I'm Just Here For The Food

Monday, April 17, 2006

They Call Him Mr. Kai

After Tonsai I started to make my way back to Koh Chang. I made it back to Ranong, but missed the last boat to Koh Chang, which meant I had to spend the night in Ranong, which turned out to be a good thing, as it was Songkran (Thai New Year), and it was quite the celebration. The celebration of Songkran involves the washing of the Buddha,, and this as evolved into a water festival, where people roam the streets with bowls of water, water guns or even a garden hose, and drench each other and passersby where. This wasn’t so great as I was making my way to the guesthouse, as I really didn’t need my pack getting soaked, but I managed to only get myself wet, and saved my pack. At the hotel I ran into a few people from the Dive Safari, and after checking in we hit the streets, and once again got a lot of water poured onto us. It was actually really fun, and since it was so hot, the water was actually pretty nice.

That night I tried to find the bar my friends were at, but as I was walking by on bar I got called over by this Thai guy and was asked to join this group for a beer. I tried to tell them I was looking for some friends, but they were having none of it, and after the guy made a comment about Canadians not drinking beer, I felt I had to save my countries honour and joined them for a few drinks. After that I found my friends just down the street, and continued to celebrate with them. The bar we were at wasn’t officially open, so we had to keep running to the 7-11 to buy more beer and Whisky.

The next morning I headed back to Koh Chang and man that place had really cleared out. The island seemed empty, but all the regulars were there, and it was a nice relaxing time. The reason I was returning to Koh Chang was to see Mr. Kai, the resident Bamboo tattoo artist. I’ve been wanting to get another tattoo for awhile now, and figure a traditional Thai tattoo was the prefect way to always commemorate my trip. Bamboo tattooing basically uses a bamboo stick instead of a machine and it was quite the experience.

First off, Kai is an interesting man. He has a hut set up on the beach, and you would be hard pressed to find a nicer man, or a nicer location to get a tattoo. I had visited him a few times to talk about the design, and it was a little hard to get my ideas across with my limited Thai (OK none), and his limited English, but he had a book of Thai art, and I showed him what I was kind of looking for, so I just pointed and hoped for the best.

It must be said that he starts to prepare for the tattooing, but smoking a bowls of pot form his bamboo bong, and then starts to prep the instruments. The bamboo stick looks an awful lot like a chopstick which he files down, and then attaches the needle, using string and wax. After that he spent a while drawing the design on my arm. Mr. Kai, when he’s drawing on paper isn’t really that good of an artist, but when he gets to your skin it all changes. His girl friend and him create a really relaxing environment with pillows, and coffee, and well bong hits if you so choose.

The tattoo I got was of a lotus, which Hindus associate the lotus blossom with creation, and with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Lakshmi. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. The lotus, as well, can have several meanings, often referring to the inherently pure potential of the mind. In the middle of the lotus I have a Buddhist symbol that offers good luck and protection. I took it from two pieces of art, depicting the Buddha which was part of the head dress worn by the Buddha. The middle part is a more stylized version of a traditional sak yan tattoo, which is usually done by monks as a form of protection for the wearer. I loved watching Kai work, and the man is a true artist. His precision and creativity with the bamboo was just amazing, and there was very little pain.

So now I have another tattoo (which I’m sure my parents will hate), and just seeing it not only reminds me of my trip and all the adventures I’ve had, but keeps serves as a reminder of how I want to be living my life.



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    By Anonymous Celia, at 7:27 PM  

  • Hey!
    I've been to Thailand and thought it was amazing, and yes so was the 15 baht pad thai. How did your tattoo turn out? Had I known about this guy I would have gone to get one! Is it relatively safe? Because if it is, I am going back to Thailand to get one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:35 AM  

  • I just got back from Thailand a few months ago. I went to Koh Chang too and paid a little visit to Mr. Kais. I got a tattoo of a Thai blessing of fire. Its pretty cool it took 5 hours because he would always stop for a smoke break. When I got there in the morning sure enough he offered me some coffee. What a great guy. I can't wait to return to get another.

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