Tattoos and Thailand Part 2
Tattoos and Thailand Part 2
Kanchanaburi is a fun and beautiful tourist trap located in northern Thailand. We ended up there because we heard of its beauty and the many different activities offered in the area. THe area we stayed in had one main street littered with bars, nightclubs, a library/bookstore/bar, and many guesthouses you can stay at relatively cheaply. We found a great guesthouse off the main road that was on the River Kwai. Our rooms were directly on the water on a houseboat-type building. It had really beautiful scenery and a peaceful atmosphere.
The main part of town was mostly filled with tourists and expats, it seemed like most of the expats we met started drinking from the morning and continuing through the night. You could tell they were living out the rest of their days, probably squandering their retirement money on wine and women. The town definitely had characters. We met one Irish expat who called out “TATTOOS!!”, to us every time we passed and told us he was an IRA spy.
I wondered what his story was. The rest of Kanchanaburi consisted of very rural areas, where people farmed or sold their wares on the sides of the road to more city ares, congested and busy. Colorful temples dotted the land where monks would burn what looked like leaves and garbage in small piles in front of the temple in the evenings.
It made for interesting photos. We also went to a cool night market. They sold everything from clothing and bedding to food and electronics. They seem pretty popular in Thailand, there seems to be one in every city.
So one night we were sitting at a 10 Baht roadside (literally) bar, drinking and thinking what to do the next day, when a skinny Thai guy came and sat next to us. He noticed our tattoos and asked if we wanted to see his.
He lifted his shirt and showed us his traditional Thai tattoos. He a few traditional Thai tattoos. We made small talk, he owned a bar across the street called The Buddha Bar and his name was Jack Sparrow (yes, after the pirate).
He asked us if we wanted to get tattooed by an ex monk that can do traditional Thai tattoos. We said yes. So we decided to meet up with Jack the next day at his bar and go from there.
The next day we rented motor scooters and met up with Jack. We arrived at the studio in 10 minutes and knocked on the door. This sage-of-a-man with waist-long hair and covered in Thai tattoos answered the door. We never got his name and we never told him ours, which only added to the experience. He also spoke no English and we spoke no Thai, so we relied on Jack to interpret for us. The room was small, but there was a Buddhist shrine, a sofa, and plenty of floor space to sit on. He had stacks of stencils and books to page through, but as we sat down Jack told us the tattoo artist would choose the tattoo and the place where it should go.
Jack told us that he had been a traveling monk for 10 years, tattooing all around Thailand. He retired from being a monk and can still tattoo Thai blessings. He has had his own studio for the last 5 years (I was there 3 years ago). This tattoo artist was (for lack of a better word) really cool. He had this aura of wisdom and serenity. You could see the depth in his eyes; this guy has seen some shit. It was a really unique experience, one of those where you actually feel different from before. I feel like this monk’s blessings have made a difference in my life somehow, maybe its just mind over matter, or maybe there is really something to him.
He chose our designs, I got two and mine were a little box on the back of my neck to change any negative energy directed at me into positive energy and the other was vertical lines Thai of prayers to ensure basically a good life. The other friend of mine getting tattooed was chosen a tiger on his back.
The tattoo artist put on a t-shirt; walked over to the Flower-laden and incense ash-covered shrine, lit more incense and said a prayer.
He set up his equipment (yes, he took needles out of a sealed sterilization package) and began. He drew the lines on me for the vertical prayer tattoo, and then tattooed the rest freehand. He tattooed the second one freehand as well.
After he finished one, he would put some sort of oil on my tattoo and lightly press on it while saying a prayer for a minute and then blow on it.
I sat there in prayer position during the prayer, thinking of positive thoughts. After the prayer, he gave me a platter with a piece of purple, Thai silk on it. Jack told me the price was 100 Baht for each, which is about $4.00 each. I put $500 Baht under the silk and it was finished. I felt an overwhelming sense of serenity yet feeling energized and renewed somehow. It was one of the most unique tattoo experiences in my life.
We made friends with a couple of girls that had been there the whole time, helping us translate and give us advice on what to do in town. They wanted to show us how to cook some traditional things. So we made plans with them to meet up the next day. After that, we said respectful goodbyes to the tattoo artist and left into the evening.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Tattoos and Thailand!
Photos by me