Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wandering Wednesday.

Oh yes!  One of my favorites.

This picture was taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  This was actually the 2nd time that they boy and I ventured to beautiful Thailand.  All the rumors are true.  The place is magical and we just can't stay away.  

The first time we went to Thailand was on a short vacation that we had thanks to Lunar New Year.  We flew into Bangkok (for peanuts), stayed there a few days and then caught a 3 hour bus to Kanchanaburi.  I remember the first time I caught glimpse of a sak yant.  It was on a beautiful Thai woman at the Chatuchat weekend market in Bangkok.  I thought her tattoo was simply stunning and I secretly made plans to get my own as soon as we arrived back in Korea.

Once we were home I started my research.  I discovered that there was no way for me to get an original sak yant as long as I was in Korea.  Yants are a sacred form of tattooing that's practiced by Buddhist monks in southeast Asia.   These tattoos are catered to each person individually and have many different meanings and connotations.  Each one comes with a blessing and they're said to have "magical powers".  They're traditionally done with a sharpened bamboo rod which is meticulously and repeatedly etched into your skin.

It didn't take much convincing to get the boy on board.  If I remember correctly, we booked our tickets back to T-land almost immediately after I told the boy about sak yants. It was around the same time as the Red Shirt's protests and we were lucky enough to get our Bangkok tickets rerouted to Chiang Mai up north for free. 

We found ourselves at the Funky Monkey guest house which is run by a British expat and his Thai wife.  They were gracious enough to take us to visit Phra Ajarn Gamtorn at his temple and it was there that we received our sak yants.

And please, be warned- these hurt.  Hurt real bad.  I did a ton of research beforehand and I read that a lot of people felt that they didn't hurt as much as a normal tattoo.  Well, they were wrong.  So wrong.  I was a little angry about it.  It didn't help either that the boy went first and he smiled throughout the entire experience.  The audacity!

He claims that it was because he expected it to be so much worse as it was his first tattoo ever.  I tried to act all calm, cool and collected, but I did not enjoy it.  I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the location of my sak yant, but still.  I resorted to counting everything in the room to take my mind off the pain.  I counted the tiles on the floor.  I counted the buttons on a woman's purse.  I even tried to count the leaves on a tree. 

After Phra Ajarn Gamtorn was finished with our sak yants, he blew a special blessing onto them.  As is the custom, he only accepts donations for his work.  These donations can come in the form of food offerings or baht, it's completely up to you.  

Five lines offering protection, prosperity, and health.
Blessings catered for a women.  Health and happiness. 
** Author's Note**

I had originally planned to post information regarding Phra Ajarn Gamtorn as well as the location of his temple in Chiang Mai.  As I typed his name into Google I was shocked to learn that he passed away in September.  I'm actually a little overwhelmed.  He seemed like such a spry young man.  He was so kind and generous and had a great personality.  I need to sit down and let this sink it, but I will leave you with  the article that I found.

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Phra Ajarn Gamtorn, Abbot and Sak Yant Master of Wat Nong Khem, San Patong Chiang Mai.

Phra Ajarn Gamtorn had suffered from Diabetes and finally succumbed to the disease on Tuesday 14th September 2010 at 2am.

Phra Ajarn Gamtorn, aged 38, was born Baideegah Gamtorn and was given the name Gitisopanoe when he ordained as a Buddhist Monk 17 years ago. Full of humanity and with a great sense of humour, he had become a widely respected Sak Yant Master in Thailand. Phra Ajarn Gamtorn has bestowed his blessings on many thousands of Thai men and women who had the privilege of receiving a Sak Yant from him and latterly, with the growing interest of Sak Yant in the West, his blessings have been taken all around the World by the many foreigners who have visited him over the last two or three years.

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