Within days of arriving in Taipei, I realized that Taiwanese women had a definite advantage over me: they had incredible calves.
American women go to great lengths to exercise their calves. We buy slant boards, mini steppers and workout DVD’s out the wazoo.
But in large Asian cities, all of these devices are built into society. They are called curbs, stairs and sidewalks. When you mix in limited parking and a slight fetish for high heels…voila! You create an entire gender with killer calves. Granted, the men may have great calves as well, but with the exception of the trendy fashionista guys in capri’s and platform tennis shoes, they are usually covered up under black pin-stripes.
Now, in order to service all of these amazing calves and the feet supporting them, two specific industries have evolved.
The first is called a fish spa from the thousands of little doctor fish in charge of your leg health. Fish spas are easily spotted from the street as they boast an oversized aquarium across the entire length of the display window. The tank is elevated several feet off the ground, so that you, the passerby, can stop to watch the little therapists at work.
Originating in Turkey, it seems that this particular species of fish started out simply foraging for naturally occurring algae on the bottom of river beds. Unfortunately for them, someone with a big net and bad bunions came along and decided, “Hum. I think I’m going to let the next thing that jumps into my net, suck my toes and nibble my calves.” And since this fine kettle of fish have suction-cup mouths anyway, it was a match made in headwaters.
Somewhere down the line, this Turkish fisherman evidently let a Japanese tourist feel his feet (probably just after the Japanese were caught taking pictures of them anyway) and the fish fad moved ponds. Trendy Japanese everywhere loved the idea and soon fish spa resorts nibbled their way throughout Asia. Who knew that little starved carp would be the next pedicure piranha?
Personally, I’ve never actually gone inside a fish spa. Immersing my lower extremities into water where thousands of little nibblers have just defecated someone else’s calluses just doesn’t do it for me. Especially when I have noticed that the little guys actually prefer the worst looking feet. Maybe I’m just afraid they will like mine the best…I’m not sure.
Either way, the claim that Naomi Campbell and Gwyneth Paltrow hire these tiny therapists isn’t enough for my dollar. Not even if I’m fishing for silky smooth calves.
Wanna know more about the other “industry”? Check back next week for part two.