"Holla! City of squala!" - Mr Chow, The Hangover 2
We arrive to a city under siege... Not by the usual hordes of tourists that arrive at this time of year, as dry season has just started, but by the rising floodwaters pushing down from the north.
The place is deserted, probably something to do with governments advising against all but essential travel to the city. We chose to come back to the city for two reasons, the first is because Faye wants some new ink (of course, so do I) and second, because it's an ideal place to start our journey south. Does getting tattooed count as essential travel?
We stayed on Phra Arthit road, right next to the bursting banks of the Chao Phraya River. The height of the river was the least of our concerns, more worrying was whether 7/11 would have any strawberry milk and the Coco Crunch breakfast cereal that the boys love so much. Thankfully they did, not much in the way of drinking water though, but drinking gallons of fruit juice would hardly kill us.
Almost as soon as we landed we made straight to the tattoo studio
where I got my tattoo a few months ago. Due to the
lack of anybody around Eak (the tattooist) was available and almost straight away started drawing on my forearm his idea of what I wanted in the space I had left. After about an hour he had an initial sketch on my arm, a rough drawing of the face of the elephant god Ganesha, it looked ok, but was nowhere near what the finished piece would look like, it would give me an idea of how it was going to fit in though. He then removed an imprint of this sketch using sticky backed plastic and said come back tomorrow and he'd have a finished sketch. Easy as that!
Faye then discussed with him what she'd like and he said he's sketch something up using the photos we gave him as she wanted a large piece that would stretch from shoulder to hip, covering two much smaller tattoos she already had.
The next day I arrived at the studio with all the usual apprehension. How long would it take and more importantly how much was it going to hurt. He showed me his finished sketch and although much larger than I'd initially imagined, it was perfect and required no
changes at all.
The sketch was positioned and applied to my arm and we were good to go. Outlining and black and grey shading first and then the colour. It started off ok, the black work didn't take too long and it was already starting to look great, because of the shading the image now had some depth rather than just the line drawing of the original sketch. Then it was time for the colour.....
Now this went on forever, layer after layer of shades and colour. As it was in the back if my forearm, It wasn't entirely comfortable as my arm had to be bent back behind me so he could get to it. I w ish I could say it was painless but that would be complete bullshit. It hurt, it hurt baaaad. The last time I was tattoo'd by this guy I sat for 8 hours straight and towards the end the pain was almost unbearable, so couldn't imagine myself going through it again. This time I sat for 11 hours and to top it off, it WASN'T even finished, the crown was still left to do!!! I was uncomfortable and in complete agony.
It was 2am and I was completely shattered. I find tattooing just leaves me drained and exhausted, so by that time I was totally wiped out. Sadly I had it all to look forward to again the next day as that's when he planned to finish it.
The next day I returned at 2pm, thinking "at least there's not much more to do", but this guy's a complete perfectionist. He can't seem to just colour something in, it takes three to five different shades for every colour and shit loads of time!!!! To make matters worse the crown goes over my elbow, the most painful part of having my other sleeve done before. This part took 3 and a half hours and was of course, horrendous... Elbow tattooing is the worst, and i'd have to go through it all again no doubt as elbows are difficult to tattoo, difficult to heal and always require touch ups. After he'd finished with the crown he asked if I wanted my other tattoo, the one I had a few months earlier by him touched up then as well. I thought "what the hell, it shouldn't take long and it's going to be
nowhere near as bad as my elbow right?". Wrong! Another 3 and a half hours later and he was finished. By this point I was squirming around, ready to pass out. My ass was killing me, my arm felt like it had been put through a mangle and I was completely exhausted. At 9 pm I left, completely spent and ready to collapse. I also had the biggest smile on my face!
I couldn't stop looking at it... The shading, the depth of colour, the design... All perfect. It was totally worth it, it really is a piece of art. Again I'm left astonished as to what's achievable with needles, ink and skin. Even after all the pain I'm still not discouraged from getting more, I've got plenty of bare skin left and I'm already thinking about what to fill up the rest of my arm with...
Over the next couple of days we went back so Faye could finalise the design for her back piece and a few days later we returned so he could get started. The design incorporates lotus flowers (both open and closed) and a dragonfly, but as it's covering up two earlier tattoos
and stretching from her shoulder to her hip it had to be completely freehanded. It took about an hour for this part to be finished and all the while I was watching the design kept getting bigger and bigger. When it was finished I left Faye to it so she zone out for when the actual tattooing started. A couple of hours later I returned with the boys to see how Faye was getting on, she was face down on the bench with Eak busily working away at her back. We managed to catch her eye through the window and it didn't look good, I even saw her mouth the words "f**king hell it hurts" or something to that effect. That was our cue to leave, figuring we'd wait till she came back to the hotel to tell us all about it.
Surprisingly only six hours later Faye returned to the hotel and immediately proceeded to tell me just how much it hurt, even saying that it was more painful than childbirth. Now I know both of Faye's labours were straightforward and fairly quick but surely not? I'd endured 17 hours of tattooing that week and believe me it
was excruciatingly painful at times, but even with this new information there's no way I'm going to compare it to labour when I'm around women, it would be more than my life is worth I'm sure.
Of course it wasn't finished, all the black work was done but there was still a lot of colour to be put in, so much to Faye's delight she had to return the next day to continue. Another 3 hours later and Eak called it a day, Faye was at the limit of what she could endure and the decision was made to finish it later, which meant we'd need to be back in Bangkok in a couple of weeks time or so.
Our plan after the tattooing was to slowly make our way south to Malaysia but now we had to come back to Bangkok it seemed pointless going too far only to have to make our way back again. We ended up spending a few days hanging around the city while Faye healed before heading out to Koh Samet, a small island only 3 hours drive and 1 hour boat ride away. The journey there was quick and uneventful, which
was good for Faye as she couldn't lean back in her chair the whole way and once on the island we looked around for somewhere reasonable to stay.
We spent a few days on Koh Samet enjoying the relaxed pace, which is such a contrast to Bangkok, eating good food on the beach and swimming in the beautifully warm ocean. Of course time disappeared quickly and soon it was time to make our way back to Bangkok so Faye could prepare herself mentally for her return to the tattooist. This time Faye went prepared, dosing herself up to the eyeballs on codeine that we bought in a nearby pharmacist. Her final session lasted 6 hours and although incredibly painful she said it was much better than previously so obviously the drugs worked. Now that it was complete it really showed how beautiful it was, the colours are incredible and the detail's amazing, not only that, the scale is breathtaking as it stretches from her shoulder covering her lower back entirely and then ending at the hip ensuring both her earlier much smaller tattoos were completely covered. Seriously beautiful work which Faye will be proud to show off when in
Now that Faye had been completely coloured in, we were free to leave Bangkok but due to time constraints on our entry stamp we only had a few days till we had to leave Thailand. We thought ahead though when we knew we were going to be sticking around Bangkok and bagged ourselves some ridiculously cheap AirAsia tickets to Hat Yai in the south of Thailand. We booked tickets to Hat Yai as its an easy bus ride to cross into Malaysia and also the departure tax (included in the ticket price) is much less flying domestically making it much cheaper than flying directly into Malaysia. We were a little sad to be missing out on the south of Thailand, especially as we wanted to visit Koh Lipe which we've heard so many good things about. It will have to wait till next time though, I'm sure we'll come back, we always do... till next time Thailand...
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