Spa pushes hungry fish therapy

Published: 02/05/2009 05:00

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LookAtVietnam – Fish are healthy to eat and can be prepared in so many tasty ways. But have you ever thought that someday, people would let themselves be snacked on by fish?

What a dish: Fish swarm over a customer’s body and nibble at his skin.

The thought sounds quite disturbing, yet this is only the latest relaxation method to come to Ha Noi recently: fish massage.

Fish massage originated in Turkey, where some kinds of freshwater fish are used for treating skin diseases. The method has now been popularised and has become a mainstream relaxation and exfoliation spa treatment. The kind of fish used are often called “doctor fish” or “spa fish”. In Ha Noi, fish massage is rapidly becoming an in-vogue service for locals.

The first and only spa in the capital city to offer this latest trendy service is the Sakura Spa at 6 Doi Nhan Street in Ba Dinh District. The spa has averages 40 customers a day, since it opened last September.

“Many of our customers come from HCM City. Some of them even come here several times during their stay in the capital,” says the spa’s manager Do Ngoc Chung.

At Sakura Spa, fish massage is one part of a VND350,000 (US$20) massage package, which also includes a sauna, bathing in hot and cold jacuzzi whirlpool bathtubs, and body massage.

Thousands of fish swim in a small pool waiting for a customer to dip himself into it. The whole body or just the feet may be submerged. Several hundred little-finger-size fish will immediately swarm over the submerged areas, nibbling at the skin.

“This has to be the coolest thing I have done in a long time! It was like a cross between being electrocuted and tickled. Fish attack my feet eating all the dead skin off of me,” says Nguyen Quoc Dung from Ba Dinh District.

According to Dr Dao Ba Vy, former head of the Department of Physiotherapy in Military Hospital 354, this variety of fish has no teeth, and instead uses its powerful lips to suck away dead skin, which can stimulate acupuncture points to relax the body and release fatigue.

“I do not feel the slightest pain or discomfort, but it is a fascinating experience when the fish are nibbling my skin over my body,” says Quoc Linh, marketing staff at a State-run enterprise.

The fish, imported from Turkey, have to be watched over carefully, because they will die if the water’s temperature falls lower than 25-38oC. “We always keep the temperature in the pool at 35oC. Besides eating the customers’ dead skin, the fish also consume crisp pancakes imported from Turkey,” Chung says.

Truong Lam Anh, director of the spa, said a maximum of 1,500 fish take up each square metre of water. “I bought 3,000 fish to Ha Noi from Turkey. At first, a few hundred died, but now the death rate is only 5-10 per cent each month.”

Anh says the fish will die, if a curious customer fishes it out of the water. “I have to buy about 1,000 new fish to replace the dead fish every two months.”

He also makes sure that the fish will bring no harm to customers because they are toothless, small and gentle.

In-vogue service

Word of mouth about the trendy treatment has spread among youth throughout the metropolis.

After hearing about the new spa service from his friend, Linh decided to become “food for the fish”.

“I’ve been to many massage services, but this fish massage is the best,” says Linh, who has become a regular guest at the Sakura Spa.

Like men, women seem to be fascinated by the fish massage. “They book in advance and some even fly from HCM City. Around 40 per cent of our customers are women,” says manager Chung.

“Since visiting the spa for the first time, I come here every week to get the mini therapy by the fish. It’s not easy to describe my feeling when the fish kiss my skin, but it is comfortable and different and wonderful,” says the 26-year-old Nguyen Thu Ha from Tay Ho District.

Foreign customers, mainly Chinese and South Korean, are also regular spa customers, according to Chung.

This in-vogue massage helps to rid of dead skin, effect the nervous system, promote blood circulation, and release fatigue, but it isn’t a real therapy to treat diseases, Dr Vy emphasises. “It is totally for relaxation only.”

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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