Having a tattoo at Wat Bang Phra

Getting a tattoo the old-fashioned way from a Buddhist monk using a bamboo stick is a bit frightening, very painful and definitely worth it, says Martin Nordberg Foldmoe in the fourth story of our series “Thailand through Norwegian eyes.”

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Having a tattoo at Wat Bang Phra

Martin Nordberg Folmoe

Getting a tattoo the old-fashioned way, with a bamboo stick, has interested to me for quite some time. When I found out that I was going with my class to Thailand in the beginning of April, I started checking the internet for tattoo ideas. The most popular and recommended place was the Wat Bang Phra temple, a two-hour drive from Bangkok.

Early morning drive

A friend travelling in the same group and I thought about this for a while and we decided to go there. We had high expectations and a decent amount of butterflies floating around in our stomachs when we, the two pale Norwegians took a taxi before sunrise. The trip was a beautiful experience in itself as we moved further and further away from the crowded city. To me, this is as exotic as it gets. About one hour later the giant temples emerged behind the trees. Such magnificent architecture and huge statues everywhere suddenly made us feel very small. And for the first time we got scared.

Waiting hours relief

Our kind taxi driver spoke with the monks and after a little walking around we found ourselves in the waiting room. There were already three other tourists waiting in line although the monk would not start tattooing for another two hours. The wait seemed endless and we were not as scared as we were upon arrival. There was something about the large number of small dogs running around and our host offering us fruit and beverages that helped us stop thinking of the pain in front of us.

Fresh ink

The mystical monk finally appeared. He was a huge man with a serious, but kind, face. The colour of his robe was faded, indicating that he had been wearing it for a long time. He pulled out the bamboo stick and opened up some fresh ink as he made a hand gesture, telling the first person in line to get seated in front of him. The three people that had their tattoos done before us got their on their backs, and they all seemed to be in some real pain.

Our turn
My friend and companion, Mats, was the first of us to start. We were both getting the same, five-line tattoo on the chest. I have had several tattoos done in Norway already, but Mats had none. Therefore his reaction to the pain was, naturally, somewhat frightening to me. After several pauses, drinks of water and a constant green face, his tattoo was done.

Worth the pain

 It looked absolutely amazing and there was never any doubt to me that, whatever pain that was awaiting me, this would definitely be worth it. I sat down in front of the monk as he prepared the next bamboo stick. A large man took a firm grip around my neck, holding me in place. As he started tattooing, I realized why Mats had gotten so pale. The pain was a lot worse than getting a normal machine-tattoo, but I was determined to endure it. After studying the monk’s face, trying to forget the pain for what seemed like forever, he finally finished.

Time for blessings

Next was to sit in front of the monk and receive his blessings. Though I am not a religious man, there was something magical as the monk murmured the long blessing containing words that we could not understand.

Then to social media

First on the list in the car driving back to Bangkok was posting pictures of this perfect adventure on social media. After all, this story is as interesting to our friends and our family back home as it is to us. Definitely, it is one of the many memories that Thailand has given us that we will always cherish and remember.

Other stories in this series





Learn from listening

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  • absolutely: completely - อย่างแน่นอน, อย่างแท้จริง
  • architecture: a particular style or way of designing buildings - สถาปัตยกรรม, รูปแบบการก่อสร้าง
  • bamboo (noun): a tree that grows in thick bunches of long green poles - ต้นไผ่, ไม้ไผ่
  • beverage: a drink of any type - เครื่องดื่ม
  • blessing: God's help and protection, or a prayer asking for this - การสวดให้พร, การให้พร
  • butterflies (noun): a nervous feeling in your stomach before doing something - ความรู้สึกประสาทในท้อง, กังวลใจ
  • cherish: to think that something is very important and to wish to keep it   - รักและเทิดทูน บูชา
  • chest: the upper front part of the body of humans and some animals, between the stomach and the neck, containing the heart and lungs - หน้าอก
  • companion: a person who travels who you or spends a lot of time with you - เพื่อน, เพื่อนเดินทาง
  • constant: continuous; all the time - ต่อเนื่อง
  • decent: good enough - พอเพียง, เหมาะสม
  • determined: having made a firm decision to do something and to not let anyone prevent you - แน่นอน,ซึ่งตัดสินใจแล้ว
  • doubt: a feeling of being uncertain about something/someone or not believing something - ความสงสัย
  • emerge: to appear - ปรากฏออกมา
  • endure: to suffer something difficult or unpleasant in a patient way over a long period of time - อดทนเพื่อให้ผ่านเวลาหรือเหตุการณ์ที่เลวร้าย
  • exotic: interesting or exciting because of being unusual or not familiar - ผิดธรรมดา,ประหลาด
  • expectations: what is expected - ที่คาดไว้
  • faded (adj): pale; having lost colour - จางๆ
  • forever: for all time in the future, or for as long as you can imagine - ตลอดไป
  • gesture: a movement that communicates a feeling or instruction - ลักษณะท่าทาง
  • grip (noun): an act of holding somebody/something tightly; a particular way of doing this - การยึดเกาะ, การฉวย, การจับ, การกำ
  • host: a person who invites guests to a meal, a party, etc. or who has people staying at their house - เจ้าบ้าน, เจ้าภาพ, เจ้าของบ้าน
  • indicate: to show that something is true, exists or will happen - แสดง, ทำให้รู้
  • magical: wonderful; very enjoyable - วิเศษ, มหัศจรรย์
  • magnificent: very good, beautiful or deserving to be admired - สง่างาม, ดีเลิศ, หรูหราฟู่ฟ่า
  • memory (noun): something that you remember from the past; the ability to remember information, experiences and people - ความจำ
  • murmer (verb): the sound of something being said very quietly; a soft continuous sound - พูดพึมพำ
  • normal (adj.): typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect - ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ
  • old-fashioned: not modern; no longer fashionable - ที่ล้าสมัย
  • pain: the feelings that you have in your body when you have been hurt or when you are ill/sick; mental or emotional suffering - ความเจ็บปวด
  • pale: light and not bright in colour - อ่อน, ซีด
  • pause: a period of time during which somebody stops talking or stops what they are doing - การหยุดระหว่างพูด, การหยุดชั่วขณะ
  • popular (adj): a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • reaction: the way you behave or respond as a result of something that happens - ปฏิกิริยาตอบโต้
  • recommended: suggested; saying that something is very good or useful - เป็นที่แนะนำ
  • relief: a feeling of happiness that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended - การผ่อนคลาย
  • religious (adj): believing strongly in a religion or the existence of a god or gods - เคร่งศาสนา
  • scared: frightened, or worried - ตระหนก, ตกใจ, หวาด, ผวา
  • social media: the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc. - เครือข่ายสังคมออนไลน์
  • statue: a human or animal image that is made of stone, wood, metal, etc. - รูปปั้น
  • sunrise: the time of the morning when the sun is first seen - พระอาทิตย์ขึ้น
  • tattoo: a permanent image, pattern or word on the skin which is usually created by using needles to put colours under the skin - รอยสัก
  • therefore: as a result of the reason that has just been mentioned - เพราะฉะนั้น, ดังนั้น
  • turn: the time when a person can or must do something, because they are with other people who are each doing the same activity one after the other - ลำดับ, อันดับ
  • worth it: useful, important or good enough to be a suitable reward for the time spent or the effort made - คุ้มค่ากับความพยายาม

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