Written by Abigail Nass, CNN Thuan Phu
We’ve seen them in life size — the sausages and iced coffee. When you’re on an adventure, you don’t mind seeing them enlarged on a piece of reclaimed driftwood.
That’s exactly what you’ll find on the decks of popular boats off Singapore’s East Coast and Bangkok’s iconic Lighthouse Bridge. In fact, you can even pay to have one in a glass tube at Thailand’s famous Yoga Rocks surfing resort in Krabi.
These and many other very strange souvenirs once adorned the body of Ason Tantpol. Since the popular monk and popular tattoo artist died last year, he’s been memorialized with sandstone effigies carved into his body. His beachside hideaway in Rayong, 40 miles south of Bangkok, is decorated with the same ornaments.
The apparent intimate relationships between monks and tattoo artists is pretty well known among the tattoo community. The former travel accessories are often viewed as way to blend into a local culture, even if they haven’t made the trip.
The border between religious and secular can be blurred when it comes to tattoos. And some people say it can’t be crossed at all.
“This is my country, I love it and I worship this temple because this temple in the United States has no smell at all,” said cardiologist Michael Volpatti, a U.S. citizen, after a visit to Tantpol’s Doi Tien Temple on Ao Nang Island. “To me, there’s something missing.”
Yet, for others, the shared interest might have more to do with the food on offer.
From his beach retreat, Tantpol could feast on seared tiger prawns served with coconut milk sauce, pheasant curry, grilled dry mackerel and, of course, grilled meat.
Besides that, Tantpol himself threw up his favorite dish on a plate from the dormitory. “Hot sausages with pad Thai, grilled dry mackerel and coconut lassi,” he said. “That’s it.”