My last minute Thai tattoo

H and I booked our bus to Cambodia (a 12hr trip) for just 350 bhat each. Pick up was to be the next day at 7am. We took laundry to be done, whereas usually, we had been hand washing. The problem was it had been too humid lately to dry properly and smelt of damp. It was returned to us smelling amazingly fresh, folded and pressed and it was like an early Christmas present!

I had kept saying over the course of our time on the island that I wanted a traditional bamboo tattoo, but I just couldn’t decide what to have done.

As it happens, I found a design that I liked that day and so we went down to Siam Hut where I got the tattoo artist to design me a leg band to be done using bamboo.

He said he had other clients and he could fit me in next week, I sheepishly admitted I was leaving before 8am the following morning. Needless to say, he looked a bit shocked. It was already the afternoon.

I agreed a really good price with the poor bloke and he rushed off to get everything ready.

Bamboo tattoos are a traditional Asian technique dating back some 3000 years or so, using needles that are placed into a rod and hand “tapped” into the skin.

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The artist carved the needle in front of me from a piece of bamboo, and after a 3-4hr session, with beer breaks in between, it was finished. They are much slower than traditional machine tattoos but next to no healing time, not itching, soreness or scabbing! He then sealed the needle in a straw and gave to me to keep.

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Although some people consider them to be more painful, I did not really find that this was the case.

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We had a few drinks and food and headed off for an early night. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of sleep as there was a horrendous thunderstorm that crashed on for the whole night, water gushed through the bathroom ceiling and the whole hut shook like it was about to collapse!
In the morning, functioning on minimal sleep, we trudged like zombies up the steps to wait in the pouring rain for our bus.
On the ferry, we grabbed whatever we could to eat as the shops weren’t open when we left. There were only two options, neither of which were vegetarian.

H had minced pork instant noodles and I had an instant chicken rice soup. I consoled myself it could be much worse as a child cried next to me and wind and rain hammered at my face.

Despite the surrounding, we were both so exhausted that we slept there on the hard seating until the driver woke us. We promptly fell back asleep as soon as we sat down and slept for nearly half of the journey.
The bus driver dropped us at the visa point where we applied for the paperwork. We were introduced to our guide who then lead us 10 minutes up the road (backpacks on, in mid-afternoon heat) to the border.

He told us he would take us all the way to Siem Reap. He talked us through the visa process as he went through the local queue downstairs and we entered foreign nationals upstairs. There were not that many people and we met him on the other side in no time.

We were ushered on to a local bus for 5 minutes and dropped at a station where he initially told us we would get a coach. Ten minutes later, he told us to follow a different person who ushered us into a car instead and told us there were not enough people for a bus.

So myself, H and a german couple squeezed ourselves and our backpacks into the clapped out car and we headed for Siem Reap.

(Re-edited from September 2015)

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

4 thoughts on “My last minute Thai tattoo

  1. this is awesome, I have a thigh tattoo of a garter, I wish I got it done with bamboo. Mine hurt like hell. lol but I also got a tattoo in thailand, a small one on my wrist. It says teacher in thai. Wish I got more, bamboo tattoos are bad-ass.

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    1. Thank you ❤️ There are similar old methods that vary depending in the country that you are in. Honestly, they don’t hurt as much as you think they will, it’s always the anticipation that is worse! I found hand poked to be leas painful than the conventional machine method. They are wonderful countries 😍

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