How To Get A Sak Yant Tattoo In Thailand: Everything You Need To Know

We’ve known for years that if we ever traveled to Thailand, we would get traditional Sak Yant tattoos. I’m not sure how we first heard about these traditional Thai tattoos, but we were immediately intrigued. This was before we knew Angelina Jolie has one and before Sak Yant tattoos became a bit of a fad (especially with travel bloggers.) I actually think most people thought we were crazy when we used to explain why we would want a Buddhist monk to hammer repeatedly into our skin with a bamboo rod…

So when we finally embarked on our first trip to Thailand this year, getting an appointment for a Sak Yant tattoo was the very first thing to go on our travel itinerary.

 

Sak Yant Tattoo
 

What Is A Sak Yant Tattoo?

 

You’re not alone if you’ve never heard of a Sak Yant Tattoo. We’re always explaining to people what we’ve got inked on our backs, and we love sharing about the sacred experience!

Sak translates to ‘jab’ and Yant to ‘blessed tattoo.’

Traditional Sak Yant Tattoos are ancient Buddhist designs and prayers that are etched into the skin by an expert monk using a long bamboo rod (now with a steel needle tip.) They date back thousands of years and are believed to offer various protections and blessings, depending on the design.

 

Sak Yant Tattoo Thailand

 

The Sak Yant Tattoos are typically performed by monks within a Thai temple. These are by donation, but it can be difficult to find monks willing to tattoo women as they aren’t supposed to touch the opposite sex. Alternatively, Thai bamboo tattoos can also be given by an Arjan, or an ex-monk who is a Sak Yant Master. These will have a fixed fee and can also be performed with a tattoo gun. Typically it’s easier to find an Arjan willing to tattoo women.

 

Our Sak Yant Tattoo Experience

 

Sak Yant Tattoo
 

We did a ton of research. After all, this was something we had wanted for years! There were a few things that were super important to us:

1. That the experience was authentic. There are tons of touristy tattoo parlors that can do Thai designs, but for us, that defeated the entire purpose.

2. That the experience was intimate. We didn’t want to wait in line for hours and then have to rush through the ceremony so the people behind us could get their turn.

3. That the experience was traditional. A typical bamboo rod, with a monk, in a temple, etc.

4. That the experience was sanitary. Obviously, we didn’t want to come home from Thailand with an unwanted souvenir from dirty needles.

 

Ultimately we decided to go through Chiang Mai Locals to get our Thai tattoos. Chiang Mai Locals was able to make an appointment for us with a monk at a small rural temple just outside of Chiang Mai—and it was at a location where they knew the quality (and sanitation) of the tattoos. This took all the worry out for us!

Nana was our fantastic host from Chiang Mai Locals. She met us at our hotel, accompanied us to the temple, translated the entire process, walked us through proper etiquette, and ultimately made sure that our experience getting a Sak Yant tattoo was even better than we could have hoped!

As briefly mentioned above, it’s not easy to find a monk willing to do the Sak Yant tattoos on a woman. In our case, it was not a problem as long as I was accompanied by a man also getting a Sak Yant tattoo and I didn’t take any photos during the tattoo process.

 

How To Get A Magical Sak Yant Bamboo Tattoo In ThailandClick To Tweet

 

Choosing Our Sak Yant Tattoo

 

When we arrived at the temple, the first step was to look through the books of designs and choose the pattern we wanted.

We had heard that in some cases the monk would not allow you to choose the tattoo; rather, they read your aura and give the blessing they deem right for you. However, our monk believes if you see a Sak Yant design that you want, then it means that pattern is speaking to your soul, and therefore it’s the right blessing for you.

I knew that I wanted the Hah Taew Yant, or 5 sacred lines. This is easily the most popular Sak Yant tattoo (and it’s the one Jolie rocks.) Each line represents a Yant, or magical blessing. You can learn all about what each line means here, along with the rules that accompany the tattoo.

We don’t know the name for Dan’s tattoo. He told our monk from what he wanted protection, and then received a few suggestions on what magical blessing would be the best fit.

 

Does It Hurt?

 

Sak Yant Tattoo
 

Oh yes. The bamboo needle definitely hurts more than a traditional tattoo gun. However, it’s pretty fast (mine took an hour), and it heals extremely quickly. We had no blood, no scabbing or peeling, etc. The quality is supposed to last for a long time, so that’s also good. Though we were told the magic in the ink needs to be replenished each year—a good reason to get us back to Thailand!

 

The Blessing Ceremony

 

Sak Yant Tattoo
 

After the monk had finished the tattooing, there was a short ceremony to bless the tattoos. This included chanting and gently hitting the tattoo again and again. We then offered a donation to the monk for his time and magic.

Whether or not you believe in the magic of the tattoos, the experience of receiving a traditional Thai tattoo from a monk in a small rural temple is one that will stay with you forever—both physically and mentally.

 

Additional Tips To Know:

 

1. Dress respectfully. Women should wear pants and cover their shoulders.
2. Do not point your feet towards a monk or stand above a monk as both are deemed disrespectful.
3. There is no fee for a Sak Yant tattoo from a monk in a temple. However, do bring a donation. This is usually flowers, incense, candles and a small monetary gift.

If you’re interested in getting a Sak Yant tattoo, we highly recommend going through a local who can guide you through the process and ensure that the monk or Arjan you choose is authentic and safe. Chiang Mai Locals was wonderful. We’ve also heard great things about Where Sidewalks End.

 

You can also learn more about Sak Yant Tattoos here.

 

We are thrilled with our Sak Yant tattoos and extremely grateful for the beautiful experience. It’s not for everyone, but we have no regrets.

 

Would you get a Sak Yant Tattoo? Do you have one?

 

P.S. We were not guests or affiliates of Chiang Mai Locals, but we DO recommend them for their awesomeness.

 

For more articles on Thailand click below

 

Read More About Our 3 Weeks Traveling Around Thailand
 

Meet: Casey Siemasko


Casey Siemasko is a blogger, content marketer, and co-founder of A Cruising Couple. She has been living and traveling outside of the US full-time since 2011. She finds her life inspiration in exploring the world and seeks to find the magic in the most ordinary of places.

14 Comments

  1. Hi Casey, haven’t heard the name “Sak Yant Tattoo” but knew monks perform tattoos within a Thai temple. Interesting thing that now they allow you to select design you want, do you think it’s because of money or it’s really about a design you like and that speaks to you?

    Reply
    • Great question! The tattoos are by donation only and the one we went to is far off the beaten track, so I really think it’s probably a matter of personal beliefs for the monk.

      Reply
  2. This is something I have been wanting to do for awhile. My husband and I are visiting Thailand in November and we are thinking of doing it. Our biggest reservation is the cleanliness of the whole process. I get that in America we are obsessed with cleanliness, but I have also read that the needles are reused. We’re you hesitant at all? Can you tell me more about this part of your experience? Also, is the care for the tattoo similar to how you would care for a regular tattoo?

    Reply
    • Wich temple did you got your tattoos?

      Reply
  3. If you choose, will they read your aura?

    Reply
  4. You should search Apo Whang Od of the Philippines if you guys are into traditional tattoos. I got mine tho i’m not trying to commercial her art i just wanna share how amazing she is and her art. :) i wanted to have that Sak Yant tattoo. :)

    Reply
  5. Hi! So my boyfriend and I are going to Thailand this coming May for 3 weeks. Since we are backpacking we were wondering about healing time and if we need to take the same healing precautions as a typical tattoo you would get from a tattoo parlor. We know this is something we both want to do, but we also want to be safe when doing it. I’d love additional information if possible!

    Reply
    • That’s awesome! The healing time is actually much quicker than a normal tattoo. We didn’t scab at all, and though it hurt really bad at the time, afterwards it wasn’t nearly as sore or sensitive as our other tattoos. I would recommend doing it towards the end though as I still don’t think the salt water or sun would be great for it.

      Reply
      • I went to Wat Bang Phra Temple, its 50kms west of Bangkok. I had a taxi man I hired for the day for 1000 baht, he took me sight seeing as well. I’m lucky I have family in Bangkok so they could come and translate. My tattoo was a 100 baht donation and I brought the monk a packet of cigarettes. Being a female it’s forbidden for the monk to touch a women. I had temple helpers hold my skin tight while the monk did my sak yant traditional tattoo. It took no longer then 10 minutes, I was expecting it to be painful but it wasn’t at all. After the tattoo you aren’t aloud to wash it with any type of soapy water for 4-5 days as the ink can wash out of it. Not like a normal tattoo, you are aloud to go in the sun with a traditional bamboo tattoo. The monk does a blessing type ceremony whilst doing your tattoo and at the end of it they put gold leaf on your tongue, near your tattoo and a further ceremony. It was something I wanted to do as a child being Buddhist myself it was important for myself to have it done in a temple by a monk. People worry about it being sterile and worry about catching anything for example HIV. My family assured me that it was safe and sterile and they have never heard of anyone catching anything of such and they know many people that have gone there to get them as it’s apart of their religion. To calm my mind I got tested when I got home and 6 months later and everything was clear. If you are a women don’t look the monk into their eyes and when going in the temple you may have to walk on your knees so you are not higher then the monk as that is very disrespectful.
        Best wishes with your journey!!

        Reply
        • Which tattoo did you get? I’m so surprised yours was so quick! I had heard that from some others, but ours took 30 mins and 50 mins. Thanks for adding the note about the soap. We forgot to mention that part!

          Reply
  6. Great blog post! Casey I feel silly asking this but did they have any small designs? And how small? I want to do this but want something very small and subtle.

    Reply
    • Not a silly question at all :) I think that they could definitely do something smaller! I don’t remember exactly because I already knew what I wanted, but I’m sure there are one line tattoos and others like that. Best of luck – it’s an amazing experience!!

      Reply
  7. Thanks so much for all this info. We are going to Thailand for our honeymoon in May and each plan on getting a tattoo. I would like mine to be easily hidden and was thinking about my rib cage area. Will they tattoo in this sort of location on a female? Can you tell us any location restrictions/rules? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Hmm probably not if you do it the traditional way. Monks are not actually allowed to touch women, so the rules are tricky anyway. In our case, he would only do it if my husband also got a tattoo and we agreed not to take photos of him during the process. I would reach out to the guide we linked to in the post as she is a local and can give you more accurate information about your specific question. Best of luck! It’s an amazing experience :)
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      Reply

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