Dr. Fish, Korea

So, I had been trying to talk myself into going to get my feet gnawed on by tiny fish for a long time.  I was nervous about it for several reasons.  I really didn’t want to go alone, but most of my friends were not interested in having their feet chewed.  So I finally worked up the courage to go alone, and headed up to Gangnam, following directions I had found on the internet.  Jokes on me, that cafe was closed.  I took that to mean the universe was telling me not to go.

But I still wanted to.  While in Insadong for the Lotus Lantern Festival  we stood near a sign for Dr. Fish.  It’s a bit further than Gangnam, but definitely worth it.  Insadong is a great place to eat and shop- tons of restaurants, cafes, and independent craft shops.

Finally, four months later, I was talking to a friend about it, and she was also interested in going.  That weekend we headed up to Seoul.  We decided to start with the Dr. Fish, so we headed straight there.  Thankfully, it was very easy to find, even though it had been four months since I saw the sign.

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The Foot Shop is a national chain of pedicure/foot massage places.  Not all of them have Dr. Fish, but luckily this one did.  For the low cost of just 9,000Won you could have fish nibble off your dead skin.

Now.  I said I was nervous for multiple reasons.  Really only two.

1) Because the fish are alive, the water can’t really be sanitized.  Which, I believe, is why it isn’t popular (or done at all?) in America.  I’m not exactly sure about this.  But, as a child that used to swim in a river, I figured my feet would be alright.

2) My feet are pretty ticklish, and I was very scared I would kick a fish, and kill it.  This was the biggest fear I had going into the shop.  I just didn’t want to kick a fish and then have it die.  Luckily, upon entering, the whole place was very calming.

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Everything was very straight forward- we paid, we were told to take off our shoes, and shown a little sink to wash our feet and then she gestured to the fishy pool.  They weren’t the smallest fish.  I had envisioned them as being smaller.  They were intimidating, swimming around in the pool as we walked over.

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In we went.

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Pretty soon I had a ton of little fish nibbling on my feet.  It did indeed feel bizarre.  But not what I thought it would.  It felt more like my feet were vibrating than ticklish/toothy.  And I couldn’t tell if there was a particularly aggressive fish on the bottom of my foot, or if the bottom of the foot was just a little more sensitive than the rest.  But occasionally, I could feel an extra strong nibble.  More like a bite.

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All in all, it was really fun.  And my feet felt amazing afterwards.  They honestly felt a little raw and tender.  It was wonderful.

After the fish feeding, we went to feed ourselves, and then to O’sulloc Tea Cafe, which serves delicious, mostly green, tea from Jeju Island.  I’m not a fan of green tea, so I wasn’t expecting to love the place.  But if that wasn’t the best tea I’ve ever had in my life, I don’t know what was.

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(Iced red papaya black tea- If you were wondering.)  And my friend had the most beautiful tangerine green tea latte.

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What a great day!

If you’re interested in going to The Foot Shop in Insadong, it is in a small alley across the main shopping street from Starbucks.  The sign I have at the beginning of this post is on the main shopping street.  Very easy to find.

 

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Boseong Tea Fields, Korea

Now that I’ve talked about the popularity of coffee… it’s time to talk tea.  In the southern part of south Korea lies the Boseong Green tea fields.  A friend and I had heard of it, and decided to take a weekend trip down.  Turns out it was a fun little area and ended up not only being a great weekend, but definitely one of my favorite places in Korea.

Public transportation in Korea can be a little frustrating sometimes, but compared to some of the other places I’ve been to recently, it’s amazing.  (I’m looking at you Albania.)  So, we left Seoul and headed down to Gwangju, the nearest city to the tea fields.  We spent the afternoon walking around shopping.  Side note: I found a ridiculously cute pair of shoes that I wanted to buy, but didn’t want to carry around the whole weekend.  I took a picture of the store so I could hopefully find the shoes when I went back to Seoul, but not of the actual shoe.  And I decided knowing the brand of the shoe would make it too easy, I suppose… so for me, Gwangju is the city of the mythical perfect pair of shoes… that I never found, and I will never find again.

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After a long hard day of shopping we decided to go out to eat… We obviously went to the restaurant with the dancing pig outside, and had delicious Korean barbeque.  And by delicious Korean barbeque, I mean we had steak fondue.  Steak that you grilled at your table, and then dipped in melted cheese.  I love my life.  We also had lots of makju and soju, and made friends with the people next to us, after the owner of the restaurant played our favorite Korean song on repeat several times so we could all sing together.

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In the morning it was off to the tea fields.  We took a bus out to the fields in a very rural part of Korea.  I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect.  But no matter what I had expected, I would have been blown away.  It was just so vast, and so peaceful.

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In addition to the spectacular tea fields, there was a tea museum that was new and rather surprisingly both interesting and informative.  We learned a lot about the history of tea, and the tea making process.

 

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We also drank tea at a traditional tea ceremony.

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Before we left the tea fields, we stopped by the visitor’s center shop where they sold green tea, green tea ice cream, green tea cookies, green tea cakes… it was like the Bubba Gump of green tea.  After the delicious green tea snack- we headed to Yulpo, a small coastal town nearby.  Rather than use any public transportation we decided to hitchhike there.  This was my first time ever hitching, and I have to say, in terms of ease, Korea is pretty great.  It’s not really popular here, but most people have seen it in movies or on tv… so it’s a novel thing that people seemed to want to be a part of.  We had no problem getting a ride into Yulpo in this lovely minivan.

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After eating a delicious meal (who knew you could put fresh tea leaves in a clear broth clam chowder??  How knew that would be a phenomenal idea??) we headed out to a jjimjilbang (찜질방) outside of town.  Jjimjilbangs are Korean style saunas.  There are always a variety of pools in different temperatures as well as actual sauna rooms in different temperatures as well.  There is usually even a cold room that you can switch in and out of to give your pores a really good workout.  This spa was relatively famous because (can you guess?) it had pools of green tea that you could bathe in.  And though I’ve never looked at a cuppa green tea and thought, ‘I bet that would make a great bath!’ we figured we might as well try it.  It’s supposedly good for your skin.

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The great thing about jjimjilbangs are they are open 24 hours a day, and they are usually a set rate for up to 12 hours.  They also have a sleeping room where you can take a nap.  Or in our case, where you can sleep for the night, because you don’t want to pay for a hotel room.  Because our jjimjilbang was on the beach, it also had a water park.  Pretty snazzy, eh?