A monk administers a sak yant tattoo at Wat Bang Phra temple | Michelle Hamilton / Flickr
For many, getting a tattoo is a rite of passage when in Thailand. The worst rightly have an unsavoury reputation that inspires caution among travellers, but this pick of Bangkok’s best tattoo parlours has you well covered (hopefully, in ink).
It’s up there with other ‘must-dos’ when in Thailand. The country is famed for its rich culture of skilful tattooing, and getting inked can provide a lasting memory of your time in the Land of Smiles. But it pays to do your research when picking a tattoo parlour, as much to avoid embarrassingly mistranslated calligraphy as for the obvious health concerns. Culture Trip has picked these recommended parlours in Bangkok for your first or latest Thai tattoo.
If there’s ever one place to recommend for the ultimately traditional Thai Buddhist-animist tattoo, it’s got to be Wat Bang Phra temple – which has even welcomed celebs like Angelina Jolie. Wat Bang Phra is a good 50km out of Bangkok in neighbouring Nakhon Phanom province, but it’s an easy enough journey to make (and well worth it simply for the bragging rights of having been inked here of all places). Mystical sak yant tattoos, believed to protect and empower the wearer, are what you’ll find at this working temple. Rather than picking your own design, the sak yant master makes this decision for you after a semi-spiritual discussion. Tattoos are available until late afternoon daily, but it’s best to arrive early to mid-morning since large crowds are common.
All Day Tattoo is conveniently located on Sukhumvit Road in the downtown Phrom Phong area. That makes it handy for the Skytrain, but also for popular and ultra-luxe shopping centres like EmQuartier. Boasting an ‘East-meets-West’ concept, All Day is a bright, stylish and upbeat space, with three skilled tattoo artists on site. All speak English, and each specialises in a particular area of ink artwork (rather than acting as generalists). Best of all? There’s even an on-site craft beer bar!
The charming old-town district around Bangkok’s first road, Charoen Krung, feels like the perfect location for an artistic tattoo studio. Enter Black Pig: a partnership with renowned Bangkok street artist Luke Satoru that focuses on bold and classic body art, but which is also open to the challenge of whatever new and innovative design you might have in mind. Just bear in mind this is a popular spot that operates on an appointment-only basis. Other guest designers also make an appearance on occasion.
Named after founder and tattoo artist Petchy Wan (who goes by the nickname OD), this was reportedly Bangkok’s first studio to pick up a licence. It’s also one of the capital’s smallest tattoo parlours – but don’t let that put you off. Tattoo OD is set in the trendy, affluent and nightlife-rich Thonglor neighbourhood, with the four artists working on-site each bringing their specialist skills. The result is that you can come here with just about any tattoo design in mind and be well taken care of. However, while appointments are only recommended rather than required, Tattoo OD is in hot demand.
Over in a lovely close-to-the-river location in the Silom-Sathorn neighbourhood, Common Ground is another Bangkok tattoo studio that adopts an East-West concept, claiming to offer “western hygiene and eastern vibes”. Common Ground (formerly known as Six Fathoms Deep) is also conveniently located for the Skytrain, just across from Saphan Taksin station. This is one spot where walk-ins are usually well catered to, for smaller designs at the very least. The parlour also sports a casual yet stylish vibe, with the bonus of a coffee-shop-like frontage.
Inkception tattoo studio is located in Bangkok's trendy Siam Square neighbourhood. | Anton Strogonoff
Long-running tattoo studio Inkception is based in Bangkok’s central Siam Square area, and is a modern, popular joint offering a full variety of different tattooing styles undertaken by one of the five resident artists. Everything from traditional Japanese to minimalist and American west coast designs are available, but be warned: this is one of Bangkok’s famous (and therefore also most popular) tattoo parlours. Work is by appointment only, and it’s wise to make that appointment as far ahead of time as possible.
Those in the know come to Lone Wolf for modern, back-to-basics geometric designs, although other work is available too. The location is more out of town than most, in the residential Punnawithi neighbourhood in eastern Bangkok (these days increasingly popular with expats) – but the Skytrain means it’s nevertheless easy to reach, only a short hop from the BTS station of the same name. Just as at other popular Bangkok tattoo studios, book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Khao San Road is awash with tattoo artists, and reputable BKK INK is close by. | 60D Man
Khao San Road is where plenty of tattoo-destined visitors to Bangkok first head, and conveniently located BKK INK – now open for almost a decade – is ready to get them inked in a setting that’s more salubrious than most in the vicinity. A number of the artists at BKK INK are award-winners in their field, and the studio can provide just about every kind of body art. Individual designers boast their own specialities, so you can be sure of the real deal in addition to being well cared for.
Out in the Lad Phrao neighbourhood, in the northern reaches of the Thai capital (and not far from the infamous Chatuchak Weekend Market), Klai Jakkawan is another of Bangkok’s premier tattoo studios. The extra focus on the design stage sets Klai Jakkawan a little apart from the rest – there’s a dedicated designer on hand here, even before you’ve got to the point of working with one of the tattooists themselves. Between the three artists, most styles on the body art design spectrum are covered. You might even strike it lucky as a walk-in, but for best results book well in advance.
Formerly located in the Siam Square area of downtown Bangkok, but now in the trendy Ekkamai neighbourhood (and still easy-peasy to reach by Skytrain), Sak Lai is almost certainly among the Thai capital’s longest-running tattoo studios. In fact, the tattooist couple behind the place have been in action here since as far back as 1997, and before that they honed their craft nowhere less prestigious than the Big Apple. You’ll have no trouble getting just about any kind of tattoo here, but the speciality is freehand Japanese designs. There’s also a particular focus on hygiene and safety, reassuring for first-timers and old-hands alike. The one thing you might have trouble with is getting in at all, such is Sak Lai’s popularity – so it goes without saying that you should book ahead.