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Thailand has a deep background with tattoo art and as travelling here has become more and more common, visitors can get high-quality work while often spending less than half the price they would cost in their home country, and it often serves as a permanent memory for their Thai adventures.
Sak Yant is the Thai term for the Holy Geometrical Style Tattoo on the Skin. It is only to be tattooed by Buddhist monks, or Brahmin Holy men. Over the ages, under the influence of many distinct religious ideologies, the Yant tattoos have grown and evolved. As Buddhism came from neighbouring India, the Yantra designs that already existed in Hindu India were adopted by the Thais.
A Yant is a sacred geometrical pattern that, by Buddhist psalms and mystical formulas, provides forces of defence and numerous blessings of protection. Typically, in addition to the nature of the Sak Yant itself, the Monk or Ajarn who conducts the Sak Yant has learned the mystical side of ancient rituals and combines charms and spiritual blessings. This extra learning comes from the pre-Buddhist period, and while not specifically part of Buddhism, it is part of Thailand's popular culture.
The years of research and study it takes to become an authentic Sak Yant Monk or Ajarn ensures that it is possible to modify each Sak Yant Style uniquely for the person. That is also why a Tattoo Store is not the safest place to have one since they duplicate the text of a blessing intended for someone else. The ancient text and blessing of the Sak Yant Masters is a closely guarded trade secret.
If you would like to go more deeply into the subject we would recommend the book 'Sacred Skin - Thailand's Spirit Tattoos' by Tom Vater, with colour photography by Aroon Thaewchatturat. This clearly written and entertaining treatise is filled with interesting information and explanations of every aspect of this time-honoured art form.
Buddhism is primarily practised in Thailand, yet an image of the Buddha is a popular image that foreigners might want to have inked on themselves. But, this can lead to upset for their host nation and the people of Thailand. The head is viewed as the most precious part of the body in Thailand, and the feet are deemed rude. It is for this purpose that before having a Buddha or Buddhist tattoo below the waste one should think twice, it could be considered quite offensive.
It is also advised to avoid being tattooed with an actual Buddha image. In the hope of prohibiting tattoo parlours from tattooing pictures holy to Buddhism, the Thai culture ministry has gone as far as to establish guidelines. Others assume that as long as they are above the hip, the tattoos are acceptable. It’s up to you and the tattooist to decide though ultimately.
We are very fortunate to have some professional-quality tattoo studios and artists here, varying from traditional to contemporary in nature, with each artist having their own method and characteristics that will fit various people. That's why searching around and choosing the right tattooist for you is so crucial, one might be appropriate for one individual but not for what you want, it also helps go around and see the artists, see their work and design, and then determine which one you like.
If you are already tattooed, then you hopefully have some awareness of what to look for in an artist or workshop from practice, but while having a tattoo here on Koh Phangan, everyone would need to take those aspects into account, since it is different from where you are from.
When booking your tattoo here, there are a few things to remember.
Know that it's for life, think about your intoxicated feelings twice, just don't do it when you're drunk!
Checking studio cleanliness
Look at the past work of the artist - see how it fits the design.
Ask your friends or other people
Speak to the artists, see who makes you feel more at ease
Be patient when designing the artwork
If you are not pleased with the concept or design, inform the artist and pose questions.
As far as we know the only place to get a true Sak Yant on Phangan is with Ajahn Man at Triangle Ink. He also has developed his own beautiful calligraphy style as well as Sak Yant.
Man is the genius of the Sacred Tattoo. He is a wealth of expertise and a joy to chat to or just be around. He is accompanied by a peaceful aura and displays a legitimate curiosity as a very special and caring person with any being with which he communicates and comes across.
"This art form once nearly disappeared but thankfully people have begun to trust their national Thai art again. There is a newfound focus on The Local Arts instead of this general world fashion trend nonsense. It is so beautiful because it allows Thailand's artists to really grow and not disappear and blend in between the many large and famous globally recognized and accepted artists." Man said to us in regards to the Sak Yant and its history.
Ajahn Man is based at his hobbit-style studio in Sri Thanu, you can contact him through his Facebook page.
Arun Run is a good friend of Ajahn Man and also helps his friend at Triangle Ink. He does have his own studio and his own work though still and so it is only right that we mention him next. Run has a had a few locations in recent years, one in Thong Sala and recently moving to Baan Tai. He makes the environment very welcoming with light music playing and fragrant incense burning to calm you. Arun is a friendly warm gentleman who will make you laugh and smile and when he works he works with exquisite precision. Measuring the tattoo to your body in an almost mathematical way so it sits correctly. His speciality is blackwork and dot work. Arun has done many of the Phanganist team’s tattoos so we speak from good experience!
They have skilled who can give you a great tattoo experience. Assisting you with designing also the artists here are creative, helpful workers who are eager to learn. They can do both machine and bamboo tattoos and can also perform piercings. Located close to Makro in Baan Tai on the way to Thong Sala. Here is one of their artists Meemi.
Owner and artist Tikiroa has Maori and Dutch roots and was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. Before moving to Holland, he stayed in New Zealand and lived there for over 10 years.
He works in the typical Thai bamboo way and it is a totally different experience, the tattoos are slower to complete but hurt less than the machine tattoo. All of the tattoos are one of a kind and he is an award-winning artist.
DNA Tattoo Gallery is one of Haad Rin's finest tattoo shops. Offering exclusive bamboo tattoos and friendly, skilled service that will ensure your satisfaction. Based on your unique tastes and specifications, they build personalized designs. They collaborate with an award-winning Thai tattoo designer, Eddie, who has foreign tattoo art expertise. He has operated in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Canada.
Good if you have a design already as they will tattoo in any style. A clean and sterile shop with vegan ink and English, German and Thai speaking staff.
Koh Phangan Tattoo Maker from Thailand. Specializing in ornamental Thai style, black and grey fine line, dot work, geometric and abstract aquarelle. Really beautiful and unique with a private studio in Thong Sala which is only available on appointment. Contact Marksingtoroj@gmail.com
The Tattoo Club has been open for 18 years now at its location in Thong Sala, Soi Krung Thai. Den, a renowned artist who has been tattooing for 14 years, is the owner and chief tattoo artist of the property. The theme exclusive to the Tattoo Club is mixing the elements of Thai, Japanese and Maori. It's a loop that never stops, constantly evolving when different thoughts show themselves. They are a family of creators who love to exchange thoughts with individuals and are proud of freehand and agree that they will truly blend the tattoo and the skin to flow as one.
A qualified artist in bamboo tattooing with very decent hygiene (gloves, new needles for bamboo). The bamboo tattoo is less intense and the rates are more than adequate. The artist works professionally, sharp and accurate.
Tattoos by a genuinely decent man who will give you an authentic Thai bamboo encounter. The studio is not so easy to locate but is set in nature with a great atmospheric vibe and view over the jungle, you can find the road leading up to his position on the hillside. It's a special spot here to be tattooed in the traditional way.
Famous as a sunset bar, Freeway also has a tattoo studio. Tattooist Note has over 10 years of bamboo-style tattoo practice and will treat you well. They are really clean and professional and also work with a network of other tattooists in the area.
As long as you pick the correct artist for the work you would like then Koh Phangan is one of the best places to get tattooed. With many Thai artists choosing like yourself to escape the metropolis of the city and mainland for a better like we now have some extremely talented tattoo artists including internationally acclaimed award winners.