This rather bizarre festival occurs usually in the first week of March, although the date is an auspicious one fixed by the temple, so it can be two weeks on either side of this depending on the year and lunar calendar. Wat Bang Phra is a temple is famed for its previous abbot, Luang Phor Pern, who specialized in giving and activating talismanic tattoos, which purport to protect the wearer from harm Every year, his devotees gather for a weekend temple fair, during which time they go into trances and then awaken to become whatever tattoos they have inked all over the bodies. The main tattoos are tigers, birds, lizards, and hermits. Following this, there is a mad melee, as everyone rushes the stage where a Buddha image sits, while soldiers guard the stage to prevent it from collapsing, as well as to bearhug the devotees, which seems to knock them out of their trances.
It is all very other worldly, and somewhat has to be experienced to be believed, and it can be quite dangerous as well, as the devotees can go rather out of control, especially the tigers, who are bellowing, roaring, and running at full speed. If you’re a photographer, it’s best to stand in front of a hermit or lizard, who charge the stage at a far more mellow pace.
The temple is also noted for the giving of mystical and sacred tattoos (known as sak yant in Thai), and Angelina Jolie made it famous when she visited here to get inked.