Sak Yant – Thailand’s Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

As soon as we arrived in Thailand we started noticing people’s traditional tattoos.  After a few internet searches, we learned more about the “Sak Yant” as they are called– magic bamboo tattoos.  Sak Yant are beautifully designed and come with a blessing, their goal to grant protection and to give strength to the bearer of the tattoo.  The sacred tattoos are given by Buddhist monks, or ex-Monk tattoo masters called Ajarns.  The Ajarns dedicated their lives to learning the ancient art, passing the traditions down to their apprentices.

Our Sak Yant Experience in Ayutthaya

After the initial research we put in, we were turned off by the whole “free tattoo in the temple thing” as from the accounts we first read the process seemed crowded and rushed, with questionable sterilization practices.  We searched for a more personable experience, and that is when we found Where Sidewalks End Travel.  WSE’s owner Ian has spent years traveling all over Asia looking for the best Ajarns masters of the art of Sak Yant.  He now offers the most authentic Sak Yant experiences for travelers by providing a translator/guide and making sure participants really understand the purpose of the tattoos they are getting.

On the morning of our appointment, our guide, Coco, picked us up at our hostel and we took a taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok.  From there we took a mini van for the 1.5 hour journey north to Ayutthaya.  We chose to go to Ayutthaya because of the amazing things we had heard about Ajarn Wao, the sak yant master there, and his psychic abilities.  He seemed like the best choice and we trusted him to use his mastery to help us decided on the right sak yant tattoos for us.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Once in the city, we stopped to buy marigold wreaths as an offering.  After getting the flowers we jumped into a tuk tuk that would take us to the samayant” the studio/temple where the ceremony would take place.  After driving past the temples of the old Thai capital, we arrived and were welcomed upstairs into the sacred space.

The room was open with many windows.  At the far end was a tiered altar containing many images of the Buddha, Ganesh (the elephant god and god of art), and other sacred figures.  Incense burned in the corner and the master’s apprentices sat patiently at the side of the room.  While we waited for Ajarn Wao, our guide Coco told us some guidelines to follow in order to be respectful.  These included never pointing your feet towards the altar and walking with bent knees, aiming to never walk taller than the Ajarn.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The altar in the samayant, with images of Ganesh (the elephant god), Hanuman (the monkey king), Lersi the Hermit, and the Buddha.
sak yant ayutthaya
9 sticks in incense each for good luck.
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
9 sticks of incense burn for each of us.

When Ajarn Wao entered the room, we kneeled at the front and lit nine sticks of incense each, nine being the most lucky number in Thailand.  We then presented our marigold wreaths which were hung on the altar.  Carrie decided to go first, since she had more tattoo experience.  Through our translator Coco, Carrie answered questions about her birth-date, along with a few details about some struggles she has had and her desire to be more mindful in her life.  Ajurn Wao made a chart in his notebook, which he used to explain her future and recent past.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Carrie’s age timeline.
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The needles and equipment.

Carrie’s Sak Yant Experience:

Carrie’s tattoo was decided; she would receive a tiger to protect her and give her strength.  The tiger would be depicted looking over its shoulder at her past, which was difficult but would make her stronger.  In the future her enemies will become jealous of her strength and success, and will try to take it from her, the Ajarn said.  But in the end she will overcome, emerging stronger than ever.  Thus that tattoo was also a reminder to stay in the moment, to not worry about the future.

Tiger Sak Yant
The basic outline
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Starting Carrie’s protective tiger Sak Yant.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya

Ajarn Wao worked fast, but Carrie’s tattoo was large and it took nearly an hour.  It was amazing the precision of his needle strikes.  After he wiped the ink away, intricate patterns were revealed.  As he went he was constantly uttering blessings, his mantras calming.  After a few more blessings were added, the tattoo was finished.

But Ajarn Wao wasn’t done.  He wanted to give Carrie a special additional oil sak yant tattoo, invisible but still powerful.  Our guide said that this was very rare.  Carrie agreed and soon a design formed on her upper back out of small bits of blood.  The oil yant would fade over the next few days, but it’s lucky magic would remain.

Invisible Oil Sak Yant
Invisible Oil Sak Yant
Invisible Oil Sak Yant
The finished oil yant — it disappeared in a few days.

Zach’s Sak Yant Experience: 

As it was my turn the calmness left me and my palms became sweaty.  I sat in silence with plans to share about some of my struggles, my idea that I was my own worst enemy.   I knelt before the Ajarn and before I could speak a word, he said to me (translated through Coco) “You need to decrease your ego.  Try to think before speaking.”  This was shocking because ego was what I already knew to be a problem and exactly what I had planned to bring up.

He then figured out the meaning of my birthday.  In the Chinese calendar, I am born in the year of the rabbit.  However, Ajarn Wao based his predictions on the Thai calendar.  Under these dates, I was born in the year of the snake, and on Saturday, the day of the snake.  This double snake made me very powerful, but my biggest enemy was my ego.  The Ajarn then asked me about what I wanted to share, and I exclaimed that everything had already been said.  I felt as if Ajarn Wao could see into my soul, which was scary but also calming in a way, as understanding your weaknesses is the only way to truly overcome them.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Ajurn Wao deciding which Sak Yant will help me the most.

My tattoo was to be a blessing, with an emphasis on a chicken.  The chicken would distract the snakes (my ego) and help bring my consciousness away from my ego’s control.  It would help me to listen and think more before speaking, allowing me to choose the right words at the right time.  After a blessing I bent forward, away from the master who began inserting the inked stick into my back.

Traditionally given with sharpened bamboo, present day Ajurns use sharpened steel poles called “khem sak”.  At first it was just a few pricks, but soon I could feel the sharpness grind against my spine.  My knuckles turned white and sweat poured down my face.  I was warned that the placement would be difficult, and I was given a mantra to repeat when it got rough.  I noticed that the others present felt my anguish and my reaction was laughter which engulfed the room.  Soon I was able to relax myself and I became numb.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The more pain, the more power.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

sak yant

I noticed the apprentices, who where holding me still, stand and the sak yant sacred tattooing was finished.  Ajurn Wao splashed me with cool water and a flood of energy flooded by body.  I felt a great power come over me, as if I was new.  A smile spread over my face as gold leaf was rubbed into the blessed tattoo.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
A blessing with gold for luck.

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

Finshed

After we were both finished we thanked Ajurn Wao and presented our donations to him for his services.  He told us that in our relationship we needed to stop trying to one-up each other, to listen more and let things go.  He was spot on again!  This man has real wisdom.

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

We chose this experience because of the reputability of WSE Travel.  Other options include going to a temple where the tattoos are given in exchange for an offering.  In these places you will wait in line and receive a tattoo for very cheap, but it may be rushed and you will miss the personal experience.  While the needles at the temple are sterilized, they are dipped into the same ink from person to person.  Theoretically this could spread diseases and even though our research never found any confirmed cases, we decided that it wasn’t for us.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
A tiger and a temple.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

This was hands down one for the greatest, most spiritual experiences of our traveling lives, and the lessons we learned have immeasurable value.  WSE’s Sak Yant tattoo experiences are definitely not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and this is a lifetime commitment.  With their inside knowledge and their commitment to sustainability and making sure the sak yant tradition continues in Thailand, WSE was the obvious choice for us.  They also offer experiences in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai along with ink-less blessings in Bangkok. We’ll write an update on our tattoos and how they are affecting our lives soon!  Do you think Ajarn Wao’s predictions will come true?

Would you get a sacred tattoo to help you on your life journey?

_________________

Enjoy this post about the Sak Yant Experience – Getting sacred tattoos in Ayutthaya, Thailand? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Please follow and like us:
Advertisements

Ayutthaya Temples- The Second Capital of Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand rests just north of Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River.  Founded around 1350, the city eventually became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai.  Because of it’s central location with easy access to the rest of Asia, Ayutthaya became one of the must important trading centers in the world.  By 1700 the Siamese capital was the world’s largest city with over 1 million inhabitants. Today the Ayutthaya temples and temple ruins are some of the most impressive in all of Asia, drawing huge crowds to the small city.

Ayutthaya successfully held off many western invaders and Thailand was never colonized.  However, the Burmese successfully sacked the city in 1767, riding on elephants and knocking the heads off of every Buddha statue they could find.  The occupation was short lived, as the Chinese had seized the opportunity to move their armies into Burma.  The Burmese forces retreated to their homeland with a majority of the Thai gold, burning the Ayutthaya temples in their retreat.  The following years were plagued by civil war in Siam until control was taken by King Rama I.  The founding member of the Chakri dynasty, which still reigns in Thailand to this day, Rama I relocated the Thai capital from the ruins of Ayutthaya to present day Bangkok.

Today Ayuthhaya is home to some of Asia’s greatest temples, and the history of the place is intruiguing.  The Ayutthaya tempes are an easy day trip from Bangkok by bus or train, taking less than two hours to travel by either.

Renovations at our first temple stop
An ornamental bull

We booked a room at Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe just outside the old city.  They had bikes for rent which we took advantage of and soon found ourselves among the temples.  I purchased a large rainbow bag of corn puffs which I though would be funny to cruise around with in my bike basket.  They tasted terrible and I was a bit disappointed until I was told that the puffs were actually fish food for children to throw into the river.  We went to the river and threw some in as giant catfish swarmed all around.  We laughed about this for a little while, then biked across the river to the more famous Ayutthaya temples.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

There are temples all over the city, but the best area for biking is inside the old city’s moat where the temples are more numerous.

Wat’s Up?

One of the most popular temples for tourists is Wat Mahathat which contains the famous Buddha Head in a Bodhi tree, where one of the knocked-down Buddha heads became entangled in the roots of a giant old fig tree.

Another of our favorites was Wat Ratchaburana which you could climb inside of.  After heading down a very steep set of stairs you reach the crypt which has some ancient paintings on the walls and bats in the ceiling.

Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana
The view from Wat Ratchaburana.
It’s always yoga time for this aspiring yoga teacher
Headstands anyone?

Enjoy this post about Ayutthaya temples? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Here is a good website to book your transportation from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

 

Powered by 12Go Asia system
Please follow and like us: