How to get a (magical tattoo) Sak Yant in Cambodia – Siem Reap

History of Sak Yant in Cambodia

Most people who know about Sak Yant might assume it’s from Thailand due to the explosion of Sak Yant in Chiang Mai and Bangkok by monks and ajarns. However, that’s not the case. Cambodia is actually the origin of Sak Yant! The art almost died out due to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia where millions of Cambodians were killed (in horrific ways). However, the art started thriving in Thailand and is slowly being revived by the few Cambodian masters left.

I received my first Sak Yant in Thailand and was excited to receive my second (and third) Sak Yant in Cambodia!

Federation Khmer Sak Yant

What is Federation Khmer Sak Yant

We are a federation of Sak Yant practitioners, students, teachers and masters dedicated to the practice and preservation of our unique Khmer spiritual and martial arts traditions. 

It is our mission to preserve and share our Khmer sprititual and cultural heritage and it’s blessings with our community and the world.

Federation Khmer Sak Yant’s Master & Students

The Federation Sak Yant is led by Master Teven Say and he currently has two students, Sombath Sakk, who is four years from becoming a master himself and Seth Tor who is a bit more junior.

Previously, the federation had four other students but they left the federation to open up their own tattoo shops (doing modern designs) or forged another path elsewhere. Federation Sak Yant is currently located in Siem Reap – about a 15-20 minute tuk-tuk ride away from the city.

Sombath Sakk - student at Federation Khmer Sak Yant

The Process: Getting a Sak Yant in Cambodia

We found the easiest way to book an appointment was to send them a message on Facebook. Sombath is usually the one who responds and you can arrange a day/time with him that works for you.

Tips:

  • If you’re thinking of getting a large/complex Sak Yant or more than one or two smaller ones, let him know so he doesn’t overbook his day.
  • Once confirmed, he’ll give you some instructions about what to bring for the offering (more details below too).
  • Bring more than enough cash in US dollars for what you think it’ll be as well as enough for the offering and tuk-tuk driver.
Mantra designs

Day of getting the Sak Yant

If you’re at a hotel or hostel, ask the front desk to arrange a tuk-tuk for you to take you to three different places.

  1. The market for fruits
  2. Another market for flowers & candles,
  3. The federation itself
  • Let the hotel front desk know you want the tuk-tuk driver to wait for you. If it’s a long wait, be prepared to give the driver a little extra for the wait because it’s the kind thing to do.
  • Bring US cash to buy all the items for the offering and for the Sak Yant payment

Bring the Offering

The Federation of Sak Yant will ask that you bring an offering consisting of:

  • 7 different kinds of fruit
  • 10 lotus flowers
  • 5 candles
  • 1 pack of incense
  • $2.50 to place on the fruit

This offering is for PER PERSON. If two people are getting a Sak Yant, you will need to purchase enough for a whole separate offering.

At the market, let the seller know that you’re looking to purchase fruit for an offering and that you need seven (7) different kinds. You can buy whatever you’d like but we purchased:

  1. Ladyfinger bananas (mini bananas)
  2. Apples
  3. Mangos
  4. Lychee
  5. Mangosteen
  6. Longan
  7. Rambutan

In the second market, you can usually easily find a person selling lotus flowers, candles, and incense together. If you don’t know Khmer, you can usually use your fingers and point to what you need.

Sak Yant Designs

Choose a yantra/mantra/design

It’s a great idea to look through some designs on their Instagram or research some of the standard Sak Yant designs that you find interesting. If you’re looking for a Sak Yant for a particular mantra or purpose, let him know. Generally, people ask for mantras or designs for protection, courage, strength, the power to be authoritative, to be charming, better fortune, etc.

It is probably not a good idea to go with some less than positive intentions. If the intention is to hurt someone(s) or make someone fall in love with you – that won’t happen. However, you can find a Sak Yant that might make you more charming or more confident. Catch the drift?

Sak Yant in Cambodia

The Offering

Before the tattooing, they will arrange the offering in a little basket. Take the pile of incense and insert them into the incense holder. Afterward, you can pray or take a few minutes to meditate on your intentions.

Getting a Sak Yant in Cambodia

Getting inked

The modern method with the tattoo gun or the traditional bamboo way is your two options to get inked.

Typically, the tattoo gun is faster but it’s more painful even if the tattoo artist has a light hand and is gentle – especially if it’s a larger piece or if it’s in a more sensitive area. The traditional bamboo method is still nice but slightly less precise and hurts less but takes longer. Simply put: pick your poison!

Meditation/blessing

The Sak Yant Blessing

You will receive a blessing after the Sak Yant is completed. They’ll give you instructions on breaking up the lotus flower petals into a basket and sitting cross-legged with your back to the master. Traditional music will begin playing and take the time to meditate and focus on your intentions.

The Blessing

FAQ

  • How safe and clean is it?
    It’s safe and clean! No worries here from us.
  • Can women and/or foreigners get a Sak Yant in Cambodia?
    In Thailand, some monks will do a Sak Yant and they usually do not touch women. In Cambodia, it isn’t the monks who are giving Sak Yant and you will receive the blessing from a master. So yes, women and foreigners can get Sak Yant in Cambodia – at least at the Federation. For a long time, it wasn’t common for foreigners to receive Sak Yant but to revive the art and be inclusive, there is no discrimination as to who gets it.
  • What days can I get a blessing?
    Any day – after you receive the tattoo. There may be days where it’s preferred or easier for a master to do the blessing but if you’re traveling, there are no restrictions on the day to get the Sak Yant or blessed.
  • Can I get shading and different colors?
    No. Sak Yant isn’t a tattoo for decoration so you can’t pick your colors and make it artwork or more complex than it needs to be.
  • Can I get a tattoo without the mantra?
    No, if that’s the case, just go to a regular tattoo parlor.
  • Is getting a Sak Yant religious?
    No. Getting a Sak Yant isn’t particularly religious. During the offering, if you so choose, you can pray to whatever God you believe/the Universe or just take the time to center and calm yourself down before the session.
  • What’s the recovery process?
    Easy and quick! They will rub petroleum jelly over the tattoo. Feel free to wash it off in the shower, keep it clean, and moist with moisturizing lotion. Avoid the sun, pools and the beach for a few weeks.

Hope this helps you if you want to get a Sak Yant in Cambodia. Let me know if you have any questions!

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