I’m sitting on the porch swing, enjoying the first days of New Zealand’s spring and staring, not at our gorgeous magnolia tree that’s in bloom, but at my feet. More specifically, I’m staring at my overgrown (and unpainted) nails and callused toes that desperately need attention.

It’s a depressing sight, one that normally could be quickly remedied with a foot spa and pedicure. But I’m laid up at home recovering from total hip replacement surgery, am not allowed to bend down and touch my feet, and it will be at least another week or two before I can get to the nail clinic for a pedicure.

So instead, I sit on the porch swing and remember a time when my feet were amazingly silky smooth and shinny – thanks to a fishy spa in Kuala Lumpur.

I had accidently discovered the Cute Fish Spa (yes that truly was it’s name) while wandering around Central Market, a one stop shopping center for Malaysian cultural and heritage products.

The huge Central Market place, housed in an historic art deco building, is a maze of stalls and shops selling everything from designer labels to handmade batik clothing, numerous food outlets, and hidden in one corner, a couple of paddling pools that make up the Cute Fish Spa.

I’m initially attracted by the sounds of laughter.

Getting closer for a look, I am dumbfounded.

There’s people sitting on bright red bar stools with their pants rolled up and their feet dangling in the water.

But their feet were kind of hard to see,  surrounded as they were by tiny black and brown wiggling flesh eating fish.

Sounds creepy but it’s been a common practice in parts of Turkey for decades.

The tiny, toothless Garra Rufa fish, also known as ‘doctor fish’, not only clear off the dead skin cells but also micro-massage your feet while doing so.

As a result, your feet ends up clean and smooth.

And all for a paltry RM5 (approx. US$1.60) for a 10- minute session.

How could I resist.

So in I hopped.

And within seconds, I was giggling away as hundreds of fish attacked my feet.

It was a strange sensation, both weird and wonderful all at once.

And after 10 minutes, my feet were outrageously smooth and silky.

How I wish they still were.

(photos @Liz Lewis 2010)

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.