First thing is first—you may be wondering, what is a farang? Do you eat it? Does it smell weird? Well, I’m a farang. And if you’ve ever visited Thailand, then you’ve been one as well. In a general sense, a farang is a foreigner visiting Thailand. While volunteering in the rural northeast, the locals would point and yell “farang!” whenever I passed by. The term isn’t derogatory, but it’s still strange to have someone call attention to you for being… well, you. You can imagine that the locals are a tad confused (and often amused) when I point back and yell, “Thai! Thai!” A little mutual respect never hurt anyone.
When I first arrived in Thailand, I noticed an alarming amount of young people with fresh bandages all over their bodies. The most common affliction seemed to be some sort of injury to the inside of the right lower leg. Were the bars built on a slant so drunk patrons always fell to that side? Did the local rabid dog population have a preference? Perhaps a band of vampires with terrible aim? Whatever it was, I made note of it and quickly moved on. I had cheap massages to get to.
Five months later, after two motorbike crashes and dozens of stories from fellow travelers regarding rentals-gone-wrong, I realized what all of the right leg injuries were from—exhaust pipes! For some reason we farangs seem to think that because Thailand allows us to rent without a license that it’s a good idea. Convenient? Yes. Safe? Not really. If the most common tourist injury in Thailand is an exhaust pipe burn, that means that we don’t even know how to get on and off the thing, let alone drive it. Yikes.
And so I present to you the term “farang tattoo” along with these photos of my fellow LAW volunteers sporting their very own body work. It is quite easy to avoid an unwanted farang tattoo—simply dismount on the left side of the motorbike. I know, you’re probably thinking, “But the right side is 50% more convenient than the left.” And you are right. It is hard. But hey, you have been warned.