In anticipation of receiving my third sacred Sak Yant tattoo blessing next month in Chiang Mai with responsible tourism operator, Where Sidewalks End, I asked other travelers to share their transformative Say Yant experiences. Where Sidewalks End is the only reputable tour agency working directly with Sak Yant masters to help keep the tradition alive and ensure they receive fair wages for their services. The WSE ink experience is the most immersive, authentic, hygienic, and spiritual way to receiving a blessing from a Buddhist monk or Arjans. Local English-speaking translators will guide you through the process to ensure you understand the depth of the meaning of the yantra you’ll wear. They’ll also be on hand to explain to you the ancient traditions and superstitious beliefs of the powers of Sak Yant.

I got my first two Sak Yants in 2015. It was a beautiful and meaningful experience where I explained to the Arjan why I was seeking protection and received customized blessings for my specific needs. I was bestowed with a triangular yantra that represents respect for Buddhism. The second tattoo is a section of a powerful mantra trailing down my spine. Learn more about my first experience being blessed by Sak Yant to learn more about incantation I wear.

The ancient craft of permanently placing mystical yantra diagrams on the body for protection has been practiced for over 2,000 years in Buddhist sects across Southeast Asia. Powerful Sak Yant tattoos are used to heal, cure and overcome negative energy. There are more than 1,000 yantra designs that bestow magical powers or protection and fortune bearers. Learn more about Sak Yants here.

Get your own sacred Sak Yant tattoo blessing from a Buddhist Arjan in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, Sukhothai, or Ayutthaya. Sak Yants aren’t travel souvenirs, they have deep spiritual implication and should not be worn by anyone who doesn’t understand their significance. You don’t have to be Buddhist to wear a Sak Yant but it’s respectful to learn about the historic importance of Sak Yant and have an understanding of what your tattoo represents if you’re going to be wearing the ink for the rest of your life. Sak Yant aren’t traditional tattoos and aren’t meant to be perfect, there may be small differences in the weight of the ink which could fade over time. Sak Yant tattoos are about their inpidual meaning, not aesthetic. Their imperfections are part of the beauty. But if you’re irked about imperfections opt to get a Sak Yant done in oil for an ‘invisible’ blessing. 

Here are 16 travelers who’ve received traditional Sak Yant blessings in Thailand.

Kelley of The Culture Collective is the Founder of Impact Travel Alliance and recently got a Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai. She shares that her Sak Yant experience was one of the most meaningful and immersive travel experiences she’s had. “My consultation with my Ajarn was pretty open-ended, we discussed everything from relationships, work, and my future goals. As we spoke, he began sketching a yantra and then showed me the hand-drawn design while explaining the meaning and specific blessings of my Sak Yant. The bottom of my Sak Yant is the foundation which represents stability and the ability to have faith in my purpose as well as a calmness in my decisions, ultimately contributing to my happiness. The center is a Buddha image which represents a blessing for inner peace. On each side are blessings for metamorphosis, as well as wisdom, fullness and good relationships with loved ones. The top spires are motivation and success for my goals and future endeavors. 

Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped spent have spent over a year traveling around Thailand after they first visited on their honeymoon and have adopted Chiang Mai as their second home. To honor their deep love for the Kingdom of Thailand they seeked Sak Yant tattoos so that they’ll always have a piece of Thailand with them. “We decided to get our Sak Yant tattoos on Christmas Eve, we’ve always done trips or experiences over gifts. We each have a five lines mantra. Mine is Buddha opening the sea for protection, health, family, career, money, and happiness. Getting a Sak Yant isn’t like any of the other tattoos I have. It hurt somewhat but not the usual type of pain–it was different. The Sak Yant tattoo was done within 15 minutes. This was Adam’s first tattoo and he thought it was rather painless. We love our tattoos and whenever someone asks about our tattoos we have a story to share and it brings a smile to our face thinking about Thailand.”

Raphael of Journey Wonders very first tattoo was a Sak Yant blessing that he received in Bangkok. “My experience getting a Sak Yant tattoo holds a very significant meaning to me since it was my first (and so far only) tattoo. The main reason I was convinced to doing it was because of the backstory and magical properties of it. Being blessed by a monk who asked me my life story in order to choose a design for me is, to this day, one of my best and more authentic travel experiences. Sure, some of the rules are very hard to follow while others don’t make much sense at all but overall, I think that the Sak Yant tattoo is a cultural experience that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Also, it’s a great ice breaker at pool parties! I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t even a little bit curious about the Sak Yant on my back.”

Carrie of La Aventura Project has an incredible Sak Yant of a tiger! “Going into my Sak Yant tattoo experience, I was told to prepare some thoughts to tell Ajarn Wao, the master giving me the tattoo, so he would have some guidance on which magic tattoo I needed. I mentioned some struggles I had recently overcome, and how I wanted to become more mindful. From the little info I gave and my birthdate and Zodiac sign, Ajarn Wao delivered a shockingly accurate summary of my recent struggles, intuitively knowing way more facts about my past than I had told him. He then outlined the next few years of my life for me, letting me know that for the most part, everything was going to keep getting better and better and the hardest times were behind me. The magic Sak Yant he gave me, a tiger with its head turned back over its shoulder, is a blessing for protection and strength. The Arjan told me that the tiger is looking over its shoulder at the past, which was difficult but will make me stronger. In the future, my enemies will become jealous of my strength and success, but I shouldn’t worry because in the end, I will overcome them! Thus, my tiger is also a reminder to stay in the moment and not worry about the future!”

Cody was in search of a less restless mind when she received her Sak Yant. “Maybe it was a placebo effect but shortly after I got my Sak Yant blessing I found yoga and meditation. I’ve had a more mindful practice ever since. I wouldn’t trade my sak yant experience for the world. The Ruesi Pho Kae was a solitary sage who once lived deep in the forests of India where he meditated, studied traditional medicine, and the art of Sak Yant. Wearers of the various reusi tattoos believe that the power of the ruesi yant will convey knowledge, kindness and a calm state of mind.”

Jo of Wander with Jo just got her Sak Yant a few days ago in Bangkok and shared that’s she’s still on a spiritual high from the transformative experience. “This was the best feeling ever, even for someone like me who isn’t a very religious or spiritual person. The whole process of praying, giving offerings, and getting inked by an Ajarn, and being blessed by the golden leaf was all so magical and pine. It even made me want to be a better person, if that’s even possible. All in all, I would rate it as a must-do experience and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a spiritual experience to add to their travel bucket list.”

Ragna Reise spent seven months living in in the north-west of Thailand in Mae Sariang. She was working with a German foundation and teaching English to villagers. During her time she formed friendships with locals and learned a lot about Thai culture and decided to honor her time in Thailand with a Sak Yant. “After I did a lot of research I found Lola’s story on Miss Filatelista about her Sak Yant experience which sounded amazing. I visited Master Daam and we decided which kind of Sak Yant would be the best for me. The monk decides the right mantra for the person. At the beginning of the experience, he gave me a mantra I had to say. Then after he blessed the part of my body he started to make the Sak Yant tattoo which took about 45 min. Afterward, there was more praying and blessings with holy water. It was an amazing experience, I love this tattoo so much! My Sak Yant is for happiness, meeting only good, and protection. He also put in my birth date, Wednesday, which makes the protection stronger.”

Natalie and Rob of Love and Road got Sak Yant tattoos together on their 10th anniversary! “Our Sak Yant has double special meaning for us. One is the blessing we got from it and the second is that we did it on the day we celebrated our 10th anniversary together. We didn’t plan to do the tattoo on 11th of January, 2016, but that was the date the Arjan was free, so we believe it was destiny. I was the first one to get the Sak Yant and talked to the monk for almost half an hour, telling him my fears and dreams. At the end, he suggested a mongkut kaew that can be roughly translated into a crystal crown. It’s a personalized Buddhist drawing and blesses me with good health and love. Rob was looking all the Sak Yant tattoo designs in the book and one spoke to him. He showed it to the monk and the meaning was everything he wanted: protection for travels and wisdom. Getting a Sak Yant in Chiang Mai was the experience of a lifetime, an important chapter of our story inked on our skin.

Alice of Teacake Travels details her magical Sak Yant experience, “there is nothing more powerful in the world than love. Love is my strength, my guide, and my purpose. To be able to radiate that power and draw it even more into my soul is a blessing. On a quest to radiate my own heart and unearth the soulmate I’m meant to share it with, I nervously entered through the rusty gates of the monk’s leafy-green home. We talked. I shared. He nodded. He flicked his fingers through his creations to open the page up before me. As soon as I saw the Sak Yant design, I knew it was perfect. The experience of being blessed with this creation was a beautiful one, and I carry this magic with me now, with oodles of happiness. Through thick and thin, my Sak Yant tattoo has been with me. And long may it continue to help me on my adventures!’

Lindsey shares her Sak Yant experience as so, “When my boyfriend and I decided to travel to Thailand in the summer of 2017, I knew that I had to get a Sak Yant while I was there. After reading the post on Miss Filatelista about Lola’s amazing experiences, I decided to receive my blessing from Master Daam in Chiang Mai. Master Daam asked us some questions and helped guide us on picking which tattoo we each wanted. The tattoo I chose was a Yantra Ha Taw, meaning a Talisman of 5 rows, said to be one of the most powerful and meaningful. Its purpose is to provide protection from evil and give you fortune and success. My boyfriend chose the Talisman of 9 Buddha’s Grace Room said to be the main heart of Buddhism which will bless your life by the nine graces room of Buddha. Master Daam’s assistant pulled our skin tight as we sat crossed legged in front of the altar to receive our tattoos. After finishing, Master Daam recited several prayers in a ceremony to bless the tattoo. He explained to us that regular meditation helps the tattoo to retain its powerful protection. Every time I look down at my arm, I am reminded of that magical experience and the blessings we received that day.”

Sara of The Life of a Solivagant lived in Chiang Mai six years ago and really wanted to get a Sak Yant but couldn’t find a monk that was willing to give the tattoo blessing to a woman. “This past October I brought my boyfriend to Chiang Mai for our fall break to show him my favorite place in the world. I told him how I wanted to get a Sak Yant and we made the decision to get one together while we were there. We both got different designs and hold the meaning of each tattoo close to us. We don’t talk about them much, but when people ask I just tell them it’s our way of symbolizing that we are married now. I never want to get married, but this was our own spiritual way of connecting us as one.”

Gabby and Adam of Local Nomads were recently blessed with Sak Yant in Ayutthaya. “An hour after we boarded the bus to Ayutthaya, we were nervously taking off our shoes at the front step of Ajarn Wao’s studio. We flipped through a book of elaborate Sak Yant designs and imagined what the master would choose for us. Within a minute of our introduction, Ajarn Wao was already designing our personalized yants in his notebook. The Ajarn determined our Thai zodiacs based on date of birth, then he spoke to us about our lives. The wise Ajarn told Adam that he was born to wander, and not to try living his life in just one place. He couldn’t have been more accurate. Adam’s Sak Yant gives him protection for travel, as well as health and wellness. As for me, Ajarn Wao said that I had a lot of fire in me, which can make me a little hot-headed at times. To balance me out he added water, air, and earth signs to my Sak Yant, in addition to the protections I asked for my family and aid with communication. He finished off the blessing by poking some sacred oil right above my hairline, reinforcing my air, water, and earth elements, to help keep me cool, and calm.”

Ian is the founder of Where Sidewalks End and shares that “Sak Yant are very important to me for many reasons. I received my first Sak Yant in 2012 after my father had a fatal heart attack while visiting me in Bangkok. My brother and uncle had flown over to be with my mother and I, while my father was on life support in a local hospital. My brother suggested we both get a Sak Yant to help provide protection while traveling. It resonated so deeply with me that since then I’ve developed a business to facilitate this type of ink experience for others looking to seek the wisdom of respected ajarns and get customized yantras for their own lives. I’ve currently received yantras now from 3 different ajarns around Thailand. I feel blessed not only for the meaning each one has, but for having the honor of being able to help the ajarns share their practice with a global audience in a responsible and traditional way, being able to help support the local guides we work with, and of course helping our guests who seek the protective enchantments Sak Yant is said to contain.”

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. This was such an interesting read. I hadn't heard of Sak Yant blessings and tattoos before. I especially love Alice's from Tea Cake Travels – it's beautiful!

  2. I'm so glad you found it informative, Sarah! Alice's Sak Yant is stunning!

  3. I'd never heard of a Sak Yant tattoo before this post. It's kind of blown my mind to be honest. It sounds like a really meaningful experience and even though I don't have one myself, I wear my only tattoo as a reminder of a journey.

  4. So glad to have been able to share with you a little bit about the beauty of Sak Yants! Travel tattoos are my favorite momento, I wear many! Would love to see yours!

  5. I had not heard of these either. What an interesting read. I just sent it to my blogging friend who is a tattoo artist. 🙂

  6. Oh wow, that's so awesome, thank you for doing that! She can reach out to me if she has any questions about the craft.

  7. Wow. This was so cool!! Is this something that all SE Asia countries do? I'd love to add this to my bucket list to get one 🙂

  8. Great round up post. Lovely hearing about everyone's Sak Yant experiences. Know most of the people in the post so makes it even better!

  9. This is really interesting! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Wow love em all and you are gonna get a THIRD oone??? sweet. I already want another though this hasn't even healed yet. haha. The feeling is surreal, isn't it?

  11. I have not heard of this practice before your article! Now I know why I see these tattoos on people. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. That's so cool that you know most of these travelers, Anna! Glad you liked hearing about their Sak Yant experiences.

  13. It's a Buddhist practice so it's common in Thailand and Cambodia! I believe in Myanmar they do have a similar tattoo process. I hope you can get one some day!

  14. I’ve never read about this before, but it actually looks pretty interesting, I think it’s something I’d be interested to experience by myself.

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