Pai and Meditation Retreat

Posted on Posted in Travel Update

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.

Overlooking the view around Pai
Stay tuned – maybe we’ll make it onto the Pai tourism page after the Tourism Police asked to take a picture with us.
We encountered the most horrifying two square feet of my entire life. I was like “woah, look at that big spider!”
Aimee proceeded to turn around and ask whether or not the snake was real. It was real. Very real.
On top the hill they were filtering water through various layers of charcoal. How cool?!
Aimee was a pineapple farmer and taught me all about pineapples. First of all, did you know they grow in bushes, not trees?! And one bush grows ONE pineapple fruit – and it takes and ENTIRE YEAR to grow. Crazy. I think I’ll need to reconsider whether I should be eating pineapple in the western United States…
I did a terrible job taking photos, but here’s something.
At the land split they have a beautiful farm and feed you fresh snacks. It was such an amazing surprise lunch!

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.

Here’s Hitesh absolutely botching the cliff jump.
I really value my ankles being intact, and the water was not even deeper than my head, so I didn’t jump (you’re welcome, Mom).
Note the gaggle of boys showing off how manly they are by standing on top a cliff talking about jumping off. Verrrrry impressive, huh ladies?
While the aforementioned impressive boys splashed around, I got a sunburn painting this scene. It was very nice.

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.

Hitesh, Aimee, Josh, myself, Jose
Happy Pai family!
After waterfalling and safely returning our bikes, we strolled town, ate pad Thai, and went to sit and watch live music with some local cats.
The next morning Hitesh and I woke up at 4:30 and biked to Pai Canyon to watch the sunrise.
Hitesh – rebel for life. But really we didn’t fall off the super narrow walkway formed by the canyon which was super positive at 5am.
The views did not suck. The bugs…. kind of sucked.
Waking up before the sun is hard. These clouds made it worth it though.
I don’t like driving in the dark, so once it lightened up I drove the bike on the way home. Poor Hitesh had to deal with me screaming and wobbling every time we had to turn. Driving with someone bigger than you on the back of those little bikes is hard!

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.

3 thoughts on “Pai and Meditation Retreat

  1. So glad you enjoyed your meditation retreat! It has been life changing for me and Tom
    Love your post and your photos !

  2. Let me know if you ever want to discuss meditation (irony abounds). I’m beginning to get the hang of it thirty years in!

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