Getting Sak Yant Tattoos with WSE Travels
I’ve been playing most of my itinerary fast and loose in recent days, but with each country I visit, I have at least one or two things I want to accomplish. In Thailand, those things were: 1) Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary and 2) Get a sak yant tattoo.
A sak yant tattoo is definitely one of those obvious Thailand tourist things. Sak yant is an ancient Thai tattooing ritual passed down through generations of Buddhist monks and ajarns, consisting of magical geometric, animal, and deity designs that offer the wearer protection, guidance, fortune, and other benefits. Rather than create the tattoo using a needle, monks and ajarns often use a bamboo or metal rod.
There are many ways to get a sak yant tattoo, but I wanted to make sure we obtained one using sanitary supplies, important since hepatitis A is making its rounds, and using a translator so that we didn’t get anything like “Girl with a strong butthole” tattooed on our backs. (True story, someone we met got that phrase tattooed on them by a Thai villager instead of “Girl who runs strong.” Language barriers.)
So we booked a tour through WSE Travels. The total cost was $200 USD per person and that included the ride to the village, the tattoo, lunch, and a tour of a nearby amulet market. It was a bit pricey by Thai standards, but totally worth knowing exactly what we were getting tattooed on ourselves.
Our tour guide, Noi, picked us up from our hostel at 9am and we headed to a village located in the southern part of Chiang Mai where our ajarn worked. Once in the village, Noi taught Allison and me the basic principles of prayer in the Buddhist religion.
Following our lesson, we were able to write out what we wanted our tattoos to mean. Allison chose a few different meanings, centering around happiness. I chose Peace, Compassion, Freedom from material desires and Living in the present.
We were able to go through a few design examples to see what we liked/didn’t like, but we both opted to just let the ajarn design whatever he see fit.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the design he chose for us.
The ajarn was working on another client as we were discussing designs and meanings. Once he finished, he consulted with each of us and then drew up a design on the fly for our approval.
The actual tattooing process took no more than 15 minutes each. It was Allison’s first tattoo, and she was a trooper through the entire thing. It was my fourth tattoo, but I think it was the most painful one I’ve gotten thus far.
Overall, we’re both super happy with our tattoos. I highly recommend WSE Travels if you’re ever in Thailand and looking for a non-stressful way to get tattooed.