Swee sells carvings and trinkets in Chinatown near Smith Street food market. Many of his carvings are penis-shaped incense holders. He got his tattoos, which are typical symbols of Thai Buddhism, at a temple in Bangkok.
“I grew up in a Taoist household. Then 10 years ago, after my mother died, a Tibetan Lama I knew introduced me to a monk in Bangkok who became my shifu.”
He drops his head as he remembers his mother.
“So you converted to Buddhism?”
“No. I didn’t convert. Religion… it’s all the same. The shifu teaches me good things. But there’s no need to convert.”
Swee now also goes by the name “Chui” which is Thai for water.