Getting a Tattoo in Pai, Thailand

In April, right after celebrating Songkran in Koh Tao, my cousin and I headed up to Northern Thailand. After a week’s stop in Chiang Mai to see the elephants, temples, and tigers, we took the winding 3 hour journey up the mountain to Pai. (About 800 windy turns to be more specific)

Pai is a small, hippie enclave in Northern Thailand known for its gorgeous views, waterfalls, sabai (chill) nightlife, and sprawling rice paddies. It’s also the home to many tattoo shops, both regular and bamboo, and where Maya and I decided to get ours. We had heard about a particular shop, Monkey Magic, from a few fellow travelers along the way. After hearing their recommendations and seeing how happy they were with their results, decided to follow suit and pay the shop a visit. We emailed the tattoo artist, Poh, before hand to set up appointments and give him an idea of what we wanted. I already knew I wanted a hamsa on my side, so I sent him the drawing that a mutual friend of mine, Shannon, had made for me a few weeks earlier. Maya sent him an image somewhat similar to what she wanted, an elephant’s head, and gave him a few requests for changes so he could draw it up in the shop.

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I was the first to go, since I didn’t want or need any changes to my piece. There was a lot of detail in my drawing, which I didn’t want to sacrifice due to size, so Poh printed out 5 or so sizes for me to look at and told me which one would be able to accommodate the detail and which ones would have to be changed slightly. After I made my decision, he put a paper with my tattoo image lined with blue ink on my body, which would be his outline to follow. I’m not exactly sure of the whole process since I couldn’t see much, but from what I could conjure up, he traced it with a small needle before the outline washed away, went back with a larger one for the details, and finally, filled it in with some other kind of needle. (I’m obviously really knowledgeable about the jargon here) All in all, it took about 5 hours from start to finish and was only truly uncomfortable for the last hour. To reward myself, Maya and I followed up the afternoon with ravioli since we had been severely craving it for weeks on weeks.

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Maya’s tattoo was the next day, so we slept in a bit, got a good breakfast, and headed back over to the shop. We followed the same process as the day before and off she went to the tattoo table. It was interesting being able to watch after already having the experience and got somewhat of a better idea as to what the sensations I had felt the day before we’re caused by. I made sure to take lots of pictures and set out for a smoothie and a cup of tea at some point, eventually coming back to see what kind of progress had been made it that half hour (tattooing is so tedious!). Maya’s tattoo took about the same amount of time and we, again, went to gorge ourselves on some delicious food at the culmination of the inking.

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I highly recommend Monkey Magic in Pai. They were professional (returned all emails and questions politely and promptly), safe (followed the laws and procedures to a T), and incredibly skillful (we could not have been more happy with the results)!!!

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