Jason Buhrmester (writer),
Nikki Sonesen (writer),
Melissa Pearce (writer)
INK: Wat Bang Phra Temple
Every day, hundreds of people trek by foot, bike, and car to Bangkok's Wat Bang Phra Temple in hopes of being tattooed by Buddhist monks. Considered amulets of protection, tattoos are delivered by hand-poking the ink into the skin with large steel needles, each about 18 inches long. Monks at the temple tattoo on a fi rst-come, first-serve basis beginning at 8 a.m., and each tattoo takes about 15 minutes and approximately 3,000 strikes of the needle to complete. Visitors choose a design from a wall of symbols of protection and prayer then pay for the tattoo with an offering to Buddha of cigarettes, fl owers, or other small items, which can be purchased at the door. Just beware: Monks use the same set of needles on each tattoo, all day. Blood-born diseases are prevalent in Thailand, so try to be the fi rst person of the day. If possible, ask politely if you can lay down plastic wrap and use fresh ink. On rare occasions, the monks will allow you to bring your own inks. Andrea Elston, a tattooist from East Side Ink, in New York City, made this pilgrimage almost a decade ago. Although she only planned to have the back of her neck tattooed, when the monk suggested he continue across her shoulders, she bit her lip, and braced for the worst. At the end of the ceremony, the head monk blessed everyone and ritual smoke was blown out through the temple. “We all saw an unexplainable white light surrounding the monk,” Andrea recalls of the blessing. “It was an unexpected spiritual experience that no one could explain.”
STAY: Royal Princess Hotel Larn Luang, $100 to $250 per night, dusit.com
Located in the center of Bangkok's historic Rattanakosin Island district, the Royal Princess Larn Luang is a reasonably priced four-star hotel with a pool and decent restaurants. The hotel is situated close to many of the city's best sites, including Bangkok's Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The remote location is a decent walk from the wild Khao San Road area, but the well-known name means any taxi or “tuk tuk” driver will know the hotel no matter how much you slur.
SEE: Muay Thai Boxing Matches, $8 to $32
Muay Thai is literally “thai boxing,” otherwise known as “the art of eight limbs,” a kicking, punching, and knee-smashing style of fi ghting. Don't miss an opportunity to see it live. Matches are held at one of the many boxing stadiums in Bangkok, the largest of which are Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen. Both are centrally located and quite inexpensive. Cards include about 10 fi ghts; $8 buys a ticket in the stands and $32 will sit you ringside. Fights begin with a ritual ceremony and end after fi ve brutal rounds, or when a competitor cannot continue. One warning: Thai people take boxing seriously, so don't be surprised if you're surrounded by shouting fans frantically gambling on every fight.
DRINK: Khao San Road
The gaudy neon lights and blaring music at the crowded street stalls on Khao San Road are a magnet for backpackers and travelers looking for their next drink. Try Hippie de Bar, a small club loaded with glowing lights and Thailand's take on kitsch, then head down the road to Gullivers, a Thai version of an American sports bar, or Brick Bar, a European jazz bar with a house band. Later, grab an ostrich satay from a street vendor and a pair of knock-off Nikes for the walk back to the hotel. Looking for the city's legendary sex clubs? Take your chances in the Patpong area.
Inkrat Tattoo : http://www.inkrattattoo.com/
James Samuela's Moorea Tattoo : http://www.mooreatattoo.com/
Tattoo Peter : http://www.tattoopeter.nl/
Hotel Arena : http://www.hotelarena.nl/
Bulldog Coffeeshop : http://www.bulldog.nl/