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

By Alice Teacake

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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.

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Sak Yant Tattoo Chiang Mai Thailand

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About Alice Teacake

I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

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

  • 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!

    1. 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

  • 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 :))

    1. 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.

    2. 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

  • 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 :)

    1. Hey Claire you got the idea right completely about what a Sak Yant Tattoo means! The spiritual side is incredibly important and what it is all about :) Wishing you happy, prosperous travels!

  • 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!

      1. Oop and it appears they’re having some technical difficulties with their website right now. Hang in there and it should be fixed shortly! I just spoke to them and they’re sorting it out :)

  • 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!

    1. 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 :)