Samui Wining & Dining
TREAT YOUR TOES!

But not only your toes – Dr Fish offers full body fish spa treatments as well as pedicures.


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Asia loves alternative medicine and beauty therapies – in fact the more bizarre the better. Following this mind-set, Thailand has jumped on the bandwagon of Garra Rufa fish spas, which have been used in the Middle East for centuries. These little freshwater fish originate from the river basins of Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. They also go by the name of nibble fish and Kangal fish. They’ve earned the nickname Dr Fish because of the health benefits they provide to people with skin conditions such as psoriasis, as they nibble away at the problem skin.

        Now on Samui, you’re likely to see several fish spas located along the roadside. But, many of these don’t use the Garra Rufa fish, preferring to use other (cheaper) nibbler fish with micro teeth, and these fish spas often have inadequate hygiene controls. And that’s where Dr Fish comes in, as they practice the principles of a good and reputable fish spa. Dr Fish has UV lights to sterilise the water, and a filtration system that changes the water at least every 30 minutes. They also insist that customers wash their feet well in clean water, as chemicals from sun creams and other body products can harm the fish – their safety should also be a concern. For a full body

treatment,customers take a soap-free shower prior to the treatment. The staff are also diligent in checking the patient for any open wounds or infectious conditions as an added precaution, not only for the safety of the fish, but also other customers.

        So how does it work? Basically the fish nibble the skin, which stimulates, rejuvenates and generally improves the health of the skin by natural exfoliation. The fish have no teeth and secrete a therapeutic enzyme called dithranol, which is often a component of dermatological creams, one of the benefits being the reduction of the development of skin cells to ease the symptoms of conditions such as eczema. Only the Garra Rufa produces this enzyme, which is why you won’t get the same results from spas using other nibbler fish, as it’s this enzyme that does the exfoliation work. Pores are also cleared and cleaned in the process, and blood circulation is improved.

         After their shower, the ‘patient’ either immerses their feet or whole body into the tank of hungry fish. Anyone with mosquito bites or cuts will be provided with protective plasters, and for obvious reasons, swimsuits are worn in the tanks for full body treatments. In Dr Fish’s bright and airy treatment room, 5,000 fish are kept in 17,000 litres of constantly-filtered water, making it one of the biggest fish spas in the world. As soon as you ease your feet into the water, hundreds of little ‘doctors’ rush up to meet your toes. If it’s the full body experience you’ve signed up for, you’ll slowly sink into the tank and more fish will swim up to find their own patch of tasty dead skin. Those with ticklish feet or underarms, be warned – it can be excruciating and impossible to keep still. But, if you just take a deep breath and relax, you’ll soon enjoy the experience, much like hundreds of tiny Jacuzzi jets, and some even find it addictive!

          As with most alternative medical practices, there’s bound to be some controversy surrounding these little fish. The media has reported that diseases can be carried from one patient to another via the water. It would therefore be sensible, as with any treatment, to choose your venue and practitioner wisely, as such incidents won’t occur with proper hygiene, as practiced at Dr Fish.

          As with most alternative medical practices, there’s bound to be some controversy surrounding these little fish. The media has reported that diseases can be carried from one patient to another via the water. It would therefore be sensible, as with any treatment, to choose your venue and practitioner wisely, as such incidents won’t occur with proper hygiene, as practiced at Dr Fish.

          Should you try a fish spa? We’ve tried it several times with friends as part of our ‘initiation to Thailand’ fun day, and all have enjoyed it with no ill effects other than a sore stomach from laughing too much. In fact, a trip to Dr Fish should most certainly be on your ‘to do’ list when visiting Samui – as much so as visiting the beaches or taking a Thai cooking class – Dr Fish has become a Samui institution.

          To find Dr Fish, head down Chaweng Beach Road, and you’ll find the spa below Bikram Yoga, opposite Al’s Resort on Soi Tops Market. It’s open daily from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, and 30- or 60-minute sessions are available.

          

 Rosanne Turner


 


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