins, software engineering lead, and a middle-of-the-pack runner.