Sunday, February 3, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea # 56: Replay - Doctor Fish

This is a repost from May 4, 2008.  Alas, the "Doctor Fish" cafe has long since closed down, but it was good while it lasted.

Friday night Sarah and I had our weekly date night.   Amazingly, we had a real babysitter this time - two in a row!  We decided to take advantage of this freedom and try something new.
A few weeks ago, we noticed an odd looking sign advertising a business on the third floor of the Yaoori/downtown area of Cheonan: "Books, organic tea, coffee, spa, doctor fish."  I asked some friends about it, and Ron Knickerbocker was able to give us the scoop.  It's a really cool coffee shop.  You basically pay a cover charge, and then you can have all the house coffee you want.  They have a small library of books and magazines to choose from (even one English book about touring in SE Asia).  They even have a few puzzles available.  It's a large room, so it's easy to find a quiet nook.  It would be a great place to read or for a small party.
But the really unique thing about this place is the "doctor fish."  They have two long tanks of small fish.  For the very reasonable fee of 2,000 won (about $2US), you can put your feet into the tank for about 20 minutes.  These little fish literally eat the dead skin off your body (in this case, our feet).
Doctor fish are most famous for Turkish spas which use them as a medicinal treatment, particularly for psoriasis.  However, apparently, the ones in Cheonan are Chinese knockoffs, not the real Turkish fish.  (Amazing, huh!)
So Sarah and I finished our coffee and gave it a try.  It was amazingly weird.  We put our feet in the water and about 100 fish attacked each of us.  They nibbled away with a furious passion to get at every last dead skin cell.  It felt kind of like being attacked by tiny piranha, but it didn't hurt.  It kind of tickled.
The weirdest part was seeing them swarm.  When Sarah took her feet out (which she did often at first), all 200-300 fish would swarm my feet.  Sometimes I couldn't even see my feet.  That was really freaky!  I took my feet out at first, and I laughed so much that the store worker asked me to be quiet several times.
Finally, I was able to talk Sarah into putting her feet into the water to take some of the pressure of me (more available food for the fish).  And about the same time, I started to get used to having hundreds of little fish eat on me, so I just relaxed and left my feet in the water.  By that time, they seemed to have cleaned me off pretty well, so they preferred Sarah's fresh feet with - um - fresh dead skin.
All in all it was a great experience - lots of fun and definitely one of a kind for us.  This was a great break from the date night rut: dinner and a take home movie.  Thanks Ron for the recommendation (and FYI, Ron said Bruce squealed like a little girl when he met the doctor fish!).   So if you're coming to Korea to see us, let's go check out the doctor fish.

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