From the outside, Wat Bang Phra, the tattoo temple, looks pretty much like other wats, or monastery temples, in the greater Bangkok area. Beautiful? Yes. But, uniquely so? Not really. What makes Wat Bang Phra unique is that its tattoo artists/monks can bestow superpowers onto mere mortals. Yes, the monks at Wat Bang Phra are famous for creating yantra, or sak yant tattoos that impart the newly inked with mystical strength, protection and good luck. People arrive from all over the world to be tattooed here. One of the more famous recipients is the actress Angelina Jolie.
Getting a sak yant is not for the faint of heart. Monks repeatedly and skillfully pierce the skin by tapping it with frightening 18-inch long needles to tattoo mystical monkeys, tigers, buddhas, celestial beings or deities. The tattoos also usually incorporate ancient Khmer or Sanskrit script. Because the needles contain no ink it must be applied to the tiny punctures afterward. Often people will request that the monk choose the form and placement of the tattoo based on what the monk perceives to be a person’s special needs or weaknesses. Monks have also been known to refuse specific requests because they did not meet the spirit of the individual. Payment is usually in the form of offerings of flowers or cigarettes purchased in the temple gift shop which are often returned to be resold with the proceeds going for the upkeep of the Wat.
In Buddhism, the monks are not allowed to touch women, but it is possible for a woman to get a sak yant tattoo. So as not to break any taboos, the monks carefully use a cloth so there is not any skin to skin contact while they make the sak yant.
There is a witticism that describes a tattoo as, “A permanent reminder of a temporary feeling”. As a person that has gone 52 years completely un-inked I am not sure I will ever need to be the recipient of superpowers such as these but, if I ever decided that I need the strength after, having seen the beauty of these tattoos and the reverence with which they are applied, this is where I will go.
If you ever got a tattoo would this be the kind of place where you would want to get it? What would you get? Where would you put it?
How to get to Wat Bang Phra Temple (Tattoo Temple) From Bangkok
Wat Bang Phra Temple is located in Nakhon Pathom province, roughly 50 kilometers west of Bangkok. The easiest way to get there is by taxi. A roundtrip taxi ride, including waiting time, would cost around 1500-2000 baht.
Another option is to take a minibus from Victory Monument to Nakhon Pathom and get out at Nakhon Chaisi and take a tuk-tuk or motorcycle taxi from there. Wat Bang Phra Temple is around 15 kilometers from Nakhon Chaisi.
It’s also possible to take a train from Thonburi Station in Bangkok to Nakorn Chaisi and then take tuk-tuk or motorcycle taxi from there.
The temple is located by the Tha Jeen River.
How much does it cost to have a Sak Yant tattoo at Wat Bang Phra Temple?
There’s a compulsory offering to the temple of 75 baht plus they also suggest a donation of around 100 baht.
Top Tips for visiting Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Temple
Get there as early as possible to avoid waiting in line. The temple opens around 8 am.