If you’re looking to get a Sak Yant in Chiang Mai (or Bangkok) or another part of Thailand, you may have come across my article about getting my own Sak Yant in Chiang Mai a few years ago.
Remember how I wrote about how Nana took me all the way outside of Chiang Mai city and now has her own successful Sak Yant business called Sak Yant Chiang Mai?
Well, four years later, I have sat down with Nana and we had a little interview about running her successful Sak Yant Chiang Mai business!
Here are some answers to some questions about Nana – the owner of Sak Yant Chiang Mai.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nana and I’m 36 years old. I grew up in Chiang Mai and I lived here my whole life. My mother and father are farmers with a small amount of land in the country. In Thailand, farmers are very poor, my parents make about US$4,000 in a good year. During my childhood, anytime that I was not in school, I was helping my parents on their farm.
When I was old enough, I did what Thai children do, and move to the city where you can find work that lets you help support your parents. I worked at the army hospital as a Nursing Assistant, then as a Nanny to some children. After this, I worked two full-time jobs, one at the Taxi counter of the Chiang Mai Airport and then on my off time, doing Thai Massage at a friends Spa.
For most of my life, I had very little time to do anything else but work. In Thailand, it is the responsibility of the children to look after their parents. When your parents do not earn very much, the children have to work hard.
I was lucky that one of my Western friends is an entrepreneur named Andrew. He wanted to start a business in Chiang Mai that helped expats move and live in Chiang Mai. Then, Andrew said to me, that what I taught him about Thai Culture, it made life more beautiful here. If we could teach new people the things I taught him, I could make more money and we could help many people.
Making a business in Thailand is very difficult for a foreigner, who can only legally own 49% of a company. The rest has to be owned by a Thai. Andrew knew about my family and money situation so he asked me to own half the business with him and we started it. In this business, we provided many services such as to get a Visa, and find Accommodation, how to shop, buy a cell phone, hire motorcycles, and many more.
Do you remember how you got started creating Sak Yant Chiang Mai?
It is a long story. One day we got an email from Amy Truong (Me!) asking about a sak yant magic by the monk. Andrew was not very interested in doing this, but I thought it was great that you wanted to have an experience that was part of my culture and background.
My business partner said we are too busy, and if I wanted to do this, I had to do in my spare time. So I spent three weekends driving around looking for a Monk who could do a Sak Yant Tattoo for Amy. After Amy came and had her experience, she wrote a nice blog post about it. After this, a few people started to send us emails asking if they could do the same.
We added the Sak Yant Tours to our services. In those days I had to take my motorcycle and sometimes even have our guests ride on the back of it. The Temples were 40km away. We helped about three people a month get a Sak Yant Tattoo.
After a year, my business partner wanted to stop or sell the business because he was going through health troubles. He arranged to sell it and the new owner said he would train me to run the business and in exchange for my 50% would give me a decent salary for 12 months. The new owner fired me after three weeks saying that he did not see me being any benefit to him.
My friend (now former business partner) was very mad at how I was treated. When the new owner asked for the name and phone numbers of the Monks who did Sak Yant, my friend said, “don’t tell him.” He would help me to do this myself.
My friend/business partner was good at making websites as well as starting businesses. He made a website about the Sak Yant Tour called Sak Yant Chiang Mai. For the first two months, I would take people to follow me on a motorcycle. When I started to get two customers a week, my friend helped me by saying I should hire a car. The Sak Yant tours started to become more popular and my friend made a business plan for me. I trusted him and did what he said. We got more and more Monks to begin to ask us to bring more foreign visitors.
I would work in the day and my second job was to study. I would go to night class and learn English, and accounting and buy my own car and learned to drive myself. After six months my friend said that I might have a business here that would make a good salary for me. I worked for a year, the customers becoming more and more blog posts about my customers made me a little famous about the Sak Yant.
After a year my friend who would help me with answering emails said maybe to open a small tour stand and hire someone to answer questions. When I told the Monks this, they said to get a shop and they can come into town and do Sak Yant. But I never had money in my bank before, and to do this, it would take all the money I saved for one year.
My mentor told me that I had people booked for six months ahead and that at the very least I would pay the same as I used to pay to hire a Taxi. But now I would have a shop and staff of my own. So I made a small shop. In a year, I was so busy, I moved to a bigger shop and hired two more staff.
Why do you think getting a Sak Yant is so popular?
3 or 4 superstars from Hollywood have come to Thailand and got a Sak Yant. Angelina Jolie was the first and this made the Sak Yant known. For many people who come to Thailand, they want to have something to remember the holiday here. But these people mostly go to any tattoo shop and get a copy.
Almost all our Sak Yant guests want to have the real Sak Yant. They spend many hours and days looking on the internet about them. I think it is the internet that has made it popular and known. In the old days, Thai people would get a Sak Yant when they needed magic to help with their lives. It was difficult to find – but your village people know about who to go to.
Now with the internet, things become easy to find. The Sak Yant experience is a powerful one. Many western people also believe in the Spiritual and the Magic and the Sak Yant is famous for being a Magic Tattoo. There are now many blogs about people having the Sak Yant, and many of them got their Sak Yant from one of the 10 Monks and Ajarns that work with me in our co-op for Sak Yant.
Is Sak Yant only for men? Is it acceptable for women to get Sak Yant?
The Sak Yant is for anyone who wants the blessing of the Monks who do it, or the magic of the Ajarns. But in the Thai culture, women do not touch monks, and many monks decide not to do the Sak Yant on women. But the Ajarn can do the Sak Yant for anyone because they are not Monks anymore.
Have you gotten into any trouble with doing Sak Yant on farang?
Not from Thai people. We have many Monks and Sak Yant Masters who want us to be the guide for customers because we teach the customer about the proper way to act. Many of the Temples have given my business ancient scrolls from Sak Yant history because the Temple does not offer Sak Yant anymore.
The only problem we sometimes have is from farang who live here and like Thailand. Many years ago, it was very difficult to get a Sak Yant. First, you have to learn the Thai language or you can not say what magic you want. Most Sak Yant Masters live in the forest because they are the village Shaman. Many of the farangs who had a difficult time to get a Sak Yant, do not like it now that it is easy to do. They think everyone should do it like they did it.
BUT, the Buddhist authority in Thailand has told Monks first not to do Sak Yant on the Females. Then they tell the Monks do not do the Sak Yant at the Temples. They tell the Monks if you want to do Sak Yant – quit the Monk and be an Ajarn. So many monks stop to do the Sak Yant. Some Monks still do the Sak Yant at the Temple. So we have to be careful to protect the Monks. No photos of them doing the Sak Yant and cannot tell people the name of the Temple, because they write about it online.
What is it like to run a business (Sak Yant Chiang Mai) in Thailand?
Awesome! It’s not so difficult for Thai people. Many businesses in Thailand are small like the food cart. You do not need a license to start a business. Any Thai person can do it. My business is special. It is sharing Thai culture with the rest of the world and it is very enjoyable for me to do this.
It is difficult for me because I did not spend much time at school, and I do not know what other people know about business. I had to learn to speak English and have to learn how to do banking and accounting. I have my friend who helps teach me things and when he cannot teach me, he makes me go to class. So I still never have free time yet.
What do people think of a woman owning a business in Thailand?
Thai people do not have a problem with a lady who has a business. Everybody is the same in Thailand
What is the best thing about running your own business?
My business is successful. My job as a Thai person is to look after my parents. Right now, I am building them a house to live in. I give my mother a salary to stop working on the farm because she is old and not healthy anymore. For me, this is the best dream I can have.
I also like my business because I can share a special part of the Thai culture with the people who appreciate it
What is the worst thing about running your own business?
I am a simple farm girl with not much education. I still have no time for my own life because my responsibility to my parents comes first. With my business, I can give my family the chance to relax and not have to work so hard for such little money. I need to learn so much more though. I work in the day and study at night.
Thailand still has a class system, and I am from the low class of the farmer. The Thailand farmer is not very powerful people in Thailand. Now I have to tell people above my class to do things. It takes a long time to feel comfortable to do this. I am not comfortable to do this and it makes me worry about what people think about me.
If a Thai person wants to run their own business, do you have any advice or tips?
I have learned from my western friends that they spend a lot of time planning for the future. The Thai people do not plan for the future they live for the day. If the Thai person wants to do a business with the tourist they need to understand how the farang think. Thai people and farang people think very differently. I think it is important to have a farang who can help you.
Thank you to Nana from Sak Yant Chiang Mai!
If you liked this post and thinking about getting a Sak Yant, you can read about my experience getting a Sak Yant in Chiang Mai first.