Miniature Masseuses

Wat DanmarkMy final day in Siem Reap was to be one of relaxation and soaking up the city. In such short amount of time I had gotten to know Siem Reap well and was already sad that I would be leaving in twenty-four hours.

My daily staple of fresh fruit was, on this last day, about to be dethroned. Around the corner, a corner which I had not taken before, was a small unassuming outdoor cafe. On its menu was a Big breakfast.

This included two scrambled eggs, a baguette, hash browns, bacon, ham, coffee and you guessed it…fresh fruit with yoghurt. All for $4. A better deal than before. I was all over that.

Breakfast was followed by a morning of walking the Wats. These are temples and pagodas. Siem Reap central is home to three Wats and I wanted to see them all.

Wat Bo is the oldest and became my favorite. Not simply because it was the oldest but because it looked like it was the oldest. With crumbling stone work, faded paint, and dusty dirt paths; Wat Bo was a living breathing reflection of Cambodia’s history.

Monks invited me to wander everywhere, take photos, and enjoy the peace of the monastery. Saffron robes hung from laundry lines. Deep toned chants echoed from private chambers. Dozens of golden stupas graced the perimeter. The entire complex had an air of tranquility and importance.

I was likely slack-jawed by its profound exotic beauty and spinning like an out of control tourist as I looked skyward to take it all in.

After several hours I headed back into the French Quarter. I passed by a couple soaking their feet in a pool of water and asked if I could join them.

It looked so soothing and relaxing. My feet were looking for some of that!

Dr Fish was the owner of the pool. Fifteen minutes for $1. For this dollar you get to soak your feet and have thousands of tiny fish nibble and soothe your aches, pains, and dead skin away.

The initial sensation is intense and your instinct is to immediately withdraw. Fish are eating your feet! They left the four original feet in the pool and all swarmed on mine. Eventually the population would evenly disperse but in that initial time my feet were like a boom town.

New dead meat!

The tickling was unlike anything I had felt before. I had done this once in Bali but this Cambodian version was populated by larger mouths, larger bodies, larger fish. They sucked and chomped with more purpose; like they had a predetermined goal. To remove any semblance of tan I had accumulated and leave my feet looking like those of a newborn.

My partners to this self-imposed onslaught were a couple from Canada. US really but moved to Canada for health insurance reasons. They had already gotten used to the feeling. I was still a couple of minutes away.

Btw, for the $1 you also received a free Angkor beer.

We got to talking about life and travel as fish dined below. Every now and then we would grimace slightly if one fish had a particularly aggressive manner and struggled to remove a piece from a sensitive area.

They were on a year-long journey and we shared stories. None of us removed our feet until our fifteen minutes were up and Dr. Fish re-emerged from inside with a towel to help us get dry.

My feet were now soft, white, and seemingly never used.

I floated down the street and back to my hotel. A gecko now shared my room and we greeted each other with a cursory glance as I lay on the bed; feet shimmering in the evening light.

For photos of Cambodia click here.

32 thoughts on “Miniature Masseuses

  1. I would most definitely pay $1 for 15 minutes of fish cleaning my feet. It would be a most unique and unforgettable experience. I love seeing historical buildings that have not been replaced just because they are old. That’s one reason I love Europe. New shops in old buildings…

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  2. I have to say I gasped when I saw quite how many fish were on your feet. I was picturing a lot, but not quite that many. I see how your first instinct might be to withdraw, but I’m glad you stuck with it. I think I might have the guts to try that if I was given the opportunity..maybe. I see in the picture that some have a drink in hand which might help me take the plunge!

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  3. The blog I look forward to because it takes me to different parts of the world. I enjoy reading this, because you inform us of so much about an area. The population, architecture, climate is different than ours, but now you describe something that is very unique and different, the foot eating fish. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Really? Dr. Fish? I’ve seen a family doing the, “fish eating my feet” treatment and I almost don’t want to share who it was, it might just paint a WHOLE new picture of the experience for you Tim. The Kardashian clan, Mama and all, get their pedicures via fish sucking their feet. I will say I think their procedure cost a bit more and they were drinking champagne. See, I bet you never thought you’d have something in common with the Kardashians!

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  5. I do not think that I can keep my feet in that water for even a minute with so many fishes nibbling. In Kashmir, we have a lot streams that have variety of fresh water fishes but they are not so much skilled and run away when you get closer. I think Dr. have trained them to make feet white and shinny :).
    All the pictures and story is nice and it’s first time, I have heard about such treatment by small fish.

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  6. I could not handle the sensation of those fish nibbling on my feet! I lasted maybe 1 minute tops, my friend lasted about 3 seconds, and the other backed out after hearing our squeals!
    I would have liked to have lasted long enough to have brand new feet, maybe I should try again. Someday, in the far future.

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  7. How very cool! I’ve actually heard of things like those fish and always thought it would be something fun to try. I really enjoy your stories Tim though I confess I’m a bit jealous because even though I know bad things happen to people of both genders, and I’ve traveled quite a bit outside of the U.S., it really is not safe for a woman to wander the world the way you guys can. Still, I have trips to Africa and Peru on my bucket list so I’m not done exploring yet. 🙂

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  8. Tim, I may have said this before, but this has been my favorite post of yours yet. I’m trying to imagine downing a beer while fish nibble on my feet, but failing. I get ticklish just thinking about it! I love those pictures – could I borrow the one of the saffron robes to make a color palette out of it for my blog? Gorgeous.

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  9. Not sure I could keep my feet in the pool once I felt the fish nibbling away. The Wats seem to give off a feeling of being in a dream. Maybe that’s what I would need to let the fish have a go at me.

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  10. hi tim; so glad to be reading another one of your awesome travel stories. have been battling with a cpap machine and lack of energy but think i’m finally on the way back. not sure if i would be able to keep my feet in. sounds like one of those things that would be even weirder if you couldn’t see the fish doing it. funny women pay lots more than $1 for a pedicure. 🙂 that guy is missing his shot. he needs to put in someone to apply nail polish for the women after the feet are cleaned. lol 4 bucks does sound like a deal on your breakfast. I’m starting to think that the reason expenses of travel are discouraging to me is that i want to travel to countries that are expensive. sounds like i need to find some of the cheaper destinations that also have an amusement or tours industry. love your posts. take care out there my friend, max

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  11. I’ve read about these Miniature Masseuses before, but never actually knew anyone who tried it. I have to say….I’m sure I’d have the nerve to try it. LOL But I can be impulsive…I might if I were caught up in the moment in Siem Reap! Because I’d really like to see Wat Bo! And I do love a good pedicure:)

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  12. Hi Tim – the foot massage by your miniature masseuses sounds weird but wonderful. I’ve never heard of that kind of pedicure before but it’s not hard to believe it would be very effective. I do enjoy your photos of Wat Bo – those buildings are gorgeous.

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