How To Boost Your Life With A Sak Yant Tattoo From Thailand

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‘Are you ready?’ he gently said. I took a deep breath in and the Thai Monk began his magical art of blessing me with a Sak Yant Tattoo. Like a precise sewing machine needle, the bamboo tip repeatedly pierced my skin and the pain oozed deep into my back as the red herbal ink became a part of me. ‘Don’t pass out’ I whispered to myself…’You need this’.

My Sak Yant Tattoo experience by a Thai Monk in Chiang Mai Thailand

My Sak Yant Tattoo in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Receiving a Sak Yant Tattoo, also known as Sak Yan or Sak Yantra, was an experience I fell into randomly but as usual, the cosmos always seems to ‘have it in for me’ for all the right reasons. What started as an impulsive ‘yes!’ to a random opportunity became one of my most thoughtful, spiritual, uplifting and deeply meaningful experiences in Thailand. Here’s the lowdown on what a Sak Yant Tattoo truly is, how it blows regular aesthetic tattoos out of the water and how to go about getting your own!

What is Sak Yant?

Sak means to ‘jab’ and Yant or Yantra means ‘Blessed Tattoo’ so all in all Sak Yant means ‘getting the blessed tattoo’. Dating back 2000 years, the magical geometric designs in these bamboo tattoos can bring you protection, power, good luck and boost your desired qualities to influence how others see you. Administered by a Thai Monk who is an expert in mantras and mind meditation to activate the magic within the Sak Yant, it’s a very special experience and one that is becoming more accessible to foreigners (and women hurrah!). Where should you go though? Which monk tattoo masters are ‘genuine’? Are Sak Yant Tattoos really safe? Read on to have all your questions answered!

My first tattoo (and how I never want to make that mistake again)

The first tattoo I ever received was when I was eighteen. Deep into the sounds of Type O Negative, Nine Inch Nails and lots of dirty, filthy, gothic heavy metal, I’d already had my tongue and nipples pierced. All I needed now to match the black hair dye, cheap Poundland Halloween black lipstick, overpriced corsets from Camden Town and Doctor Martins was a tattoo. I was in a tattoo shop in Leicester, mechanically perusing all of the designs displayed to me through the murky plastic books but I just wanted a goddamn tattoo and picked the first thing I saw.

My Sak Yant Tattoo experience in Chiang Mai Thailand by a Thai Monk
My first ever tattoo: hardly perfect but luckily it’s still something I’m happy to be a part of me

Luckily, I still like this tattoo. Note the word ‘like’: it’s not love but it’s agreeable. It’s on my lower back, represents freedom and is pretty alright for an impulsive session of body modification. It isn’t perfect though: it’s not 100% symmetrical and the craftsmanship would never make a song and dance in the tattoo design world. The tattoo ‘artist’ also told me colour was impossible to do – only black – and that is most certainly, my friend, a big fat fib.

How Sipping Ridiculously Expensive Beer In Bangkok Can Change Your Life

Fast forward 13 years later and I’d been wanting to get another tattoo for years but could never justify inking myself again without a true passion for a design: an irresistible urge to put something on myself that truly means something from the bottom of my heart. If I could, I’d be covered head to toe with all kinds of weirdness but in this life, teaching English abroad to fund my travels, it just hasn’t been right. Meeting a tall ginger man with a pirate earring in Bangkok on top of a ridiculously expensive sky bar threw the tattoo world right back in my face. He told me tales of magical Thai Tattoos, Thai Monk Blessings and a chance to receive a gift that was a personal Thailand Experience. Of course, I leapt at the chance and discovered Where Sidewalks End are serious experts about Sak Yant Tattoos in Thailand.

Sak Yant designs (Angelina Jolie isn’t everything)

When Sak Yant Tattoo Designs come to mind, the Hah Taew Yant, the 5 sacred lines, might have popped into your mind first! Representing five magical spells, Angelina Jolie has made this particular Yant very popular in the West. There are so many Yants out there though and being able to communicate with the monk who is tattooing you, like I was able to do, will give you a truly personal and powerful tattoo that is going to give you what you need in your life.

Angelina Jolie Sak Yant Tattoo

Appreciate the gift you are being given

Thanks to good old Angie, Sak Yant Tattoos have become all the rage with foreigners, which is all well and good but remember that Sak Yant is an ancient art and spiritually significant. You can go to any tattoo parlour and get inked with a Sak Yant design but no Sak Yant Ajarn = no magic = no meaning. Don’t just follow fashion: believe in the power of what you are being blessed with and go to the Thai Monks who possess the skill.

Sak Yant Tattoo Chiang Mai

What rules should I follow when receiving a Sak Yant tattoo from a Thai Monk?

Travelling Thailand and temple hopping regularly, I have come across many monks but for my Sak Yant experience, I was pretty nervous. I wanted to make sure I showed the utmost respect to the Ajarn and followed these simple rules to ensure we got along swimmingly whilst he was holding that bamboo stick.

Take off your shoes when you enter

Do not stand above the monk as a sign of politeness

Do not point your feet towards the monk. Feet are seen as the lowest and filthiest part of the body in Thai culture, so make sure they’re well behaved

As a lady, make sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders, front and legs but enable you to be tattooed easily. I wore a low back top. You can also wear a shirt backwards

Choosing the right protection: My Sak Yant tattoo meaning

I walked into my experience completely open to the design monk Ajarn Roong thought best for my needs. He could have tattooed three dots on the back of me and I would have been satisfied because this experience was about the meaning, not the ‘look’. Having Alex from Where Sidewalks End with me was really reassuring as his Thai is impeccable. I was able to have a meaningful talk with Ajarn Roong through him and communicate clearly what protection I was seeking. Ajarn Roong listened carefully to my needs and told me he had the perfect design that would bring out my beauty, show others my good qualities, welcome fairness and love into my life and protect me from people wanting to take advantage. As he consulted his book of designs and stopped at this one, I was immediately in love with it!

Sak Yant Tattoo Design

My tattoo is called ‘Yanpathumphankap Buaphanchan’ which translates as ‘The Lotus coiled in a Thousand Lotuses’. This Yant is original to Northern Thailand and is perfect for ‘Saneha’ which means ‘attraction’. This is not just in a physical sense: it means that people will be attracted to me as a whole person and I will be treated well as a result. A lovely extra bonus about this tattoo is that Ajarn Roong is the only monk who gives this tattoo design, taking it from an old Northern Thai drawing and ‘modernising’ it himself for Sak Yant.

But monks can’t touch women right?

Actually, times are changing! Women deserve the same protection as men right (?) and Sak Yant Thai Monks are beginning to recognise this and offer their services to both sexes. The intention of giving the Sak Yant is good and therefore, some monks will make a special exception when it comes to giving this blessing. More and more Thai women are being tattooed and some are opting for the invisible tattoos with palm oil to handle the taboo which is still there. Due to this taboo, I wasn’t able to take a picture of myself with Ajarn Roong during the tattooing process but I have a fresh ruby red after-photo to show you!

Sak Yant Tattoo Chiang Mai Thailand
My Sak Yant Tattoo right after Ajarn Roong finished his blessing

And just two hours later, it looked like this!

Sak Yant Tattoo Design

Does a Sak Yant tattoo hurt? How long does it take?

Sure does! Not gonna lie about that! Compared to a needle gun tattoo, personally for me it hurt more BUT there are many advantages to a bamboo tattoo. The tattooing time is incredibly fast and the tattoo heals quick. The quality maintains itself throughout the years and being tattooed by a bamboo stick is totally one for the ‘bucket list’. When you’re showing your tattoo to your grandkids, you’ll be the goddamn coolest granny/grandpa on the block.

Is a Sak Yant tattoo safe?

No one wants to go and get a tattoo then walk out starting to grow a third arm or worse. I made sure to go with Where Sidewalks End as they searched high and low for a clean and hygienic place in Chiang Mai which they could trust. Make sure you do your research and check the conditions of where you choose to get your tattoo done before taking the leap.

Chiang Mai Amulet Market

Don’t want a tattoo but still fancy some magic?

Sak Yant designs aren’t just found on the skin. After my tattoo was completed, I paid a visit to the local Chiang Mai Amulet Market where I saw the different designs on cloth which you can hang in your house or wear under your clothes to get that protection you need.

This experience is going to stay with me for a long time. Yes, yes, physically it’s going to be there for a looooooong time but mentally, I am really aware of what I have been given and I’m excited to be bursting through 2016 with this blessing now a part of me!

If you’re looking for more inspiration on alternative tattoos whilst travelling, check out The Broke Backpacker’s special journey to receive a tribal tattoo from Whang Od.

Still Have Questions You Need Answered?

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Sak Yant Tattoo Chiang Mai Thailand

78 thoughts on “How To Boost Your Life With A Sak Yant Tattoo From Thailand”

  1. Im glad that you put a lot of thought into this tattoo and research into where to get it done safely, that is good advise to pass on to anyone thinking doing this. It sounds like it was quite the spiritual experience for you and Im so happy that you loved the end result.

  2. I love this so much Alice! And it totally suits you!
    I don’t have any tattoos but loved the idea of this- so glad I know someone that actually has it now! You might have convinced me for my next visit ;)

  3. You will definitely be the coolest grandma when telling your grandkids this story! What a beautiful and unique way to document your travels… on your body! I forgot that I had seen this before as you mentioned on Angelina Jolie (I didn’t know what it was called) and I remember thinking it was pretty special. I admire your gumption. I got my one and only tattoo when I was 18 as well and I have yet to find anything else worthy.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your experience here :) i never had a tatoo done as i’m a total woes when it comes to handling pain. I’m also a total wandering disaster. But….should I ever have the courage to get one done….a Sak Yant sounds about right to me…….the pain tho…..the pain…… :(

    • Bwahahaha the pain (oh yes! The PAIN aaargh). I have a high pain threshold actually but honestly, it wasn’t as bad as you may be imagining. It feels like a wasp is stinging you continuously but the body is a very strong thing and I quickly acclimatised to what was happening. Happy New Year!

  5. I don’t like tattoos and would never get one. I do like the design you chose though and the story of your experience is very evocative. You have taken experiential travel to a whole new level and no doubt your tattoo will mean far more to you than any tatty souvenir ever will

      • Dear Alice,
        Can you please tell me your magical experience you have over the last few years for having this Yanpathumphankap Buaphanchan? Do you get signals from your tattoo? I recently have a sakyant tattoo – Hah Taew done. I am still learning about my tattoo. Thank you
        Best regards

      • Hi Cleo! I do believe its power is with me. I believe my intuition is sharpening and heart is ever-opening. Congratulations on bringing a Sak Yant into your life :)

  6. You rock girl! Supercool that you have a Sak Yant tattoo. In 2014 I was in Thailand Kanchanaburi for the 10th World Wai Kru ceremony and there we had the chance for a free Sak Yant tattoo…unfortunately I didn’t took the opportunity because I just got inked in Bangkok one day before :) Travel tattoos are awesome, I really like the design and meaning of the one you have. For me tattoos are like an addiction, I had 8 new tattoos in 2015. Respect for what you did, hi5’s and my best wishes for 2016!

  7. The tattoo looks great. What an incredible experience and what a great reminder about your trip to Thailand. I have never found a motive that I love enough to have on my body forever, so I don’t have a tattoo, but I really like the look of these tattoos.

  8. Your new tattoo is just gorgeous! I wouldn’t have had the confidence to get one while I was there (I was a bit of a wimp at 18), but I’d certainly think about it now. The design is beautiful and I love where you’ve decided to place it, I’ve been thinking about getting on there for a long time. I think it’s best not to be symmetrical!

  9. I love everything about this post! Your tattoo is beautiful and I love that it’s so meaningful. I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but never know what to get. I’d definitely want something that means something, even if it’s simply a reminder of a unique experience. Headed to Thailand this year.. we’ll have to see if the inspiration strikes me as well!

  10. Good for you. It’s beautiful. I would need to tell myself not to pass out too and I would actively need to do more than that like thinking about my breathing and maybe even eating during the tattoo ;)

    As a Canadian, we take our shoes off at the door, but living in the US has been an adjustment. Guests come in with their shoes on all the time. I cringe every time I have to ask a guest to take their shoes off. I can’t stop thinking about everything that on the bottom of their shoes that’s coming into my house. I totally appreciate their shoe culture in Thailand.

  11. I love the design and what a cool story you’ll have to tell for the rest of your life! It does sound painful though! I don’t know if I would be that brave.

  12. I was so happy to go along with you, Alice! It was wonderful being part of that process with you, and I’ll cherish that memory too! Glad it made such a big impact on you – I think the neatest part about sak yant is that they are so personal and mean something different, yet equally spiritual, to each person that takes part!! Looking forward to hearing how the special enchantments in it work for you ;)

  13. Just wondering how and who did you speak to in Chiang Mai to get the tattoo?
    Because I really want the two tigers for courage and bravery, but I don’t know where to go in Chiang Mai/what temple to go to/how to get to that temple/plus I can’t speak Thai

    I’m only in THailand for 4 days so your help will be greatly appreciated

      • Yes :) This was to have a interpreter with me at all times, to teach me fully about Sak Yant, introduce me to the monk who I would never have been able to find myself in the countryside of Chiang Mai and who is a true expert in Sak Yant, take me there, help me discuss what protection I needed and then educate me more after the experience at the amulet market. I wanted a clear, safe, genuine and meaningful experience and I’m really happy with what I got.

      • Mas sao 250 dolares?
        Farei a viagem para Tailandia dia 21-02-16 agora e quero fazer a minha.
        Sabe se eles fazem mais de 1 tatuagem na hora?
        Eles tem livro e vc pode escolher os desenhos? Pq tenho o que eu tanto sonho
        obrigado pelo post e parabens :)

      • Sure! You can have all the Sak Yant Tattoos you wish! Monk Ajarn has many books of designs but remember that even if you have a particular design in mind, he may recommend something completely different for you!

      • 250 dolares tudo? Sem contar a oferenda ao monge.
        O que tinha incluso nesses 250 dolares? Espero que seja 250
        Me ajuda nessa informacao. :)
        Grande abraco

  14. Amazing! Your tattoo is so beautiful, and what a wonderful experience being able to discuss with the monk.
    I’m so happy I’ve found your article as I’ve been discussing a trip to Thailand this summer and have always been drawn to having sak yant done. It sounds like Where Sidewalks End do a great job of sourcing the best and most hygienic studios, and I will definitely organise mine through them. It’s worth the money to be reassured it is safe and clean.
    Thank you for this post! I was feeling a little uneasy at the thought of it before but am completely at ease about it now, should I ever do it!

  15. Nice one. I love tattoos. I had my first done in London and then another one in Chiang Mai. The latter was done in a studio with a bamboo. It hurt like hell :)
    The monk tattoos are pretty and exotic, but sadly the true art is disappearing. The monks do them everywhere now, mostly because it’s a tourist thing and they get money for it. They shouldn’t be done to a woman as the monk can’t touch a woman. They also should have a whole ceremony done with it. I know there is a monk around Chiang Mai, who does it, but you need to have someone speaking Thai with you and he also might refuse performing the prayers and doing the tattoo if he feels it is not right for the person.
    Nevertheless, pretty tattoo :)

    • If you reread the article I address both these questions :) you can see that things are slowly changing and some monks are willing to give this blessing to women too, and therefore perform the bamboo tattoo. The ceremony was done and Where Sidewalks End were there for me every step of the way, speaking fluent Thai to help me really express and discuss with the monk what was appropriate and possible for me.

  16. This is so interesting. Never heard of that kind of tattoo before now. Seems like a fun, but spiritual journey. Makes me now believe that if you are ever going to get a tattoo, this might the best way, spiritually, Sak Yant or not.

    This was a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Hi Alice. I came across your reply at expertvagabond’s blog and made me search for your blog.

    I’m planning to go this April to get a Sak Yant, I want to receive that blessing. How much did yours cost?

    Thanks Alice!

  18. Hi Alice,

    I’m going to Chiang Mai this Fri and would love a Sak Yant. I tried clicking on the link you provided, but seems to have problems. Do you have a phone number or email for Alex? Where did you get your Sak Yant?

    • Oooh good question! It’s a red herbal ink that the Ajarn recommended to me to enhance the ‘love’ element. I believe it is simply the ‘red’ option haha. Sorry not to be more specific but from what I have been taught, there’s black, red or oil (which some ladies opt for as it cannot be seen).

  19. Sounds like you met Ian!!! I met him at TBEX Costa Brava last year and CAN’T WAIT to get to BKK to do this! :)
    Thanks for sharing this awesome info. And of course, thanks the Where Sidewalks End for being so awesome!!!

  20. Any sacred tattoo will last for a few years only. The divine power was embedded in the black ink. And do not be a fool by any ajarn. They do not have any power in their hands.

  21. Hi :)
    Your tattoo is beautiful! I am really itching to get a traditional bamboo tattoo to add to my collection! Thanks for posting this fab blog, it has really helped me to see that yours is lovely and where you got it done!
    Happy travelling :)
    Jade x

  22. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this blog post or why…. But reading your experience with your friend… And him translating to the monk about the protection you wanted…. It made me feel an intense emotional response. And now I’m sitting here crying. I’m not sure what you specifically told that monk but it really struck a chord for me. Very beautiful design. And such a powerful protection it must have. Thanks for sharing this. I would love to make my way to Chiang Mai for this purpose sometime.

  23. Getting my first sak yant tattoo later this year when I re visit Thailand…you are never to old to have such an amazing spiritual blessing… I will be 61 when I get it done and it will be my first tattoo

  24. On the way to Thailand right now on an unexpected trip and would like to get a traditional tattoo. Any recommendations are appreciated. only here for four or five days, no daily agendas.

  25. The design you pick is gorgeous! Ben, my travel partner wants one and I’m like naw I am good.. it’s sounds way too painful especially since it would be my first tattoo.

    But congrats to you for being brave and doing it! Looks beautiful :)

  26. Hi Alice,

    Nice one. can you please share the details of the place where you got the tattoo from. Planning to get a traditional one from Ajarn Roong.

  27. This looks great! I will visit Chiang Mai in two weeks and looking for the real experience to get a Sak Yant. It looks like Where Side Walk Ends looks like one of the most professional guys on this even though they are a bit pricey. My questions are: Were there any options for the Arjans and did you have a chance to look at their work (pictures) or possible designs beforehand? I have already a couple of designs in my head and would that be ok to persist on these ones in case the Arjan chooses another ones for me? Thanks in advance. Your post has been already helpfull.

    • Hello Onur. Where Sidewalks End are certainly on the ball. They researched the different Ajarns in the area and feel that Ajarn Roong is the best in terms of skill, compassion and experience. Sak Yant is about talking with the monk to discuss your needs and discover together what protection you need. I trust Ajarn Roong and when he showed me his work and designs, the tattoo that he chose for me felt perfect for me. If the design is what matters most to you rather than the meaning, Sak Yant may not be the best option – you don’t want some protection on you that may not be the best >< Regardless, I recommend popping Where Sidewalks End a message and discussing this with them. They’ll be able to help you for sure and answer your question better than me. Happy travels Onur!

  28. Hi, your tattoo is absolutely beautiful. As you mentioned that only Ajarn Roong gives this tattoo, is it impossible to get it done by an ajarn in Bangkok? Also how long did it take for him to finish the sak yant? It’s quite big so I can imagine it took hours!

    • Hi Susie! This is Ajarn Roong’s own personal design. So he is certainly the guy to go to, to get it done…but by all means, you could show this to another Ajarn for his own inspiration and thoughts. It only took around 20 minutes. A skilled tattooist like Ajarn Roong knows what he’s doing :)

  29. Hi there!
    I am in Chiang Mai for the next week and have been dreaming about getting the magical Sak Yant tattoo aswell as the unforgettable experience. I don’t have any tattoos for the reason that there simply is nothing else out there that would mean as much to me!
    Anyhow, my question is: Where did you get it, how much did is cost you? (I understand monks accept donation) and where can i find this location/tour that you used.

    Hope to hear back from you!

  30. Thank you so much for this post. Some great information in here. I also have a few tattoos from my younger days which I don’t like so I know when I ink myself again it has to really mean something to me. I’m heading back to Thailand in the next few years and after reading your post and a few others I really want to do this. Not just for the tattoo I think the blessing is such an incredible spiritual experience. Thank you :)

  31. Hello Alice! Thank you so much for your sharing your experience! I am so amazed by the idea of getting a sak yant Tattoo myself, that I am considering to travel to Thailand soon :) (Also because I am really curious about the culture and landscape!). If I understood everything right you did your Tattoo together with a tour. Do you know whether it is also possible to contact the Monk who tattoed you – he seems very nice!- without the tour? It´s just, for a student 250 Dollars are quite a lot :S :D best wishes from Germany :))

    • Hi Meli. I understand the price is a little high but in my opinion it is completely worth it. The monk does not speak English, so having a translator with me to help me every step of the way and for me to fully connect with the Ajarn, was priceless. I was able to get the Sak Yant that I truly feel is for me :) I’m afraid I do not have his contact details. If you would like to find out more from Where Sidewalks End, you can easily contact them.

    • Hello Alice, thank you a lot for the quick and genuine answer :) You´re right, I mean, the experience is probably priceless anyway, also the Tattoo is forever. I think I´m just going to start saving the Money, it will be some months or rather years until I find enough time anyway :D I am so happy about your blog, I could get lost in your stories and experiences! <3

  32. WOO! Girl, I’m so happy for you! I saw your thread on IG about wanting a tattoo & sounds like it worked out really well! IT’S BEAUTIFUL! After all my travels in Thailand, I’ve only just gotten the 5 line this past March. A friend from home was traveling with me & it was a little impulsive, but it finally felt like the right time to do it- and that’s what counts. Cus I ain’t no basic bitch! (Well except for my Uggs & pumpkin spice lattes, but I can prove I’ve been all about that life 96. There’s photgraphic evidence.) Last summer I took a friend and some of our hostel guests out to Wat Bang Phra, but couldn’t bring myself to do it there. The monk who was tattooing that day was using a machine and we watched him inking locals for over an hour without changing the needle. So it just wasn’t meant to be.
    I really love the Thousand Lotus, it’s actually the next tattoo I want to have done, but I’m going to wait. I need to get my ass outta Asia and go see more of the world, I just keep saying “one more six month loop, really do it right this time”…lol anyways, I’m rambling now. TDLR: <3 this post, <3 your new tattoo, <3 you! Safe travels in the Kingdom, babydoll! If you make it over to Isaan, come see me in Khon Kaen!

    • Hi Natasha! So happy to hear you got the tattoo you wanted at the right time for you! That’s incredibly important <3 Not happy to hear about that needle not being changed in Wat Bang Phra though. That's why I chose to go with Where Sidewalks End. You are absolutely adorable. Thank you for such a lovely comment and I’m with you on seeing more of the world. I need to stop my romance with Asia haha :D

  33. Thank’s a lot for this post. We have one more reason to comeback to Asia and do the Thailand trip. By the way – in Phillipines, north to Banaue there is an old lady (90+) who is doing a traditional tribal tattoos. It’s very last occasion to have one done by her.


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