Normally the water itself here in China is enough to make your skin start to blister and peel and fall off, but in a shallow pool at Dianchi Chuntian, a wonderfully relaxing (and affordable) hot springs spa in Kunming, Yunnan Province, it’s swarms of hungry fish that seek out your skin — the dead stuff, we were assured — and ingest it. It’s meant to be healthy, for you and the fish.
Wikipedia tells us that these “doctor fish,” or garra rufa, are popular in Turkish spas, and can be especially beneficial for people with psoriasis. (In Chinese the fish are called mei ti yu, 美体鱼, or “beautifying fish.”)
The dead skin that flakes off the bodies of visitors to Dianchi Chuntian must be among the most delicious and nutritious in the world — because the fish in the pool are huge (compared to all photos we have seen, including Dianchi Chuntian’s own pamphlets, that make the skin-eating fish look like tiny minnows). That didn’t stop us from hopping in the pool, for some reason. And before long, we were up to our necks in water and fish … and fish poop (all that delicious skin has to go somewhere). It tickles a lot at first, and then only kind of tickles after that. This is perhaps the only situation we can think of in which Speedos (or some other kind of skin-tight trunks) would be a good idea — we spent a lot of time trying to make sure fish didn’t swim up our shorts.
A couple of questions you might be thinking:
Would we do it again?
Is our skin healthier now?
We have absolutely no idea.
Can you drink beer while fish suck off your dead skin?
Yes. Budweiser. Big bottles (600 ml). Around 15 kuai, we think.
For those headed to Kunming, entry to Dianchi Chuntian is RMB 86 per person, which includes a whole bunch of hot springs, pools and tubs. You can stay as long as you want (the place doesn’t close until 2 am), or you can rent a room (with your own hot spring). There are plenty of other add-on massages and treatments you can purchase (all priced reasonably) and it is very easy to spend an entire day at the spa. It’s RMB 28 to become fish food. And yes, guys, there is a huge gold penis near your changing area. Here’s the address, courtesy of GoKunming.com:
Dianchi Spring Spa
1290 Dianchi Lu
For those of you stuck in Shanghai, SH tells us that you can find these fish at a place called Shanghai Orient Rome Bathhouse — a “super, five-star, large-scale place” — at 1420 Jiangning Lu, near Suzhou Creek (东方罗马浴场, 江宁路1420号). Tel: 6660 0666.
More photos here.