Sak Yant – The Traditional Tattoo

Unless you’re an avid traveller who frequents Thailand or Cambodia, odds are you’ve probably never heard of a “Sak Yant” before. That’s okay!! To be honest, before this trip, neither had I!

As some of you might know, I’m a tattoo-a-holic! I love getting inked in new places all over the world as a way to bring my travel memories with me wherever I go. So when I began to look for ideas and artists in Bangkok, Sak Yant was one of the first suggestions to pop up. At the time I had no idea what it meant, so I decided to do a little research.

A Sak Yant master studies for a long time to learn the language and meaning behind every tattoo. They train and spend hours, even years learning the history, the language, and the practice of giving these specific tattoos. Not to mention having to learn the meaning behind each design. I could tell right away that this was something special and I decided that I absolutely had to get one! After booking a time with @arjannengthaisakyant via Air BnB experiences, I was so excited to learn more and have an unforgettable experience.

We first met Petz, our guide, at the BTS Skytrain station (the public transit of Bangkok) so he could take us to buy an offering. (I know, WHAT?! That’s just the beginning of the differences between a Sak Yant and regular shop tattoo…) The choices were between a bracelet made of flowers or a pre packaged banana/sugar cane/incense cone combo. The flowers showed respect for the elders, and protected from sickness, aging, and ailments while the sugar cane was an offering made to Lord Ganesha, who is considered as the bringer of luck, success and prosperity.

Myself and Alexis, the other girl I met during this experience, both chose the banana/sugar cane combo. When we arrived at the shop where we would be tattooed, there was an altar set up in the front to make the offerings. We were handed 3 incense and were told to hold them at the altar while we repeated a chant/prayer.

The banana/sugar cane offering in front of the altar

After clumsily mumbling through the prayer a few times, (hey – we tried our best) we placed the burning incense in a dish and lit the incense cone that was in our offering. Then we took our shoes off and headed inside. Our tattoo was done by Kru Too, Arjan Neng’s best apprentice. He didn’t speak any English so Petz was our translator. They began by asking what our goals were, and from there they helped to chose a design that reflected what we wanted out of life.

 

Explaining what my goals are and what I am seeking from life

 

There are over 10,000 tattoos in their arsenal, each design and the positioning all having different meanings. After communicating to Petz my goals, dreams, and aspirations, they found a design that fit me perfectly!

We placed the payment in a sort of offering and I held it as Kru Too prayed a blessing over it. He then placed it aside and we began.

 

The blessing of the offering

His assistant had to hold my skin taught as he went to work. They recommend doing a small tattoo for your first time, something that only takes 20-30 minutes, as it’s a different kind of pain than traditional tattoos. And well, I can attest to this. Even though I have 13 traditional tattoos (the longest one taking 4 hours) this pain was different.

All I could do to manage was keep taking deep breaths. Petz had us repeat a phrase throughout the tattoo “So-Thi-Ya” which helped to remind me that it’s almost over. And as they began to do each part of the design, Petz was great about being sure to tell me what exactly it represented, so I was able to make a mental connection to each part of the tattoo.

We ended, once again, with a blessing. Kru Too wiped the ink down and placed a wet cloth over it and said a prayer, before covering me with sprays of (what seemed to be?) holy water. After the inking, we went to a local food stand to get some noodles and a much needed soda (to get my sugar levels back up!)

 

The final blessing of the finished tattoo

 

We were sent home with a list of instructions to follow (rules for keeping the magic of the tattoo) and some incredible memories! Although I have a handful of tattoos, this is a meaningful one that I will carry with me for the rest of forever, memories and blessings from my amazing time in Bangkok…

 

A nice cheap meal to recover

If you are headed to the Bangkok area, be sure to check out Petz’ Sak Yant experience here!

The finished product. Blessed with a square of real gold flakes!

Meaning: This yant will protect you from all bad things and will bring you success, plus a lifetime of happiness.
The top three spires are Unalome, which represents the path to wisdom and enlightenment in Buddhist culture. It is said this symbol appeared on Buddha when he became enlightened.
The inscription below the Unalome is “Ma Aa Au” which are three crystal balls to make your wish come true.
Inside is “Na Mo Budh Tha Ya.” It is the brief name of five enlightenments Buddha. It will bring you luck and protect you. And “Na Cha Li Thi” which will bring to you good people and success in business.

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