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Sak Yant - Thai Tattoos

The Idiot's Etiquette guide to Sak Yant

sak yant by Tuk Egg on monks back

Shall I be so bold as to say this is "Emily Post's book of Etiquette of Sak Yant" or more honestly the Idiot's Eitiquette guide to getting a Sak Yant.

It in any case here is what to do, and not to do, when getting your Sak Yant in Thailand. I am not really an expert on Sak Yant but I am a socially aware Thai who knows right from wrong.  Sadly, I am only writing this after hearing some comments on people that have found their own way to the temples that offer Thai tattoos from my site and as we all to well know "some tourists" have no respect for Buddhist or Thai traditions or themselves from what we see. I feel guilty enough that my actions of trying to help western people who want a real Traditional Thai Tattoo from real monks, have caused some monks to be shown a lack of respect, that I need to help educate and raise the awareness of some of the proper etiquette to be shown in a temple and partially in the presence of a monk by those wanting to have a Traditional Sak Yant......  Sadly this is most likely only going to be read by those who do not need to be told any of these things. But just in case...

Sak Yant on the back of a Thai Monk


All proper Sak Yant is only done on a donation only basis, given to the monk doing the Tattoo.
It is up to the receiver to offer what they want and not to be given a "price". I have heard of people offering large amounts and some that just cover the cost of the needle ink. If it is important to you to have it done, then you can show it, is my thinking..


Firstly the very basics:

Proper Sak Yant are not tour souvenirs or done for their perfect symmetry or fashion statement!  So if you want a perfectly balanced and amazingly detailed design to show everyone, then there are plenty of great commercial tattoo artists who are more than delighted  make your dream Tattoo be a reality. If you want the powers that a few gifted people can help be realized by the ancient and mystical Sak Yant then a proper ppractitioneris what you should seek out.


You may read on the web that anyone can do a Sak Yant design and then have it blessed by a monk. That may be possible but well lets just say there is nothing like the real thing. 

On the day:

Shower before going for a Sak Yant, I would have guessed it was common sense as is putting on clean clothes. Dress politely, long pants are better received in Thailand than shorts, if not for yourself then for feelings of those around you. Also do not go out drinking the night before as the smell of stale alcohol comes out your pores.


You can choose your traditional design from a book or bring one you may have found on line.  More common is to ask what is appropriate for what you want in your life to change or be avoided. I once asked why can lay people choose for themselves and the answer was "if they know they want the design then subconsciously they know they actually need the powers it has".


preparing for sak yant at northern Thai tample


OK some hints:

  • When you greet a monk, you "Wai" , it is polite to be the first to wai as is a sign of respect to the monk or elder.

  • Remove your foot wear when entering any building.

  • You do not stand above a monk as a matter of politeness.  Ttry not to stand while the monks are seated.  
  • You do not hug the monk no matter the closeness you may fell after the experience of your first Sak Yant".. . you get that right Joor! But that was so sweet...
  • You are also expected to bring a small "offering to the spirits" before the Sak Yant ceremony begins.

  • Spirit offer is to be made to the spirits before starting the Tattoo.

  • This offering should  including small flowers, incense, coins and a candle and the money offing including coins that end in the number "9" as is a lucky number, Like 39 baht being the one most people say is the correct donation amount for spirits. This is because in Thai culture the number "9" is our lucky number. (Like 7 in craps hahaha) 
  • The monk will have a small accepting ceremony of the offering on behalf of the spirits.
  • Then after the offering has been accepted  your tattooing will begin.
  • Sit quietly and enjoy the burn!
  • After the Tattoo it is completed, you the receiver should turn and Wai the monk.


Now you can get up and breathe a littler easier.

It is now the expected time for you to make a donation to the monk. An offering envelope should be put on the tray where the spirit offering was placed.  It is not polite to hand an envelope with the money directly to a monk it should be placed on the tray and then the whole tray should be handed to the monk while your lower than he is, so get down and in a wai-ing gesture offer it to him..,  Never count it out or hand it to him in cash is impolite. I suggest you just pre-arrange it in an envelope and wai him and hand it to him on the tray.

You're now truly going to live with it the rest of your life.

tiger sak Yant chaing mai

There are also many beliefs of thing not to eat or to do after getting a Sak Yant. One is to not have sex for seven days, that is pretty much a well-accepted belief. (Not great for us in the wedding business..hahaha)
Others are not to eat green squash or star fruit and some say you can eat the star fruit, just never go under the star fruit tree for a week to pick it. The Burmese believe you should not eat buffalo meat or beef for a week after getting a tattoo.

Safety Considerations:


The care of the tattoo: Do not put soap on it for three days, it is best to put olive oil or Vaseline on it for the next three days and keep it out of the sun and shelter from strong winds 


Hygiene: Well I think one should use common sense with getting a Tattoo in any country.

Of course, insist well disinfected or on new needles and even then make sure they disinfect the new needle in disinfectant as well, before starting is a must.  as is cleaning the area.

Inks: As some local inks can contain natural hennas which can cause a severe allergic reaction, with life-long effects,
So I Highly recommend all westerners bring commercial tattoo ink from their home country, as an offering, maybe two colours, and then ask if you can have that ink used during your tattoo.  Tattoos are normally done in red or black ink.   Yes, it adds to the cost but for my thinking, it does not matter if you are coming this far from Bangkok, the ink expense is nothing to worry about compared to the possible problems of a 'natural" ink. Yes, few monks use natural inks anymore but some do, but many use drafting inks which well I personally do not know what it may cause in health concerns the future so ... Having said that my favorite monk Tu Eak has all the black ink he can use for a very long time. So ask if the person doing the tattoo uses specially formulated Tattoo ink. And what it is.

Note in recent years the local supply of commercial Tattooing inks has greatly increased, so most monks are no longer using drafting inks or henna laced inks. I was chastised by a writer for a site who offer tours. Being insulting to monks.  All they are showing is their lack of experience and understanding, saying to do so was disrespectful as bringing your own bottled water. It was a few of the monks and other tattoo people that asked me if it would be possible at the time I wrote this.   It was more like bring a great bottle of wine to a person's home as a gift. 


sak Yant -backof villager

Back of local man in village.

Hint to be a good Traveler or Guest in Thai home or visiting people.
It is also amazingly appreciated if a token gift from your home country be given, to the monk., We all love it when people have bothered to think ahead and bring a nice little something, do we not. It can be as simple a small home made jam or local honey or other local treats (what one couple brought for a morning offering, was a box of Turkish Delight and every young monk was delighted to try such a strange treat back in the temple. I know as I was asked a few days later what it was, as they were handed out without a label). Accept we Thai love to eat, eat all the time, I feel sorry for western women that can't eat.


Fresh Tattooed Skin showing the raising afterwards.

See  article about a special younger Sak Yant master  named  ""Pra Akenarin Yanaweero"".

The Sak Yant Ha Taew See here

Women can get proper Sak Yant in Chiang Mai.









lamphun-wat phra that hariphunchai-01     
       ited in mid-town, Wat Phra That Hariphunchai was built during the reign of King Arthitayarat, a descendant of Queen Chamthewi some 800 years ago.A principal landmark is the 46-metre tall golden Chedi which contains a hair of the Lord Buddha, having nine-tiered umbrella, made of gold weighing approximately 6,498.75 grams...

Chiang Rai

      on the bank of the Kok River within town area, contains what is believed to be the oldest Holy Relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. Doi Chom Thong has been a sacred site for aextremely long time. The site was surely reverenced as the home of local spirits before Buddhism arrived in the area.

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