I arrived in Chiang Mai – the fifth largest city in Thailand nestled in the foothills of Northern Thailand – over a week ago. In that time, I’ve been checking out the areas around here. Honestly, I leave tomorrow and really wish I had longer.
Since my last post, I’ve spent two days in the small mountain town of Pai 3.5 hours up a very, very curvy road outside Chiang Mai and two days at a Buddhist meditation retreat (thanks for the recommendation Tiana!)
Pai is a lovely little town surrounded by rolling mountains covered in jungle. I had my first foray in non-AC dorm lodging in Pai. Lets just say the morning after the first night, myself and 3 other people from the dorm promptly checked out and beelined for a different hostel. We splurged and teamed up to get a 4 person private room with AC. It was a welcom respite from our very crowded, stuffy dorm the night before. We had mattresses and it didn’t smell like farts! 10/10 if you ask me.
I didn’t get tons of photos because I was busy doin’ stuff. I met Aimee the first day I was there and we split a motorbike (sorry Mom) and cruised around all day. We saw a waterfall and swam around – not a friendly place for my phone, so no photos. We also checked out the Pai Land Split – literally a split where a fault broke a year ago. Very weird and cool.
The next day, we made friends with two travelers, Hitesh and Jose. After moving hostels, we all set off for a day of motorbiking, waterfalling (yes, the verb ‘waterfalling’ is the action of going to a waterfall), and snacking on Thai food.
One of the coolest things about this whole solo traveling deal is all the people I’ve met. Before I left, everyone told me that’s what would happen, but I didn’t believe them. Turns out, everyone in hostels is super keen to make friends and go do stuff.
Basically, every time I’ve gotten to a new place it’s looked like this: roll into a new hostel, strike up a conversation with the first person I meet, both realize we have no plan and then decide to go do stuff together.
Remember when you were a little kid and you’d walk up to someone on the playground and say “hi, wanna be friends?” and then literally become friends and have a great time? Traveling is like that. It’s awesome.
After the sunrise, I hopped in a van for 3 hours of turning down 762 curves from Pai to Chiang Mai.
I went straight to Wat Suan Dok to attend a 24 meditation retreat.
Suffice it to say, it was an incredible experience. I don’t have much experience in meditation or Buddhism, but I’ve wanted to learn more and this was the perfect opportunity. This retreat is structured for beginners, so we started the first day with a talk about what Buddhism is by Phrat KK, a Buddhist monk running the retreat.
Then, we headed to the retreat, got into our all white clothes and began the silent portion of the retreat. We didn’t speak from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. We sat for several 20-30 minute meditations in four different styles: sitting, walking, dynamic, and laying.
Turns out, meditating for 20+ minutes is really hard! I was all over the place mentally. BUT that said I’m really excited to have the basis for starting a practice. Meditation is an incredible tool to practice mindfulness and intentionality – two things I really value.
If anyone is in Thailand wants to get into Buddhism/meditation – check out MonkChat.
We weren’t allowed to use phones, so I’ll post photos when the retreat uploads them in a few days – our all white outfits were pretty rad.
I’m still reflecting on my experience there and don’t feel totally ready to formulate a whole post on it now.
I’m off to Bangkok tomorrow!
A post on my cooking class today will come soon… as a teaser just know that my new life plan is moving to Chiang Mai, becoming a Thai chef, and rock climbing everyday.