Getting a bamboo tattoo in Thailand


March 3, 2013 by farbolino

In the last few years, Thailand has become a magnet for travelers, and in 2012 alone Thailand saw over 22 million tourists. Compared to just 7 years ago (the last time I was in Thailand) tourism numbers have more then doubled.
Something that has been a part of vacationing in Thailand for a while has been drinking. Everyone wants to have a good time while on vacation right? A newer phenomenon has been people coming away from Thailand with a permanent souvenir; a bamboo tattoo.
When I visited Thailand last, I had heard of bamboo tattooing, and even watched someone receive one, but it didn’t seem to be something everyone was doing. On my last visit to Koh Phi Phi, you couldn’t walk down an alley without seeing a bamboo tattoo shop.
All the bamboo tattoo shops in Thailand will tell you that getting a bamboo tattoo is less painful, and that you’ll be able to go swimming and In the sun immediately after getting the tattoo. I take this advice with a grain of salt; I mean whose going to get a tattoo on the beach otherwise?
I’m not so sure about the sun and swim, but I can say from personal experience that the tattoo was more painful then a gun tattoo. I believe this is less to do with a bamboo tattoo being more painful in general, but more to do with the hand of the tattoo artist. Just as with a gun, some artists have a heavier hand then others, so I think the amount of pain experienced is based more on this then anything else.
In any case, mine hurt like a bitch, and I even had a bruised chest for a few days afterwards. Regardless, Pet (my tattoo artist) did a good job making my ‘dots’ circular and round. I had checked with other artists on the island and they didn’t exactly inspire confidence; especially for what I originally considered an easy tattoo.

I didn’t spend much time in the sun or water, but I can say that the bamboo tattoo does heal faster. Just a little over a week later and it’s almost fully healed. Here is a photo of the finished tattoo; but don’t mind the quality as it was taken by me with an iPhone.

I guess all that’s left is to explain the design. Well, it’s a long one, so here goes. The large dots represent the number of months traveling before I turned 30, and the small dots represent the number of countries for the same period of time. 72 countries, 36 months. 72 is double 36, and 36 happens to equal 3 years. So 3 years traveling out of 30. Originally the dots seem to symbolize a long period of time, but when placed in proportion to 30 years, it turns out to be a small fraction of my life spent traveling (1/10th). So in a way it’s also a reminder to always keep exploring.
Then there was the design aspect, which at first seemed simple. Just put some dots across your chest right? Actually, during the test drawings it became quite apparent that if the small dots were even just 1mm too close to an adjacent dot that it would look very uneven; so much so that after correcting one tattoo artists drawings one too many times, I decided I needed a more competent artist.
I also wanted the large dots to be twice the distance apart from the small dots with the same ratio of space between the zigzagging pattern. This also took a lot more thought and mathematics to accomplish then I originally thought. In the end though, I ended up with a design that was mine and a tattoo that surely no one else has.
So, if you decide to get a bamboo tattoo in Thailand, shop around first for an artist you feel comfortable with, and for gods sake don’t get anything to do with Gangnam Style tattooed on you! A unicorn with a rainbow in the background is a classier alternative.

One thought on “Getting a bamboo tattoo in Thailand

  1. Ouch! But it does look good and a lot classier than most by far.

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