Getting inked up in Kathmandu

tattoo in nepalAlways wanted a tattoo but never knew what to get, or where? That problem was solved when my girlfriend gave me the smallest Christmas present ever. I looked at the wrapped up gift, which was about the size of a playing card, with utter disappointment. I unwrapped it to find a business card showing the receipt of money paid for a tattoo, and my appointment date: the 11th of January. I was greeted with both excitement and anxiety as I pondered over what I would choose to be a permanent fixture on my skin. The days passed and the card remained in my wallet like a leech ready to attach itself to my skin with inky teeth.

I almost forgot about the present until a day before my scheduled appointment. Slightly panicked I called the number printed under the logo for the renowned Mohan’s Tattoo Inn and they confirmed my appointment was for tomorrow. I was under the impression that I would go in and chat about possible ideas with the artist but the receptionist told me that the appointment was to get the tattoo done!

After telling her that I didn’t have the faintest idea of what to get she said that I could just use my appointment as a consultancy and come in to talk over the design. I was relieved and began to scrawl ideas down on paper. I am a poet and knew that I wanted to get writing of some kind but wasn’t sure what. After a few scribbled attempts I landed on an idea and slept easy before the day of my appointment.

I sidestepped through the streets of Thamel and, after ducking around a few of those well known corners and sounds of the Sarangi (local instrument, like a rugged looking fiddle), I saw the metal sign for Mohan’s Tattoo Inn jutting out into the street, battling for position with other shop adverts. The parlour is at the back of another shop, which adds to the mischievous nature of the experience. I skipped up the stairs and presented my receipt to the receptionist. I waited on one of the chairs and glanced around at the inked bodies adorning the walls. Drumming my fingers on my thighs against the soundtrack of buzzing ink guns I saw a friendly face slide through the curtains that lead to the work area.

It reminded me of going to the dentist except that I would be coming through those curtains with a tattoo rather than painful gums.

My tattooist sat down and smilingly went over different ideas for a design. I left him with some thoughts, satisfied with the jovial and professional attitude of the person who would be inscribing a permanent feature into my skin. I will be getting the job done next week and have seen some of the detailed artwork produced by the staff at Mohan’s Tattoo Inn. Getting a tattoo in Kathmandu has become extremely popular amongst young hipster Nepalis and travellers alike. I was talking to a local friend who commented on the fact that more and more people were falling for this permanent accessory. One of the reasons to get it done here rather than anywhere else is that it is extremely cheap. I thought back to my failed attempt at getting a tattoo done in the UK and how that was around 5 times the price as it is here (and the workmanship didn’t seem any better).

If you’re unsure about it, at least go and check out one of the parlours and, failing that, go to the 3rd International Nepal Tattoo Convention in April this year. There will be 70 booths showcasing their skills, as well as live music and other festive shows. For more information on where might be the best option to take the inky plunge visit Royal Mountain Travel.

Photo: Mohan’s Tattoo Inn

-Nick Monro

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