If you are new to our Thailand vacation, start here. Dane and I started our trip in Bangkok, headed over to Chiang Mai and then down into the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui. But let’s rewind to the time Dane and I were wandering Fisherman’s Village in Koh Samui Thailand and happened upon an adorable tattoo shop. We could see from the window they were practicing traditional Thai techniques using bamboo and to put it lightly – I was mystified. I don’t have any tattoos (I’m terrified of needles), but if there was ever a time I considered getting one – it was at The Bamboo Room Tattoo Parlor in Koh Samui, Thailand! Today I’m sharing more about the artist, story behind the shop and some amazing photos of his technique!
The Bamboo Room: Tattoos In Koh Samui, Thailand
Before we embarked on our Thailand vacation, I knew two things about Thai tattooing methods:
1. Angelina Jolie got one of tiger claws (and probably others)
2. It supposedly hurt less than traditional tattooing methods.
I couldn’t resist, I walked right up the steps and into The Bamboo Room. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was walking into Keng’s, a multi-award winning, world record breaking UK-Thai tattoo specialist.
Keng himself was there tattooing a girl, who was happy to allow me to take photographs.
What is bamboo tattooing?
This ancient technique of bamboo tattooing involves a needle strapped on to a long length of bamboo which is then pushed in and out of the skin by hand. It is said to be slower but less painful and less likely to draw blood than the modern machine tattoo method.
I also got the chance to meet Keng’s wife, Lauren. The first thing I noticed about her was the absolutely beautiful tattoos she had of her children on her arm. It was as if I was looking at an actual photograph. Of course, Keng did them. Have you ever met someone you felt like you could talk to FOR HOURS? Lauren was that someone for me in Thailand. She told us all about Keng and his work — a definite proud wife, but so modest you would never know she was married to a Thai celeb.
Keng started to learn his craft at the age of 15 when he would practice on pig skin and fruit. Over time, he graduated onto tattooing soldiers to give them strength and protect them in combat. Keng knew he wanted to be a tattooist, but he knew pursuing it as a profession would be against his family’s wishes. With such a strong sense of family, Keng had to follow his father’s plans of becoming a doctor and attended medical school to honor him, but when his father passed away Keng went onto pursue his dream of bamboo tattooing.
Like I said, I could have stayed in there forever. I don’t think Lauren or Keng would have cared — they were so friendly and eager to answer any and all questions I had! Do you have a tattoo? What is it? What does it mean? If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading about our time in Chiangmai, Thailand or how to get a custom suit made in Bangkok!