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The Traveller's Magazine
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Thailand’s Culture Ministry plans to put forth a new law forbidding tourists from getting tattoos with Buddhist symbols while on holidays in Thailand. After becoming trendy thanks to celebrities getting their tatts in Thailand, officials believe the practise is simple insensitive to their culture.

In Thailand, and in Buddhist cultures in general, Buddha statues and images are extremely sacred. The sharp rise in tattoo tourism has moved Thai residents to complain to Culture Minister Niphit Intharasombat that the tattoo parlours in Bangkok and elsewhere are too quick to tattoo images of Buddha and other religious iconography onto non-Buddhist tourists.

Right now it seems that Buddhist tattoos are all the rage, especially after A-list celebrities like Angelina Jolie got inked up on a recent trip to Thailand. In a statement, the Culture Minister said,

“Foreigners see these tattoos as a fashion. They do not think of respecting religion, or they may not be aware that it can be offensive.”

Niphit has called on all Thai tattoo parlours to stop tattooing Buddha images onto tourists. He is also pushing provincial governors to inspect tattoo studios and encourage tattoo artists to co-operate. For now it’s not illegal but if Niphit has his way, tourists can think about going elsewhere to get their body inked with Buddha images.

Bangkok remains of the the best places to get a tattoo in the world, especically for their traditional methods using a long, ink-filled needle. If you want the ultimate cultural experience, ask at Buddhist temples where many monks specialise in this ancient practise.

Other hot tattoo destinations?

Los Angeles, USA

The best of the best hang out here in studios that line Venice Beach. It’s where the top American celebrities go to get inked. That being said, unless you’ve got top dollars, you won’t be getting an appointmnet with the best, they’re booked up sometimes years in advance.

Auckland, New Zealand

Maori designs have become famous thanks to Mike Tyson’s fac and Robbie Williams but there’ s a strict code as to what types of designs can be etched into the skin. It all depends on your genealogy. Some tattoo shops are designed for moko (Maoris only). If you want to get inked in NZ, look for kirituhi tattoo sops. It’s a form of Maori design which can be used on non-Maori.

Barcelona, Spain

If you want a Buddhist tattoo and you’re turned down in Thailand thanks to the new regulations, don’t worry. One of the best Thai tattoo artists is residing in Spain and still practises tradition Thai methods. The artist, Jondix, doesn’t do anything in colour, and has strict rules on what he draws (nothing political or satanic).

Have you ever been tattooed while travelling? Where was it? Was it important that it reflected the place?

Img: tamara.craiu / Flickr cc.

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One response to “Thailand to ban tourist tattoos

  1. This is yet another ultra-conservative move by the Ministry of Culture here in Thailand. I suppose they’re going to begin hiring private investigators in Thailand to root out the hoodlums that seek to visit Thailand and destroy the “sacred” Thai culture. I think the ministry also needs to have a reality check. The ministry is well-known for taking things that were brought here from other cultures and trying to make them “Thai”. A few examples would be Hindu gods and goddesses (Ganesha seems to be a favorite). The ministry also seems to have a problem acknowledging the enormous influences both Indian and Khmer cultures had on people living in this area that is now Thailand. I might add that many Thais inscribe into their skin or wear Christian symbols, both of which I’m not offended as a westerner. The ministry is basically still trying to build fictional images of “Thai” national identity into peoples’ minds.

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