...and the world's your oyster. The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free.
After returning from our trek, we spent a night catching up on sleep (read previous post). The following day, we had booked to join an overnight meditation retreat - kind of like "Meditation for Dummies". We, along with about 15 other westerners, were taken 1/2 hour outside Chiang Mai to the Meditation Center, a newly constructed building for the purpose of initiating westerners to meditation and Buddhism. This is all run through a temple in Chiang Mai - and the amazing part is that accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and instruction by a Buddhist monk are all free. Of course, we did give a donation at the end, but still pretty amazing.
As far as meditation is concerned, it is impossible to achieve any state of "awareness" in a 24-hour period. Monks practice their entire lives to be good at this. But, we learned some of the basic fundamentals of meditation which we can practice on our own when return. What we found more interesting was the discussions on the Buddhist "religion" and the beliefs of the Buddhist monk running our training. I (Amber) have always been drawn to the philosophies of Buddhism, but this really opened my eyes to many things that I was unaware of, and to hear the information directly from a Buddhist Monk is a little better than reading it from a book. All I can say is that all the monks we've spoken with since our time here are truly some of the most peaceful people I have ever met, and it's probably not a coincidence.
Practicing walking meditation.
The morning alms (food offerings) given to the monks.
Our morning yoga session.
Our "class". Come join our cult!
Check out the program if you are interested at http://www.monkchat.net/meditationretreat.htm. There are some more pictures posted from our retreat.
1st Day : Tueday
02.15 p.m. Assemble at Wat Suan Dok
02.30 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism.
-What do Buddhists worship?
-What do Buddhists believe?
-How do Buddhists practice?
04.00 p.m. Departure for the Training Center.
05.00 p.m. Free time / tea and snacks.
06.00 p.m. Evening chanting and meditation.
09.00 p.m. Bedtime.
2nd Day : Wednesday
05.00 a.m. Morning gong/Get up.
05.30 a.m. Morning chanting,
07.00 a.m. Breakfast.
08.00 a.m. Discussion on the general ideas
10.00 a.m. Meditation
11.30 a.m. Offer food to monks and lunch
12.30 a.m. Take pictures/ Clean up rooms
13.30 p.m. Return to Wat Suan Dok.
After the retreat, we were off to Bangkok. Unfortunately, when we arrived to the airport, our flight was delayed a couple of hours. We have since learned that this is a common practice.
Bangkok, as could be expected, is a very busy city. There is a lot of air pollution, but it’s surprisingly clean otherwise. We stayed our first night outside of Bangkok with a friend of Eric's, which was really nice, and we will probably go stay with them again when we return. But, we left the pleasant home stay figuring it would be best to stay in the heart of the action since we only had 2 nights in Bangkok.
Amber, Patty, Pum and Jup outside their house.
We stayed off Khao San Road, which is tee shirt, Singha, phad Thai, & banana pancake-land. Basically, commercialism is king here, but why not pay too much money for a beer and watch the action? It was alive with backpackers and young Thai’s out for the evening. We managed two good nights out on the town absorbing the atmosphere.
Looking for a cheap hostel near Khao San Rd - not as easy as we thought!
The busy Khao San Rd.
Enjoying a drink and watching the world go by.
Street eats- what's your favorite insect? Fried grasshoppers, mealworms, ants, or maybe a scorpion?? Yum!!
During the day we toured the city and went to the Grand Palace and Wat Praew Kaew, which were both spectacular. The wat was by far the most elaborate that we have seen so far and is the King’s personal temple.
Some of the elaborate tiles that covered every square inch of the wat and surrounding buildings.
To get away from the craziness and pollution, we will be spending the next couple of weeks down in the islands of Southern Thailand...we can't wait!