Blessed By A Monk: My Magic Sak Yant Tattoo

Wat Bang Phra Thailand

Tattoo Temple: Wat Bang Phra

Nakhon Chai Si, Thailand

Over 40 people watched in silence as this famous monk repeatedly penetrated my flesh like a sewing machine. His needle sent waves of hot searing pain into my back.

Traditional Sak Yant (also called Sak Yan, or Yantra) tattoos are hand-etched onto the skin using ancient geometric designs mixed with Buddhist prayers.

They are believed to give the wearer magic powers associated with healing, luck, strength, and protection against evil.

Sak Yant tattoos have been around for over 2000 years.

Buddhist monks originally engraved Sak Yant into warriors seeking protection and strength in battle. Often covering their entire bodies from head to toe in magic symbols to prevent knives and arrows from piecing their skin.

Wat Bang Phra Thailand

People Will Wait Hours for a Sak Yant

My Very First Tattoo

I’ve never had a tattoo before. If I ever received one, I wanted it to be special. Not some drunken challenge in the middle of the night. So when I learned about the magic-infused tattoos given out by Buddhist monks, I was intrigued.

The more I learned about them, the more I wanted one.

No machines are used to create a Sak Yant design. These traditional Thai tattoos are engraved into skin with a long metal spike or bamboo sharpened to a point.

The needle is dipped into ink and repeatedly jabbed through your flesh by hand.

Monks will often choose a sacred design as well as the location of your tattoo based on your aura. This sounded perfect! I’ve had trouble picking a tattoo, so why not let a monk choose for me?

Need a place to stay in Bangkok? Click Here For Accommodation Deals

Donations Sak Yant Thailand

Donations of Cigarettes, Flowers, and Incense

Wat Bang Phra Temple

The best place in Thailand to receive a Sak Yant tattoo is a Buddhist temple called Wat Bang Phra. It’s located about 40 minutes West of Bangkok.

For hundreds of years the temple has been a pilgrimage site for Thai people wanting to receive the protection of a magic tattoo.

It’s also home to the most famous Sak Yant practicing monk in Thailand, Master Luang Pi Nunn.

The grounds of Wat Bang Phra are composed of a series of beautifully ornate temples surrounded by colorful statues. I made my way towards the tattoo building located in back.

Luang Pi Nunn Thailand

Master Luang Pi Nunn

Cigarettes As Payment?

Outside the entrance I purchased a temple offering consisting of orchid flowers, incense sticks, and menthol cigarettes for 75 baht ($2.40 US) before removing my shoes and heading inside.

Everyone is expected to present these simple gifts to the monk as payment for a Sak Yant tattoo. The items are then recycled so the process can be repeated, with money from the sales helping with upkeep of the temple.

An old man led me into a dark room filled with dusty golden Buddha statues. Photos of Thailand’s King Rama IX and elder monks adorned the walls.

Ceiling fans slowly whirred overhead, but the room was still hot — as there were 30 to 40 people packed inside.

Sak Yant Full Back Tattoo Thailand

That’s a Lot of Magic!

Waiting For My Turn

It seems I’m not the only one wanting a tattoo today. Master Luang Pi Nunn is in demand here, and etches up to 50 Sak Yant tattoos a day. If you don’t visit the temple early enough, you may not get one.

Due to some miscommunication with a moto-taxi driver that morning, I arrived about an hour later than expected. I’d just have to wait my turn and hope for the best!

So I found a spot on the floor and attempted to make myself comfortable over the next 4 hours. The long wait allowed me to witness many others receive their own tattoos.

Eventually Luang Pi Nunn took a break while the rest of us continued to sit in silence, listening to bird song and cats meowing outside. By now I was up front though, with a great view of his tattoo workspace — and I have to admit it was a bit shocking!

Tattoo Workspace Thailand

Not Exactly a Sterile Workspace…

Sak Yant Tattoo Safety

The safety of Sak Yant is debateable. It can be a risky practice. The needle itself is usually wiped with an alcohol pad after each tattoo. Or it might be placed in a bottle of alcohol while a separate needle is used for the next person. But the same pot of ink is used with everyone, and blood can mix with the ink.

This opens up the possibility of contracting HIV or Hepatitis. There are no hard statistics though.

After getting a close look at his tools, I got a bit nervous and briefly thought about backing out. The workspace consisted of a few cushions surrounded by bloody rolled-up pieces of toilet paper, a nasty bucket of inky water, old plastic bottles full of rubbing alcohol, and grime caked onto the walls…

I’d also just watched at least 12 people get jabbed with the same couple of needles. And who knows how many went before I arrived.

But then I realized that if it was truly dangerous, there wouldn’t be so many people waiting in line to get one. Right?

Or is the whole room just full of crazy people with a death wish?

Sak Yant Needle Thailand

The Needle

Snake Venom Ink!

I didn’t have long to ponder though, as the monk soon returned and it was my turn to help hold the next person’s skin while he worked. This gave me an excellent view of the whole process. It was mesmerizing to watch.

Suddenly it was my turn. Pulling off my shirt, I respectfully bowed three times before turning my back on the man who was about to repeatedly poke a sharp needle into my skin.

Occasionally a monk will deem a person unfit to receive a Yant if they don’t take it seriously, refusing to work on them.

Two local guys held my skin tight as I braced for first-blood. Not knowing what image I was about to get.

Each monk concocts his own special blend of magic tattoo ink too. The recipe is secret, but is thought to contain Chinese charcoal, snake venom, palm oil, and even human remains!

Sak Yant Monk Tattoo Thailand

Receiving My Sak Yant Tattoo!

Taking The Pain

When the needle first punctured my skin, it felt like a bee sting. Followed quickly by a swarm of bees launching a full-scale attack.

My muscles tensed up and I began to sweat. Squeezing a pillow in my lap while attempting to look tough for the 40 Thais attentively watching the foreigner for any signs of weakness.

But surprisingly it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Initially I was afraid my eyes would water, or worse, I’d pass out in front of a room full of people…

Yet after only 10 minutes and a thousand needle strikes later my new Sak Yant was nearly finished!

To complete the sacred tattoo, Luang Pi Nunn chants a Kataa (or magic spell), and blows it into the design unleashing its power.

Gao Yord Sak Yant Tattoo Thailand

Finished: Gao Yord (9 Spire) Magic Tattoo

Yant Gao Yord

So which tattoo did the monk give me? It’s called the Gao Yord, or 9 Spire. A powerful and sacred tattoo that protects the wearer from violent physical attacks and magic assaults. It’s also supposed to bring good luck.

The 9 spires represent the 9 peaks of Mount Meru — a legendary mountain from Buddhist and Hindu mythology that is thought to be the center of the universe.

Atop each peak sits a small Buddha, with the spirals above them representing the path to enlightenment.

Inside the boxes are symbols written in Khom, an ancient Cambodian alphabet, but the language itself is Pali Sanskrit. The same mantra is actually written on each side. A mirrored image of itself. It reads: Gu Ti Gu Ya Tha Saa Wae Taa Saa Gu – Gu Gu Ti Saa Tha Ya Gu Saa Taa Wae

Apparently there are also 11 special rules that go with my Sak Yant:

  • I can’t eat star fruit, pumpkin, or any other ‘gourd’ vegetable. (no more pumpkin pie?!)
  • I can’t have a lover who’s already married. (sounds reasonable)
  • It’s absolutely forbidden for me to slander anybody’s mother. (no problem)
  • I can’t eat food from a wedding, or funeral banquet. (well that sucks)
  • I can’t eat left-overs. (I’d love to know why…)
  • I shouldn’t duck under a washing line, or an overhanging building. (um, ok)
  • I definitely shouldn’t duck under a Thaanii banana tree. (harvesting bananas isn’t a hobby)
  • I can’t cross a single head bridge; but large or small bridges are not forbidden. (no idea what this means)
  • I shouldn’t sit on a ceramic urn. Especially a cracked, or broken one. (do toilets count?)
  • I can’t let a woman lie on top of me, or sit on top either. (shit!)
  • I can’t brush by the blouse or skirt of a woman, especially during the menstruation period. (how am I supposed to know?)
Sak Yant Tattoo Thailand

All Healed Up

Would I Do It Again?

Yes. Absolutely. I may get another one too. In fact I’ve learned that the magic needs to be replenished each year with a fresh blessing by the monk. So I’ll have to go back anyway.

Thai people from all levels of society take the practice very seriously, and many cover their bodies with Sak Yant tattoos.

You’ll frequently find the designs on soldiers, doctors, monks, actors, and politicians as well as criminals and mafia assassins.

Many women also get them. Angelina Jolie is probably the most famous. But because it’s forbidden for monks to touch female flesh, they use a cloth or gloves to prevent contact.

Some people choose to receive an invisible tattoo, using palm oil on the needle rather than ink.

I’m very happy with my new Sak Yant, it was an extraordinary experience that I’ll never forget. Especially with this permanent souvenir on my back. ★

Worried about needle safety? Check out this Sak Yant Tattoo Tour

More Information

Location: Nakhon Chai Si, Thailand [Map] Cost: ฿75 THB (about $2.50 USD)
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals In Bangkok
Useful Notes: You’re encouraged to make an additional donation of ฿100 THB placed in the monk’s alms jar. For detailed directions to the Wat, check out my friend Ian’s great post.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Thailand
Suggested Reading: Thai Magic Tattoos: The Art Of Sak Yant

READ NEXT: Best Travel Tips After 4 Years Traveling

Have any tattoos? Would you consider a Sak Yant?


  1. Wow I love this. The tattoo is awesome and the meaning and the process of it is pretty cool. But there is no way I could sit there next to that nasty bucket of ink and have it jammed into my skin with a shared needle. I have many tattoos and a couple are large pieces but I don’t have the guts for that. hahaha Good for you, that’s a special memory to always have.

  2. Hello, I love your tattoo. I was thinking to get one too, but reading all the rules, made me think twice. There are some questions I wanna ask you. First, what if I don’t follow the rules? Second, I am a girl, so I can’t sit on top or lay on a guy?

    1. If you don’t follow the rules the blessing will wear off, but you can always get the blessing in another temple (if there’s a buddhism temple in your hometown you can go there)
      As for the second question I don’t know sorry

  3. Thanks for this info! I’m headed to Thailand come January 5th, 2017 for the Peace Corps. I friend of mine told me about these tattoos a few months ago and this post just convinced me to get one! Hopefully, it will give me blessings for my 2 years stay in Thailand!

  4. You’re brave! I’ve long wanted one, but your description has put me off a bit. I recently got a new one in Kathmandu and spent weeks stressing about having caught Hep C ( which I didn’t) and I didn’t have to share that needle with anyone. ( although I didn’t see any sign of sterilisation at all) All good fun! Looks great :)

  5. This is totally awesome! Never heard of this before but, wow, I want one!! And I agree, it’s so hard to decide on a tattoo to begin with, having a monk choose one for you is so freaking cool! Definitely on my travel bucket list now, thanks SO much for sharing, cheers!

  6. This was such a fascinating read. I’d never heard of this practice before. Thanks for braving the experience so that we could read about it! I’m new to your blog, I think it’s definitely going on my blog reader app.

  7. Love the idea of getting a tattoo from a monk. I’m headed to BKK this weekend and will look into this.
    One correction to your post: HIV is unable to live after exposure to air (as in, the virus will die within seconds). It can be transmitted via dirty needles only during intravenous drug use, when it’s sealed in a vacuum in the syringe and injected directly into the body. So it’s not possible to contract HIV via this tattoo method. Please pass this on.

    1. Please dont share fake information about a real problem, the virus die after 24 h of exposition to the air and without conditions of humidity, and what you say about sharing vaccums is a real stupid think do you know the size of a virus?fit in a small hole that your eyes cant c, if seems the people dont get ill with this tattoo practice is cause nobody has studied this especific cases. If danny doesnt have vih or heppatitis is cause he is lucky and nobody before him was ill, sorry for my english im from spain. Biology ph thanks for your attention

  8. Good Lord, that looks painful! I have several tattoos done in the traditional Western way. I think I would be too scared of getting a tattoo like this even though it looks spectacular.

    But on the bright side, the food at weddings sucks anway.

  9. Hi! Thanks for sharing, I just visited the same temple to receive my own Sak Yant. I did a lot of research and talking to Thai friends who have also had the tattoos done to make sure I had proper etiquette for the tattoo. I must say, after living in Thailand for 2 years now and being really excited to receiving my own blessing, the whole process was beyond disappointing. The tattoo I requested, only because the monks simply tattooed 3 colorless oil drops in me, they wanted to charge me about 100x the price as my Thai friend paid. I don’t think this is a proper place to receive a Sak Yant, given they are supposed to be all donation based. Maybe the system was abused by too many foreigners, not sure but I will be looking for an honorable place to receive the blessing in Thailand.
    Thanks for sharing though!

  10. Hey, I’ve got inspired by your tattoo. I wish to have one too. Thanks for sharing. I like the idea having a tattoo, it’s not bad at all, it makes people brave.

  11. Imagine my surprise at researching the tattoos we just got in Thailand and finding a post from someone I’ve met Matthew! Great post – we just got ours done in Phuket at a very reasonable 2000 Baht each, with sterile needles in a normal tattoo parlor. Would still like to think it’ll be good protection anyway ?

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

  13. Excellent read, thank you for sharing your experience.

    Personally I am a tattoo wimp and would not consider one but I would like to see the event though.

    I do hope to be able to travel soon.

  14. Hello Matt,
    Great post!
    Congrats for your first tattoo and you choose perfect Sak Yant design for your tattoo. A long wait, but totally worth it. :)

  15. Wow Matt! that is extreme, I was going to get a tattoo done in Thailand, the 8 point Sak Yant circle but couldn’t find a good price.

    Wish I was with you in the temple, I think you could have talked me into it with your adventure travel attitude!

    Take care and travel well brother! x

  16. Amazing tattoo. You have truth that blood in ink is dangerous. Maybe snake venom is a disinfection. Or is here like anestetikum for reduce pain. Do you think invisible tattoo with palm oil is same dangerous? Is here too blood in palm oil? Thank you for nice blog.

  17. This is really amazing! I’m planning my trip to Thailand now and am considering getting a Sak Yant. How did you find the healing process? Did they give you care advice for after? I’ve read a couple different things regarding aftercare and I’ve read no soap, and other things that are very different from getting tattoos in the U.S. I want to make sure I care for it properly!

  18. Is the ha thaeo sakyant dependent on your birthsign? I mean like does the sanskrit written there change based on your birthsign or is it the same for all birthsigns? Thanxx.

  19. I don’t want a tattoo but if I were to get one, I want it to have meaning as well. The sanitary aspect of this is definitely a no for me .. But I enjoyed the story and learning about the cultural and spiritual aspect!

  20. Hey does anyone know a good monk that I could go to in Thailand? I’m going in April and in not sure where to get one. Thanks

  21. I just got my Sak Yant Tattoo in Chiang Mai Thailand and I am in love with it! I really researched my options to try and find a place where the equipment was safe. Luckily, I was able to take the time to talk with the monk too so we could decide on the right protection for me together :) It’s an amazing experience and the fact that society is opening up more to the idea of women receiving these blessings is ace.

    1. Hi Alice,

      (Not sure you’ll receive this)

      I’ve actually been planning to get mine in Chiang Mai as well. Saw another blog that had a guided tour approach (motorbikes to the temple, translator etc). Can I ask where you went and how you did it? I’m heading to Thailand in February and would love to experience this. Any tips?

    2. Hi Alice. I’m planning to go to Thailand this April. How much did your Sak Yant cost? Thanks so much!

      Great blog! I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.

    3. Alice, where did you end up going? My friends and I are going to Thailand in April, and if we felt good about the safety practices we would DEFINITELY be interested in this. Thanks!

  22. I had the same experience, different monk, at least 10 years ago! It is an unforgettable experience (I was quite scared at the time, I had your same doubts) and my tattoo came out beautiful and still is!

    Great blog by the way! One of my favorite

  23. Hi, thank you for your article. I have been researching this type of tattooing, however I have had trouble actually coming across a place that sells the tattoo instrument. I have attempted to make my own out of bamboo, however I would love to actually buy one first to use as a reference and to practice. Help? Where to find a place that would sell the instrument?

    1. Hi Bree,
      This is just a form of stick-and-poke tattooing. you dont need special equiptment, just any needle and some sort of ink though obviously I would recommend using tattoo ink. Once you have this you just dip the needle into the ink and then poke it into your skin. You have to make sure to go just deep enough that you don’t go entirely through your layer of skin. If you draw blood you’ve gone to far. I have a stick-and-poke tattoo on my back that a friend gave me with a sewing needle and ink from a pen.

  24. Hi, I’m Thai and I saw some mistake in your article and want to help correct it.
    “Sak” is a verb in Thai, It’s mean jab with inked needle.
    Just “Yant” or “Yantra” that mean “Blessed Tattoo” in Thai.
    So “Sak yant” mean “getting the blessed tattoo” not the tattoo itself.

  25. I lived in Kanchanaburi for 5 months and thought about going here for a while. I did get a bamboo tattoo, but from a friend who is a great artist. Receiving it from a monk would be a whole other experience!

  26. I felt pain just looking at your tattoo. But I know that the pain you were through that time was all worth it right? Your tattoo looks really great.

  27. I’m typically against tattoos of pretty much any kind, but I have to admit that yours looks awesome. I’m also curious how the pain of getting that one compares to a normal tattoo – I’m guessing it’s a lot worse since the method is more… “old fashioned”.

  28. I got my Sak Yant made a few years ago by Ajarn Noo Kanpai (before he became some sort of local celebrity and start asking people fortunes for tattoos).
    Nowadays you can get the same design in every single tattoo parlour of Bangkok… I guess money comes first but it’s sad to see those sacred designs on backpackers who don’t even know where it’s coming from.

  29. Always had a fascination with this type of tattoos since i was kid. This article just made me make the descion to make this my first tattoo when i visit in May. One question, lets say i want to be first in line, what would be the best time to get to the temple and hope for the best?? thanks for the time…

  30. Great story. I just received a Sak Yant today near Chiang Mai, Thailand. The monk was joyful and friendly. It was a bit more painful than a regular gun tattoo but much quicker. Overall a wonderful experience.

  31. Excellent story and thank you for sharing. Sounds like an amazing experience. Gave me the shivers while reading it, but I hope to experience this someday.

  32. I just wrote about Wat Bang Phra and then stumbled on your post. Darn! I missed a lot. Thanks for the info, especially the list of things you shouldn’t do. That was interesting. Who told you about all these things? When I went, I didn’t see anyone receive a brief.

  33. I loved this article. i am currently in Thailand and have witnessed the Sak Yant tattoo. While I do have tattoos I am too nervous about getting one here – although I do love the designs and I love the idea that the monk chooses what and where depending on your aura.
    Good luck keeping to your special rules. They are especially specific. And you made me laugh

  34. What an awesome adventure. Now, you may have to come home and after you find out which section applies to certain rules, you may have to find the laser center to remove that part ;-) Oops. What had happened was. Sounds like an amazing part of your trip!

  35. Matt, this is seriously one of most interesting travel posts i’ve read in a while. Love it! Sounds like something I’d want to do the next time I’m in Thailand. But do you know if it’s ok to ask forgiveness if you break any of those rules? There’s a couple in there I might have a little trouble with… :)

  36. Loved reading this story as I just got my first tattoo. Mine wasn’t quite as exciting as yours, being done in a studio in the UK but it relates to the journey of life and travel plus the thought behind it comes from experiences out on the road. What a story to go behind yours though and an awesome tat too!

  37. Amazing story! I see you haven’t died of AIDS or anything yet so looks like you got lucky haha. Also just so you know the Angelina Jolie link is broken. Happy travels!

  38. You know I had planned to get over to Wat Bhang Pra but I just didn’t!! It makes you wonder what it would have felt like without the venom. I am curious too how it would feel to a person with tattoos already! I saw a young guy getting his first tattoo the old way and he was crying from the pain. Did you get anymore? It is quite addicting after the first one ;)

  39. Yup same thing happened to me. $150. I was in disbelief actually. I did it any way. I went all that way by taxi and tuk tuk: making a special trip to do it. I was disappointed by the unexpected charge….

  40. Things have changed a bit at Wat Bang Phra. They charged me 6,000 baht for my tattoo this past weekend. This came as a surprise, because I had gotten one 6 months ago, and was only asked for a ‘donation’ afterward.

  41. I have had two Sak Yant at Wat Bang Phra. It is an amazing experience. Both were done over two years ago. It’s much less painful than modern tattooing, quicker, and heals much faster. It didn’t itch, took minutes to complete and was healed almost immediately with no flaking! Now a couple years down the line and the design is still as delicate and detailed as ever. I have had no issues, no scarring, no medical problems or anything else. Simple, straightforward and easy :-) I very much recommend it!

  42. I got teh Hah taew tats with the 5 sacred lines and totally a new sets or rules of don’ts. I’m mean to ask, what happens if I broke SOME the rules like once i was drunk and other people’s partner was kind enough to bring me to her accommodation etc.
    Does this means the whole ‘magical’ powers are repealed?

  43. This is incredible! I’m heading to Thailand the beginning of next year and I want to get a Sak Yant tattoo if I get the guts… The sterilization thing freaks me out a bit. So, have you obeyed all the rules? ;)

    1. I’m flying out to Bangkok Tuesday morning and going to get a few sak yants with Wat Bang Phra being one of the stops, news to come

  44. Nice post ! you didn’t clear the safety about the tattoo. Is this is safe or it will be cause of HIV.

    11 Specials rules are really interesting. Do you really maintaining all the rules.

  45. This question is for anyone out there, but what you you suggest a woman to wear when going because obviously we can’t take our shirts off in front of a Monk, so I’m just curious if there are any tank top suggestions, etc. Thank you!

    1. I suggest a backless shirt/blouse with cap sleeves and wear a shall over top so if the monk chooses to tattoo your back (which is a high possibility), you can revile your back and cover up just as quick. Just make sure to always wear the shall covering your shoulders as the monk will ask you to change if what you are wearing is offending temple etiquette.

      I choose a plus size v-neck knit top from old navy and wore it backwards. After a few minor adjustments(adding a string to the shoulders to keep the shirt up and cut down the neck) I was set for the day with no issue.

  46. I love this piece! I’m really thinking about getting my own in Chiang Mai as well but I’ve never had a tattoo and am really apprehensive about contracting something from the needles he uses.

  47. This looks interesting but also scary, i have one tattoo but i was in pain for a weeks even when it was done with machine. This one needs a guts! Good one :)

  48. Great Buddhist experiences along with tattoo art. I prefer to travel South Africa next month. I would be including these events too in my itinerary. Thanks for sharing!

  49. I’ve always wanted to get one of these tattoos, but I get a little nervous when it comes to the share pooled of ink. Hats off to you man! I just can’t make that jump a this point. It was a fascinating read. Great post.

    1. Hey Wayne! Glad you enjoyed it. Risky, yes. But sometimes you just have to say “fuck it”. I’m sure this attitude will catch up with me one day, but it feels damn good to take a few risks now & then.

  50. I absolutely love that tattoo as well as the other photos! It looks like you had a really nice time and I hope to have a similarly great experience upon my trip. You definitely know what it means to be a great traveler and get the mot of your experiences. Awesome post, thanks for sharing!

  51. I almost stopped reading after looking at the needle, so scary. Permanent ink, that’s ordinary but snake venom? I can’t imagine. I fast forward to the final result. The tattoo looks nice after done. I wonder if you have been warned what will happen if you break any of the rules?

    With this tattoo you’ll have difficulty to experience public onsen (hot spring) in Japan.

    Mima Isono
    Tokyo Blogger

  52. Well, this is certainly one way of getting a meaningful tattoo! And there’s quite a story behind it… literally hundreds of years of tradition. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get anymore tattoos, but this might be an exception.

  53. Chinese chronicles describe yantra tattooing among the Khmer cultures of southwestern China and northwestern Vietnam at least 2,000 years ago. Over the centuries the tradition spread to what is now Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and parts of Myanmar. Today it is most popular in Thailand, whereas in the country of origin, Cambodia, the tradition has almost completely vanished due to the wars killing millions.

    The script used for yantra designs varies according to culture and geography. In Cambodia and central Thailand, pure ancient Khmer script is used, while in northern Thailand one sees yantra tattoos bearing Shan, northern Thai, or Tai Lu scripts, and in Laos the Lao Tham script is employed.[6] The script spells out abbreviated syllables from Pali incantations. Different masters have added to these designs over the centuries through visions received in their meditations. Some yantra designs have been adapted from pre-Buddhist shamanism and the belief in animal spirits that was found in Southeast Asia and incorporated into Thai tradition and culture.

  54. I really enjoyed this blog post! I am about to travel through South-East Asia in a few weeks and I was thinking of getting a tattoo done while travelling. I’m not really sure yet if a Sak Yant tattoo is the right choice for me though… I am hesitant about getting such a spiritual tattoo done, when it’s not my culture at all. I like how you approached this issue though – respecting and sharing the cultural tradition, yet taking all of the rules attached to it with a grain of salt. :)

  55. Wow wow wow what an experience! You are pretty brave, especially since your are taking the risk of catching a disease. It is meaningful and beautiful :) the list of the things you can not do after it sucks though!

  56. This is an amazing post!

    I am a tattoo passionate and I do believe every tattoos you get should be linked to you, your story. I always talk for months before I get inked, research for symbols and meaning, find the good person to make it… And compose an image that is close to me (my next tattoo -June, hooray- was a 4 years process…).

    What you got is so powerfull. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it (especially for the rules – I’d be scared… Do you respect them?*)

    The photo of his workplace is just … wonderful! That you actually did it even though it’s so far from what we’re used to in terms of clean/ antiseptic whatever. Also that you’ve seen the whole process before getting the tattoo, it’s really good for any foreigners that would try to have a tattoo for fun.

    It is beautiful. In every aspects…

    *Pity for the woman sitting :) -ahahaha.

  57. Very entertaining post! I had a good laugh reading this. I have a tattoo as well but it regrettably belongs to the “drunken challenge in the middle of the night” category. If I could do it all over again, I would get something like this. I love how the monk decides what tattoo to give a person based on their aura. I wonder what mine would look like?

  58. Power is results and that tattoo WITH all the magic is a very very powerfull representation of cultural arts in the world today showing class responsibility in mental substanance.

  59. This was a great account of your experience. I have “visit Thailand, receive Sak Yant” on my ultimate goals list after weight loss and better health. It’s definitely my number 1 goal/reward. I’ve been learning about Buddhism for a couple of years and I’ve fallen in love with the beauty and spirituality of it. It has been so important to me and my life, especially after the death of my grandmother. So getting a Sak Yant tattoo would be a very spiritual, meaningful experience. This was a great way to understand the process. Thank you so much! and the photos were wonderful, as well. :)

  60. Hi Matthew, thanks for sharing your experience on this website. I more curious about the tattoo effects rather than the design. So do you feel more luckier in life or something? Have you ever experienced immune to attacks? Considering all of the restrictions, it should give some good effects in return. Cheers!

  61. Its no TNT hat you can’t duck under a Banana tree just better to avoid doing so, because according to folklore and superstition, mythology and what not ผีตาณี “thanee” the south east asian equivalent of a succubus or a lady spirits that will tempt you to do all sort of mischievous things things tends to resides with in a banana trees.

    As for clothes line it’s about paying respect to the master(monk) who gave you the tattoo, because a holy man is belongs in high place not ducking under socks pants undies and knickers and what not in Thai society anythingbthat you wear below your stomach is considered low.

    Lastly sames goes for not letting a women lies/sits on top of you and not being brush by her clothes it’s also because of the monk, Buddhist monks/nuns are not meant to have direct contact with the opposite sex, to keep them from being tempted and straying away from the path and so on

  62. Hi! I have a question to all readers who have had their sak yant tattoo.. I am very (100x) interested to get one when I visit Thailand this coming May; I am only in Bangkok for the first 3 days of my two-week trip, and I’m planning to do it on the 3rd day. My concern is that, I will be involved in a lot of physical activities for the rest of my trip (e.g. white water kayaking and jungle trekking in pang mapha, rock climbing in railay beach, etc) and I’m afraid it will have any negative effect to my freshly-done tattoo (I understand the tattoo will take 2-3 weeks to fully heal?)… can anyone of you guys give me clarity on this please.. thank you so much cheers

    1. its only 2-7 days to heal . nothing is a problem. just avoid sunshine at that place . so put a sticker on the first week and sure not shower with soap that place. only water .

      soap affect the color .

      best after tatoo u go some farmacy and bye small creme against infection …name : dettol . put 1 or 2 times

      be blessed by your sacred sak yant


  63. Read this post four months ago when I just started my trip through south east Asia and knew right away that this was something I just had to do. Used Ian’s directions and it went perfectly. I arrived at the temple half an hour before they opend so I was one of the first ones to get tattooed. We sat outside this time and the monk (actually while he was smoking) gave me the Gao yord in just five minutes. Having no idea how this looked I was on my way out when a woman wanted to see my new tattoo and then asked me if I wanted another one, the Hah Taew (the five spires). Well, I need all the luck and protection I can get, so of course I wanted another one. She then took me to see Master Luang Pi Nunn who was re powering the magic on some of the locals (Some of them I could recognize from your pictures!). I bought new flowers, cigarettes and incense and then sat down to wait for my turn. He worked with a tattoo machine that day actually, but was still as fast. My five spires was also done after just amazingly five minutes, and it’s beautiful. I didn’t exchange a word with the monks and they didn’t touch my skin. Actually, master Luang used a marker pen to put my head down on the pillow in front of me haha.
    I left the temple feeling so happy about the experience, all thanks to this awesome post!
    Lots of love!
    Sara (Sweden)

    1. Thanks for the update Sarah! Glad to hear it went well. I’m actually in Bangkok right now, and met with Ian earlier tonight. We were talking about our Sak Yants, and the Sak Yant festival that’s happening in March. I need to go and recharge mine…

    1. a normal tattoo will be at the size of 10 x 10 cm not more

      the full back tattoos take days and days .

      its to painfull to do in 1 times.

      and him not have times for that .

      better go back year after year

      be blessed


  64. Visited Wat Bang Phra 31st Jan 2015, followed the direction by Ian’s guide, fortunately only one the way, motor taxi from Big C mall charge me 200baht, reason is far away.
    A better suggestion, catch the 0545 am, mini van, 60-80 baht at Victory Monument (Anusawari in Thai) for Natkhorn Chai sri, ask to drop at Tesco Mall, Natkhorn Cha sri, Natkhorn Pathum.(the driver will announce your location, you will be let off, along the highway, when you get off, Tesco Mall is opposite direction)
    when you get off, walk towards the overhead bridge, cross over, walk to the mall, along the main road and catch a motor taxi 80-100 baht, is only 15 mins to temple.
    After your sacred Tattoo, maybe you would want to walk around the temple ground, which is recommended.
    come out from main gate, cross over, there is a shelter shed, catch motor taxi back to Tesco 100 baht.
    However, you need to tell the rider – pai Tesco, kap lot too pai khrung tap/BKK. (im going to Tesco for taking mini van back to BKK)
    He will drop you at the Tesco parking lot near the main road or highway, and there is a shelter bus stop.
    walk into it, and to the table and mention, ‘ pai BKK, Anuwasari’, (going to BKK, Victory Monument).only 60 baht, make sure you keep the pink slip, just in case.
    Everyone will have to get off at the final destination.

    1. Better if you just speak English, you can’t say what it comes out if you read that “pai ni pai nan khrap” stuff and expect to be understood by any Thai. You need tones and length of vowels to speak Thai. Keep it to basic, clear, slow English language. Easier and more nice actually. They all speak the English they need to get their job done with tourists, and they are usually happy to show that they can speak English, instead of trying to understand what the hell you are blabbering and in what weird language :)

  65. Hi! I just got a 9 Gao Yord tattoo today. I would like to ask how did you know or get the dos and donts? Was not able to ask Master Luang Pi Nunn since I don’t speak Thai language. Hope you can share it with me. Thanks!

  66. Hi makayla,

    I went to wat bang phra about 3 weeks ago. I was not able to be tattooed the traditional way by 1 of the monks (the most popular monk there) because I’m a woman and he could not touch me. There was another popular monk there with a tattoo gun that could tattoo me but I wanted the traditional Sak yant. The donation is 75baht for either of the popular well known monks. There are many other monks giving the traditional Sak yant tattoos for the same price at wat bang phra, but not as popular or well known as the ones I mentioned before. You can give, and are encouraged to donate more, but that’s up to you. im not sure if the monks change per day that are tattooing, I’m just sharing with you my experience. I was able to choose my tattoo and the place, but again these things may vary with the monk you choose. It’s an amazing and spiritual experience and not something that is just art on your skin. I hope that helps, good luck.

    1. Hi Jessica – how long did it take to heal (considering it was done with a gun not bamboo)? I’ve been doing a lot of research and really want to get one but I’ll be in Bangkok first, then heading over to Chiang Mai and Phuket so I’m not sure it’ll be a good idea considering the recovery time. I’ve heard the traditional bamboo heals much quicker…. thanks so much for your help!! :-)

  67. I am planning on going to Wat Bang Phra a in a couple days for a sak yant but I am still a little confused on a something. I have read that the monk choses the tattoo and where it goes on your body, but I have read some more recent comments on here that you actually choose what is it and where it goes, and that you actually have to pay for your tattoo. Has anyone been to wat bang phra recently?

    1. You can choose a tattoo, but you don’t have to. Each tattoo goes in a certain place though, so if you choose one, you can’t choose its location. At least not with the monks. At a tattoo studio you can get anything you want. I’m not sure if payment has increased, but you do have to pay for it with a “donation” to the Wat.

  68. Last Saturday I went with my friends to a temple in TakI got my first sak yant (even my first tattoo). First thing was to get the blessing from the abbot to get a sak yant. The abbot then directed me and my friends to another building where we would get our tattoos. The tattooing itself would be performed by a student (he used to be tattoo artist in Pattaya) of the abbot. We were handed a bunch of papers with different designs to chose from, I wanted one design and go a straight “NO”, and he told me that for a tattoo like that the offering should be at least a pig head, a chicken, fruits and whiskey and that only an abbot/master could make a tattoo like that. So instead I ended up with a Bpaaet Thit on my left sholder and a Mahaniyohm on my right shoulder (approved by the abbot). After we were all finished we went back to the abbot and he blessed the tattoos. For that I payed a staggering 900 Baht (500+400 Baht) and my friends who did Haa Thaaew payed 300 Baht.
    For the tattooing area I must say that it looked like night and day compared with your photos, everything clean, one person one needle (he had a rack with rods/needles and sterilized them by boiling between use), flame and alcohol for disinfection before start tattooing and so on.
    I wish that I could have comment with photos to show the tattoo area and my sak yants.

  69. Hello Matthew,
    Great article and very exciting read.
    I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind answering!

    1) how many monks tattoo a day?
    2) what time do the monks start tattooing? I am going tmw and would like to be one of the first people for the day.

    Thanks in advance and will continue to follow your blogs! Keep up the awesome travel!


  70. Thank you for sharing this amazing story of your Sak yant, I too just recieved my first tattoo from wat bang phra. I recieved the paed tidt yant which is for protection in all directions. I waited 2 hrs only to find out the monk would not tattoo a woman, disappointed as I was about to leave I was lead to another monk in another one of the rooms at the wat, where he agreed to give me my yant. It was the best experience I’ve ever had. And will be going back the next time I’m in Thailand. Thanks again for sharing!

  71. This is a very good accounting of getting a real sak yant. To add just a little to the custom aspect: Phra Ajarn (Monk Teacher) Luang Pi Nunn is also my teacher and as such he has become my life-long monk. As he has given to me I am expected to support him as my teacher. Monks do not have a retirement plan and look to their students in old age. If you make it back to Thailand, then it is nice to return to Wat Bang Phra even if you don’t need another sak yant to “recharge your magic” and support your teacher. BTW: The 100 Baht donation is generally a Thai economic level of donation and Westerners generally are a little better off. Giving is a matter of the heart. Remember: If we give little, then we get little.

  72. That’s so awesome. Getting a tattoo has been on my list of things to do for a while now but I also wanted it to mean something. Not only that but I want to go through a lot of work to get it as well like climbing a mountain to the monk who sits atop and can tattoo me, or through a forest, desert, etc. Just something that will give the tattoo more of a story, meaning and worth to myself.

  73. Do you know if the place will be opened on the weekend? I’m planning to go there and get a tattoo during the water festival. Now is it better to get it before or after the water festival?

  74. Hi Matt, Im Thai, born and raised in Bangkok but have been living in Los Angeles the last 5ish years- so i grew up aware about these sacred tattoos. My biggest hesitation has always been the rules that come with it and have heard several ‘horror’ stories about those who have broken those rules. Of course, depending on the tattoo, each one comes with different set of rules such a no drinking, no sleeping on your back (so only on your side?) for a certain amount of time, and so on. Have you continued to stick by the rules set for your tattoo? Have u broken any of them and if so, have you experienced anything from it? E.g rash, illness etc. Because your rule about how a female can’t lie on top of u or sit on top seems incredibly restrictive lol

      1. Matthew, I absolutely enjoyed reading your story. I love tattoos, but when I saw Luang Pi Nunn’s working area….oohh hell no lol. I have OCD and work in the health field, I would have a heart attack. I’m Cambodian living in Virginia almost all my life, born in the refugee camp in Thai during the 80’s. I enjoy learning and hearing anything about my culture (Thai/Cambodian). I will never be brave like you to get the tattoo, unless I bring my own needle, towel, ink, and a strong disinfectant spray :). Your comments on the rules had me laughing so hard lol. Did you break rule #10??

    1. My thoughts were the same on the whole “rules” thing. Of course, this is completely dependent on what you believe… silly superstition or integrity breaker?? I personally wouldn’t be able to go through a whole ceremony and commit to those rules… unless the monks you know, winked while they were saying them. Haha!!

      MATTHEW!! Thank you!!! Your story, among other courageous tales, were the encouragement I needed to quit my cush, corporate job and start traveling full time. IT’S BEEN TWO MONTHS & IT’S FRICKIN’ FANTASTIC. I’m headed to South America from Feb-April, and as of tomorrow i’m making my way down the US from NY to FL. Anyway, someday i’d love to meet-up with you!

      I’m glad you got your Macbook Pro back. What a story!! I’m also a traveling animator/videographer so i’ll be bringing my pride and joy MBP 15″… The fear of losing/destroying/theft is looming. My dad just plopped a package of zip ties in my lap and now i’m looking into travel insurance… Is there a company you like best? I’ll search through your blogs for an answer if there isn’t one…


  75. Thailand is a very beautiful country and also very famous for their tattoo art. I like the various designed tattoos and the process of making the tattoos. The blog is very informative and interesting.

  76. Matthew, I heard that monk aren’t do yant to a first Ill plan to visit Adjan Kob in Autaya (can wrong with spell), but today I saw your post and was interesting..saw comment from a girl, which did Sak I’ll go to Wat Bang Phra will monk do a Yant for me? Thank you in advance for reply..)

  77. I went to Wat Bang Phra today and got my Tattoo. When I was there there was no price for a tattoo just a 75bath for a offering & 2X 100 bath donation.
    The photos and the article are spot on, but I would definitely recommend that you get there very early I got there at 8am and there was 10-15 people ahead of me. within the next 20 mins the room was full. The waiting was part of the experence observing Master Luang Pi Nunn work is amazing. I was the only Farang the but was treated with nothing but respect. If you do go this is something not to take lightly, you should show great respect to the Monks & the temple. This is something I have wanted & to experence for many years. I will be back for many more.

  78. Hey-ya fellow sak yant lovers!

    Today Emma and I received our first sak yant tattoos from the monks (typically 5 monks tattoo daily) mentioned in this fantastic blog. While the experiences, meaning and adventure was once in a life time, a heads up for future fellow-go’ers the temple NOW CHARGES for the tattoos. I received a Bpaaet Thit (แปดทิศ translation: eight points) at 4,000 Baht while Emma received her Haa Thaaew (ห้าแถว translation: five rows) at 2,500 baht and this is extra to the 75 Baht you pay for offerings. This seemed to be a very new thing as during my time being tattooed several ‘helpers’ with tattoo books kept interrupting to ask for prices of each tattoo (even during the blessing at the end of my tattoo experience). The tattoos have a rough range of prices that start at 2,000 to 7,000 or more Baht, BRING EXTRA MONEY as there are no banks or currency exchanges close to the temple except for a local ATM at a 7-11.

    Also what is new at the temple is you MUST choose your tattoo BEFORE you face the monk, he will no longer ‘choose’ for you but rather advise you on your choice and placement. AND BEWARE, there are TWO floors where the monks tattoo. The first floor WILL USE a tattoo machine, so if you have your heart set on a traditional sak yant tattoo, look for the stair case located at the back of the room (ref. 2nd photo Matthew posted)

    Our experience was a fantastic one and very unique story to tell our future generations. We both cannot wait to travel back to Thailand for a second round of these spiritual and stunning pieces of life.

    1. I didnt have to pay extra only a donation & offering. All the monks that were Tattooing today were using machines. Also Master Luang Pi Nunn chose for me. All the visitors there today some with there whole body covered readily accepted there tattoos with a machine. I didnt see 1 done the traditional way except for young lady who got an invisible tattoo with oil.

  79. Well this is far more impressive than tweety pie on your belly drilled in by a drunk in Magaluf at the age of 17 for your first tattoo (this did not happen to me, I was more of an early 2000s Chinese symbols kind of girl – it ‘does’ translate to angel…)

    Welcome to the tattoo club, brace yourself – it’s addictive.

  80. Um, i hope you don’t break any of those rules for the tattoo. Obviously you did not do enough research to know that the spirits will punish you if you break any of them. These tattoos are quite dangerous to get unless you stay faithful and take it seriously.

  81. Hey, very cool story. I am currently living in Chiang Mai Thailand and am very interested in getting one of these tattoos and have a few questions. Though Bangkok is just a short trip away I was wondering if anyone could recommend a place up here in the north. I also have a lot of other tattoos and would hate for the monk to choose the 9 spires on the nape and after pulling my shirt off seeing a giant back piece. Though none of my tattoos are disrespectful at all they are not sak yaht tattoos.

    1. Mate, I was recommended two places, Wat Makieng in Doi Saket, and Ajarn Pi, he’s on Facebook… I have yet to go to either yet, but I understand the Ajarn at the Wat speaks excellent English and was trained by the Yant Master at Wat Bang Phra.. I recieved several of my Yants there and a couple from Arjans around Thailand
      Good luck

  82. Hi Matt.
    I recently just received my sak yant in wat bang phra from the same master, so i guess we’re brothers in a way lol. However I’d just like to poi t out you only get a say in what you have or where you have it if it’s not your first yant. For your first one the monk choses. It is almost always the 9 spires on your nape, i tried asking for a different part of my body as i was severely sunburnt but the monk just told me to turn around. For some reason though he used a tattoo machine with mine, not a needle, so i presume he’s widening his skills? One other thing do you kniw much about the chances of catching an infection? There were only 2 guys before me and only one with the same needle, both looked pretty healthy to me but im still really worried about contracting something incurable.Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. Cheers bud.

  83. where would i be able to get one of my own needles?? i am thinking of getting one with my partner next month when we visit but i don’t want to risk using a needle that someone else has used

    1. Hi everyone. I just had my tattoo done by Ajarn Rong Pee Noi Wat Nok 2431 somewhere at Thonburi (40mins taxi to there). I got a Yant Phutson is regarded as Maha Yant (highest level of Yants). It is believed to support wearers to be loved, promoted, lucky and charming.
      Ajarn do it for you from 11am to 7pm. I was recommended by my Thai Friend.
      No long que just you and Ajarn.
      PS: Respect the temple and Ajarn. Thank you.

  84. I recently traveled to Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Pattaya). My last day in Bangkok I woke up at 530am and left the hotel at 6am to make the ~60 minute ride to the temple at Wat Bang Prha. When I arrived at about 710am I purchased the offerings (as listed above), removed my shoes, and headed inside where I expected to spend most of the day. According to my driver (who had several sak yant tattoos) the Masters and Monks don’t start until about 8. Since we arrived so early there were only two men waiting (they ended up holding the skin for the next several people- including myself). I presented the Master with the offerings and waited until the first two men were done- both men received more than one tattoo that morning, quite impressive!! The pain is tolerable but much different than a regular tattoo (I have 8 prior tattoos and thought the pain can’t be too bad lol). But as described in this article, the first poke felt like a bee sting, immediately followed by another and another and another. Your muscles tense up uncontrollably and you sweat more than you’d think possible! From start to finish it took about 15 minutes and then I, along with the 9 spires on the center of my back, was off to another room where I was blessed by a Monk. Both experiences were absolutely breath taking- but the tattoo aside, being in this temple and receiving such an amazing gift is an experience that cannot be replicated.

  85. Hello this is a special thing for my people in Thailand. I respect farang who wish to get one and have no problem with it. I am just curious as to why if not part of your culture or religion you wish to have this tattoo.

    1. I’m sure there are many different reasons why people want Sak Yant; I think it breaks down to two main reasons.

      1. One of us farang went to a foreign country and wanted to have something cool and exciting to take home with us. As Thai culture differs greatly from American culture, the Sak Yant look ‘cool’ and ‘exotic’, and provide an opportunity to brag about their life experiences. I personally feel like these are the wrong reasons to get any tattoo (especially Sak Yant), but to each their own.

      2. Someone has been exposed to Thai culture, and appreciate it. They respect it, and recognize Sak Yant as a method to integrate it into their life. They consider it an internal spiritual experience.

      Obviously there are other reasons, but I think most can be categorized into one of these two.

  86. Hey Matt, how did you manage to get these photos? When I got my Sak Yant done in March there were big signs everywhere saying no photos. Rather than run the risk I just kept my camera in my pocket. Would have loved to have taken some snapshots though. Great experience eh!

  87. I’m in Bangkok right now and thinking about following in your footsteps! I have a couple of questions I’m not sure you can answer for me!

    1. Can I choose the placement of the tattoo?
    2. Will having previous non religious tattoos increase my odds of being rejected?

    1. Each Sak Yant goes in a particular spot, so I’m not sure if the monks will let you choose a different spot. However you can probably place it anywhere you want if you go to a normal Thai tattoo artist. As for previous tattoos, I don’t think that will be an issue.

  88. What a great place to get your first tattoo, If I am ever getting a tattoo it will be something unique and special similar to what you just did. I admire your strength to go trough with this even though the work space was not the cleanest and you might have caught some disease from the needle.

    A great post with a great story, and great tattoo.

  89. Hi i was just wondering,long ago i uad a monk from thailand came down to malaysia and did a prayers tattoo on me,its been many years now and its fadding off,am i allowed to do a cover up tattoo on it or is it a bad sign? Tq

  90. This vagabond Matthew knows how to take the best of every place he visits :) Thank you for your inspiring posts, I definitely need to travel more, and better if it’s like a vagabond!

  91. Hi! do you know a Monk or a ajarn sak yant, able to make me a lucky tattoo next to phuket? it’s the end of my trip and I can’t go to bangkok or koh samui.

    thank’s you

  92. i have a tattoo that i need translating please as my husband has one done recently and it needs a bit more explaining as he forgot a little of it. would you do this for me if i send you the picture

  93. I wonder if the concept is the same as what is used in the Maori tattoos, though they’re less like pointalism, and more tribal in appearance. Buddhist concepts are a great thing to live by whenever possible, and it’s great that you took it seriously and have passed it along to all of us! Enjoy South Africa! It’s my home and absolutely gorgeous!!! (note: you are braver than I to have that done for sure)

    1. You need to take it seriously, otherwise the monk will refuse to work on you. I’m not a practicing Buddhist, but I do relate with many of their philosophies.

      South Africa is wonderful Kyle, beautiful country you have here.

  94. Hi! Can you chose were the tattoo can be made? Like if a want it on my throat or hands and knuckles. Do you Think its possible?

  95. Hi, i’m going to Bangkok next August and i’d like to have a Sank yant too..
    I read that your first is decided by the monk, but i like the two tigers..should i ask for it or i have to come back for the second one after a few days? Where did you find the rules for your tattoo ?

  96. Hi I’m planning to get one soon, I was wondering if we can pay extra to have my own brand new ink and can you request to change the needle to prevent infection? Thank you

    1. You can request a new needle I believe, not sure they’ll let you bring your own ink though. At least not from the monks. But there are tattoo shops that would let you do that I’m sure.

      1. Hi, me and my friend got a tattoo on Monday , like 2 days back !! We both are feeling uneasy !! Can’t explain the feeling … My Thai friend suggested me to pray to the master !! I did …. Any suggestions ??

  97. I literally laughed out loud at the last two requirements… mostly because of your response to them. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences in such a fun & detailed way. Best wishes to you.

  98. No offensive , but by looking at someone you can not tell whether they have a blood borne illness. I would call this high risk of contracting a blood borne pathogen (HIV, hep B, hep C). Getting HIV, hep C is a very serious illness. Not something I would risk, or would recommend to anyone. I am sure you have gotten checked, and I hope your are fine.

  99. Thanks so much for article & links to your friends too :-) your blog has been really helpful so many thanks _/_ After seeing a Yant too many years ago to remember,waaaay before taking my vows or even starting Muay Thai, I wanted one. Now so many years later & fully understanding, I have my first :-D now I want to go back tomoro for a second one to keep me on my journey :-) I won’t be back for awhile so am wondering if he will allow a 2nd one in as many days??!!

  100. Hey I was wondering if you follow the rules of the tattoo? My buddy did the same journey outside of bangkok, and actually surprisingly got the same tattoo and he didn’t really take it serious, and is a huge fan of pumpkin pie. This past thanksgiving we all went home to visit family and he had pumpkin pie for dessert the next day he got hit by a truck that shattered his leg, collarbone and fractured his skull, that wasn’t the first time he ate an item of the squash family but it was the most he had gorged on it eating almost half the pie cuz we were pretty high, and it still being in his system. I am a pretty firm believer in respecting the wishes of holy men, and he now is somewhat terrified of breaking the other rules, luckily he has a girlfriend and knows her menstrual cycles.

  101. I went to the “tattoo temple” about a year ago to do some photography work. Just seeing this process made me want to get one myself. I have always been ambivalent about tattoos but I think often that I may have to go back. It is kind of call me.

  102. I’m really interested in getting a sak yant but I’ve already got a tattoo on my back would this have any implications if I was to get one?

  103. When you finish your SAK YANT. All people who got YANT already should go to see
    ” Luang Por Sam Aaang ” at the big hall for another magic bless. Luong porp Sam Aaang is the head abbot.
    you can copy this phrase for any voice assistant to read it
    “rob kuan paa pom pai haa Luang Por Saam Aang tee kreuktee yai duad krup”

    or asking thai peoples around you to read my Thai alphabet to take you to see Luang Por Sam Aang
    ” รบกวน พาผมไปที่กุฎิหลวงพ่อสำอางค์ เพื่อเป่าสำทับอีกครั้งด้วยครับ”

  104. Hello again !
    As I read many posted by a lot of people who worry about the steriliize or any infections.
    I have 2 options for you.

    1.- You can bring your own needdles or
    you can make the new one with stainless steel diameter 1 cm or a bit less and 70 cm long.
    Sharpen at one end with central groove.

    2.- you can ask Ajarn to change a new needdle by following these phrase

    ” AJarn krup pien keam hai douad na krup ” – the below is mean of those phrase

    Ajarn – is the monk
    krup – is the phase for shown your respect and polite .
    pien – is changing

    keam – is needle
    hai – is asking or begging
    douad na – need

    you can copy all of these phrase in your smart phone and use some kinds of voice assistance read these
    phrase before you get start your sak yant or you can asking thai people around you read my Thai alphabet
    and told the monk to change the new needle ….. Thai alphabet as below

    ” พระอาจารย์ครับ ขอรบกวนเปลี่ยนเข็มสัก ให้ด้วยนะครับ ”

    Hope this can help you to go SAK YANT with no worry about infecting and sterilize.

    Vuthmail-Thailand 18.02.2014

    1. hello thank you for posting this great advice. i have a question: what about the blood in the ink? how do we address that concern?

  105. Thanks for the helping story. I am going to Thailand this summer and the tattoo is on the list; however, I am trying to search for one that will definitely do one on a woman. Do you know if this temple did?

    1. thanksgiving….well, if you intend to rob a bank by way of celebration, lie about it afterwards, kill the arresting officers, have sex with a young girl (or married woman) then get so blind drunk you cannot remember your own name so you take a line of coke to wake up, then you have a very messed up idea of celebrating thanksgiving (or indeed celebrating anything). Does that answer your question? :-)

  106. with the rules – different masters have different rules, but one they all have in common is keeping the 5 precepts (Buddha). 1. no sexual misconduct. 2. no killing. 3. abstention from false speech. 4. no drugs or states of intoxication. 5. do not take what is not given. Irrespective of whether you follow Buddha or not, these make a very decent ethical framework for your life. endeavour to follow them if you get a sak yant, and endeavour to follow them anyway if you do not! see you all in the stars, G.

  107. Great article and tattoo . At the age of 62…. still in great health, I flew from Canada and ended up in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand for four months,. Went with some Thai friends to a monk that has been doing sacred Sak Yant yantra tattoos for about fifteen years. I was the only westerner there… and received the Gao Yord nine peaks at the top of my back with kehn sak. It took almost half an hour…. there are many variations of this tattoo in Thailand and Cambodia… mine was a bit more elaborate than average. About ten minutes into it… I was wondering if it was such a good idea… it hurt… but then I just concentrated on other things and blocked the pain. It’s supposed to be much more painful than the tattoo gun. I’ve never had a tattoo with the tattoo gun so I don’t know. Later, I returned on a few more occasions…. ending up with five sak yank yantra tattoos on my back, and two on each arm… getting them can become addictive…. even with the pain…which you quickly learn to adjust to..or even enjoy… like hot sauce .. But they look wonderful… and have meaning.. and they lead to great conversation if someone sees them now that I am back in Canada.. I even got the needle that did two of my tattoos… they are inserted into a brass or bronze rod that the monk used… double point needle. He makes his own ink… including a bit of cobra venom according to the Thais that go to him…. Thanks for the web page and your article…

    1. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience Robert. I too have never had a gun tattoo, so I can’t compare the pain. While it hurt, I was expecting worse. Maybe just psyching myself out too much. Very happy with my Sak Yant!

      1. Thank you for your reply Mathew. The ceremony and blessings going with these tattoos was nice also. And my friends had helped me with knowing what to do at the temple during the time there. I still wear one of the Sai Sin cords put on my wrist by a monk. I took the other ones off after seven days, but the one left… I’ll wear it until it falls off. Visited many wats talked to monks, and spent time in Buddhist ceremonies. After receiving my tattoos… my Thai friends told me “Now you are Thai” and told me that no matter where I was in the world, that i am Thai in heart and spirit. Their words touched me. I can’t wait to return someday even if it takes me a few years before I can return…. as long as I still have my health and strength at my age. Chiang Mai.. and the rest of northwest Thailand in the mountains, isolated tribal villages like the Lisu villages.. is a wonderful part of the world. The people are amazing… the food fantastic, (I lost 22 pounds) It felt like I was leaving home when I left after four months to come back to Canada. Thanks again Mathew for your webpage.. and Best Wishes.

  108. Ive always been intrigued and fascinated with Sak Yant tattoos, but unfortunately I come from a very conservative and strict family…asian parents..Would the monks be understanding and open to the invisible ink? Or do they mostly prefer to work with dark ink? How would I be able to request it?

    1. Hi Vera,
      one thing most people do not realise on this thread is that the visible sak yant is not the important part – the design and the magic that is put inside is the important part – many thai’s choose invisible (and the women always do unless they are “bar girl” types) – as for real ink – there are some shockingly bad ones (if you compare to a genuine tattoo but these are not tattoo’s). Its the magic that counts and what you do afterwards. :-)

      1. so as for your question – invisible is fine and preferable for many Thai’s. It’s not what the sak yant look like that counts, it’s the intention of the person who is getting it that matters (hence sometimes people get refused because what they want does not have a good intention behind it). Good luck.

  109. My friend! those rule are to protect you, so that it keep your tattoo purify for your safety. If you break it you won’t get a wraps from god but it deem useless and have no power. Everyone of those rule mean a lot, if wish I could explain to you more in detail. Remember your tattoo is sacred, it is not a tattoo you get when you just came out of a bar hammer.

    1. It’s plenty sacred to me Tasa. But I have a hard time believing that everyone with a Sak Yant follows all these rules to the letter. :D

      I may just have to get the magic recharged next year.

  110. Thanks for all the information. Really insightful. Planning on going next month. Can’t wait. Will be my first traditional Thai tattoo experience. Could I ask what you did to keep it clean and not get infected after though? Yours looks great.

  111. Great post. The Sak Yant is amazing. What a fantastic experience. I am going to Thailand in 3 weeks and I was thinking about getting a Sak yant.

    I’m not sure about the monk choosing the position of my tattoo though. I would LOVE to get the Ha Taew on my side (ribs… ouch!) but obviously that wouldn’t be a guarantee. Did you say most of them were done on the back?

  112. “I cannot let a woman lie on top of me, or sit on top either. (shit!)” haha, hilarious man. Epic post! I got a tattoo of the world on my back in a hostel in Rome :) but I think your story is a little more hardcore … way cool!

  113. You are brave, I would never receive tattoo with used needle. But its all about fantastic experience, so, never say never…
    In one of your replies you said that you didn’t heard about rules prior to tattoo ritual, so maybe you can forgot some of rules, ocasionally, specially 1, 4 and 10 :)

  114. I got 2 sak yants november and dezember the first was the 4 lines and the second the 9 spires same yours
    The first need 3 days the second just 9 hours till healed
    Realy amazing just 1 day nothing swolen nothing red looks same i have it 1 month
    I was at wat bang prah too and always around 8-9 am
    I didnt wait long
    But i never see a monk
    Only people in white dresses.
    My gf told me they are ex monks still doing the yats
    Maby the monk tatto in another room i did t see ?

    I was arriving with tuktuk and an guy with white clothes lead me to the room where i recived my sak yant
    Some did it outside some in the room
    The first was 5 minits the second about 40

  115. Do you know if you can talk with the monks for a while before getting a Sak Yant? I am fairly religious, and would want to make sure we were both comfortable with me getting one, and I feel a conversation before hand would allow for a more fitting choice.

    I am a Christian, however, most of my beliefs overlap with those of Buddhists (except we may be a tad more lax on the alcohol and sex front). But I would want to talk with an expert, which I would consider a monk to be, to ensure I did not disrespect their views.

    All that aside, like you, I prefer any tattoo I had to have a really good story to go along with it.

  116. one last thing about hygiene – Hepatitis B is very easy to catch if you are exposed to it in the right (or wrong) way (HIV takes a lot more effort to catch by comparison, if “effort” is the right word) – definitely make sure your jabs are up to date, know the risk before you go – Thai’s are often of the opinion that the sheer fact they are getting a sak will protect them from any risk. Go into this with eyes wide open. goodluck.

  117. Hi Matthew

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing! I’ll be in Thailand this Xmas and I’m hoping to get a Sk Yant at the temple on 16th December. Do you know if the temple is ever closed and what time is good to arrive to get a place?

    Thanks a lot!


    1. open all year – the monks doing the sak’s will change though. some days are more special than others! Good luck (use an antiseptic wipe on your skin before the sak is placed, and an antibiotic cream for a day afterwards too – hot climates and open wounds etc!)

        1. Hi Tom, 8am is fine, and whereas you might still have to wait a while, like anywhere, it is interesting to wait and watch. Language will be an issue (unless you speak good thai) but just take it slow and easy and everything will make sense. Good luck.

  118. Did you see the tattoo before you got it done? I’m not sure I’d be willing to get a tattoo that I hadn’t seen before. Although I suppose it does save you having to obsess over the decision.

  119. I’ve wanted a Sak Yant for ages but I just don’t think it’d be worth the risk of getting infected by a blood born pathogen like HIV or Hep C.

    Weren’t you worried about that? The envirmonement is so unsterile, and they re-use needles, inks and don’t use gloves…..would you get a tattoo in a western parlour that did the same? I don’t see the difference.

    I love the art form and style, I prefer hand-poked/machine free/traditional stlye tattoos than anything done with a machine and have done since I was a kid, but I just can’t take the risk with these.

    Did you get a blood test after, or had one since? I guess it’s a bit too late by then though.

    1. Sure there’s a risk, but the risk driving in the van to get there is much greater. Car accidents kill many more people. :D

      One look at the 40 or so locals lined up to get one helped ease my fears. If it was a huge problem there, word would get around. That Wat is one of the most famous places to get a Sak Yant.

    2. the difference is this: a tattoo in a tattoo studio is just a tattoo, a permanent mark that hopefully you’ll be happy with for life. A sak yant is a magic thing, hence the ceremony after the image is placed where the magic is put inside the image. if you do not believe in magic, get a tattoo at a tattoo studio. If you want something else and are a follower of buddha, then maybe get a sak yant as the magic will follow you, irrespective if you believe in magic or not. i hope that explains the difference. :-)

  120. Thanku buddy for sharing your experience. I got a tattoo the day I turned 18. I love tattoos because they can help you express yourself. I plan on getting lots of other tattoos in the future. Hopefully I can get my second one soo.

  121. Thanks for sharing your experience. I got one done in Thailand and it was the worst pain ever but the most rewarding. I love the silence of the bamboo compared to the noisy gun. Your tattoo looks beautiful!

  122. Hi I getting a tattoo of a lotus flower on my foot I was going to get an om symbol coming out of it & om mani padme hum at the bottom of the flower i have been told I will offend Buddhists for doing this I do not wish to offend anyone I believe strongly in what it represents can you help please.

    1. Hi Monica, not sure if you have your tattoo yet (if so, nice one!) but thought i’d fill in a couple of gaps. Anything relating to buddha (inc words) should not be placed below the waist as this will cause offence, as will any image of buddha from a tattoo studio. Below the waist is the “dark” side. Sak yants are not tattoo’s, they are magic and the thais take them very seriously (you can get invisible ones too). so anything relating to buddha is above the waste, if you get a sak yant and it’s animal like (tigers/hanuman/sing etc), it can go anywhere the monk or ruesi wants to put it. hope this helps!

      see you in the stars,

    1. I love mine! But it’s the whole experience that makes it special. Because there are probably a few hundred thousand people with the same tattoo, the design isn’t really unique at all like some tattoos.

      You should join the Sak Yant club Kristin. :)

  123. Hahahahaha, thanks for your story! Especially your comments on the rules you have to follow made me laugh! Great :)

  124. Your post was the fourth blog that I read about this, and it is getting me closer and closer into wanting one. I will be there in like four months. I have a question for you:

    What is the healing process of this tattoo? I saw that you said that it was scabbed over in like three days. But what was the over all time to heal? I would like to know because I am going to be there for a month and bangkok is my first stop. Plus I plan to travel to many beach locations after and will want to be in the ocean and I know that swimming can damage a tattoo (personal experience but only with a tattoo gun).

    1. I read this somewehere, don’t know if it’s true ‘though: ‘The tattoos are applied using a bamboo rod, a technique which is about 3,000 years old. A fine needle is attached to the rod and then tapped into the skin. Because the skin is punctured and not torn as it is with a gun tattoo, the healing process is quite different. Pain is reduced and there is no bleeding or scabbing. The entire healing process only takes about four days and there is no need to cover the tattoo or avoid the sun or sea. Another benefit is the color tends to stay strong much longer with a bamboo tattoo.’

        1. Yes, long bamboo stick sharpened to a point (called a mai sak) or alternatively with a long metal spike (called a khem sak).

  125. I just got mine too! I have several tattoos already and each one means something to me. I was so nervous while waiting for my turn, not knowing if Master Luang Pi Nunn would give me a Sak Yant (I read from other blogs that monks can refuse sometimes). I was also nervous about which one he would give me. I was silently praying for the Yant Ha Taew and that’s what I got. I’m really happy and I will definitely go back to visit the temple for more.

  126. I can tell you some about rule of sak yant

    The most important for the guys who got sak yant is ” Buddhism five precepts “.
    the rest is for your discharge as below
    1.-Most of sak yant master prohibis and Wat Bang phar is aslo “Don’t eat the star fruit only ” not a pumpkin
    Because of the star friut is wil degenerate your invulnerable or Discharge you magical sak yant

    2.-About married women .. In fact it meaning the female who have somebody look after.
    If you have often of this … your magical wil degenerate and that make someone hate you.

    3.-Slander or damn or dispraise anybody’s mother … My master told this prohibite reason for ” Make yourself consciously ”
    The asian people is respect to mother who born us. Don’t slander.
    My master said to me ” Some of adherent get loss control he slander anybody’s mother while armed fighting this adherent the wound cutting ” The magic montra can’t protect you if you slander the blade can be harm you immediately ”

    4.-Cannot eat food from a wedding, or funeral banquet. Not both of them … You can eat it but only the food for Ghost is prohibit …. ( If Ghost spirit eat that food then you can’t eat it ) . Cause of beliving the montra magic power higher than ghosts
    . When ghost eat that food you should not eat it.

    5.-Eat left-overs food … it’s not serious for that.

    6.-duck under a washing line, or an overhanging building. Both of them is not true. Only the female underware Because women menstruation is stain to those underware. So you can duck any lines don’t worry.

    7.-Not duck under a Thaanii banana tree. This is correct as above in 4.- becasue Thai beliving some Thanni banana have some ghost haunt (Stay in) . Don’t to worry about casue of Thani banana tree son’t have in your country 5555….

    8.- Don’t cross a single head bridge. In southeast country ancient time they use boat not car this mean bride for get in the boat which it have only single head not across whole river or canel. Got that … For this reason somebody can hurt you by mistake like somethings drop into your head then don’t duck under the single head bride.

    9.-Cramic urn. Especially a cracked, or broken one. The reason is it dangerous to sit on broken ceramic. another reason is in ancient time they put the burning death body into Urn. It not suitable to sit on.

    10.-Woman lie on top of me, or sit on top either. This is not nonsense. Some belive that will discharge your magic power while you have sex with women on top will cover your yant may degenerate the magic. Don’t serious on that. I do more 555..

    11.-Cannot brush by the blouse or skirt of a woman, especially during the menstruation period. None sense but don’t get menstruation dirt.

    As I told you the most important for the guys who got sak yant is ” Buddhism five precepts “.

  127. I’ve already gotten some ink on my travels, and I love body art. I’m also Buddhist, and haven’t been inked appropriately yet. So at first I was thinking to myself: “Awesome! I want one!” Despite the pain of the procedure.

    Then I saw the workspace and immediately wussed out. I could not have shared needles with dozens of other people. Coupled with the rules, I don’t think I could manage it. But I hope that the magic of your tattoo is keeping you happy and healthy on your travels. You’re a much braver man than I will ever be.

    Thanks for the post!

  128. So awesome that we’re now a gang of tattoo-bro and sis :D and I’m sooo jealous that you got such great pictures. When Kirsten and I went we saw all these “no pictures” sign and didn’t dare to take any pictures! :D
    Think we all should meet up and go to Wai Kru festival together!

  129. Thanks for sharing ur experience!. I have been in BK for 2 months and staying here for another too. I was considering getting one because one of my friends told me about it but after doing a lot of research i finally decided not to. I would love to have one, i think it would be a pretty awsome experience, something magical and special to me, but atfer seeing the tools and the potencial risk of getting a disease, i think i will play safe and get a tattoo in a shop.
    Thanks for the info!… I loved ur tattoo!

  130. I worked at a tattoo shop for 3 years and the state of sterility horrifies me. I was seriously considering this and I think my mind has been made up now.

  131. What an experience! I hope that tattoo protects you against sudden attacks of blood-borne diseases too! It looks awesome though, and it’s so original. I really enjoyed the list of prohibited things. You’re not going to stick to that, right?!

  132. Hey great post! I’d like to know how you are doing following your rules of abstention. I reeeaaaalllllyyyy want one but the rules scare me a bit. I’d hate to bring down the wrath of the gods upon my head for letting a woman get on top… What’s your experience been like?

  133. In case you didn’t notice, in the picture with the two guys holding your skin up while you get the tattoo, that the guy on the right is wearing a blue “Hillary for President” shirt…that guy has really got to come to grips that it aint going to happen! Poor fella ;)

      1. And here we are in 2016….I was going to get an ordinary tat when I turned 50. Too chicken. But, this is very intriguing!

  134. Well I’m hooked! Thought I was done after my first, but I may have to make a stop while in Thailand. The repeated needle use and bundled bloody towels may take some coercing, however.
    Gotta ask – Were you given any specific rules to follow to keep from contracting anything? Most tattoo artist will ask you not to swim for a period, keep water off of it as much as possible, and require you to put lotion on it frequently.
    Good luck with those rules…no left overs sounds brutal!

  135. So, no leftovers for you. Well, that gives the rest of us a chance to eat, before you gobble it down. Rules are rules. No sense tempting the gods.

  136. “Would I Do it Again?

    Yes. Absolutely. I may get another one too.”

    Tatoos are just like potato chips… you can’t just have one… !

    Take care ;-)

  137. By far the most interesting and entertaining travel post I’ve read in awhile. I would really question the sterility of those needles, but let’s hope that everything was safer than it seemed. What a memorable and meaningful tattoo!

    1. I’m pretty confident I’ll be fine. :)

      And am actually glad I needed to wait so long to get mine, so I could watch everyone else first. It really solidified the experience into my memory.

  138. The tattoo looks great. This sounds like an amazing experience, but I am not sure I’d could bare the thought of not being able to duck under a washing line, or an overhanging building ever again.

  139. I think that’s amazing that westerns are able to participate in an old practice like that. I’m very much looking forward to when I’m able to get my tattoo.

  140. Although this type of tattoo is not my cup of tea (I’m more into getting work done in a more sterile controlled environment) I’m glad you were able to enjoy the experience.

  141. I must say I still can’t fully picture how they do it. In my mind there’s no way that could’ve been done by hand in only ten minutes.
    Respect for the monk.
    I have a lotus flower tattooed on my wrist. Have gotten it after years of pondering about what I wanted. I always knew what I wanted it to represent, but I didn’t know how to ‘picture’ that. Until I stumbled upon a certain Nepalese saying:)

  142. I have to say I’ve always said that I’d never get any form of tattoo or piercing that would leave a scar if I changed my mind and wanted it removed. I know every one gets tattoos for different reasons but I really connected with your desire to have such a special memento of your experience. Love the design too!

  143. Hey mate! Great post! It sounds like we had very similar experiences :) I should have looked up the rules to go with my own protective Sak Yant, though I’m sure I’ve already broken a few of the rules. If you find you’ve broken any of them, you’ll have to come back next year for the Wai Kru festival where you can get your tattoo “recharged”!! Brilliant experience. Glad you went through with it.

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