Food for the Fishes
Trip Start Feb 03, 2008
33Trip End Aug 16, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Feng Xiang Wen Chuang
A school of small fish swimming aimlessly in the pool scatter when I disturb the water's surface with my toes.
These fish aren't shy though. In a few seconds, a fish detaches itself from the school and swims closer.
Slowly at first, and then more quickly. It must be hungry.
It comes to my big toe.
Opens its minuscule jaws, and starts to feed on my skin
I screech and try to stay still, but my laughing has disturbed the fish, who backs up warily. His schoolmates have scented the feast, however, and crowd around him, paying no attention to my shaking giggles.
In seconds, my feet are blanketed by live tiny fish, all eating me.
"This is so weird!" I tell Dan, who is screwing up his face and trying to get the courage to put is own feet in the thermally heated water.
We're at the Feng Xiang Wen Quan, a hot spring resort in a village in the Zunyi area, about an hour south west of where we live. The resort has a hotel and the normal bathing options: a warm swimming pool and some nice hot rock-lined soaking pools, in addition to this fish pond.
I had heard of this fish therapy before
My friend Adam visited the "doctor fish" in Japan a few years ago, and I recently read an article that the first fish beauty therapy was being offered in the eastern United States. According to the internet, the proper "doctor fish" are the Turkish garra rufa whose saliva can cure or ameliorate some skin problems.
The sensations and uses described on some sites about garra rufa are similar to what we experienced, but the picture of the catfish-like garra rufa are not like the carp-like fish that actually fed from Dan and me.
Whether or not these fish are the authentic "doctors" or not, it was certainly an interesting experience.
Their little toothless mouths gape open and closed over my skin, sloughing off the dead cells. Dan had a peeling sunburn on his arms from our adventures in the rice paddies last week, and, once we were brave enough to submerge more than just our feet in the pool, the fish cleaned that up for him.
We sat in the water for a long time, enjoying the novelty of the fish nibbling on us
After we got out of the water my legs and arms were definitely softer than before, though if that was due to the fish or soaking in the other thermal baths for a few hours I couldn't tell you. Also, Dan's scabs from a scratched mosquito bite on his leg were cleaned off completely.
They must have had a good feed on us, because in the morning when our friends decided to go back in, the fish weren't so interested. Or maybe we just had more dead skin!
What it cost:
Bus from Zunyi to Feng Xiang: 12 RMB
Minibus from Feng Xiang Village to the hot spring: Free, once Wu Lei got a local to call the resort manager for us
One night's accommodation for two people, including admission to the bathing pools for two (usually 38 RMB each): 188 RMB
One ticket to the doctor fish: 38 RMB
Minibus all the way back to Zunyi: 120 RMB (divided among 7 people)