Hundreds of people watched in silence as this famous monk repeatedly penetrated my flesh like a sewing machine.

Traditional Sak Yant tattoos are hand-etched onto the skin using ancient shape designs mixed with Buddhist rites.

They are believed to give the user 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.

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 unique. Not some drunken challenge hangover style. So when I learned about the magic-infused tattoos given out by Buddhist monks, I was sold.

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?

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

Waiting For My Turn

It looks I’m not the only one wanting a tattoo today. Master Chu Man Fu is in demand here, and etches up to 50 Sak Yant tattoos a day. If you don’t go to the temple early, you may not get one.

Due to some misinformation 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 place on the floor and attempted to make myself comfortable over the course of the day. The long wait allowed me to witness many others getting 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!