My Monk Sak Yant Tattoo in Thailand

I was planning this trip to this temple for almost 2 years and I was very determined to get my traditional Thai tattoo done in Bangkok. During the procedure more than +50 people had the pleasure watch me as this monk inked me. When the monk started with the procedure I could feel a hot searing pain in my back. It almost felt like someone is cutting off my back with a knife. But the results are priceless.

 Location & Story behind

Wat Bang Phra is a big temple around 50 kms (31 miles) outside the city of Bangkok in Thailand. The temple is very well known, especially for the Sak Yant tattoo.  The Sak Yant (“Sak Yan” /  or “Yantra”) tattoos are hand-etched onto the skin using ancient geometric designs mixed with Buddhist prayers. This type of tattoo is a sacred one known to hold different meanings depending on which tattoo.
 

Meaning & Power of the Tattoos

I heard about this temple from some monks I met whilst traveling in the south of Thailand after I asked them what their tattoos symbolized. They explained it very well and I was inquisitive about it. A few weeks later, I arrived in Bangkok and I was eager to go to the temple. I took the train to Nakhon Chai Si and from there a taxi to the temple. When I arrived there I knew I wanted to get a tattoo from a monk. I was a little bit scared, because it was my first tattoo and the rule was that you can’t choose what tattoo you get and where you will get. The monk will choose it for you, and they read you to decided which tattoo will fit the best to your life. Our local Thai friend explained us that the Thai people believe that the Sak Yant Tattoos gives you a special power associated with healing effects, luck, strength, and protection against evil.

Each Tattoo has a different meaning, the only problem is that the monks can’t speak english so you won’t know the meaning immediately.

Rules to consider after the tattoo

I found out that there were some rules to follow, and that if I didn’t the tattoo would lose it’s power.

The three most important rules are:

1. Do not murder someone.
2. Do not steal.
3. Do not lie to hurt other people.

Some general rules to consider:

1. Do not eat Star fruit, Pumpkin, or any other ‘Gourd’ type Vegetable.

2.I can’t have a lover who’s already married.

3. It’s absolutely forbidden for me to slander anybody’s mother.

4. Do not eat food from a Wedding, or Funeral banquet.

5. Do not Eat left-Overs. ( doable but how I will explain this my girlfriend?

6. Do not Duck under a Washing Line, or an overhanging building.

7. Do not Duck under a Banana Tree of the type Thaanii

8. Do not cross a single head bridge; Large or Small bridges are not Forbidden ( challenging hm)

9. Do not sit on a Ceramic Urn (Common in Thailand).Especially a Cracked, or Broken one.

10. Do not let a Woman Lie on Top of You, or Sit on Top either.

11. Do not permit a Man to be Brushed by the blouse or skirt of a Woman, or crossed in Front of; Especially during the Menstruative Period

As you can see there are so many rules to consider and at one point in your life this might be very challenging! There are more rules to consider depending on what tattoo you are going to get.

How to get to Wat Bang Phra?

There are many different ways to get there.
1. Taking a taxi, for the lazy and rich people. It costs around 2000-2500 baht (60 USD)
2. Taking a minivan from victory monument for around 60-80 baht (3 USD)
3. Taking the train to Nakhon Chai Si. it will costs 11 baht (less than 1 USD)
4. Hitch-hike (Free)

Try to hitchhike! Don’t be afraid of the locals! The thai people are nicest people on earth.  I hitchhiked on the way back and met so many cool and funny thai people on my way to the city.

Cost & Time – Procedure

  • It’s for FREE incl. gift(s) for the monk to show respect and gratitude.

The tattoo is for free but you should buy some gifts for the monk(s), for instance flowers or any type of offerings, it is very very important to show respect to the monks and their religion. Don’t get the tattoo if you just think it looks cool! I bought some flowers and cigarettes (because I was told that is what they liked best) for the monk. When I met him he accepted the gifts and said I should take off my shirt and sit down. He had a very long metal needle in his hand and a small bottle of ink. One other guy held my back and then the monk started with the tattoo. The pain was intense from the strong jabbing but he was also very fast. After only 15 minutes the tattoo was finished. When he finished it, he said a chant to activate the tattoo and told me that I should pray during this time as well.

Safety Considerations & Recommendation:

Before you get inked:

Even tough you are far away from home always remember Safety FIRST!
Ask for well disinfected or on brand new needles and even then make sure they disinfect the new needles in disinfectant as well, before starting the procedure.

Check the type of the Ink first:

Before you head to this place you may want to make sure you have a basic fundamental knowledge about getting inked and about the different types of inks so you understand what is going to happen when you arrive at the temple. Before the procedure you may want to ask the monk what type of ink he is using. You might want to bring a local with you for translation purposes to avoid communication barriers. Sometimes the local inks contain natural henna which can cause a severe allergic reaction or even lead to long-term health problems.I am not an expert in this field for more details about types of inks you may want to go to a local ink shop in your country and inform yourself well about safety & procedure etc.

To prevent yourself from getting serious health problems, I highly recommend everyone to bring your own tattoo ink from your home country packed and sealed. Consider that some monks might not accept it and consider this action as disrespectful, but if you have health concerns you may ask politely to use your ink and offer in return to keep one package of ink for free to show some respect. Certainly it adds to the total cost but consider that you are investing in your health and well-being. Always remember Safety First!

Note that I do not want disrespect the Thai culture or the monks by pinpointing my safety concerns. But if you decide to get a tattoo be at least aware of the side effects and the options to prevent yourself from serious long-term health problems. I personally never heard that there was ever a health issue with the Sak Yant tattoos.

After you got inked:

Do not apply soap on your tattoo for at least three days. It if gets itchy, apply some olive oil or Vaseline. This will help instantly. Also, stay away from the sun for at least 3 days and shelter from strong winds

Conclusion

Even if you don’t want a tattoo, this temple is still worth visiting to see a couple of beautiful buildings located next to the river and you can even talk to the monks. Please remember, this tattoo is not just a souvenir or a random tattoo you are used to from back home. It is something special and unique you are going to carry your entire life on your body and it also has a deep spiritual meaning and rules you have to consider. Ask yourself if you really want this tattoo and if you are able to follow and keep up with the rules. Good luck & enjoy your travels in Thailand. You picked one of the most beautiful destinations in South East Asia. Congrats 🙂

 

 

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Ben Ulusaraclar

Founder at Timeoutsociety
Hi , I'm Ben Ulusaraclar — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 5 years, whilst managing Timeoutsociety. As a passionate photographer and travel journalist - I love capturing unique moments and showcase places you have never seen before. Join us on our journey!

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