6 Months with Atlas and feeling hella #blessed in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand has been my favorite month of Remote Year so far. Hands down.
It’s such a beautiful country and there’s so much to do, but it comes with a really laid-back vibe that is so relaxing and peaceful. It’s a really unique place to explore and live for the month.
My last couple weeks were much slower than the first two, but I still had an incredible time! Here’s what I got up to:
Ladies Night Out
My last track for the month was to visit the world-famous cabaret show in Chiang Mai — more commonly known as a ladyboy show. We got the chance to have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with a few of the performers before the show. And boy, did we ask everything.
It was so cool how open and honest the ladies were with perfect strangers. It was really clear how important it is for them to educate others. Their biggest wish is just to be accepted as women and treated as equals.
Their interviews got quite emotional. The whole experience was really special and we all appreciated their candor.
Oh, and PS: ‘ladyboy’ isn’t a very nice term and most of the girls don’t appreciate being referred to as such. They’re women, period.
The show began and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once those curtains opened my mouth dropped. These girls were so gorgeous and so talented I was actually jealous. I mean, can you imagine dancing a full number in high heels while lip-syncing to a song in a language you don’t speak? #respect. It was amazing.
Atlas took up most of the first few rows so a few of our guys got involved in the show, much to all of our delight. We laughed, we drank, we sang along. The whole night was such a blast!
Sak Yant Tattoos
Sak Yant is a traditional Thai tattoo form that dates back thousands of years. Originating in India, Thai monks adopted and infused the designs and meanings with local traditions and religions as Buddhism swept across Asia. Therefore, Sak Yant tattoos are not exclusively a Buddhist practice, but generally most monks recognize their validity even if it is not normally part of their sect of Buddhism.
Sak Yants become popularized in Western culture by Angelina Jolie when she received her first Yant in 2003, the Hah Taew. Since then, receiving a Sak Yant when visiting Thailand has become more and more common among Western tourists.
Of course, I’m one of them.
A few other people in Atlas and I decided we wanted to have the incredible, authentic experience for ourselves. We spent the first few weeks choosing our designs and thinking about the blessings we wanted to receive.
Traditionally, women are banned from getting Sak Yant tattoos, at least from a still-practicing monk. Thai women and visitors can see an Ajarn (basically a retired monk) to receive their tattoos.
My fellow At-lasses and I were lucky enough to see Monk Roong, the only practicing monk in all of Thailand who will tattoo women. The only caveat was that we could not photograph or take videos during our tattoos.
We met our guide at the shop to discuss our designs and ask any final questions. Then we hopped in her car to be driven to the Sunnak to see Monk Roong. It was about a 25 minute ride into the suburbs of Chiang Mai to his grandfather’s house where he lives.
The Sunnak is basically a lean-to like structure where the Yants are performed. It’s filled with statues, talismans, flowers, offerings, incense, and more. Nana, our guide, helped show us how to greet Monk Roong by bowing three times, burning incense, and presenting our offerings to him.
I went first and Nana helped translate my design and the meaning I wanted so Monk Roong could create a custom blessing for me. Monk Roong is a pretty young guy, 40 years old, and became a monk at just 9 years old. He didn’t speak much English, but we could tell he had a great sense of humor and enjoyed joking around in the company of his local friends and followers who sat near us in the Sunnak.
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After sketching out my design and placing the stencil, Monk Roong gathered his few materials: a tiny plastic cup with some ink, a little petroleum jelly squeezed onto a plate, latex gloves, and the bamboo stick with the fresh needle attached. Then he got to work.
One poke at a time, he followed the outline of my lotus using both hands to hold and guide the stick and the pressure of his bottom hand to keep my skin taught. In about 30 minutes, he was all done.
After my two friends finished it was time for our blessing to activate and empower our new tattoos. It was a really beautiful ceremony and something I will surely remember for the rest of my life.
6 Months with Atlas
Chiang Mai marked 6 months with this stone cold pack of weirdos. It has simultaneously been the longest and shortest 6 months of my life.
For the momentous occasion, we decided to rent out an entire retreat center just outside the city for an overnight party. It was absolutely wild. A gorgeous pool, perfect foliage, cushioned cabanas with delicate curtains billowing in the breeze… it was pure heaven.
We spent the day goofing off in the pool and playing games in the nearby field. And drinking. A lot. Because Atlas. Of course the festivities continued into the evening with night swims, games on the patio, and many heartfelt chats. There was so much love in the air and laughter all around.
This group of people has had such a profound impact on my life in six short months. I find myself at a loss for words trying to explain any further than that. Nothing I come up with will be able to accurately describe what this experience has given me. All I know is that I am a happier, better person because I’m here.
I can’t wait for what the next six months have in store.
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