Wat Bang Phra
Sak Yant Bamboo Tattoos
Getting a bamboo tattoo (known as Sak Yant in Thailand) has been something of interest to me for over a decade now. From the moment I learned of them, I felt that there was something alluring about this ancient art. The branding of one’s body using natural elements seemed much more in tune with something natural than that of a sterile stainless steel needle and synthetic inks. Mind you, ever since Angelina Jolie had her bamboo tattoo done in Thailand, their foreign popularity has soared and they’ve almost become more trendy than spiritually significant. If I was to get this done, I’d need to go somewhere the locals still go for spiritual purposes.
When I learned of Wat Bang Phra just outside Bangkok, it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. The name translates to simply “The temple of some monks”, but naming temples isn’t their specialty. It’s been a traditional Sak Yant bamboo tattoo temple essentially since it’s creation. Hundreds of Thais go to get their blessings there each week. The Sak Yant is traditionally chosen by the monk giving the bamboo tattoo. He has a long list of protective symbols to choose from. Each symbol offers a different type of protection or blessing. He decides what best suits your needs, and will give it to you without any prior discussion. The positioning is determined as well… though the majority will end up on ones back.
Upon arriving at the grounds, you should proceed to a booth outside the temple which is selling offerings. The offerings consist of some incense, flowers and candles, and a pack of menthol cigarettes. The total cost of this donation package was a whopping 50 Thai Baht (THB). You are encouraged to leave an additional donation with the offerings. If you see inside the bowl, you will see scattered bills and envelopes as a bonus alm/donation made by other patrons. We played it safe with an extra 3000THB each (more on this below, in the ‘Cost’ section). These offerings will be donated to the temple, by placing them in a bowl inside the room with the monk doing the Sak Yant bamboo tattoo. Later, all the offerings are then brought back outside and resold to future visitors. It’s actually a very smart business model, ensuring that the donations are consistent, allowing the Thais to make their offering, and being environmentally sustainable by reusing them.
Next is just the waiting game. Depending on how early you arrive, will determine how many people are in front of you. We counted 2 monks performing the Sak Yant bamboo tattoos in this samnak throughout the day. Our monk had a line-up of nearly 10 people in front of us, and we arrived at 9am – roughly an hour after doors opened that day. That being said, you would never find a tattoo artist anywhere else in the world who could have 10 people lined up for the same day. I was getting my Sak Yant bamboo tattoo by 11am, only 2 hours later!
You approach the monk having already taken off your shirt (or preparing your exposed back in a respectable way, if you are a woman – and yes, the monks were giving Sak Yant bamboo tattoos to women). Most people had to lean over a triangular pillow, and then have a person on either side hold them down, and stretch the surface of their skin where the Sak Yant bamboo tattoo is to be placed. The monk quickly and precisely guides the elongated piece of sharpened bamboo in the shape of the Sak Yant blessing, tapping it faster than hands should be able to move into your back. I’m not going to lie.. it hurts. It hurts a lot more than a needle tattoo. With this in mind, though, it only lasted at most 15 mins. I practiced breathing techniques, meditation, counting sheep, ANYTHING to get my mind off the pain. It was pretty futile. The pain is sharp and deep, but it’s over quickly. Afterward, my brother Taylor took a quick photo of my back to show me the new ink job. It was incredible! Just the size alone was something you might expect from a 3-hour tattoo in a shop somewhere. After a short lunch break, my brother’s bamboo tattoo was just as quick! By the time we were leaving, mind you, the room was packed. I imagine there’d be a lot of people who wouldn’t be leaving with a Sak Yant that day. I’ll re-stress the importance of going as early as possible – even if it means waking up at 5am.
We ended up getting matching Sak Yant protections. It’s the Paed Tidt – similar to a compass, this Sak Yant offers protection from the 8 directions. It’s intended to give protection in whichever direction you are travelling (pretty handy in my line of work). For more information on this particular tattoo, here’s a handy website which can explain it in full detail (along with other Sak Yant bamboo tattoos and their meanings).
Thai Guide to Thailand – Paed Tidt Sak Yant
For details on a festival in which people become possessed by these Sak Yant bamboo tattoos, visit this article on the Wai Kru Festival.
SEE – Photos & Videos
For more photos from inside temple, and it’s grounds, please check out my Photo Essay!
GO – Getting There
Now getting to this place was half the adventure! Wat Bang Phra is not well known by the tourist crowd, and so there are no ‘tourist buses’ heading out that way. Your best bet is to go to Victory Monument. If you’re arriving by BTS (sky train), you’ll want to leave the exit towards the monument, and turn left to go down the stairs towards the roundabout. Almost immediately, you’ll see a series of food stands and bus stops. Ask one of the people working there for a mini-van heading to Nakhon Chai Si district, Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand, about 50 km west of Bangkok. There are vans leave every half hour or so, but my suggestion is to get there as early as possible (I arrived shortly after 6 and caught the 7am bus… this seemed to be ideal situation). The mini-van cost 80 Thai Baht per person, and the ride is about an hour, depending on traffic. If you can catch the 6am van, you’ll avoid any gridlock getting there, but note that the BTS won’t be running yet! If you leave any later than 7am, you’ll wind up stuck in traffic for hours, and risk having too many people in line ahead of you that you may not be able to get your Sak Yant done that day. It really is THAT busy, even just among locals.
The mini bus should drop you off across the highway from a massive Big C shopping centre. You must cross a foot bridge across the highway, and turn left. Almost immediately you will be approached by motorcycle taxi guys and tuk tuk drivers. Your choice, though the motorcycle is a great experience (and cheaper) driving past the fields on your second leg of this journey. It’s about a 20-25 mins ride further, and should cost about 120 baht if you go the route of the motorcycle taxi. They guessed why we were there, and should all know exactly where Wat Bang Phra is.
Transport total time: 1.5 hours
Transport total cost: 80+60 (we both took the same moto-taxi) = 140THB
Leaving was even a bit easier. We walked out to the front gate and caught a local bus for 18 baht, which drove us to an area near the highway where we could catch another minivan for another 60 baht each. The minivan dropped us off in the middle of Bangkok, though on the other side of the river from central Bangkok, and we had to take a taxi the rest of the way back. It’s probably best to make sure they agree to exactly what station they will drop you off at prior to leaving.
Transport total time: 1.5 hours
Transport total cost: 18+60 (+50 for the taxi, but this shouldn’t be necessary) = 78THB
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
There are no officially posted hours, though it is suggested to arrive quite early. I believe they aim to open doors around 8am each day, but this can also depend on the mood of the Tattoo Master. The cue fills up quickly as well, and it’s a first come first serve basis. If you can arrive as closely to 8am as possible, you will have a very good chance of having your Sak Yant given that day. If you arrive around noon, there will probably already be such a big lineup that you won’t be able to get it done. In the chance that you can, you’ll probably end up waiting up to 5 hours as he gets through the group in front of you (and do you really want a tired monk giving your tattoo by hand?).
Safety – Possible risks
I tried researching this as much as possible prior to going. My results were fairly inconclusive. Though the bamboo does get sterilized with rubbing alcohol, I’m not sure it would meet western standards. This being said, an exceptionally large percentage of Thais have this done. The spread of STDs and disease as a result of the Sak Yant are unconfirmed. In one article I read, it stated that unlike a tattoo needle, there is no opening for the blood/disease/virus to get trapped in. This greatly reduces any risk, when compared to regular tattoos. It does not eliminate the risk, mind you. Any decision to get a Sak Yant must be done with this in mind. There is a risk involved. It seems to me, all the good things in life have similar risks, so you have to decide if this is one of those ‘good things’ worth the risk.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate travel medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Transport total time: 3 hours
Transport total cost: 140+78 = 218THB
Total time at the temple: 3 hours (including 2-hour wait, getting Sak Yant, and having lunch)
Compulsory Base-Offering to Wat Bang Phra (in exchange for the Sak Yant) = 50 THB
This is where it gets a bit complicated though. You should first understand that Thais pay offerings like this almost every day of their life to temples to receive services from temples. This includes some wedding and funeral services, holiday services, as well as some ‘bonus’ services such as sak yant. To quickly consider that if a Thai person pays 50 baht every day to a monk, or temple, this means that in one week they’ve donated 350 THB. In a year, they’ve donated 18,250 THB. In a decade, that’s 182,500 THB. This works out to almost $600 USD per year for these types of services.
Consider, as a foreigner, you have never donated anything (or very little) to any temples in Thailand to reap the services they offer. We are very fortunate to even be able to participate in their services with this in mind. So, now consider the value of your tattoo? What would it cost back home… or even in a tattoo shop in Bangkok?
To be a responsible and ethical traveller, and fair to both Thai people who have paid into this their whole lives and the monks who rely on those donations to support not only themselves, but also the maintenance of the temple, it is advised that you leave a donation substantially bigger. It doesn’t have to be 18,250 THB… but you might consider putting a few thousand baht into the donation bowl, as we did, if that’s what a tattoo is worth to you – not only for the tattoo… but also for the experience you have shared with this ancient practice and culture.
Of course this is not enforced, but it is worth looking deep inside to feel what is the right thing to do – for yourself, the karma you will receive from these ancient yantras, as well as the value it is intended to have on your life.
Total time for the day = 6 hours
Total cost for the day = 268 Thai Baht (roughly $9 USD) + whatever additional offering you make
Suggested Additional Offering to Wat Bang Phra (as a donation) = 3000+ THB (roughly $95+ USD)
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
First and foremost – this is a temple! Please dress respectfully. Wearing tank-tops, singlets, short-shorts, etc is not appropriate attire for any temple in Thailand. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered to show respect to the monks, and that Thais of faith who are present.
When inside the temple, you should always try to keep your head below the head monk/ajarn giving the Sak Yant tattoos. You should not stand over or above him. When sitting in the room, you should also not point your feet towards him, or any of the main Buddha statues.
Treat the temple as you would a church, mosque or any other place of worship. When you show the monks and locals respect, they will appreciate it and show you respect in return.
To properly prepare yourself, this is a very thorough FAQ guide to Sak Yant tattoos.
Don’t forget about being ethical and fair to both the Thais and phra ajarns (monk tattoo masters) by making an adequate donation for their services provided to you.
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Reality Check – Be Aware
It was an awesome day! It was fun, getting there with all the madness of trying to work it out, and uncertainty of going to the right place. The process of getting the offerings (and how comical it is that Menthol cigarettes were part of it), and then waiting in the musty room for hours as others each go through the same process. Getting the Sak Yant itself feels like an accomplishment being able to make it through the pain. It is an ancient tradition and it’s a very special feeling being part of it, in a way that is still quite off-the-beaten-path and practiced by locals. I love that I was able to experience that with my brother, as well. Sharing the experience is something I would possibly suggest, as it’s really unique and will certainly strengthen any bond.
JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
We offer a series of very personalized packages where you are able to meet with an ajarn and discuss questions with them you may have about this ancient art. These studios are far more sanitized than some temples such as Wat Bang Phra, and you will be joined by a local Travel Guru who is knowledgeable in the art of Sak Yant. You will be able to discuss the ancient art in great depth with the ajarn and get a yantra design which is fully customized to you, and not simply a generic design given due to lack of communication with the ajarn. This isn’t your typical visit to a tattoo parlour, these are real traditional samnaks (bamboo tattoo studios). This is the ultimate way of connecting on a deep level to the sacred art of sak yant.
Want to witness people becoming possessed by the spirits of their Sak Yant in mass? Wai Kru festival at Wat Bang Phra allows you to do just that! Joined by one of our experts in the art of Sak Yant, you will delve deep into the sub-culture of those blessed with this ancient, sacred skin-art.
Join the next small group Wai Kru Experience:
Please Note: It has come to our attention that the Ajarn listed in this post has since developed pain in his hand, and is often using an electric tattoo machine.
We have found alternative locations, with traditional ‘khem sak’ needles and higher levels of hygiene and quality. Visit our Ink Experiences section to see all the options around the country we have found and curated fully facilitated sak yant experiences in, for your very own sacred ink!
Have you ever been blessed by a holy person? Did you have any protective powers cast upon you? Have you gotten a tattoo that has a very special meaning in your life? Please feel free to share your stories in the comment section below!
Thanks for the guide! So excited to have one of Thai’s best traditional tattoo: Sak Yant! Hoping for best results!! Thanks!
i’m living darkside Pattaya, I see on map somewhere also have someone make Sak Yant, is it trustfull, not far away , nongmaikean rd near big lake ?Poodum tattoo studio:
Hey Ian, Wat Bang Phra open everyday for sak yant?
Hi Derek, traditionally it is, yes 🙂 Though it may not be open on Buddhist holidays.
Thanks Ian for the help.
Do you think they would mind if I had all of my travel belongings with me?
Hi Caroline, I don’t think anyone would mind (as long as they weren’t in the way of anyone else waiting – the room gets quite full) – though it sounds like it would be quite inconvenient for you. I’m not sure how much stuff you have, but driving on the back of a motorcycle for 30 minutes with multiple bags, or carrying big heavy bags on your back immediately after getting a tattoo on it might just be awkward, uncomfortable and possibly even painful. :/ Probably best to leave them at a guesthouse, unless you have private transport arranged to and from Wat Bang Phra
thank you for all of your detailed information! I was able to get my sak yant today following all of your recommendations. I was lucky enough to catch the minibus as it was about to leave, right next to the Century movie plaza in Bangkok by the Victory monument. When it dropped me off, I just crossed the bridge over the highway and a guy with a motorcycle just waived me down to go with him to the Wat for only 100 bhat. The cost for the offering was 75 bhat and the donation that everyone was giving was of 20 bhat, I decided to leave 40 bhat. Luang Pi Nunn came in right at 8:00 am and wasted no time to begin the tattooing. There were about 10 people ahead of me at that time. The room quickly filled up with about 40 more by 8:30 am. He immediately started tattooing with an electric machine and not the long bamboo needle; which disappointed me a bit as I wanted the traditional experience. I noticed he changed to the bamboo needle for a few Thai women that were getting the oil ones (instead of ink). I went right after them unsure of what he would use on me but he switched to the machine right away. So it seems he only uses the bamboo needle for (invisible) oil tattoos.
I sat facing the room and he quickly grabbed a marker (to avoid touching me) and turned me sideways in a bit of a rude manner. I don’t think he means any bad by it, he is just a busy guy with no time to waste or be gentle.
It was overall a great (and painful) but quick experience. Thanks again for all of your tips!
If you are in Thailand right now, let me know 🙂
Hi Catalina! I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience! Thanks for the full summary of your time at Wat Bang Phra. It is interesting to learn that the ajarn still uses the khem sak (long needle) for oil sak yant, but has completely abandoned it for ink now… Sounds like you still had an incredible time! 🙂
I’m in Thailand – Chiang Mai at present. Message me if you come up this way! Cheers!!
It is amazing to see how you have kept the conversation going for so many years. The Sak Yant experience is definitely a spiritual journey that one should make when visiting Bangkok. I have one question on the design of the tattoo – i have read that the tattoo design is decided by the monk. Would you be able to explain a little on how the process of identifying a design works and whether we have a say in this?
Hi Vishal – thanks for the comment, and sorry for the delay in getting back to you! What you have read is partially correct. You are fully allowed to choose the design yourself, as my brother and I did when we got ours… however, it is tradition that you would have an in depth conversation with the ajarn about your life, and what is important to you, so that they may have a better understanding of what it is you may need in terms of enchantments or protections. Unfortunately, not many of the ajarns speak much english and so this drastically reduces the chances of having this type of conversation. If you go to a busy temple such as wat bang phra, you will see that due to how busy it is (mostly thai, and a few foreigners), there isn’t much opportunity to have this conversation anyway. Ideally you would have a private consultation with an ajarn you’ve set up an appointment with, though costs tend to be significantly more doing this, to be able to have the time needed to really find something meaningful and customized for you! We can help with that if you’re interested (and can make sure the quality and sanitation is also considered)… this way you have much more say and control, as well as having a genuinely unique experience 🙂 please contact us with any questions, concerns or help you may desire and we’ll gladly help! It’s a very intimate and sacred experience so it would be great if you were able to participate!
Hello A Lee Sa…. yes…. cleanliness is important .. You are familiar with and other south east Asian countries….. then you know that most places would not pass western health inspection codes…
The monk that did me heats the ends of the double point stainless steel spikes he uses in his Khem Sak rods, and also has them kept in a container of strong disinfectant. He changed out the spike for each person receiving Sak Yant.
He also disinfected the area to be tattooed.
But still….. make sure all your shots are up-to-date. Hep B is not something nice to get….. make sure your Hep B shots are up-to-date no matter where you go or how you have your Sak Yant done.
But also.. the first one you get should be the “Master Yant”…. Gao Yord “Nine Spires”.. or “Nine Peaks” at the top middle of your back…
Their are variations of it…. not all the same depending on the monk and the region. There are also about 6 various ancient scripts which can be used… again varying depending on the region usually. All are proper depending on the prayers and rituals and the monk and most important,,,,,depending on your sincerity and belief and acceptance…
You can have the world’s most holy monk, with all the proper ritual and prayers done for you and the finest Sak Yant tattoo. It means nothing if you are dead to it inside your heart and mind and look at it as only a nice souvenir from a temple that you have in your skin.
On the other hand… if you can not find a temple and monk to do one…you could have a Sak Yant done at a tattoo parlour with a regular tattoo gun…. and be very sincere in your actions, and say Buddhist prayers quietly to yourself…. meditate upon the Triple Gem, Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path…. and extend wishes for peace and help for the poor…. and that Tattoo will be perfect for you and grow powerful….. It is what is in your heart….. what thoughts and beliefs and intentions you have… . that make Sak Yant powerful for you….. or make it only a fancy design that simply looks neat…
…We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make our world.
– Gautama Buddha
Does anyone knows if the Ajarn still has got pain in his hand ? And what is a tattoo gun?
My boyfriend and me we are going to travel to Thailand in 2 days and stay 2 weeks.
I would be very very thankful for an answer !! 🙂
Kop Kun Ka.
Hi A.Lee.Sa, the pain is something similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, so he’ll have that for the rest of his life. It is due to repetitive motion of giving the sak yant.
A tattoo gun is the electric needle used traditionally in tattoo parlours around the world. It is not of the ‘bamboo’ style which is all done by hand. This is not the only location to get a sak yant, however. Hope this helps clarify. 🙂 Hope you have a great trip to Thailand!
Thank you very much for your response.
Why does it have to be that one Ajarn to do the Sak Yant tattoo ? There are Buddhist monks all over Thailand, and some at temples in Cambodia and Laos and Myanmar that will do them, after questioning you perhaps through an interpreter to make sure you are sincere, and not just getting them for a souvenir. (Oh… look what I got in south east Asia)
The Thai government has been discouraging monks from giving Sak Yant to tourists for this very reason. I got mine outside of Chiang Mai in the north part of Thailand by a Buddhist monk who has been doing them for about 19 years now… .
He uses Khem Sak. (metal rods with double pointed spikes he inserts.) The old bamboo way is called Mai Sak, and is not used so much today.
He would not tattoo me at first until he questioned my Thai friends about my sincerity and respect of their ways and of Buddhism in particular. There are many prayers and ritual involved.
I saw only Thais there…. no westerners like myself.
Find another monk who does them if you wish. The monk that did me is even a much better artist with Sak Yant then many of the examples I have seen from Wat Bang Phra.
I would not even go to Wat Bang Phra. It’s become too commercialized and spoiled in my opinion… I would not want a Sak Yant from the man that did Angelina Jolie. He has been corrupted by world fame and money. You couldn’t pay me to go to him.
Just don’t go to a regular tattoo parlour along the streets of Bangkok…. that’s for sure.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” – Gautama Buddha
Hello, thank you very much for your comprehensive answer. I was doing a research about good places where I can get the Yantra Tattoo and a lot of blogs lead me to the Wat Bang Phra. But you are right, normally me and my boyfriend we don’t like places where are too many tourists and as you said, some places like this are maybe already commercialized.
But the most important thing for me is that the monk who will give us the tattoo does clean the Mai sak up with a disinfectant.
I already researched for a monk in chiang Mai, but probably chiang mai is not in our travel route. Maybe Udon Thani? I will continue doing Internet researches or maybe ask Thais when I’m there. I am half Thai half German and can speak fluently Thai, although i don’t look like it. I think this would be easier for us to talk to the monk and make him sure we want to get the Yantra tattoo sincerely.
Actually i am planning to visit the wat bang phra in the next 6 hours and hope i will get my sak yant tattoo, I heard that the monk started to use a tattoo machine, hope there will be a possibility for me to get it by the traditional way.. Good luck to me and I will inform later
Hi Albert – thank you for your message! Yes, it’s true – I’ve been back and seen the ajarn using a tattoo gun, rather than a khem sak – but apparently this just depends on the day, and how his wrist is feeling. We hope you still have a wonderful experience. Let us know how it goes when you’re back! Good luck 🙂
Wooah its been a years since i have been in wat bang phra !
That day was a beautifully sunny day, i started the adventure at 5 am and followed your guide directions (i went alone so it was very fun going to the unknown ) when i just arrived around 08:30am, i have met two dutch girls who left the temple after getting their tattoos, they were disappointed by the size of the tattoo and many other thing so it made me a little worry about the process..
but then i told to myself wtf dude calm down i’m already here there is no turning back !
so i decided to make a little circle in the temple i went to the top floor and there were a “tattoo saloon” with some regular Thai people not monks, they used bamboo and charge a lot of money, hundreds of euros.
it felt to me like some tourist scam so i went down where the monk Ajarn Luang Pi Nunn is, there were around 10 people sitting in quietness and waiting for their turn to get the magic tattoos on them,i went downstairs and bought the donation Offering( +100 extra bhat donation to the monk) and came back to take my spot in the line.
while waiting i have met there a guy from Holland with his Thai girlfriend who came to the temple each year and it was his 3rd time, so it really calmed me down ( after 2 screaming half crying dutch girls i met earlier ) after less than a hour it was my turn, the room was already full of 30+ people
and finally i got my Gao Yord tattoo from the monk Ajarn Luang Pi Nunn !
everything went better than i could expect! that experience was worth all the worries !
I will totally do it again next time i am in Bangkok !
Thank you Ian Ord for your guide it was simple and accurate, worked perfect for me!
Im going to visit Thailand in this December and I’m planning to have a Sak Yant tattoo during this trip
While Im looking for information about how to get Sak Yant tattoo, where… I come across thí article and I found this article is very useful, clearly. Therefor, Im planning to go to Wat Bang Phra to have Sak Yant tattoo follow your instruction.
But, at the end of this article, there is a notice that the Ajarn listed in this post is often using a tattoo gun instead of bamboo since he have pain in his arm and you are working on a new post with alternative locations where still using traditional style.
So I would like to ask if you have any other location to having Sak Yant in a traditional style and instruction to get there?
Thanks for your time reading my comment and sorry for my bad English since Im not a native speaking.
And would you please reply for me soon since Im getting there on this Dec 14.
There are many other temples and monks doing Sak Yant, besides the one that everyone has hear about west of Bangkok.
I had mine done outside Chiang Mai…. and the monk used Khem Sak.. (bronze or brass rod or iron rod with double pointed steel needle in the end) Many monks are now using Khem Sak instead of Mai Sak (bamboo.)
None of my Sak Yant tattoos were done with a tattoo gun.
You can get these tattoos also at some temples in Cambodia and Laos or Myanmar. But you have to look for the monks that do them… in certain temples. You may have to know the locals… have friend in the Cambodian or Laos and Myanmar communities that trust you and are sure of your sincerity.
Many years ago… Wat Bang Phra was an excellent temple to goto and get Sak Yant. But it has changed.. and not for the better I’m afraid.
To be quite honest.. I will not get a tattoo done at Wat Bang Phra… I believe it has sadly become too commercialized… too “touristy”… and spoiled by both westerners, and monks who have become decadent… Not all the monks perhaps… but many. Much of the true Buddhist spiritualism has gone…
I go.. where most tourists never go.. and where only my Thai friends go… far from Bangkok… Nowhere near Wat Bang Phra.. That is my personal preference.. I did not see one westerner at the temple I got mine done.. … only Thais… Mine were done by a Thai monk who has been doing them for Thais for about 17 years now… taught by his predecessor … and his predecessor before that… Many Thais greatly respect him in the north part of Thailand. The questioning and decision of whether to tattoo a person, is taken very seriously.. The monk will not tattoo just anybody…. and an offering is totally voluntary… you give what you feel the Sak Yant tattoo is worth to you… The monk wishes to only have enough to eat…make his ink…keep his tools in good condition and to keep his robes in good condition…..So different.
And I believe my tattoos are also much better done… with more artistic talent…this monk is a true highly talented artist.. Very happy with them.. 🙂 Done with Khem Sak, all the prayers and rituals… I’ve seen photos online of Sak Yant tattoos on people who had them done at Wat Bang Phra…….. I’m very happy I did not get mine done there…if the examples I have seen online are typical. They are poorly done compared to the ones that I have seen in person…done by the monk that did me and my Thai friends .. Perhaps I have just been very lucky.
Best wishes and blessings….
Hi Rob Williamson,
Thanks for your very helpful sharing about your experiences. I have no more word to say about your sharing. It’s great.
As you see, since Im very care about how to get the Sak Yant in the traditional way (that why Im not choosing Ajarn Noo, the very famous one) and look around for another. And your sharing gave me very useful information which lead me to not having my Sak Yant at Wat Bang Phra.
I will continue looking for another place where I can have my Sak Yant in the traditional way. But would you mind please share with me information about the temple where you get your Sak Yant since I have plan to go to Chiang Mai too.
Hi… That you for your message. My understanding in my case is that where I was taken is for Thais… I saw no westerners there. I went with Thais I had made friends with over several months.. and they trusted my sincerity, and spoke to the monk for me. The monk did not understand English. The conversation…questioning of me.. back and forth had to be done through my Thai friends as intermediaries.
I went with them a total of three times…. and have nine Sak Yant tattoos now. A couple of days after my first one… the Gao Yord….. I had a desire for more.
After getting them…. my Thai friends said.. “Now you are Thai. Wherever you go in the world… you are Thai, and have a bit of Thailand with you and in your heart.”
My suggestion is .. if you are spending some time in Chiang Mai… or any other major city in Thailand or Cambodia or Laos or Myanmar… is to cultivate friendships with the local people… and then ask about Sak Yant… Show sincerity by attending temple, and making prayers and offerings.
I’m not sure what the situation is now…. But when I was there, 2013, the Thai government was discouraging Sak Yant for westerners… because of many westerners not being sincerer in their beliefs about Buddhism.. .and looking at Sak Yant as only an interesting design where they go home to their own country and say… “See what I got done in Thailand ? ? Cool huh ? ? ”
When I return to Thailand in 2016…. I’ll see if the situation has changed..
In Thailand, Cambodia, Laos etc….. Sak Yant is taken seriously, (except by the regular tattoo parlours on the street for tourists. Don’t go to them) ….. They are blessed Buddhist prayers on your body… Spiritual benefit for the bearer. There are five or six types of ancient script from that part of the world that can be used.. The type of script depends on the area you’re in. Any of them are valid if given by a valid monk with blessings and prayers with proper intention.
Your first should be the “Master Yant” ..the Gao Yord…nine peaks…. at the top of your back the top of it reaching the nape of your neck.
I’m sorry I can’t be more specific… as I made a promise I will not break. But go there… spend some time there.. make friends and show sincerity and respect for Buddhism.. and then ask politely…. Someone should be able to help you. As you know… not all temples have a monk or monks that do Sak Yant… and if the government is still discouraging it for westerners.. it makes it more difficult…
But then….. you can also just go across the border to Cambodia or Laos… there are people that have had Sak Yant done in those countries also by monks..
Hey Ian, Great article, We are looking at taking our family vacation to Thailand next summer, I am very interested in this ancient art form of tattoo, As my wife and I will have our children (age 9 & 4) with us, I was wandering about the feasibility of taking them along to the temple and could they wait with us while mummy and daddy had their Sak Yant?
Hi Nico, thank you for the wonderful comment! I’m happy you enjoyed the article!
I would say it’s certainly possible to bring the children, though they would need to be able to sit patiently and quietly in the room, as to not disturb the ajarn (of course who is giving everyone tattoos with steady hands), and to respect the atmosphere of the temple. It can get quite hot and is a bit of a journey out of the city to get to the studio/temple, and with the 5am wake up to get there early enough, it may be a long day for them.
That said, there are alternatives to Wat Bang Phra. You might be interested in the packages we offer https://wheresidewalksend.com/travel/shop/travel/freestyle/bangkok-sak-yant/ where you would have a private guide to help in getting to an ajarn, better quality and cleanliness (plus the ajarn has some puppies who love attention). We tend to get expedited service too, meaning once you arrive, due to our reservations and close relation, we are able to skip the line waiting, making it faster and smoother.
It’s just something to consider, though if you feel your children are pretty tolerant, I wouldn’t see a problem with the other method 🙂 Please don’t hesitate to ask any other questions!
Hey Ian, can you tell me the best way to get to the temple from Khaosan Road and what would it cost. Thanks
Hi Suraj! Of course… you can take a taxi to Victory Monument from Khao San Road, then all the rest of the transportation and costs are already here in the blog post 🙂
A taxi to Victory monument should only cost about 150-200 baht. ($5-7 USD)
Thanks one more time for being apart of our 40 Travel Inspired Tattoos article. It was great to learn about the Sak Yant style of tattoo from you.. I hope we cross paths again!
40 Travel Inspired Tattoos from Travelers, Bloggers, & Myself
Hey Shannon! Thanks so much for the opportunity 🙂 I love spreading the love on the Sak Yant experience! 🙂
Hi! I’m thinking on getting yantra, but I’m a little worried about placement. It would be my first tattoo and I don’t want it on my back or chest, because I have something different in mind for those areas. Do you think the master would agree to tattoo it on the inside of arm (the area between the armpit and the side of the elbow)?
Hi Alex – traditionally you don’t want to stray to far away from the intended placement of the sak yant, as there’s reasons that they had been chosen to be there. I have seen someone with a full back tattoo already at which point the ajarn decided to put the haw taew (5 lines) on their outter arm… I’m not sure the inner arm would really be a good idea, as I feel many thais would consider that somewhat of an un-holy place (close to the armpit), and may feel it to be offensive getting something sacred there (let alone that’s going to be crazy painful). I usually recommend people who want extreme variations to the tradition that it may be best getting those from a tattoo shop which has someone who practices bamboo tattoos. To get one from a temple or a proper ajarn, if the traditional spot is unavailable, it would be best then asking them where the best placement is for the specific design. 🙂
Thank you, Ian.
Hi Ian… I agree that if at all possible… not to stray from traditional placement locations for Sak Yant tattoos….
When I went with Thai friends to a monk outside of Chiang Mai…. I left placement to the monk.
Towards the end of my four months in Chiang Mai and the surrounding area of Thailand…. I went with my friends to a temple and monk favoured by the Thai people in the area.. Over three days… I received a total of nine Sak Yant tattoos… beginning with the Gao Yord at the top middle of my back… The Gao Yord “nine peaks” is considered the “Master Yant”.
The monk has been doing Sak Yant for almost twenty years…. I was the only westerner there….. it is all Thai people that go to him.
There was questions from the monk, that I answered through my Thai friends, since my Thai language is very limited. Prayers, and ritual accompanied my Sak Yant tattoos… along with blessings afterwards…
This monk uses Khem Sak…. a metal rod into which he inserts a needle spike with a split double pointed tip. The ink is drawn up between the points… something like the ink drawn between the split point of old fashioned fountain pens.
This monks Sak Yant are some of best art work I have seen in Sak Yant…. I’m very happy with them…. and when I asked the cost ? ? I was told to offer what I felt they were worth to me….. I was very surprised…
Definitely not a Thai tattoo parlour on a hippy street in Bangkok…
The real bamboo is called Mai Sak if I’m not mistaken… and the metal rods …usually with steel spike tips are called Khem Sak.
Although both Mai Sak and Khem Sak have been used for many years… and both are considered tradtional and appropriate…. The real bamboo wood ones are being used less and less in both Thailand, Cambodia, and other areas.
I was 61 when I got my first Sak Yant… the Gao Yord….(I’d never had a tattoo of any kind before)… and less then thirty seconds into it, I was thinking ..”Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea”.. because it hurt… but at that point… you blank your mind out and sit through it…. Two days later… I felt that I wanted more..
Two more trips to the monk…..nine Sak Yant…… lots of rituals… blessings… prayers… and my Thai friends said to me… “Now…. you are Thai. Where ever you go in the world… you will have Thailand with you and in you…. you are Thai.”
Somehow… it has changed my life… I know I will never be the same… and I have a Buddhist shrine at home… here in Canada…. and I will be returning to Thailand ..and my friends there. Maybe never return to Canada….
That’s a great story of your own, Robert! Thanks for sharing!! It sounds like you had a life changing experience, as many do, but each personal and completely different 🙂
Hi! I’m going to Thailand on June 2nd and am definitely planning to have a Sak Yant done at Wat Bang Phra! You’re article made the process seem much more approachable and less intimidating, so thank you! I do have a couple questions: are there taxis available from the temple? Is it possible to choose my own Sak Yant (for example, could I print out the one I want and show it to the Ajarn)? What time does tattooing typically begin in the morning? What is the process of paying/leaving offerings? I read somewhere that it’s considered disrespectful to hand money directly to the Ajarn, so how exactly does that work? I’m looking forward to hearing from you! Thanks!!
Hi Geoff! Thanks for your comment and interest in this sacred art! Glad to know the article helped 🙂
To answer your questions:
– yes, you could take a taxi to the temple – it will probably be quite expensive (my guess is about $50 each way… perhaps more?) since it’s quite far outside of Bangkok, and you’ll need to have directions written out for them (preferably in thai) since I dont’ think many BKK taxi drivers will know where it is. I’d say it’s certainly possible, but will be a challenge.
– Typically I believe they start around 8am every day. You want to be there as early as possible, as there will likely already be a few people waiting in line before they start.
– payment (donation) can be made outside at a table with a monk who has the offerings pre-packaged and arranged. It’s pretty straight forward and easy. An additional hundred baht or so should be given with your offering package once inside the temple. They will be placed in a bowl in the centre of the room.. just watch others to know when it’s appropriate to put the offerings in the bowl.
– As above – placing the money and offerings in the donation bowl is the preferred method 🙂
Hope this helps and that you have an incredible experience! Enjoy!!
If I were him, I would see if there are songthaews that regularly go there from Bangkok. In Chiang Mai there are taxis…. and tuk tuks. But songthaews are by far cheaper.. the red songthaews around the city. And the yellow songthaews doing trips to other cities like Chiang Dao etc…
I’m sure Bangkok has songthaews also…. I would not use a taxi if I had the choice…. way to expensive when there are much cheaper alternatives.
If you don’t know some basic Thai…. have a Thai friend go with you.
Songthaew and bus is the cheapest way to travel on the roads (unless you rent a motorbike) …. but you could also take a bus.
The only time I ever used a taxi in Thailand was going from the airport to my first hotel when I first landed in Chiang Mai.
Hey, thanks for this fantastic guide – I’m hoping to get a Sak Yant tattoo when I return to Thailand in June (if I don’t wimp out because of the pain haha!). As my visit will be part of a much bigger trip, I’m just wondering about maintenance of the tattoo afterwards. I don’t know too much about tattoos so am just wondering whether you had to do much to look after it in the hours, days and weeks afterwards? Thanks!
Hey Jack! So happy you liked the guide 😀 It’s really an incredible experience! You’re right about the pain.. it kinda sucks, but at least it’s really quick, and you end up with an amazing memento that will last forever!
Maintenance is similar to a regular tattoo… avoid water and direct sunlight on the sak yant tattoo for the first 3-4 days (so don’t plan to go directly to the beach… maybe go north to Chiang Mai first instead). It is essentially like a cut, but one that you want to leave a mark. No healing creams or ointments… I’d say the best method is leaving it un-bandaged and open to the air and let your body do the work. It will get itchy as the tiny scabs get ready to fall off… avoid scratching them (as hard as that might be). Try not to get sunburned for the first couple months (tanning is fine after the first week, though), as your skin might peel, and you want that ink to have time to really soak down deep into your skin. When in the shower, if it’s strong (most showers in Thailand are not too strong, mind you), avoid letting the water blast on the tattoo for the first couple weeks as well.
It’s pretty simple really… just let it heal naturally, and avoid things that will wash it off, or interfere with the healing process and it will end up ok. 🙂 Most importantly, have fun and go with an open mind!! hope that helps!!
Hey, just to let you know I got my sak yant done a couple of weeks ago and it was incredible. I got the gao yord and I love it. The whole day went perfectly and getting there was down to your fantastic guide so thanks very much. The monk used the tattoo gun for me but some of the first Thai people to get theirs done had the bamboo. After about the third person, he switched to the gun. It was painful but nowhere near as bad as I imagined. Thanks again for a great guide and I’d definitely encourage those thinking about it to get it done!
Hey Jack! Thanks so much for sharing that you ended up going in the end 🙂 so happy that the guide book helped get you there!!! It’s an amazing experience and I’m grateful to be able to share it with everyone! I saw you wrote about it on your blog too ), and gave a shout out, but please feel free to put a hyper-link back to this article to help your readers if you like 🙂 having read your article it looks like you had an amazing experience mate!
I want to get the Sak Yant tattoo and I was wondering how often does it have to get re inked?
Hi Mariia, great question… typically Sak Yant do not get re-inked. They last forever, just as a normal tattoo would, though they fade a little bit just as a normal tattoo would as well. 🙂
Hi I’m planing on getting one this weekend when I go to bkk for holidays , I was just wondering if you can answer a few question that I have . I was wondering if it’s possible to get more then one tattoo in one sitting ? Or do I have to come back another day for another part ? And I was wondering if it’s possible to get a taxi from the temple ?
Hi Alvin – it would appear I didn’t get a notification about your comment! How did everything go? Was it smooth? did you get multiple (I would have advised against that – its not common practice for thais)? Hope you had a great experience!
My nine Sak Yant tattoos from the monk that Thais go to outside Chiang Mai were done on three separate occasions… I was able to go because of my Thai friends.. Odd numbers are very auspicious for Buddhists….. My first Sak Yant was the Gao Yord, (nine peaks) just below my neck on my back…
I have nine Sak Yant tattoos all together… and over three days… odd numbers.
(Odd numbers are auspicious with Theravada Buddhists in that region of the world. Especially the number nine.)
My Sak Yant tattoos were done using Khem Sak.
The monk makes his own ink…. and apparently adds a very tiny amount of Cobra venom to the ink. I think I’m lucky…. because the tattoos the monk did look better than many others I have seen….. so I’m very happy..
There are at least four different ancient scripts that can be used in Sak Yant, depending on the local culture and area in southeast Asia you get them done.
Ancient Khmer script, ….Shan script, …..Lao Tham script, ….Tai Lu scripts are four of them. I think there are one or two others…. They are all proper…..
The important things are the rituals and blessings, prayers and intentions of the monk and the person receiving the Sak Yant.
Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out
some additional information.
I’m afraid I don’t have any videos – but am happy to answer any questions you might have! What would you like to know? 🙂
I used these directions to get my Sak Yant last week! Thank you so much. A few notes:
– the minibus dropped me off in the parking lot of a Lotus Tesco. There were a bunch ofnmotorbike taxis wishing for fares where I got dropped off.
– There is motorbike taxi stand directly across the street from the Wat. One took me back to the Lotus Tesco.
– I went on a Thursday morning. There were two monks tattooing, both of whom I recognized from photos. Only one of them tattooed women. This monk used a gun, rather than the bamboo poke and stick technique.
Hi Kittenface! Thanks so much for your updates! I had noticed that the ajarn had started using a tattoo gun in the afternoons, and was told it’s because his hand has been developing carpel tunnel, but hadn’t realized it had gotten to the point where he was doing it in the morning now too!
It sounds like they’ve tried making things easier for foreigners now too, with the easier access to moto-taxis, and the drop-off in the parking lot.
I hope you still managed to have a great experience. If not, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you still get the experience you’re looking for! 🙂
I’m kind of bummed to hear that they are no longer using the bamboo anymore. My trip isn’t until April and I was very excited to get there to get my Sak Yant done 🙁
Do you know of any other places ?
Hi Gao – Wat Bang Phra is the biggest, most well known temple in Thailand amongst Thai’s for getting yants done. That being said, it’s also become much like an assembly line. Many of the traditional practices are skipped over to expedite the process of getting the sak yant finished with the room full of people. There are several other options available for you – some which are far cleaner, better quality, better sanitation of the needles, and pay more attention to all the traditional practices (mantras before the sak yant, proper enchantments afterwards, etc)… though many of them will charge considerably more. We have sourced one here in Bangkok and do offer a full sak yant experience (with an specialized guide to help translate for you, transport, food, a signed copy of the book Sacred Skin, etc) – you can find more information about it here, if interested in having us help: https://wheresidewalksend.com/shop/travel/freestyle/bangkok-sak-yant-original/ 🙂
As we all know, there are many Ajarns in Thailand and other southeast Asian countries. Also, most Sak Yanta these days I believe are done with Khem Sak, not Mai Sak . If one popular Ajarns has developed arthritis or something, then just go to another. In 2013 I had nine Sak Yant tattoos done by a Buddhist monk outside the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I went there with my Thai friends. I felt a bit nervous at first, because I was the only westerner there. It was all Thais there. My first tattoo was the Gao Yord nine peaks just below my neck on the top centre of my back. The Ajarn used Khem Sak…. A metal rod, in which he inserts the double pointed needle spike in the end. Mai Sak, on the other hand is the bamboo. Khem Sak and Mai Sak are both proper. The electric western type tattoo gun is not proper according to my Thai friends. But perhaps they would make an exception for a monk who has arthritis, I don’t know. The monk who did all my tattoos is popular among Thais in the north part of Thailand. He’s been doing them for about 17 years. And he has several of those elaborate masks that they receive from older masters of the art. Ceremony and ritual accompanied my Sak Yant tattoos. Just one thing… Don’t go getting them at just any tattoo parlor in Thailand. It’s just the same as getting them from a real monk. Don’t go to the touristy places to find one. Go where Thais themselves go. Best of luck to you.
Ahhh, typing mistake. I meant to say that going to a regular tattoo parlour is NOT the same as getting them from a real monk. Sorry about my bad typing and failure to proof read.
Thanks for the great insight and for sharing your experiences Robert! It is true all that you said – though there are also Ajarns tattoo masters (fully ordained Krus or ‘masters’ ) who are equally respected for being able to bestow the abilities to give the enchantments, and come from a similar lineage as the monks. They are often seen working side by side with the monks at a Wai Kru festival.
That said – they too are not to be confused with a regular tattoo parlour. They don’t work in temples, but it’s not a tattoo shop claiming to have bamboo tattoos though were not trained by another ajarn (monk or non) 🙂
I’m planning to go there and get the Sak Yant tattoo while I’m there for the water festival. Now , is it a good idea to get it before or after the water festival? I’m just afraid that I might not have enough time to get it done before I keave since I’ll only be there for two weeks…
Hi Gao!, That’s a great combo of a trip! Getting a sak yant, and celebrating Songkran!! Two of the most unique experiences in Thailand 🙂 I would say 100% it is a better idea to get it after the water festival. You don’t want to get your sak yant wet for at least 3 days after you get it – a water festival would be the absolute worst thing to happen to it after getting one. Definitely go after Songkran!
Additionally, you will want to avoid direct sunlight on it for at least a week – so don’t plan on the beach (also for the water factor) immediately after getting it done. Hopefully that helps answer your questions 🙂
Thanks ! I will let you know how it goes 🙂 I’m so excited !
Hello, I really enjoyed reading this page. It brings me a lot of ideas of what kind of tattoo design to get. I’m thinking to have Tattoo in Philippines when I visit next year. Anyone knows where to get a tribal design? Thanks.
I’m visiting Bangkok for a few days and have always wanted a Sak Yant! Thank you for the directions!!! Unfortunately, I will be traveling alone since everyone I am with are not interested in going. I’m going tomorrow first thing in the morning! Well see how it goes!
Heya Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner (I was off travelling too). Your friends not coming can be a blessing in disguise (pun intended)…. as getting a sak yant is a very spiritual thing, and to do this by yourself, it will be an incredibly personal moment in your life.
How did it go? Did you find it ok, and everything go smoothly? I hope you had an amazing time Jennifer! Thanks for checking out my site 🙂
Wonderful article. I spent four months in Chiang Mai and Lisu villages in north west Thailand in 2013. After a couple of months, I went with Thai friends to a Buddhist monk outside of Chiang Mai who has been doing Sak Yant Yantra tattoos for about fifteen years and is well respected by the Thais in the region, but almost not known to westerners. After interviewing me and asking me questions through a Thai interpreter.. he did the Kao Yord (or Gao Yord) nine peaks tattoo on the top middle of my back the first day using Khem Sak. I was the only westerner there. Apparently he refuses to tattoo some people for one reason or another. All these young Thai men with tattoos watched as I received this tattoo. The first tattoo in my life at age 62. It hurt. But over the next few weeks, I ended up returning twice more…. and received a total of nine tattoos…. including the Hah Taew five sacred lines… and others.. There was ceremony and offerings, and prayers involved in the procedures… I’m back in Canada now…. and miss Chiang Mai very much. Hoping to return next year…. and maybe never leave…
Hi Robert – what a beautiful story of your own experience! It sounds quite similar to what my brother and I experienced! It’s incredible it made such a profound impact you went back for 8 more!! holy wow! You now have a lifelong bond with your ajarn as well, which is wonderful! I can understand why you wish to come back (and never return)… that happened to me 14 years ago, and have now been here almost 3 years! Enjoy your time back in Canada, and have some tim horton’s for me! Maybe we’ll be able to cross paths on your next return! Thank you very much for sharing your story as well!
First off, thank you so much for writing this article. My friends and I are going to Bangkok week of Aug 14th and I’ve managed to convince them to go with me to Wat Bang Phra to get my Sak Yant. Aside from the health concerns (which you’ve repeatedly stressed that may be *eliminated* by going early—which I plan to do so I can be the first), one of my main questions is—what is considered as appropriate attire for women getting a Sak Yant? I understand that traditionally my tattoo would be placed on my back so I was just wondering how is it done for women as we can’t go topless? What are the certain areas of the skin we are supposed to cover while being tattooed? Just want to be informed so our energy going there wont be wasted only for me to be denied. Looking forward to your reply!
Hi Suuukyi! Great news!! I’m so happy you’re about to have this unforgettable experience 🙂 you’ll have to come back to tell me how it went afterwards!
I’m happy you put hypothetical quotations around eliminated, as of course it’s only reduced far more drastically, though an element of risk will always be involved without modern sanitization techniques (or just using a new needle, for instance). However, if you get there first in line, you will reduce the risk drastically!
You are correct that the majority of yantras are placed on the back, though there are some that are on the chest (very rare for women to get these, though it is possible). The best solution I’ve seen, and have since suggested to others is one of the following: Bring a second shirt or jacket, one which buttons or zips up, which you can wear backwards and open. This way when your shirt is lifted in the back, your front is in no risk of being exposed. It also keeps your shoulders covered, which is still respectful inside the temple and in the presence of monks. Another option is to wear a dress with an open back. I had a friend do this, and it seemed to work quite well. I’d suggest possibly a shawl or light scarf too, so you can cover your shoulders, if possible.
it’s a bit awkward, but it’s all about showing respect (the Ajarn is going to brand you for life after all, you don’t want to start the process by insulting him.. haha). Like with everything in life, if you show respect initially, you shall receive it to… also known as karma 🙂 Great question, and nice to know you’re expressing that concern.
A few other elements with regards to respect in a temple… you, and your friends, should avoid standing higher than the Ajarn. No short shorts… if possible, knees should be covered (the baggy, loose MC Hammer pants are popular in Asia for a reason), and it is posted that you should not take photos during the process, especially with a flash, so if you would like to, it should be asked from the Ajarn (tattoo master monk) prior to him beginning his work. The last thing you want is to break his concentration… again with the permanency of being branded.
Hope this helps!! Have an awesome time!!
Tomorrow will be the day! Just want to get your opinion on how early I should be to be the first one in line. If you guys got the 7am minivan and arrived at around 9am—but already had 10 people in front of you, what time should I be at Wat Bang Phra to be the first one in line? I’m staying at On Nut, Sukhumvit area so I was planning to just take a taxi going to Victory Monument at around 5am so I can get the first minivan out (assuming first minivan out is 6am). Do you think this is okay or should I leave earlier?
Hello Suuukyi! Wonderful news!! Congratulations!
Yes, the first minibus leaves at 6am, and that will get you to the temple probably by 7:30am (as you’ll miss the morning traffic that my brother and I got caught in), which should put you pretty much first in line. If someone’s in front of you, they tried really hard to be there before you anyway 😉 you’ll have some time to relax and mentally prepare yourself before the yantra, maybe a quick walk to the nearby river, but do make sure you’re sitting in the room first too.. even if you were at the temple first, it’s first come first serve inside.
Every day is different, some days are very slow while others are incredibly busy. It’s part of the adventure, but I’ll be sending positive thoughts and energy your way that you’re first and it’s fast and painless.. and of course sacred and magical!
Remember to leave some extra baht in the dish for the Ajarn… it’s always good to show them that respect (and it’s cheap enough as it is).
Let us know how it went after and have an amazing time!
This is the right webpage for anyone who wants to understand this topic.
You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic which has been discussed for a long time.
Wonderful stuff, just great!
Hi Thomas! Thanks for your feedback on our Sak Yant post! Now the big question is… when will you be coming to get yours?? 😉
Hi Ian, Thank you soo much for sharing your experience and knowledge.!! I don’t have any tattoos but have always wanted to get one. When coming across The Sak Yant tattoo I knew this would be my first..
I am determined, scared and excited all in one.
I arrive in Thailand on the 25th July I was hoping we could meet to discuss more? I plan to get it done on the 27th or 28th.. Cheers 🙂
Hey ijosh! Thanks for your interest in my experience 🙂 I’m sure you’ll have one equally as magical!
I would love to meet up with you but you’re not going to believe this… I’m actually going on a trip up to Chiang Rai leaving on the 24th and coming back on the 29th!! hahaha what timing is that? If you would like, I can answer any questions or concerns you may have here, or in email at [email protected] 🙂
Travel well and speak soon 🙂 cheers!!
Got a sak yant from Wat Bang Phra yesterday! Great adventure getting there and experience. Thanks for all the info Ian! Excellent directions on how to get there.
Note: there is also a taxi type service to the wat right when you get off the van. It is 150 baht. Not too expensive and the old man driving was very friendly and helpful when we got there.
wow awesome Nina!! I’m so happy I was able to help 🙂 I hope it’s an experience you can treasure for years to come! And thanks on the taxi info… it’s been a little while since I went now, and back then it was only moto-taxi guys, but that’s great you found a taxi there – especially good for groups!
I will be travelling to BKK tomorrow and planning to get my tattoo on Monday morning. But I heard that its the “Asanha Bucha Day” and “Wan Khao Phansa”.
Wondering if there will be any complications due to the occasions, and will the monks be available to do the tattoos? Hope to get your reply asap as plan to head out to the temple early Monday morning. Thanks!
Hi Jennifer! That’s a very good question. Today (July 11th, the full moon) is Asanha Bucha Day, which is the candle festival. The monks would have been preoccupied with chants most of the day. Tomorrow, Saturday the 12th, will be the official start of Wan Khao Phansa, which is Buddhist lent, and shall last 3 months.. That said, it is theoretically a holiday on Monday for most Thai’s. I wouldn’t think that the ceremonies would still be going on (though am not 100% certain of this) by then, however if more Thai’s have a day off, and the temple is open to perform the Sak Yant’s, there’s a good chance that it will be much busier than normal. If you are going to attempt going out there, I would suggest not missing the first minivan (6am) from Victory Monument, meaning you’ve got to be there by 5:30 to find it and make sure you’ve got a seat. I’m sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer as to their hours right now (it’s midnight and they’re probably sleeping) – though they do have an email address for the Wat in the link to their site in this post 🙂 I hope this helps – I have a good feeling it should be ok! Have an awesome time if you go, and come back here to tell us how it went!!
Hi Jennifer – just following up. Did you make it? How did it go? 🙂
Actually Jennifer’s my mom, hah I asked her to help me comment on your post regarding the Buddhist Lent as I was already in Bangkok & the connection wasn’t as good.
Most of all, I did the tattoo! Thank you for all your info & tips.
My boyfriend accompanied me & we left our hotel about 5plus am on monday morning. Waited for the first minvan to Nakhon district for 65 baht/pax & it left on the dot – 6:05am. The van driver drove reaally fast so we reached the middle of the highway about 6:40am.
We were clueless when we crossed the overhead bridge hah! Thankfully we asked a lady & she told use to walk further down the curved road to a bus stop. There weren’t any motorbikes 🙁 only an old tuk tuk uncle so we shared the cost for 150 baht – not too bad for a 20mins journey heh. We picked up a local guy who happened to be waiting for the bus to the temple too, thanks to this guy, we didn’t end up being so lost.
He helped us by sign language when we reached the temple & told us the guy who is gonna do our tattoo is still asleep or eating. We paid 80 baht for offerings & he showed us to the waiting room. We were the first & only ones there! He switched on the lights in the room & sat down with us to wait for the master. We only waiting about 30mins? So im guessing we started the tattoo about 8am. I was the first, so he took out a fresh needle.
The experience was amazing! It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would, even though some areas were slightly more painful. Thankfully it only lasted about 15-20mins. The master was really nice! He actually let me choose the tattoo as I went with the hope of getting a Gao Yord. He even asked my boyfriend to check the alignment after he pasted the stencil on hahaha. I gave the master a donation about 100 baht in a cute envelope given by the temple.
By the time we were heading out, there were another two masters tattooing. We left the temple about 9am & there were only about 10 locals waiting to be tattooed. Maybe the tourists were all watching the World Cup finals a few hours ago hah so there weren’t any tourists at all. Goody 🙂
When we stepped out of the temple, there wasn’t any other transport out other than motorbikes so we took one each for 100 baht & the dropped us at a huge Tesco carpark where there were taxis waiting & we went back to out hotel at Pratunam by meter – ended up about 200 plus baht – it’s quite okay but at least most importantly we got back safely heh! Really happy with my tattoo & would definitely go back next time to get more blessing 🙂
Thank you for the information once again!
WOW what an awesome experience to be shared – a blog post in itself 🙂 Have you considered writing? I’m so happy you had a great time Alicia and glad it all went so smoothly for you! Hopefully it remains an experience you’ll treasure for the rest of your life!! Happy travels!
thank you so much for the info!
am heading to Bangkok this weekend & am intending to hit up Wat Bang Phra for a sak yant tattoo. was wondering if there’s any easier way to head up to the temple directly, like cabbing over? will it end up costing a bomb, hence the suggested route you gave?
thank you for replying Natalia on the tattoos as well, was wondering on the same issue. heh!
Hey Alicia! Glad you found all the tips and bits helpful!
This is definitely the cheapest (and perhaps easiest) way to get to the temple. Many cabbies won’t know where this is, as it’s an hour outside of Bangkok in a different province. If you do take a cab, you will probably need them to wait for you, and depending on the line, that could be a few hours at least, as they won’t want to return with an empty car from that distance. I’m guessing it would probably cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1000 baht ($35 USD) – though I haven’t done it that way, so that is only an educated guess… it could cost significantly more.
If you need any help, feel free to contact me when you’re in Bangkok and I can try to give as much assistance as I can. I should be around this weekend, as far as I know right now at least.
I just wanted to chime in and suggest that you not take a cab. Of course it’s totally your decision, but for me and my boyfriend part of the fun of getting this tattoo was waking up before the sunrise and navigating the steps Ian has listed (they’re perfect) including finding the one old guy who just waits for you to hop on the back of his motorbike to get you there. We personally found it enhanced the authenticity of the experience. Oh and it only cost about $4 each to get there AND back that way!
Thank you Ian & ShoshiShine for your replies!
Okay I will skip the thought of a cab then hah 😀 because the thought of hopping on a motorbike sounds freaky & dangerous at the same time. Since so many of you followed Ian’s steps & got back safely & in one piece, I guess I should follow suit hahaha!
Am exited & nervous at the same time.
I am going to be in Bangkok mid-August and am looking to get a Sak Yant tattoo. Is there any other place that I can go to, where I can be more sure of the hygiene and safety? I still would like to get it blessed by a monk.
Hi Leyla, we’ll see you soon in the Big Mango 🙂 There are certainly places you can go that are more hygienic. Wat Bang Phra is an amazing experience, though it is the ‘assembly line’ of Sak Yants, usually where blue collared thai labourers would go to get theres done. Quick and cheap… but not necessarily the best quality or most hygienic.
Due to the increasing number of people requesting better sanitary standards, while still having a sacred experience (vs going to a tattoo shop), we sought out an Ajarn (tattoo master) here in Bangkok who would welcome westerners, and who was well known for his quality to the art, and in sterilizing the needles (he burns the tips for about 5 mins over a flame in addition to alcohol sterilization.
We’ve created a couple packages which include transport (he’s in a very rural neighbourhood), food and a signed copy of the book Sacred Skin, in addition to the cost of the sak yant and ceremony surrounding getting a yantra. You can find these packages on the “JOIN Us” tab of the post 🙂
Oh my God! I am so glad I found this website! I am gonna be in Bangkok for 3 days and I’ve been thinking of getting bamboo-tattooed! The problem is I can only get a tattoo on my back, parts of my arms and legs (cause of work)… what if the monk wants to do it somewhere else? how does it works, actually? I am excited yet worried at the same time… Help!!! Haha
Hey Natalia! OMG I’m glad you found the site as well 😉 When will you be in Bangkok?? Generally speaking certain yantras must be placed in certain parts of your body… however, the majority of them are on your back (or stomach), though women only seem to ever get them on their backs. It would be unlikely that the monk would choose a yantra, especially as your first one, somewhere else on your body since the others are so rare for women to get. As a first time goer, there’s a 90% chance you will get the Haw Taew (5 lines) done, unless you ask for something different, and that will be placed over one of your shoulder blades.
Hope this helps soothe your fears 🙂 If you need any more help, or are concerned about quality or cleanliness, we also offer help and packages with ajarns (tattoo masters) who are recognized for these qualities. Otherwise, good luck and have an amazing time!!
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Thanks Ian for this great post. Proper studio always important to get perfect result.
Thanks for the tip “Tattoo shops Phuket”, though I feel that my results were beyond perfect at the temple 🙂
Studios, I feel, are best for sanitation measures… but it’s very hard to compare that experience to the one you get from visiting a temple or a proper ajarn in their own studio.
Loved your write up of this, I actually came across it probably about a year ago and stored it in the back of my mind. Just went last week to get my Sak Yant and it was awesome! I had a few hiccups in getting there but that’s thanks because I forget where at Victory monument to get the bus and then our minivan had engine problems. AFter that it was smooth sailing though!
Just from my experience, if others are interested… the price of the offerings is now 75 baht and I was instructed to leave the 25 baht change along with it. So in total it’s 100 baht and then you can leave the additional donation if you choose – most people I saw were leaving the 100 you mentioned.
I think Master Luang Pi Nunn gets all the foreigners because that’s who I had too! Was he kind of moody for anyone else? As I watched him with the few women ahead of me he seemed pissed off as they sat down and he got started, kind of shoving them around. Maybe he was having a bad day but thankfully it didn’t effect the outcome of my tattoo!
Hey Stephanie! Thanks for the update on the price – I’ll add that to the blog 🙂 Glad you were able to get there albeit the hiccups too… quite the adventure though, no?
That’s great you had Ajarn Muang Pi Nuun – he’s known amongst Thai’s as one of the most famous. Did you get shoved around too though? that’s very unorthodox for what I witnessed in the past. In fact, he shouldn’t have had any contact with the women… but perhaps as you say it was just a bad day.
Are you still in Thailand? If you feel like a meet up any time, let me know.. 🙂 Cheers!
I just wanted to drop a line and let you know that my boyfriend and I ventured to Wat Bangphra a couple days ago using your step by step instructions and they were SEAMLESS! We had no trouble getting there and even less getting back! I think in total, travel and tattoos, we each spent about $8! We later found out the monk who did ours, Master Luang Pi Nunn is the most famous in all of Thailand for these! Though we are still a little nervous having gotten them, seeing the lack of sanitation procedure (the ink the needles are dipped in is never changed), we are so grateful and hopeful that the protection spells work! 😉 Thanks so much for this blog! Very detailed!!
Shoshi & Lucas
Hey Shoshi and Lucas!!! Amazing!! You got your Yantra from the same Ajarn as myself 🙂 I’m so happy you had such a wonderful experience! I was worried about sanitation too, and of course got tested (with no bad results) several months later to make sure. Seems the protective powers worked. If people want the security of having a sanitized environment, there is always the option of visiting a non-temple based ajarn – though the prices will be closer to that of a regular tattoo shop. A small price to pay for peace of mind for some though!
Thanks so much for your comments! I would love to see how they turned out!! Happy travels and thanks again for sharing your story with us 😀
thank you so much for the response. I would take note on this.
Also the ajarn would that be in bangkok?
I am interested to get a sak yant. I am concerned with hygiene. I believed the needle is sterilised, but what about the ink. Is the ink reused from the person before, ie. blood contaminated ink?
Hi Kah! Thanks for your interest, both in this post, and in getting blessed with a sacred Sak Yant!
The sanitation is not something that can be highly regulated or monitored, as this is not a proper studio in which you are getting a tattoo, but rather a temple, with a bamboo rod, some charcoal ink and some rubbing alcohol (the sanitizer). I have read many reports and spoken to several hospitals around Bangkok about the subject of transmittable disease through a sak yant. The number of reported cases are incredibly low… in the neighbourhood of 0.01%. Of course, it is a risk, as with any type of tattoo or practice of this nature.
I have two possible suggestions for you. A) try to show up at the earliest possible time, so that you are first (or close to first) in line for the day, thus reducing the risk by a considerable factor, as no one in front of you will have shared the needle… at least on that day. Or B) let us help you set up a meeting with an Ajarn – a tattoo master, based in the city. The ritual would be performed in a proper studio, where western levels of sanitation are observed. You would have time to discuss the significance of the yantra and find one suitable for you as well. The price is closer to that of getting a traditional tattoo – but the experience has 99% less risk involved.
I hope this helps! 🙂
Hi Ian, do you know the exact date this festival will take place in 2014? I hear it’s the first Saturday in March? So this will take place in March 1st, 2014? I see all this information on the web about the festival but not one lists exactly when it takes place.
Hey John! Are you referring to the Wai Kru Festival? We’re still waiting to hear back on the dates ourselves actually, as many of the festivals which changes dates do not get announced until much closer to the date they end up happening in. If you’d like to join us, we should be heading back out there again this year, and we can keep you in the loop as soon as we hear about the date! 🙂 It should be roughly around the date you’ve suggested..
I just received two Sak Yant tattoos from Ajarn Kob in Ayutthaya and was deeply impressed and awed by the experience. I actually am thinking that I would very much like to get another when I get back to Bangkok after the 14th November… Can you recommend an Ajarn in Bangkok? I am specifically looking for Dragon yants. Thanks so much for your very informative posts!
Hi Melissa! Thanks for sharing your story 🙂 Traditionally, once you get a Sak Yant from an Ajarn, that creates a bond with that Ajarn – he is your Kru (your teacher) now. You’re actually supposed to stay with the same one right through til death do you part… it’s a pretty sacred bond for Thais.
Although maybe a little less than convenience, I would suggest you stick with Ajarn Kob in Ayutthaya as to not upset him, or any other Ajarn in BKK… though if you’d like a dragon for aesthetic purposes only, any number of Tattoo shops should be able to provide a bamboo tattoo now, with the same detail as what you’ve already received. 🙂
Ps. I don’t personally have any contacts in BKK, as I received my Yantra in Wat Bang Phra.
Chok Dee Krop!
Thanks for all the info you have provided! I’m currently in Vietnam and will be in Bangkok in a couple weeks and plan on doing this. Do you of any website that provides meanings of different sak yants? I’m sure I’ll let the monk choose but if something really appeals to me then I might request it or possibly get two done. Thanks a ton
Hey Derek – sorry for getting back to you so late?! Have you already gone to get your Yantra?? There’s a link in the middle of this post which links to the Yantra I got. The author also discusses many other aspects of the Sak Yant.. here’s a link to all his yantra articles, including the meaning of several others 🙂
I’ve decided to get a Sak Yant tattoo on my birthday which is the day I arrive in Bangkok! I’ll be arriving at 2:50am so I’ll be able to get there early to hopefully be first in line. I’m crazy excited about getting this.
You are going to be TIRED!! haha.. but yes, what an amazing entry to Thailand, let alone a way to remember your birthday! What day are you arriving??
hey ian, I made a sak yant (ha taew) tattoo last week in Bangkok. to be honest i feel enthusiast about the spiritual side, but i don’t like the way they set the price
by the way, the feeling during the tattoo process was indescribable and different than the process in tattoo studio.
it was very smooth and relaxing even for a ‘lil girl like me hohoho
hope we can meet someday in Bangkok 🙂
Hi Via!! I’m soooo happy to hear that you got your Sak Yant!! Did you go to Wat Bang Phra? I’m not sure what you mean by set their price, as it’s a donation based process there.
I’m glad that you had a spiritual experience! I’d be more than happy to meet up one day. How long are you in Bangkok for?
hey ian, finally I made a sak yant (ha taew) tattoo last week in Bangkok. the feeling during the tattoo process was incredible and different than the tattoo process in the studio. it was very smooth and relaxing even for a ‘lil girl like me
hope we can meet someday in Bangkok 😉
hey Ian, I made sak yant (ha taew) tattoo in Bangkok last week. The feeling during the tattoo process was very indescribable and different than usual tattoo in the studio. it was very smooth and relaxing even for a ‘lil girl like me hehe
hope we can meet up when i visit Bangkok again 😉
first of all, thank you for the massive amount of information! I do have a few questions tough. For the past 3 years (I’m 25) I’ve been working really hard and saving for a trip to Thailand (quite expensive to book where I live…), wich I’m finally going to do in february 2013. I’ve also been studying Buddhism for a couple of years. I wouldn’t call myself a buddhist, but the way my life is guided by it so much, I don’t know what would honour me more than a real buddhist monk giving me his powers through a tattoo. Now this is where my problem begins… The trip I’m going to make is “organised” by a travel agency, in wich we follow a strict schedule (I want to see a lot!). You see, when I booked the trip there was a day in Bangkok we could we were free to do whatever we want. Yesterday, I got news that there’s a slight change of plan. Little free time in Bangkok and 1 day free in Chiang Mai. I guess you can smell my disappointment… The problem is, I want a REAL buddhist monk doing it, since I do believe in the powers given by these sacred monks. There might however be a slight chance the first day we arrive (we land in Bangkok in the morning, I don’t know what time) because we have all day to rest from the long flight. However, I’ve seen it’s quite a journey to get to Wat Bang Phra and you have to get in line, wich all in all could take a few hours… Getting there could be problematic, considering we just landed in Thailand for the very first time a few hours before, and no knowledge of Bangkok and it’s transportation possibilities/locations.
– What are the fastest ways to get to Wat Bang Phra?
– Are there any other monks in other temples in/around Bangkok/Chiang Mai who would like to give a Sak Yant to a westerner? How about getting there?
– Is there a slight chance that the month of february is less “crowded”, I mean, traffic, the line in the temple, etc. ?
I’m sorry for all my questions and the really long post, but I’m quite desperate actually. It would take me years before I could save enough money to come back to Thailand…
Hi Ian, thank you so much for your information, I had my first Sak Yant done in Chiang Mai a few years ago in a small temple and it’s truly an unique experience. This year I am definitely going to Wat Bang Phra and and another one done in Nov!
Reading your information, I was just wondering about the return trip back to Bangkok, you mentioned that one can just get on the local bus outside of the Wat and will be dropped off at an area to catch the van, so do they have different van going back to different area of Bangkok? I will need to be back to Victory Monument, is it possible? Or do they only drop off at nearest BTS station which is Mo Chit?
Also, if I take the earliest bus at 6am, is it possible to finish the journey and return to Bangkok by noon?
Thank you again for sharing your wonderful info on Sak Yant. Lynn
Hi Lynn! Thanks for contacting us and sharing your own experience! 🙂
The minivans leave when they are full, so you could be waiting a while for them to go, and not by schedule. We were not dropped off anywhere near victory monument actually… nor were we close to the BTS. We were on the other side of the chao phraya. We had to take a taxi back into the centre of the city, and I don’t think it’s negotiable with the minivan drivers. They go where they have planned to go. Consistency is not something you can rely on in that situation.
I would be incredibly hesitant to say that you can make it back by noon… 6am you will be missing much of the morning traffic, so you should get up there very quick, which should also put you closer to the front of the line… but Bangkok traffic is exactly that.. traffic. It’s unpredictable. I try to encourage people to not plan anything until at least later in the evening. Though it is probably possible to do it that quickly, it is not ever going to be a guarantee!
If you are in a rush, and want to have an awesome, authentic experience… we might be able to help organize something for you with a proper ajarn – though costs are closer to western prices for a tattoo, but it comes with many more guarantees (quality, sanitation, timeliness, etc). If this is of interest, let us know and we can work out the details with you!
Just reminds me how much i miss Thailand now… Should really reschedule a trip there, it’s just amazing
Thailand is wonderful 🙂 Do let us know if you come for a visit, Diane!
im going to bangkok in feb next year and have 1 major question….
im hairy dude!
i have no tats on my back at all and im all for the monk choosing for me. will they shave or burn the hair off or will they expect me to prep before i go (seems hard as i dont know what he will choose)
Hahaha – oh Nick, that’s actually a really good question! Thanks for the chuckle 🙂 A few things:
Letting the monk choose for you, that’s cool… but it’s placement will also be chosen, most likely in a place that’s common for that yantra to be placed. This could be a problem with the hairiness.
The monks will not shave or burn you. You will need to have that prepped. Asians (generally speaking) are not hairy like us. They probably would not know what to do with your hairy back, and would attempt to put the yantra over the hair.. that could get messy. So how do you know where to shave?
I’d say you could either choose a yantra that you feel has meaning to you (as I did with the Paed Tidt) and then shave off the area where it would typically go… or.. just shave your whole back. Might look less awkward on the beach, anyway 😉 You could always use ‘nair’ or something of the sort which dissolves your hair off too… just my two cents! Let us know when you come over in Feb! 🙂
thanks for the reply
i’ll probably ‘nair’ it. dont think im brave enough for a back wax before i go!
ive got a couple more questions on after care if you dont mind. do you recommend taking cling film to cover it with after and something like bepanthen (other skin creams are available!) to apply or is it just not needed for this type of tattoo.
Hi Ian! I sent u an email but I’m not sure u got it. Just wanted to tell u I actually found who that monk in the photo is…or was, as he died in 2010! Talk about bad luck! :/
Well, Im sure we’ll figure out a solution for my tattoo location;) We arrive on the 15 around 6pm and we´d love to meet you guys for drinks later!!
Hey Sania! Looking forward to your arrival today!! 🙂
Hey, Ian! Thank you so much for your story! I have been contemplating getting the five row (Hah Taew) tattoo for several years already, but having read your post, I now realised it’s high time I already made my dream come true.
I have two questions considering what I read before:
1. Some say that as Sak Yant are magic, one mustn’t speak for 3 days after getting inked, otherwise, you lose the power of the tattoo, etc. Is it true or just for extremely orthodox ones?
2. After getting inked is it possible to keep on having vacation (i.e. swimming, sunbathing)? I’ve never got myself a tattoo so far so I’m not aware, how it normally is after inking – one has some bruises and should wait for them to heal?
3. And speaking about pain, can a person who never got inked before endure the process of Sak Yant or you doubt it?
This was my first tattoo and I hear that it hurts worse than the gun. I was bleeding a little. I was numb after the first 2 mins tho.
Hi Natalia! Such great news that you’re going to get out there and do it now! I know you’ll have an amazing experience! 🙂 With respect to your questions:
1. In all fairness, ancient traditions actually say that you must abide by ALL the buddhist practices for the Yantra to keep it’s power – no meat, no alcohol, no sex, etc – and not just for 3 days, this is a life journey. That said, Wai Kru is a festival people go to get their tattoos recharged. It’s full of people from all walks of life. Gangsters, prostitutes, etc – all who swear they abide by everything, and their tattoos still have the powers given. You be the judge of your own life and it’s values, and your yantra will give you whatever you believe it to.
2. I would suggest getting inked at the end of your trip. With any tattoo, you should avoid direct sun and water for 3 days at least… this includes washing it. You could risk fading if you rinse off any ink before it’s healed into your skin.
3. Pain I’d put just above a paper cut. Unenjoyable, but tolerable. They’re much faster than a gun tattoo as well, which can take hours. Sak Yant can be done in less than 20 mins – often closer to 10, for the Hah Taew. You may get some droplets of blood after as well too, but it’s not terrible at all.
Hopefully this helps 🙂 Good luck and enjoy the experience!!
The offering is now 75 baht for the cigarettes and flowers. Just had mines done last week at this temple.
Good to know, and of course there should be a monetary donation made with the flowers and cigarettes when they’re put in the bowl as well, right? 🙂 I’m glad you were able to have it done. Do you know the name of the Yantra you got?
Hey Ian !! How are you ?
First of all, thanks for the helpful informations, really useful !!
At this moment I’m in Thai and tomorrow I’ll be in BKK, and I’m really interest on Sak Yant tattoo, even better if it would be maid by a monk !!
I still have a doubt that maybe you could help me. The monk ‘chooses’ the Sak Yant tattoo or he only ‘chooses’ the sentences. That’s because I’m really interest on Ha Thaew tattoo and I’d love to do it on my left ribs, under the left arm. Tell me something about it.
Thank you very much and congratulations by the post, very useful !!
Hi Ricardo – welcome to Thailand 🙂
It is a common misconception that the ajarn (tattoo master) must ‘choose’ your tattoo for you. Traditionally, you are supposed to meet with the monk and discuss your life, etc and best choose a Yantra which will be most beneficial to you and your lifestyle. However, many Thais just leave it up to the ajarn to decide for them, based on your aura (life energy).
This being said, if you know what would work best for you, then you can simply request a yantra from the ajarn, and he will do it for you (just as my brother and I both requested the Paed Tidt yantra).
However – there are traditional placements for certain protections, and they should remain the same. I’m not sure if getting one under your arm would be suitable, as I don’t think that’s the traditional placement. It should be on the upper left or right corner of your back, or if that placement already has a tattoo, then it should be on the outer side of your arm.
Keep in mind, this is an ancient, sacred tradition, and we are lucky to be able to participate in it. We should respect as much of the tradition as possible, to ensure that foreigners will continue to be able to participate in the future. I think there’s no problem in asking for it, but the placement should be in the traditional area 🙂
I hope this helps!
Ian, this is the link of the actual design I’d like done…http://www.thaiguidetothailand.com/magic-and-superstition/sak-yant-hanuman/
Im note sure but it might be a temple thats some 5 hours drive from Bangkok…
Ah yes – it’s a beautiful tattoo! Were you born in year of the monkey as well? (that’s my chinese zodiac sign). I’m not sure on the temple either… I didn’t see any mention of the name if was done in with this article.
Hey Ian, well I was born in the year of the dog (but hoping I can get hanuman anyway 😉 Ive been doing some research and Im fairly certain it’s a temple called Wat Phrathat Suthon Mongkon Khirie, though it’s maybe a bit too far to go to …Do you know of a smaller temple where I could get this actual design? Or maybe, as last resort a place in Bangkok?
haha.. You can get whatever Yantra you believe holds the best protective value to you in your life 😉 I’ve only had experience at Wat Bang Phra so far, as have many of my readers (from the comments above). I have a friend/colleague who spent 1 year living with monks/ajarns here in Thailand learning about the practice, so I’m sure we’d be able to ask him some advice. When did you say you’re arriving again?
We land in Bangkok on the 15th of August. The idea is to stay in Bangkok for 2 days and then fly to Vietnam for 3 days and go back to Thailand to Chiang Mai for another couple of days and finish the trip (2 weeks or so) getting to know as many islands as possible. I was planning to get the tattoo done either (ideally) as soon as I get there or just before we had back to Spain…mostly as I’m not suppose to go swimming or get any sun exposure in the first week, which knowing me is going to a hell of a challange ahahaha
We’ll be looking forward to your arrival 🙂 Chances are it will be best to do it at the end of your trip, just so that you’ll be able to go swimming without any risk of affecting the Sak Yant!
Hi, I am travelling to Thai soon and since I know about Sak Yant i have always wanted to have one. But, I am very concerned about the safety. People who have done a tattoo, did later undergone a blood analysis? It is very confusing for me to see all the people doing a queue to have a sak yant and considering all the risks its has.
I know that everything has a risk in life but i want return with a tattoo not with a tattoo and HIV. You know what i mean?
Of course, safety was a concern for me and my brother as well when we went. We did go to Bumrungrad hospital, here in Bangkok, for an appointment to discuss the risk factors with a doctor. They were honest in saying that risk is present, just as it is with a normal tattoo, but HIV is one of the lower concerns. Hepatitis would be more likely something to be contracted, because of the size of the virus, and there are certainly vaccinations you can get to reduce your risk to contracting Hep A&B. This being said, we can obviously not guarantee anything, and you can’t exactly ask the monk to give you special treatment. My suggestion is go to see a doctor first, to confirm any information, and also to try and arrive as early as possible. If you’re first in line, then no one will be in front of you, and your risk is essentially eliminated (or reduced to almost nothing).
I can say that I’ve had mine for almost a year now, and no signs of anything having been contracted. Pretty sure I’m safe. 🙂 Hope this helps!
Hi Ian! Wonderful post and the most informative one I’ve come across so far. As I plan to be in Thailand for the last 2 weeks in August and have been looking forward to this tattooing for a long time, as I imagine most people here have too priror to going:)
However, I have a big issue with getting just any tattoo as my heart is set on getting a Hanumann on my back:)) The meaning of it is very special too me and I want my tattoo to be a reminder of those values every time I see it in the mirror. Can I ask the monk at Wat Bang Phra to do it? Will he accept or is this strictly a no no(choosing ur tattoo) Thanks heaps for any info on this that you might offer!! And congrats once again on ur blog!
Hey Sania! Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂 I should just let you know… the hanuman is a fairly large tattoo (and they have set sizes, as they use a stencil/stamp to outline the tattoo on your back). My good friend had it done when he was here.
You can certainly request which yantra you’d like (my brother and I both requested the Paed Tidt, and were given it). The one issue you should realize with requesting larger yantras is that they do take more time, and if the room is quite full with others waiting, the monk could rush through it. It would still look great, though I have seen some larger ones where the lines were less connected, and it wound up looking a bit dotted (still cool and intelligible however). To get the best quality of a larger Sak Yant, I may suggest going either to a smaller, less busy temple, or to a tattoo shop. If the fine details don’t matter so much, and you’re going for the experience, and the blessing, then certainly go to Wat Bang Phra. I’m just trying to be as honest as possible, from my experience (and having seen someone get a large yantra there as well).
Contact us when you arrive to Bangkok, if you like! We’d be happy to chat more about it if you’ve got concerns! 🙂
Hi again Ian, I cant thank you enough for all the information. I am aware it’s quite big in size. The experience is as important to me as is having the tattoo done just ‘right’ and ideally I guess I’d have it done in a smaller temple. But this is where it gets complicated as I know none yet;) I have stumbled upon a design on the internet of what I would like done and in the photo the tattooing is performed by a monk so I’m hopeful ehehh but I cant seem to find which temple is he from 🙂 I’ll email you the link maybe you recognize him 😉 All in all, I do have quite a few more concerns and I’d love to meet up with you guys for a few drinks once we get there.
Hey Sania! Certainly contact us when you get into town and we’ll go for a drink and see if we can get through some of your concerns 🙂 We can certainly explore other temple options as well, when you arrive! I think that you’re really going to love this experience – it seems you’ve already done a fair bit of homework on it! We look forward to meeting you in August!!
Hi Ian. I just wanted to thank you for this thorough blog. I’ve always wanted to get another tattoo but couldn’t decide what and where to place it. When I came across your blog, I knew that a sak yant would be the one.
I used this blog as my guide going to Wat Bang Phra last Monday. I finally got one from the same monk. He gave me a gow yord. I really like it. My trip to Nakhun Pathom was really worth it. Thanks again! =)
Hey Adrian! Wow – I love hearing these stories of people having positive experiences with Wat Bang Phra (or as a result of any of our blog posts!). Thank you for sharing your story with others. I think it’s something incredible special, and now you have a memory to cherish forever!! I checked out your story, and your Sak Yant looks wonderful! Will you still be here in March, for the Wai Kru festival?
Can u get a taxi from the temple?
Hey Jas – you certainly could get a taxi from the temple… though you’d probably have to arrange a return trip TO the temple if you’re planning on going that route. The temple is not exactly in the city of Bangkok, so it’s not a common route for taxis to just show up… they would have had to be bringing someone else there in order to be there. There’s always the opportunity to negotiating a return trip price with one of them, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how much they’d want. I’m guessing it would be in the neighbourhood of 1000 baht (about $35 USD), as they’ll have to drive an hour in each direction, on top of waiting for you for however long the line up is to get your sak yant done.
Certainly check out the “Getting There” tab of this article for other transportation options which would be cheaper. 🙂
Hi Ian, I’m planning to have one done, but i really don’t know where in Thailand I can have it done. And secondly I’m, a bit concerned about the hygiene and stuffs, do they re use needles and dip into the same ink for everybody? Thanxx.
Hey John – you have a few options, of course. With the cleanliness being a concern, of course I would highly recommend getting your Hep B shots before heading out. That’s a no-brainer. Prior to going, I consulted a highly reputable international hospital in Bangkok, and they advised that the HIV virus is not a high risk due to the type of needle they use. There’s no hole in the end of the needle for the virus to get caught in. That being said… it’s not impossible, but the same holds true to any tattoo shop.
As for places to get them. Wat Bang Phra, in the article above, was a fantastic, off the beaten path destination. It is really somewhere special, and very traditional to this type of tattoo. However, it is always possible to go to a tattoo parlour anywhere in Thailand, and most should be able to provide the same type of bamboo tattoo (sak yant). Mind you – you’ll be paying tattoo parlour prices, and not being blessed by a monk going this route, but they’re certainly more accessible and less ‘risky’ per-say.
Arriving very early (if not first) to the temple is your best bet for avoiding any such concerns. If you’re first of the day, you’re about as safe as it gets 🙂 hope you have a great experience and hope this info helps!
Hello to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from
this site, and your views are good for new viewers.
Thanks Bernd! Glad you feel our articles are helpful 🙂 Happy Travels, mate!
I got a Bamboo Tattoo in Phuket by a Muay Thai fighter who had trained as a monk for a few years and was a weapon maker for the Royal Thai Family…
He made the experience unforgettable, traditional and unique.
Adam – That’s an awesome experience! Do you know which Yantra you ended up getting? Did you happen to pick up any Muay Thai while you were down there as well? thanks for sharing!
All I know is that it is an eight way buddhist protection tattoo.. I trained at Dragon Muay Thai for 6 weeks and had a great time there. Love being in Thailand.. Might visit Wat Bang Pra next time i’m in Bangkok!
It would appear we have the same Yantra 🙂 Nice one Adam!
Personally, I feel we should encourage people contribute a little bit more out of sincerity to the temple considering the currency exchange rate and comparing the normal price we will pay for a tattoo done in a tattoo studio. The tattoo is known to be sacred and meaningful to the people who received it. Same goes to the contribution for the development and growth of the temple. Just sharing my thoughts as a buddhist. 😉
I was thinking this myself. Even if we just contributed half of what we would pay for a tattoo, it would be a boon to the monks.
can we get own design tattooed ?? and does the tattoo fade too soon ???
Hi Sash, please keep in mind this is an ancient tradition and one that is very sacred to the people. You should only be going with the interest of getting one of their designs, as they won’t just give you anything (like a heart with the word ‘mom’ inside). The tattoo does not fade if you take care of it like any other tattoo. Mine is still just as bright, nearly 8 months later, and counting 🙂 If you choose to get a sacred sak yant, have a wonderful experience! It’s been one of the best highlights since I moved to Thailand!
wow thanks for your advice mate 🙂 🙂
i was just wondering whether we could get an eagle done on the back !!! 🙂
I’m not sure of any Yantra that has an eagle.. you’re better of going to a tattoo parlour for that. As mentioned, you should really respect their tradition and only request something they do as a standard.. otherwise you may end up with something you weren’t expecting 😉
Thanks for the info. A friend and I went – it was the highlight of my 2 weeks in Thailand and something that I will cherish. Amazing experience.
Wow – I’m sooo happy to hear that you and your friend had a good experience with getting your yants! If you’d like to share any photos of your tattoos, I’d love to see them!
I am planning to get sak-yant on my upcoming visit to Bangkok. I have 2 questions:
1. Who’s better Ajarn Thoy or Luang Pi Nunn of Wat Bang Phra? Both sanitation-wise and religiously?
2. You said one can chose, I have learnt that it’s the Monk who choses the sak-yant depending upon aura of the person?
They are both fantastic Tattoo Masters from what I have heard. I would suggest speaking with them in advance, if they are not already busy with tattoos. Their english is not that great, but you may get a good feeling about one over the other.
It’s true that often a tattoo can be chosen by the monk, however, the real tradition should actually allow you to sit and discuss what tattoo would be best for you in your life. This sometimes takes several visits to the monk or reeshi in advance of getting the tattoo for you to determine what will suit your life best and what you want it to accomplish.
Thank you Ian, will keep you updated 🙂
Wow sounds like an awesome experience! I’m going to be in bangkok in 2 weeks and was looking for just this information! been thinking about to this for a while wonder what i will end up getting, i don’t know if maybe you know what a good Sak yant for luck and protection is? haha I’m thinking ill just get there and let the monk do his thing.. 🙂 great post very helpful! 🙂
where can i buy some new fresh needles / mai sak
Well, i used your info and managed to get there and get inked, by the same monk that is in your pictures actually.
left my hotel at 6 am. arrived at wat bang phra at 8.30 more or less.
the only difference was price for the moto taxi, it was 300 baht, but it was quite far from the place were the minivan dropped me. Nice guy actually helped me get to the place where they performed the sak yat and everything. anyways, it was 10 dollars, so i cannot even complain.
Caught the bus to the minivan stop, same as you did, and got dropped in a bts station. from mo chit walked back to the hotel.
total time : 10 hours (left at 6 , arrived at 4 pm)
All in all a great experience.
I would love to go next saturday, but sadly ill be on my way back to uruguay.
Thanks for the info!
Hey Mauricio, I’m so happy you were able to find it!!! The monk that tattooed you is actually the most famous in Thailand (amongst the Thais – the most famous amongst westerners is the one who tattooed Angelina Jolie, and I don’t think that’s really as good an experience).
How did your Sak Yant turn out?? And what did you end up getting? If you’d like to share a photo of your tattoo, you can do so on the WSE facebook fanpage 🙂 I’d love to see it!
I ended up getting a Hah Taew. Of course, his decision not mine.
I found out he was a Thai Celebrity after doing a bit of research about the meaning of my tattoo.
Of course Ill share a picture.
Im planning on going this saturday morning to get my own. i have pretty much 0 idea of how to get there ,so im gonna use your directions and hope for the best.
anybody want to join and make it an adventure?
Hey Mauricio, I’m sure you’ll do just fine 🙂 I’ve had a few people make it there with these directions and they did a-ok. I realized I had not yet added a map to this post, so I’ve gone ahead and done that for you as well! Good luck, and have a wonderful experience!!
(ps. if you go again the following Saturday, there is a HUGE festival for all those who have gotten a sak yant here before. it’s going to be AWESOME!). People become possessed by the animal protections and fall into trances. It’s supposed to be pretty fascinating!
Some cracking info here Ian. I’m off to Thailand myself next month and I will be visiting Wat Bang Phra to receive one of these spiritual sak yant tattoos. Tattoos I have had in the past take a good few days to heal – how long did your tattoo take to heal?
Hey Azza! It was remarkably fast! The tattoo is quite large (as you can see), and yet it only took 15 mins to do, and about 5 days before it seemed fully healed. It barely bled, and barely itched. It was incredible. When are you going? There’s a festival there on March 23rd you may be interested in!
Thanks Ian, that’s great to know. I’m heading over April and getting my sak yant done sometime within my first week…. I can’t wait!
Woohoo!! Please report back and let me know how it goes!! I love hearing about other people’s experiences too! Good luck and happy travels!!
Hi Krystle – I guess you already got them and probably answered your own questions by now! I’m sorry for being a little late on the reply! Traditionally, the monk chooses not only the tattoo, but also the location (which are usually in standard locations, based on which he chooses…. based on your energy, and what he feels you need protection of). I have heard of people requesting different locations, though it is really up to the monk if he will allow that 🙂 How did it go with yours?
HEy this is awesome info~ My fellow english teacher and I are going tomorrow.. but just a question.. you said the placement was pre-determined.. is there any wiggle room on this? i dont mind it on my back.. but I’d prefer it more towards the center for professional reasons.. any help would be great! thanks!
Hi Krystle – I guess you already got them and probably answered your own questions by now! I’m sorry for being a little late on the reply! Traditionally, the monk chooses not only the tattoo, but also the location (which are usually in standard locations, based on which he chooses…. based on your energy, and what he feels you need protection of). I have heard of people requesting different locations, though it is really up to the monk if he will allow that How did it go with yours?
*Cringe* Brave soul, you are. I’m pretty impressed how fast they do it. My smallest needle tat was done around 20minutes.
Now contemplating of having this one done too.
Hey Gaye! I was worried this would be several hours to get done, but I couldn’t believe his speed and accuracy! It only took about 12-15 mins… so even faster than your needle tat!! If you come through this way, let me know and we’ll get you sorted 🙂
thanks for sharing all this mate! bless you!
My pleasure, Ale! Have you got a Sak Yant tattoo or plans on getting one?
Hey Ian, i’m thinking to get the sak yant in Thailand. I wanna ask you first, does the wat bang phra open all year? Thanks for your information by the way 😀
Why advertise this on the internet? So every dumb backpacker can flood in there and pay 50 Bht for a tattoo they know nothing about? Is nothing sacred anymore…?
Hi Glenn – I understand your honest, yet somewhat aggressive response. I guess first off – you should realize that the temple itself has a website, which currently ranks much higher than my own for this particular subject. http://www.wat-bang-phra.com/
Additionally, the point of my site is to bring awareness to off-the-beaten-path destinations and experiences, and to educate people so that they don’t exploit things and treat them with a level of respect and understanding (so that every backpacker isn’t a “dumb backpacker” – I take it you’ve never backpacked before?). I’m sorry I’ve failed you in how I’ve portrayed the information.
Ian, While I can appreciate the concern from Glenn, I have been interested in getting one. I have finally decided to do this especially as I keep researching more on the tradition and the spiritual aspect and came upon your blog. I enjoyed it so much I put it in my favorites to come back to it. And your insight is very helpful as I prepare for this. So while I can see that this might be enticing to someone who doesn’t understand it, there are those of us who do and appreciate your advice.
I was surprised that even 2 years after the blog was posted, we just went to Wat Bangphra a couple days ago and it was packed…With LOCALS! We were the only 2 westerners around, even, it seemed, on the whole temple grounds. So while I totally understand your concern, IMHO (esp. having gone through this incredible but risky experience) the types of people who will go out of their way to get this type of tattoo (rather than going to any shop that advertises bamboo tattoos) already weeds out the “dumb backpackers”.
Wow,never heard of this before.
I’ll be in Bangkok in a few weeks and will definitely visit the temple. I don’t have any tattoos yet, I always thought it has to be something special. Well, this IS special and fascinating.
Ah Anja!! It’s incredible! Just follow the directions above and you should have no problem at all! They definitely do tattoo women, and the monk pictured above is apparently the most well known artist amongst Thais in all of Thailand. It’s pretty special 🙂
Been there today. Amazing, although I was scared to do something wrong all the time. It’s just an awesome atmosphere in this room. The same monk gave me a Hah Taew and it looks and – more important – feels really good. When the monk whispered his prayers to activate the Sak Yant I just had goosebumps.
Wow, Anja!!! That’s so awesome!!! The Hah Taew is a very sacred tattoo to get as well 🙂 You got a tattoo from the same monk? I learned later that he is actually the most famous monk in Thailand by the Thai people, and it’s a very high honour to be tattooed by him!! There’s a claim to fame for you.. hehe. I’m glad you got something so special to remember your time here in Thailand!!
I was going to ask about healing time, but you covered that in your reply to Seattle! I just got some fresh ink last weekend (by a regular tattoo needle and not a bamboo, one, however), and I’m reminded how long traditional tattoos take to fully heal. It’s the most annoying part, since you just want to show them off, but they end up looking pretty bad for about 2 weeks until healed!
As I said when I saw your Sak Yant in London, though, it looks amazing!
Hey Amanda! I’d love to see your new ink! What did you get? 😀
ahh I’m definitely going there, thanks for the info. Hope I have some space left by the time I get there :p Can you rank the pain of both sak yant and a regular tattoo on a scale of one to ten? haha
Sure thing, having both, it should be easy enough… I’d say if a Sak Yant was 10, then a regular tattoo would be about 7. It hurts a fair bit more than a needled one, but the advantages being that it only takes about 15 mins (even for the big one my brother and I got), and it’s only 50 Baht (about $1.60)… AND it’s done in a temple by a monk. Also, healing seemed incredibly fast. Perhaps since it’s not filled in? and there wasn’t much itchiness 🙂
If/when you come over, let me know and I’ll help sort you out! Woot!
Awesome–good to know, thanks! Glad it heals fast, I’m the worst with that and totally disregard all instruction by swimming or going in the sun right away hahah. And yeah, I’ll definitely be asking for help!
Haha.. luckily I wasn’t really near any beaches for the few days afterwards, so direct sun and water were pretty much out of the way anyway 😉 Look forward to catching ya over here, if/when you come! Will you be at TBEX Toronto next summer?
Soooo excited. Yvonne from justtravelous and I are doing this in a couple of weeks!
Woot woot! Awesome, Ava! Such an AMAZING experience! I’m supposed to be meeting up with Yvonne prior to it, to give a pep-talk over some beers! Will be great to meet up 🙂
Perfect let’s do it!
the countdown is on!! 🙂
Loved this post, Ian. I’ve gotten quite a few tattoos in my day, but this process sounds much cooler, if a bit more intense. We might be headed to Thailand in 2013, so I may have to look into this…
OOooooh… it certainly was a bit intense. I almost felt like I was going to start hallucinating from the pain.. but it was a good pain. I knew where it was coming from – and it made it all the more worthwhile. Let me know when/if you make it to Thailand 🙂
Great post! Exactly the information I was looking for!!! Thanks!
Hopefully we meet up here in BKK and I’ll give you the full deets about it over a beer or three!
I love how the sak yant look. I think the tradition, history, application and design is just fascinating…I also think I could never actually buck up and get one!
hahaha – the only things stopping you is.. well.. you! 😉 It took me a decade to ‘buck up’ and finally get it, but the experience alone made up for all that lost time of pondering, let alone the wonderful memory now imprinted not only in my mind, but also on my brother’s and my backs! Come on down to Bangkok, and I’ll show you the ropes!
That is a great way of getting a good travel memory Ian. Looks too!
Thanks Jarmo (the Snomadic one)! I’ve wanted something of this nature for years, and the stars seemed to align when it finally came time to getting one. It definitely turned into quite the awesome adventure, that’s for sure!
Insights such as “The temple of some monks” are why I read travel blogs. That tiny piece of unexpected knowledge just makes my day. Good on you for pursuing something like this, it looks awesome!
Such a sweet comment, Sarah! Thanks so much! Looks like I’m doing exactly what I’m trying to for some peeps 🙂 I couldn’t stop giggling when I learned how simple the name translated to in english. There must be something lost in translation.
You have made me very jealous Ian. And here I thought we were friends. 🙂
Bahh.. Raymond! Don’t get jealous – get inspired 😉
Wow, this is an awesome way to remember the time you spent in Thailand. I was always curious about this art form, but now I feel like an expert! 🙂 Great pictures and great information. Love the new ink!
Thanks The World Wanderer 🙂 I’m actually on my way back to Thailand.. perhaps this is the first of many?