Jimmy Wong’s 1st World Tattoo Arts Festival And Exhibition — Day 2

On Saturday, the second day of the tattoo festival I am up early to get over to BEC Tero Hall when it opens. After a good night’s rest, I am looking forward to a full day at the convention as well as getting some ink done by Hori Ken.
It felt a bit strange I suppose to be in Bangkok just for the weekend and for the tattoo festival. I have never done anything this exciting and wild before, so I guess that is why this weekend was really turning out to be one of the best times that I have had in a very long time.

When I get to BEC Tero Hall around 9:00, it is still closed, so I take a walk around the Suan-Lum Bazaar and chat with some novice Muay Thai boxers practicing in a small open air gym not far from the hall. They know all about Jimmy Wong and the festival. Everyone I meet seems to either know about Jimmy or the festival. It’s like when I checked into the Montien yesterday, the Bell Captain informed me that there was this cool tattoo festival happening this weekend. That’s right dude. That’s why I am in town. Boy, was he surprised this morning when he saw me wearing my “crew” and “staff” passes for the festival.

I grab a coke from a kiosk near the hall and then hang outside near the service entrance and wait for everyone to arrive. A few tattoo artists begin to arrive and I chat with some of them outside. I talked to this one artist, originally from Belgium who has a shop in Pattaya as well as Jeremy who is from Malaysia. He does a lot of traditional tribal stuff.

It’s been really cool to meet all of these artists from Thailand and other countries as well as some of the visitors to the convention and just talk about tattoos. It is one thing to really be into tattoos, when you stop in at your favorite tattoo shop to get inked; it is another thing to meet so many people with the same passion. There have been a lot of people who have just walked up to me and wanted to either take a photo of one of my tattoos or have their photo taken with me. When I came to BEC Tero Hall on Friday, some people wanted to have their photo taken with me before I even had the chance to go in. Well, one thing is for certain, if one of the aims of this festival is to try and spin tattoos in a better light, from what I have seen and experienced, it is definitely true.

I didn’t count on getting a new tattoo while I was in Bangkok for this convention, so I am really excited to have some ink done, especially by one of the talented artists invited to the festival. Of course, it wouldn’t be the same—a trip to Bangkok—without getting a tattoo.

By the time the doors open and people start filling BEC Tero Hall, it’s already turning out to be a good-sized crowd for day two of the festival. I guess all the media coverage on Friday got the word out. Hori Ken arrives around 11:00 and proceeds to prepare the design for the tattoo he is going to do.

For the next four-plus hours, I am lying prone on the small stage set up for Hori Ken as he does the tattoo. One thing that I quickly found out about getting a tattoo at a convention is that it doesn’t take long for a small crowd to gather to watch the artist do his or her stuff. In my case though, getting a tattoo from Hori Ken on one of the center stages meant that the crowds were a bit larger. Likewise, you are going to have your photo taken a lot. Kind of made me feel a little special, like I was a part of the festival and doing my own thing, albeit getting inked for everyone to watch.

Ron and Jimmy stopped by, as well as a few other people who have stopped in at Jimmy’s shop. Ron tells me that the tattoo is looking awesome. I wish I could see it. I would have to wait until it is finished before I can have a look in a bathroom mirror.

Hori Ken has a light touch when he does the outline. With the precision of a surgeon, he works the needle-gun gently as though he is doing delicate surgery. I hardly feel a thing—just a light burning sensation as well as a pinch now and then when he gets close to my tailbone.

For the coup de grace, he uses a traditional bamboo-style needle to color it in. Felt more like I was getting acupuncture or a kind of needle massage the way that Hori Ken rhythmically worked the needle in and out of my skin. A very strange sensation—didn’t even feel like I was getting a tattoo except when he got close to the more tender areas around my tailbone. I recommend getting a tattoo like this for anyone who would like to try something different.

By the time Hori Ken had finished my new tattoo, BEC Tero Hall was buzzing (literally with all the ink being done!) with activity as a sizable crowd for Saturday afternoon had gathered inside. I like how there was this roving camera and emcee walking around and talking to participants and tattoo artists with a live video feed on these huge monitors in the center of the hall near the main stage. It was a nice touch giving visitors a bit of a play-by-play or in this case, ink-by-ink rundown of what was happening at the festival.

Today there was some musical entertainment on tap. I think the organizers will want to expand on this next year with a little more musical variety. Nonetheless, like everything else the organizers have tried to do with this festival, it was quite apparent that they wanted to make it as entertaining as possible.

Now that I had my new tattoo, I could check out the rest of the action at the festival. More time to talk to Jimmy and Joy who were just as busy making the rounds at the festival as they were yesterday. Even after all the preparations that went into making this festival happen and all the running around they had to do, they showed no signs of slowing down. This festival was really important for them. Not that they were staking their reputation on its success, but for those of us who know Jimmy, Joy, and Jukkoo, the festival in many ways was the culmination of their reputation and standing in the tattoo world.

Without question, there was a lot of great ink at the festival on Saturday. You know, it’s one thing to run into someone getting a tattoo at Jimmy’s shop or see someone on the street with a tattoo; it’s entirely something else when you can see a lot of great ink in one room at one time.

Well, I was going to see how “great” my new ink was later that evening. I registered for the “Best Design of the Day” contest to be held later in the evening. My first tattoo contest. Yeah, I was psyched.

In the meantime, I hung out with my Thai lady friend Dee. Actually, it was the first time for us to hang out together. When I told her that I was going to be in town for the tattoo convention, she wanted to meet me there and see what it was all about. She was one of those people who had heard about Jimmy and Joy. It was a real treat for her when I introduced her to them, as well as hang out with me for the rest of the day.

In the evening, I was one of fourteen contestants competing for “Best Design of the Day.” I was going up against some really great ink. It was pretty exciting and wild just to walk out on the stage in front of all the people and show off my new tattoo. People crowded around the stage to take photographs with some of them yelling for me to move closer to show them my design.

I wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t win. It was a lot of fun just to walk out on the stage in front of the hundreds of people in the hall who had gathered to watch the contest. Without question, it was definitely another highlight to this fabulous weekend.

After the festival ended this evening, Dee and I walked around the Suan-Lum Night Bazaar, which was bustling with activity. There are a lot of open-air cafes and restaurants as well as literally hundreds of small shops selling everything imaginable and at affordable prices. As a travel sidebar, if you are going to be in Bangkok on holiday and are looking to pick up some souvenirs, you might want to consider some souvenir shopping at Suan-Lum. It’s really easy to get to: just hop on the MRT (Bangkok’s new subway system) and get off at Lumphini Station, which puts you pretty much right at the entrance.

We had dinner at this really cool outdoor Thai restaurant located outside the Joe Louis (that’s right!) Thai Puppet Theater (there is also a small museum inside). It was a lovely Bangkok evening. Sitting outside there enjoying some great Thai food, it didn’t even feel like you were in the middle of the city.
It had been a long and exciting day and I had some new ink to show as well. Still one more day to go. The best was yet to come