Top 10 Tips for Tattoos in Thailand by Inked In Asia and Carl Gulliver from The Thaiger News
We know for many it might be a holiday whim, while for others it may require months of planning and preparation. Here are some common topics and questions for getting a tattoo in Thailand with top 10 tips for tattoos in Thailand
1. Why are you getting a tattoo in Thailand?
Have you been following a Thai tattoo artist, or tattoo studio and want to get a piece done? Are you drunk and it is late and your friend suggested it? Do you just want to have a memory of your trip to Thailand? Just because it can be cheap? Peer pressure? You need to have a solid personal reason for your tattoo based on research and knowledge of the risks and consequences.
The tattoo is for you, so no reason can be a bad one (as long as you don’t force another person to get one as well). You are the master of your own destiny but make sure you are being honest with yourself and take the time to ponder and question, the “why” of it all.
2. Hygiene matters no matter where you get a tattoo
It’s imperative that you check the hygiene of any tattoo studio you might be considering getting new ink. Ask your tattoo shop as many questions as you like or ask to see the tools and equipment being used to ensure best practice.
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health issues a certification that will include a photograph of the owner and name of the tattoo studio. Studios will usually proudly display this certificate so keep an eye out to ensure that the studio is following the minimal government requirements.”
Those requirements state:
- All tattoo operators must be clean and sterile and all equipment must be one-time-use only and then thrown away. All equipment must be neat and sterile before use.
- All tattoo operators must always clean the tattoo studio using sterile liquids.
- All tattoo needles, ink, cotton pads and gloves must be used only one time (they must not be reused). All of these items must be thrown in a bin specifically for infectious and sharp items and sent to the health officials who will destroy them.
- All tattoo operators must ask their prospective customers about their personal health problems before giving a tattoo. Any customer suffering from diabetes or hemophilia must not be serviced.
- All tattoo operators must advise their customers after getting a tattoo to ensure the aftercare of their tattoo to avoid infections, for example; not going into the sea or swimming pools.
As one of Inked In Asia’s founders is from Australia, and with so many Aussies visiting the tattoo studio, they decided the best approach to take was to comply with the Workplace Health and Safety Standards Australia (WHS) and follow all OHS guidelines set by the Professional Tattoo Association of Australia to give people peace of mind when it comes to hygiene to come and get inked in Asia.
3.Before, during and aftercare
It’s important to take care of yourself at all times and if you are going to get a tattoo in the near future to be able to prepare your body in the best way possible. Tattooing involves needles piercing the skin, so it’s important to help your body avoid excessive bleeding and possible damage.
24 to 48 hours before your tattoo session…
- DO NOT drink alcohol
- DO NOT drink coffee
- DO NOT take aspirin
All those mentioned above are known blood thinners and could lead to unwanted and unsafe amounts of bleeding.
This one will be hard to hear, but DO NOT go out and have an all-nighter the night before your tattoo. You will need a full night’s sleep and when it’s done you will be able to go out (in moderation) without having to worry.
Make sure you are well-hydrated at all times, including during your sessions and don’t skip any meals before your appointment. Ensure your body is ready for what lies ahead. We also recommend eating food that contains vitamin C as it aids the body in repairing tissue and the recovery process, as well as onions and garlic which assist in healing thanks to their antimicrobial properties.
Try to avoid eating foods such as dairy, processed foods and sugar as they are believed to slow down the bodies healing process.
Talk to your tattoo studio to make sure you leave with all the aftercare products needed to help your new ink heal properly and listen to the tattoo studio’s recommendations for aftercare.
Be careful as you return home, and wash off all ink and plasma with antibacterial soap within two hours. Apply the aftercare cream and, when possible. Let the new art ‘breathe’.
If you are wearing tight, irritating clothing, or for sleeping during the first 3-5 days, wrap the tattoo to avoid damaging it.
Avoid direct sunlight on your tattoo, and if your holiday involves a beach in Thailand it is recommended to avoid swimming in water for at least several days and ideally stay away from the beach until it heals. You are susceptible to both infection and amoebas and it is in your best interest to plan ahead if you are going to be getting a new tattoo during your holiday in the Kingdom.
4. Check the tattoo studio’s credibility and the tattoo artist’s quality of work
There are thousands (and counting) of tattoo artists across the Kingdom. Some are sought after by international celebrities, and some are sought after by Thai’s for their particular style. Some are monks who work locally while other monks have months of waiting lists.
This all means that you have a lot of choices. Many tattoo studios now have various reviews online, whether from publications or from their customers, it’s important to read some impressions before spending your money.
Tattoo artists have never before been able to so easily share their work. Search around the internet and see if something catches your eye, perhaps one artist’s style resonates with you.
Once you can identify a few artists you like, visit their shops and meet them to talk and try and see more of their work. Various tattoo studios promote their artists on their websites and social media pages with posts including links to the artist’s private page, where you can find a full range of their ink work.
No matter who might be considered the most popular or best tattoo artists, this will be YOUR tattoo so make sure that the artists suits your taste, and trust your gut-feeling (but make sure the studio is clean!)
5. Research Thailand’s Tattoo History
The origin of tattoos in Thailand can be traced back to the Khmer Empire in Angkor (presently Cambodia), where people would decorate their bodies with intricate designs. They believed these markings would not only give them great powers but also protect them from danger. Tattoos in Thailand would also display a man’s status and military level.
Thailand’s tattoos have a deeply rooted religious history, with it being the only country to celebrate tattooing as an annual religious celebration. The Wai Khru ceremony at Wat Bang Phra, 50 kilometers west of Bangkok, is the biggest gathering of Thailands tattoo enthusiasts. Every year over 10,000 people gather at this famous temple to recharge the energy of their sacred tattoos.
6. Don’t offend the locals with the wrong image or placement
With an estimated 94% Buddhist population in Thailand it’s important to be aware of a few things. We recommend to often rethink getting any form of the image of Buddha tattooed on your body in Thailand.
The Thai Ministry of Culture is hoping to ban tattoo studios from being able to do so and have created guidelines for studios to follow. You will also notice upon exiting most major airports in Thailand and driving into the city (and across the Kingdom) that there are giant billboards telling you it’s wrong to have any decorative image of Buddha.
Also note that the head is considered the most sacred part of the body in Thailand, with the feet being the most disrespectful . If you are considering getting a Buddhist tattoo (or an image of Buddha tattoo) it is common practice to get it done above the waist and can be offensive to go below.
For the actual Buddha image, some believe it is ok to have one above the waistline but proceed at your own discretion and consultation with the tattoo studio management and artist.
7. Know the religious aspects and expectation of the Sak Yant
In Thai Sak means “to tap” or “to tattoo”, while yant means “yantra” a form of mystical diagram. Traditionally, it is believed these tattoos bring luck, power and courage while providing protection from death. Its purpose is to provide a magical blessing which requires commitment on behalf of the recipient to ensure the magic lasts. For the spiritual benefits of the yantra to last, one must lead a good life and be a good person.
It is believed that anyone who gets one of these tattoos must then live their life by a certain set of rules which differ depending on who gives the Sak Yant. The general rules for the Buddhist tattoos follow the major precepts of Buddhism: do not kill, do not steal, do not desire another person’s lover or spouse or be unfaithful, do not lie, do not get intoxicated, and do not speak ill of your mother.
The rules then vary depending who gives the Sak Yant tattoo, which could include asking the wearer of the tattoo to abstain from eating certain fruits and some more distinct ones including “do not eat left-overs.
There is a wide range of Sak Yant diagrams that can be tattooed on the skin, but as a first Sak Yant tattoo there are three main (master) yants with a wide range of blessings which cover 95% of people desires.
The Hah Taew (five lines) which is most famously seen on Angelina Jolie, the Gao York (nine peaks) and Paed Tidt (eight directions). The more complex sacred geometry and animal designs are often reserved for dedicated and serious believers as they are considered advanced talismans.
8. There is the easy way or the original way to get a Sak Yant.
Nowadays most tattoo shops will give you a Sak Yant in their studio, but to get the true experience you must have a Buddhist monk create one for you through various tools, rituals and an elaborate ceremony.
The monk must use a two-foot-long bamboo stick or needle to carry out this traditional art form, jabbing it into the skin repeatedly until the piece is complete. Some tattoo artists around Thailand are willing to create this ancient technique with electric machines.
If you are considering one of these traditional tattoos it might be worth taking the time to research temples such as Wat Bang Phra in Bangkok for the genuine experience.
In its more traditional form, one would be required to study under a Sak Yant master until the person was deemed to have reached the necessary level of spirituality. Once the stepping stone was achieved the monk would then proceed to ‘interpret’ the person’s spiritual energy and create a Sak Yant.
This method has become more difficult over time for foreigners due to language barriers, time commitment involved and the finding of such a teacher. With continuous studying and practicing of Buddhism over time, one would continue to reach higher levels of enlightenment and have them immortalised by their teacher on their skin.
9. The lower price point could definitely be considered incentive
One of the most attractive qualities of getting a new tattoo in Thailand is the lower price point when compared to many western countries. In general, both overheads and fixed costs are much lower in Thailand hence a more affordably-priced service, but the quality of work and reputation also comes into effect with the more sought after artists.
Size of the work, colour or black and white, the amount of detail and the location are all factors that will affect the price.
“Ok. We are going to go out on a limb and say, for most studios, it’s only a fraction of the price compared to Australia. We’d rather say that if you want a tattoo sleeve it will cost you the same as Australia but you can get a holiday in Thailand where you can party or sight-see Thailand, rent a room and a motorbike, etc and get your tattoo for the same cost as just getting one in Australia.” – Inked in Asia partners.
10. Spell-check for your own sake
There are plenty of horror stories of people abroad or at home wanting a tattoo in a foreign language and not taking the time to double check that the spelling is correct in the desired language. You can always laser off (painful and expensive) or do a cover-up later in life but why if all it takes is a few extra hours of research.
You might think that work or sentence looks cool in Thai, but sometimes for all you know it could say “sweet basil stir fry”.
Ariana Grande was recently under fire by the online world as she showed off her new Japanese language tattoo on her palm. Unfortunately, instead of getting “7 rings” as she intended, the tattoo roughly reads “small charcoal grill”. Don’t be like Ariana.
Tattoos can be just as personal as they are impulsive and spontaneous, but it’s always a good idea to be informed if ever you do have the sudden urge. Some people dedicate themselves to covering their whole body in ink while others get tiny symbols in hidden place.
It’s what makes YOU happy and never forget that. One of the studios founders told of us of how he waited until he was thirty years old to get his first piece. It was a giant back/shoulder piece, but he took his time and knew exactly what he wanted and would never changer it.
For Inked in Asia, tattoos are about expressing yourself and finding something you want to wear on your skin forever.
When we look at our own tattoos, we are taken on a journey of our lives, whether lived or still to be experienced, it represents our own views and memories. They are a part of us.
About Inked In Asia
If you’re looking for the absolute best tattoo experience in Phuket or Asia, please consider Inked in Asia. They a new brand facility taking the Patong tattoo scene by storm!