My Favorite Thailand Keepsake

I returned from Thailand last week SO tired and SO dirty…but SO happy. And, I’m still grinning inside. The more I explore Asia, the more I want to see.

I saw beautiful temples, met new friends (I’ve got to say, that meeting new people is what makes traveling so fun!), and much more. Of all the stories I collected along the way, I couldn’t wait to share my favorite keepsake from the trip: A new tattoo!

But not just any tattoo…

A few days into my trip, I made my way to Koh Phagan – pronounced Koh Pan-Yang – and stayed in the most southern tip of island, Haad Rin village. Check out my view below…

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 01

If you’re looking for five-star resorts, secluded beaches, and fine dining, then Haad Rin is not for you. Admittedly, it’s not even a place to go if you’re looking for an authentic Thai vacation. Haad Rin caters to a different kind of traveler, mostly Full Moon Party-goers. The kind who, in an hour’s time, will make friends with people from Kenya, Australia, Germany, and Canada. The kind who soaks up new experiences. The kind who gets a new tattoo for no other reason than “Hey, we’re in Thailand so let’s do it!”

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 02
Haad Rin is full of tattoo studios and one afternoon we dropped into one, just to check it out. And then this happened…

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 03

As you can see, this is not the tattoo method that most Westerners – including myself – are used to. This is a bamboo tattoo and it’s done 100% by hand. The process is slow. Dot by dot by dot, the skilled artists pricks the needle into my skin and the image slowly appears.

It’s a strangely intimate experience and I actually feel at peace while the artist does his work. I later learned that this tattoo artist was a Buddhist monk and that most bamboo tattoo artists are either monks, or trained by monks. Makes sense given the focus and concentration that’s required to get the job done.

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 04
Here is the final result. What’s the tattoo? Well, I’ll let you come up with your own meaning. I’ve got mine. As for the artist, it’s Banksy and I encourage you to get acquainted with his work. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a good start.

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 05

A few days later, I bumped into my tattoo guy while he was riding his scooter in the village. I waved at him and he jumped down to shake my hand and check on his work. Despite the language barrier, it felt great making this kind of connection. I’ll never forget the experience…my only regret is not catching his name!

Koh Phangan haad rin bamboo tattoo 06

To learn more about the art of bamboo tattooing, check out this quick documentary:


7 responses to “My Favorite Thailand Keepsake

  1. You just made me want to get one! How fun!! I might be going to Thailand next year…if I do I will keep you posted! :)

    • Oh wow you gotta go…and you gotta get a bamboo tattoo when you do! Definitely keep me posted. I know you’ll love it there.

  2. Damn it! i was hoping that u got his name, I was there in january and made a full sleeve. and I’m tryin’ to find his webbsite if he has one!
    nice tattoo btw :)

  3. Pingback: Sandy Buckles and Selective Memory « Mango Mornings·

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