Bamboo Tattoo

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I was lying flat on my back, watching two hungry geckos devour bug after bug on the thatched ceiling. Meanwhile, a man was driving a sharpened bamboo stick with a nail into the sensitive part of my inner arm.

Bucket list goal of “Get a Traditional Bamboo Tattoo” = done.

Although the method is a little medieval, this one hurt far less than a regular tattoo. Having a Thai guy come at me with a long, pointy object was a little nerve wracking, however, at least he was smiling. Maybe because I paid him $50.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Occasionally the cluster of needles would plunge a little deeper than before and I would wince, but I had an audience of curious passersby from the street watching, so I tried not to flinch.

Besides, when you find yourself in these positions you should ask: WWJWD?  What would John Wayne do? He wouldn’t flinch, I know that.

Earlier I was eating on the ground in a restaurant with a friend, when a cat jumped onto the floor nearby and a flurry of commotion ensued: he had dragged a snake into the place! The snake was relatively small (by SE Asia standards, anyway) but I jumped up and did my best to separate the two as the snake struck at me and the cat.

Who knows how many times the cat was bitten during the epic battle. I saw the cat lounging around with a full stomach the next morning, so I guess the snake wasn’t poisonous.

Don’t ask me why, but at that moment I decided to get a tattoo here. Maybe one random event deserves another.

The Thai word I had etched onto my skin forever?

Vagabond (or traveler/tourist in Thai) — of course. 🙂

Here’s a video!

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7 Responses to “Bamboo Tattoo”



  1. Oh dear. Now you’ve gone and done it. While (esp. at my dodderin’ age) I’m not into plastering my entire epidermis with ink, I did get my 1st wee tattoo (at age 60!) whilst backpacking solo across South Africa and Mozambique. Followed by another later in Bali.

    And now… you tell me about this fascinating “traditional bamboo” tattooing? As I’m soon headed to Vietnam/Southeast Asia (on a one-way ticket to perpetual expatism) – I may well have to get a bamboo ink of my own!

    Can’t wait to see photos of yours!

  2. We have snake loving cat at home. My theory: if he manages to make it inside the house with the snake, its not venomous…or it’s an incredibly dumb 😉

    Ouch!…bamboo tattoo?

  3. My one (and so far) only tattoo was acquired in Krabi via bamboo. Hurt a bit, but I didn’t make a peep. Used the ‘breathe through the pain’ technique taught to me the previous years visit whilst on the way to hospital in Lampang after dislocating my elbow falling off an elephant!! Aaah, good times.
    Loving your blog – maybe, with stories such as these, I should write my own…….
    Oh, btw it’s a gekko on my right foot. Meant to be lucky, apparently.

  4. Haha, I got a bamboo tattoo in Koh Tao, and the way you descibe it is pretty much exactly the same as my experience! You certainly do feel it when it goes a bit deeper! 🙂

  5. im goin to bali soon and wana get 1… does it hurt more than regulat tats and is the nail clean sterile?

  6. Sure you’ve probably figured out that your tattoo translates to ‘tourist’.

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