Tattoos in Thailand

8 Jan

I am a HUGE fan of tattoos. They are a great way to express something about yourself. They are very, very addictive and, of course, permanent. Not that the latter bothers me.

Naturally, I wanted to get a tattoo as soon as I got to Thailand. In fact, I ended up getting two.

The first tattoo I got was in Chiang Mai. I had obviously done my research on tattoo shops in foreign countries and I therefore made sure I felt completely comfortable with the place that I chose. For me, it wasn’t about the cheapness of tattoos that you can easily find on Khao San Road in little side shops that might not be reputable. Rather, it was about the tattoo and the experience itself and I knew that Dejavu Tattoo in Chiang Mai was right for me. For anyone who has been to Chiang Mai, you probably know where the Roots Rock Reggae Bar is located in Chiang Mai. Well, Dejavu is in that little square, as well as in a few other locations around Chiang Mai. I had a choice between a regular machine-applied tattoo or traditional bamboo tattooing. I chose the latter because I thought that it would be a cultural experience in and of itself. They charged per hour and bamboo cost a little bit more than machine: 3000 baht/hour, which is about 95 USD. So it was basically the same price that it would have been if I got the tattoo in Canada, but I like to think I paid more for the security and comfort of a safe, clean parlour. You only need to book like a day or two in advance, but it’s a pretty busy tattoo business so don’t expect to get a walk-in appointment like I attempted to do. Anyway, I decided to get the tattoo on my foot. I got my last name translated in Thai (and I know it was accurate!). I got it written in Thai because I love how Thai script looks. It’s so beautiful. The artist also added a traditional Thai flower. Out of all 5 tattoos that I have, this turned out to be my favourite. It also turned out to be the most painful tattoo I ever got done! It was absolutely brutal. It literally felt like someone was scraping at my foot with a blade. But, I’ve heard that foot tattoos are quite painful so I guess I should’ve expected that.

The second tattoo I got was on a complete whim. I met this guy in Cambodia who had this Buddhist, Thai tattoo between his shoulder blades and I instantly fell in love with it. It was so intricate and beautifully symmetrical. It reminded of another tattoo actually. I’m sure most know about the infamous Buddhist monk tattoo that Angelina Jolie has. Well, after doing a little research I actually found that her tattoo and my friend’s tattoo are two of many variations of Sak Yant tattooing practiced in Southeast Asian countries. Angelina Jolie has the popular Hah Taew (The 5 Sacred Lines) tattoo which is intended to help the bearer in different aspects of his or her life. The one I got is also very common and it is known as Gao Yord (9 spires) which symbolizes Buddha and intends to bless the bearer with protection and good luck. Now, I actually did get this tattoo on Khao San Road in Bangkok. Again, I did some research to make sure I was choosing a reputable tattoo shop. I ended up heading to YMK Tattoo, a small but professional studio on Khao San Road (it’s kind of hidden in one of the little alleyways, fyi). This tattoo was cheaper than the one in Chiang Mai simply because there is room for bargaining. The tattoo artist doesn’t speak English, but the receptionist speaks great English and was very helpful. I loved this tattoo because it was hand drawn by the artist and the imperfections were kind of what I was looking for.

Getting tattoos in Thailand was a great cultural experience because of the bamboo technique that was used. The artists literally use a thin stick of bamboo that has a point at the end which they dip in ink. Then they (very precisely) stab your skin over and over. It is surprisingly less painful than machine tattoos AND bamboo tattoos heal almost immediately. Mine didn’t scab at all. It was bizarre.

Talk about a souvenir that will have an everlasting impression on you. These are definitely two of my favourite souvenirs from travelling! I’m hoping to add to the collection as my travels take me to different countries around the world!



3 Responses to “Tattoos in Thailand”

  1. Tatiana January 9, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Hey, I am heading to Bangkok in a week and was very interested in that place in Khao San Road… Is everything really sterile? Didn’t they ban this type of tattoo for foreigners or not yet? Can you tell me, plase, how much it cost? Tks!

    • Kristy January 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

      Hey! I think it’s really more of a judgment call that you yourself need to make. I have a lot of tattoos so what’s makes me believe a place is really using sterile equipment is when they show it to me. I always ask, but in both of the cases of the tattoos shops I went to in Thailand I didn’t even need to ask. They showed me that there needles were sterile and you can tell because they are packaged, meaning that they are new and clean needles. It’s funny, walking on Khao San Road there are people coming up to you with booklets filled with their work as tattoo artists and offering cheap tattoos and, you know, they could be sterile places, but those are the tattoo shops that I avoid — the ones that are coming up to YOU. I just ask around for advice and always search online for reviews of the best tattoos shops in the area. The one I went to on Khao San Road seemed extremely reputable, but I’m sure that a lot of them are not. As far as I know, tattoos are not banned for tourists as I went with many people to get tattoos while I was there. As for price, you’re going to pay more for a place that seems reputable. The one I got on KSR was about $50, whereas it would have easily been double the price here in Canada and probably half the price at the dingy shops on KSR. Good luck and let me know if you end up getting one!

  2. Tatiana January 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Hey Kristy! Thank you so much for the reply. I also have tattoos and I agree with you when you say that they need to show me the equipment and the packaged needle. I have been researching online for people who could recommend me some places in Thailand and Cambodia, as I will be visiting both places, just so I can narrow down my options and you really helped me! I asked about the ban on tattoos, because the government wanted to stop tourists from getting religious tattoos and they started talking about it in june or july 2011, so I got a bit worried. I was also relieved regarding the price. It’s way cheaper than I thought it would be! So, thank you again for your time replying to this message! I am travelling with my husband nect week, so after I get it I will let you know 😉

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