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Getting a Traditional Tattoo – Inle Lake, Myanmar

Getting a Traditional Tattoo
Glenn has been wanting to get a traditional tattoo throughout our entire trip. He got one in the jungles of Borneo on his last trip to Asia and he wanted another authentic tattoo to commemorate this trip. We finally had an opportunity in Inle Lake.

As we walked through the market in the town of Nyaung Shwe we stopped at a stand selling antiques, including the needles used in traditional Burmese tattoos. We started talking to the vendor, asking questions and mentioned that Glenn was interested in a traditional tattoo. The vendor had several of his own tattoos and recommended that we visit his teacher (tattoo teacher). He wrote down the name and street address on a piece of paper and sent us in the general direction.

After asking a few locals for directions we got to the right street. There we asked for directions in a small shop. The girls working there made a phone call and another woman came to meet us and walked us over to the tattoo shop.
The local people of Myanmar are so nice and helpful!

Here is the tattoo shop

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Tattoo Artist

The tattoo artist was this older gentleman.

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Unfortunately we could not understand his name. He spoke no English. His daughter translated for us in her limited English while his wife brought us tea and bananas.
He spread a new clean mat on the floor and invited us to make ourselves comfortable in their home.

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He showed us the tattoo design books which are all hand drawn and passed down generation to generation, teacher to student.

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Traditional designs and tools

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Ink pots.
The ink is made from charcoal and ash.

Once we settled on a design (a Buddhist mantra in Burmese, they did not speak enough English to explain the full meaning) and price (only $5!!!!!!) Glenn laid down on his side and got ready. The tattoo artist drew a guide line in pen and began to work.

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This tattoo is incredibly painful. This is Glenn’s third tattoo and he said that by far it was the most painful (even more than the tak tak tattoo he got in the jungles of Borneo). Some of the pain was from the method and some was from the location on the rib cage.

It is definitely doable, just be aware that it will be painful and be prepared.
The good news, if you choose a tattoo similar to the one Glenn chose, it will only take about 15 minutes.

The result and the experience however was totally worth it.

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Finished Tattoo

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Glenn and the tattoo artist

If you are interested in unique tattoos and an authentic local experience, head over to Inle Lake, Myanmar and visit this shop. You will not be disappointed.

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