Sacred Tattoos of Thailand – Should You Get One?

While travelling in Thailand there are many souvenirs that you could bring home with you – such as sarongs, jewellery or clothing. But what about a souvenir from your trip that will stay with you forever – a sacred Thai tattoo?

thai-tattooThe traditional sacred bamboo tattoos of Thailand are a traditional Asian technique that dates back over 3000 years. It is performed with needles that are tapped into a bamboo rod and then inserted into the skin. The ink is made with snake venom, Chinese charcoal ink and palm oil. The technique originated within the Buddhist temples, where monks would get inked as a way of symbolising their faith. The “Yantra” tattoo, a traditional design, has been used for centuries to keep evil spirits away and to protect the bearer of the tattoo.

Watch Out for a Fake Sacred Tattoo

It is possible to get a sacred “Yantra” tattoo from a modern tattoo parlour in Thailand, but most Thais will agree that it is not the real thing. In order to have an authentic Yantra tattoo, it must be created and performed by a Buddhist monk in an official ceremony at a Buddhist temple. If you want to make sure your tattoo has protective powers, it should be done right!

For example, you can get a tattoo performed by a monk at Wat Bang Phra, just outside of Bangkok, for a small donation of flowers, incense and cigarettes. The monk will choose which of the San Yant symbols will fit best for you and where on your body it belongs. When he has finished, he will blow on the tattoo to breathe power into it and chant a blessing.

More Time Consuming, Yet Less Painful

A traditional Thai bamboo tattoo will take a lot longer than a traditional tattoo, which means that it will cost a little bit more. However, one of the advantages is that a bamboo tattoo is much less painful than a gun tattoo. Also, the tattoo will heal in around 12 hours – so you will be able to go swimming again the very next day. With a gun tattoo, you will have to stay out of the water for around two weeks – which is hard to do when you are on a gorgeous tropical island.

Tips for Getting a Thai Bamboo Tattoo

If you choose to get a bamboo tattoo while you are in Thailand, here are some helpful tips:

  • Do your research and choose a reputable tattoo shop with an excellent portfolio. Also, ask others with tattoos for their personal recommendations.
  • Make sure that the premises are clean and well maintained and that the needles are not reused. You should request to watch the tattoo artist open a new needle.
  • Take your time choosing a tattoo artist and a design – this is something you will keep for the rest of your life so you don’t have to decide it lightly.

Have you ever been tattooed in Thailand before? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below. 

photo credit: augrust via photopin cc

photo credit: augrust via photopin cc


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