In Thailand, tattoos are taken very seriously. Many Thais' devotion to getting inked goes well beyond a simple appreciation for art or a desire to express their individuality.
Sak yant tattoos, which some claim bring spiritual and physical protection or good luck, are usually applied using a bamboo needle -– which is far more painful, say those who have experienced it –- by renowned ajarns, or "teachers." (Read more on the practice here.)
But of course there are those who do it simply for fashion, or to commemorate a special moment in their life. Or maybe because they were drunk.
We celebrate them all in this special edition of our ongoing “Bangkok street style” gallery series.
Name: Soontorn. Age: 40. Occupation: Sells fish and turtles to people who want to make merit by setting them free in the river. Received first tattoo: "Five years ago when I was 35. And I got all of them within three months by famous tattooist Ajarn Kaew."
“I believe completely in their powers,” says Soontorn, as he shows them off for the camera. "If I had space I’d get more but I’m completely covered."
Name: Kin. Age: 26. Occupation: Tattoo shop translator. Received first tattoo: 10 years ago. Any regrets? "No, I love all of them. I love the artistic thought that went into them, while some have special meaning for me. I want to keep adding more.”
Name: Jakkrit Tam. Age: 26. Occupation: Tuk tuk driver on Soi Rambutree. Received first tattoo: Six years ago.
"I like all my tattoos, I believe in their meaning -- many of them are supposed to bring me good luck," says tuk tuk driver Jakkrit. "I got them all from famous tattooist Ajarn Kaew, the last one a year ago. All were done with bamboo."
Name: Pradit. Age: 53. Occupation: Construction worker. Received first tattoo: 30 years ago.
"At first I didn’t like them as I was drunk when I got them. But after a while I started to believe in their powers. Now I try to follow most of the rules that go with having a sak yant tattoo," says Pradit.
Name: Boontoen. Age: 49. Occupation: Pedicab driver. Received first tattoo: At the age of 16.
"Most of my tattoos are from Ajarn Noo, the same tattooist who gave Angelina Jolie tattoos when she was here," says Boontoen. "I'm a strong believer in them. Over the years I feel that they have protected me from things like accidents and fights."
Name: Frank. Age: 49. Nationality: German. Ink inspiration: His travels in Thailand, Nepal and India.
Name: May. Age: 26. Occupation: Student. Received first tattoo: Nine years ago at a shop in Saphan Put. Any regrets? "When I first got them I really liked them. It was for fashion and I shared my ideas with the tattooists. But I want to fix them up. And I don’t want tattoos that people can see when I'm fully clothed."
Name: Saeksan. Age: 25. Occupation: Motorbike taxi driver. Received first tattoo: Six years ago, from Ajarn Jiet. Want more? “No … I don’t even want these ones anymore. They’ve given me problems when I look for work as people think I’m a convict. Though I do believe in their powers because as a motorbike driver I've had many close calls with death.”
Name: Boat. Age: 29. Occupation: Day trader. Received first tattoo: At the age of 17. "I got most of these at the Saklai Studio at Lido," says Boat, who didn't want his face shown and usually covers his tattoos up by wearing long-sleeve shirts.
Name: Man. Age: 24. Occupation: Owner of Bangkok bar Happy Time, on Samsen Soi 1. "I got these from Ajarn Tieng, at Wat Suwannaram in Bangkok because I needed protection. Unfortunately I used to be involved with gangs and would often get into fights."
Name: Ten. Age: 25. Occupation: Self-employed. Received first tattoo: 11 years ago, at age 14. Any regrets? "I love most of them, as they have special meaning for me. There are some I would like to fix up but it’s not that important to me. Too late now."