Ever since I heard of Sak Yant, I wanted to get one done. Sak Yant is a tattoo done with a long metal or bamboo stick rather than a tattoo gun/machine. Each sak contains a yantra in Khmer that gives the bearer of the sak different attributes (ex. fortune or protection against bodily harm).
After having searched online for several weeks, I came across Arjan Pi Bang Kating. I saw some of his work online and it looked like he specialized in Tiger sak yant. I really liked the detail of the tattoos he had posted on his webpage.
So… today I paid him a visit in the morning. I took my rented Honda motorbike and drove about 20 km north of Chang Mai to Mae Rim, where he has his studio. His English was limited, and my Thai is horrible, but we managed to have a conversation about myself and what sak yant I wanted. He was especially interested in my GoPro, which I set up on a tripod to take photos and video of the process. I decided on Seua Liaw Hlang, or ‘Tiger Looking Backwards’. This particular sak yant gives the bearer good luck in all aspects of life, removes bad karma, and takes the brunt of any bad luck. I chose a Tiger yant because it has always been my favorite animal. I think of them as beautiful, graceful, powerful, and independent creatures.
As he got himself ready, he had me sit cross legged on the floor with my back to him. And without further ado he started tattooing away. I already have three tattoos done with a tattoo gun, the larger two took about 2 ½ hours each. The sak yant I got today with a long metal spike easily hurt more than the other 3 combined. I winced every time he started a new section, jabbing the spike at my skin. I tried a lot of things to take my mind off of the pain. I thought about lying on a pristine beach. I tried to focus on the pain objectively. Ultimately, I took deep, slow, meditative breaths to ease my mind. Towards the end of it, four Thai men came to pay the Arjan a visit. I tried to make less of a face and focus on breathing deep (to not seem like a wuss haha). And, after about 3 hours, including two small breaks, my Sak Yant was finished.
Arjan Pi Bang Kating wiped the tattoo down several times, and put a small gold square on the tattoo to bless it. Then, he sprinkled me with blessed water while saying a prayer in a language that sounded like something other than Thai. Several times between phrases, he would blow on my tattoo, instilling it with the words of the prayer he just uttered. I put 30 baht in a coffer to the left of his altar, and then we both put our hands on the coffer and he said a prayer for my donation. Finally, he had me face him. He put a traditional wooden mask that resembled some sort of spirit over my head and said one last blessing.
Afterwards, I sat around for a little bit, listening to he and the other men chat a bit. I didn’t understand anything they were saying, but I enjoyed sitting around his studio for a bit before rushing off. We talked a little more about the GoPro. After a while, I said thank you and gave a wai (Thai greeting bow) to the men in the room and took my leave. I’m really happy with my Sak Yant. I ended up paying about 7,000 baht ($220) for my sak yant. I definitely recommend Arjan Pi Bang Kating if you are looking to get a high-quality, traditional sak yant from a well known Arjan.