Thousands of believers and curious spectators from all over Thailand will head to Wat Bang Phra this Saturday for the annual sak yant festival, one of the country's most bizarre events, to pay respect to the temple's master tattooist monks.
Sak yant is the Thai term for the special tattoos that many claim bring spiritual and physical protection. Many believe that the tattoos, given by Wat Bang Phra's famous monks, have mystical powers. Common designs include monkeys, tigers and ancient Khmer/Cambodian script.
At the festival, some men will go into trances and act out the characteristics of the sacred animals that have been carved onto their skin.
To take in all the action, head to Wat Bang Phra in the Nakhon Chai Si district of Nakhon Pahom province, about 60km west of Bangkok. For a preview check out this gallery of photos taken at past tattoo festivals, including last year's.
A Thai sak yant devotee shows off his elaborate tattoos all over his chest at last year's Wat Bang Phra tattoo festival.In Thai culture, the sak yant is worn as a symbol of spiritual and physical protection, as many believe the tattoo has mystical powers.A Thai devotee receives a tattoo on his back during last year's festival at Wat Bang Phra. A Thai tattoo master carves a tattoo into a devotee's shoulder. Sak yant tattoos are said to be far more painful than tattoos given by mainstream electric ink guns. Thai tattoo master Whaw Hongsakul carves a tattoo on a devotee's back with a frighteningly long needle. Not for those with low pain thresholds! Thousands of believers from all over Thailand come to take part in the annual festival and pay respect to the temple's master tattooist monks. Thai tattoo master Whaw Hongsakul carves a tattoo into a devotee's back as volunteers hold the woman steady. Thai devotees cool off under spraying water as thousands race towards the edifice of the founder monk during last year's tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra. Thai devotees cool off under spraying water as thousands race towards the edifice of the founder monk during last year's tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra. A tattooed man possessed by spirits is helped by volunteers as he tries to pay respects to a statue of Lord Buddha at the tattoo festival in 2005.At the 2005 festival, more than 2,000 tattooed men gathered to celebrate the tattoos they believed made them stronger, tougher and safer from harm.A tattooed man possessed by spirits growls as he tries to pay his respects to a statue of Lord Buddha during the festival at Wat Bang Phra.Rather than using an ink gun like most of the world's mainstream tattooists, the monks at Wat Bang Phra use a single long thin needle about 18 inches in length and four millimeters in width. A man believed to be posessed by spirits is restrained by volunteers at the festival. Some believe the sak yant are powerful enough to protect their wearers from death and illness. In addition to the tattoos given at the annual festival, Wat Bang Phra's monks give tattoos daily on the temple grounds. This devotee is being restrained as he goes into a trance.