What is Living in Thailand REALLY Like?

TH Meditation Retreats

This is some information pulled from a source from 2003. Yes it is a bit dated, but essentially the details are accurate. I’ve reviewed it and added my own experiences to bring it slightly up to date.

If you want to see a PDF file – downloadable of all the known meditation retreats in ASIA – click here: Asia meditation retreats >

(Don’t miss my article and photos of Wat Suan Mokkh >)

1.1 Wat Suan Mokkh
by Dieter Baltruschat, last updated March 2003

1.1 Wat Suan Mokkh by Dieter Baltruschat, last updated March 2003
Address: no registration (but arrive on time)
Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya , Surat Thani 84110, Thailand

Internet: www.suanmokkh.org

Description: The “Garden of Liberation“ is located about 640 km south of Bangkok,
50 km from Surat Thani (ferry to Ko Samui and Ko Phangan). Wooded area with hill
and pond. The monks’ living quarters are strewn along paths through the wood.
Larger common buildings include the spiritual theatre (Art exhibitions), the Dhamma ships
(congregation halls) and the guest kitchen. Unfortunately, traffic noise from
highway 41 can be heard slightly.

Retreats are conducted in the fairly quiet retreat center about 1.5 km away. It
accommodates up to 180 people. Palm trees and two hot springs can be found on
the spacious grounds where you can stretch your legs during breaks.

How to get there: From Bangkok best take the train to Chaiya (not all trains stop!).
The trip is about 12 hours. We recommend the 2nd class sleeper (make reservations!).
From Chaiya take a Songthaew (shared taxi, about 10 Baht) for the 7 km to Wat
Suan Mokkh. From Surat Thani or Phun Phin (train station) about 1 hour by bus
(departs hourly, about 20 Baht). Absolutely arrive before dusk.

Tradition: Theravada, methods according to Ajahn Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.
Focus: Introduction to meditation (sitting, standing, walking) and basics of Buddhism.
Meditation technique: Anapanasati (Mindfulness with Breathing) is practised during
the entire retreat. Ajahn Buddhadasa does not strictly differentiate between Samatha
and Vipassana meditation. Rather, he advocates the simultaneous development of
mental tranquility and insight (the bird’s two wings). Anapanasati is taught in four
steps: observation of the body (kaya), of feeling (vedana), the mind (citta) and the
insight into the highest dhamma. These four observations are subdivided into four

Teacher and guidance:
Ajahn Poh is in his early seventies. He is highly
experienced in meditation and in teaching Buddha-Dhamma. He heads the Wat
following the tradition of famous Dhamma teacher Ajahn Buddhadasa. Teachings will
be by Ajahn Poh, monks, or Western meditators. Teachers are not called teachers
but Dhamma-friends. Personal questions can be addressed individually with Ajahn
Poh or others.

Language(s): Teachings are in English. Thai-English needs getting used to and for a
newcomer is often difficult to comprehend.

Course duration and dates: A 10-day retreat starts every first day of the month
(ends the morning of the 11th). Since preregistration is not available you must arrive
on time, that is, one day early at the latest (better two). Dormitory accommodation
available. Registration on the last day of the month starting about 9 a.m.
Accommodation: Between and before retreats in the Wat Suan Mokkh dormitory.
For men also in kutis in the forest. During retreats individual cells (womens‘ and
mens‘ house) in the retreat center. Simple but clean toilets and laundry facilities. No
showers, but mandis (water basin and plastic bowl). In the evening you have the
possibility to take a bath in a hot spring. Men will need shorts (no bathing trunks),
women a sarong (no bathing suits). You sleep on straw mats placed directly on
concrete or wooden floors. If you consider this too hard, bring an insulation pad
(Ridge-Rest or Therm-A-Rest are a little more costly, but quite comfortable).
Mosquito nets and blankets can be borrowed. A light sleeping bag may be a good
idea especially during the cooler season. Meditation pillows and pads are available.
In “high season” (December to March) pillows may become scarce.
Shopping: Before the retreat you should buy a torch, shorts (for men), a sarong
(cloth for wearing, covering, fending off mosqiitoes), flip-flops, water bottle, insect
repellant and hygiene Articles. You can buy these things in Chaiya . During the rainy
season an umbrella is useful. Some hygiene Articles and other daily necessities can
be bought during the retreat.

Food: For breakfast there is rice soup and a hot drink. For lunch there is rice, two
vegetarian dishes and sometimes fruit (self-service). Evenings: a hot drink.
Potable water (rain water) is filtered and is safe for consumption. If you want to be
sure, bring disinfectant.

Cost: A 10-day retreat is about 1200 Baht, outside retreat times dormitory
accommodation and evening tea are for free. Breakfast and lunch vouchers are
30 Baht.

Medical care: Very good by Asian standards. The nearest hospital and pharmacies
are in Chaiya . The area is not considered malaria area, but in other part s of Thailand malaria is common. Hygienic conditions in the Wat are good.

Rules: participants commit themselves to remain for the entire retreat, to observe
the schedule, to keep noble silence, not to read (except meditation instructions) and
write, to suspend sexual activities and to observe the eight silas (eight moral
precepts). Clothing should be comfortable, functional, and decent (no shorts or tank
tops). Each participant is expected to take on a task serving the community (e.g.
sweeping, filling up water) and to endeavor to lead a spiritual life.

Climate and best time to go: March, April (from april onwards very hot). Very
crowded during main season from December to February and July/August. The rainy
season in Southern Thailand is November/December.

Notes: A warm jacket can be useful during morning meditation. People with back
problems should bring a good sleep pad. Books for the library are welcome.
Since communication is in English, you might want to read an English book on
Buddhism before the retreat in order to familiarize yourself with the relevant
vocabulary (e.g. “Mindfulness With Breathing” or “heart wood of the Bodhi Tree” by
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Wisdom Publishers, Boston). You can find more information
and a short meditation instruction at www.suanmokkh.org. Very suitable for
beginners, good conditions.

Daily schedule: 4:00 a.m.: morning bell 2:30 p.m.: medit. instruction
4:30 a.m.: morning reading 3:30 p.m.: walking meditation
4:45 a.m.: sitting meditation 4:00 p.m.: sitting meditation
5:15 a.m.: exercise (f.i. Yoga) 4:30 p.m.: walking meditation
7:00 a.m.: sitting meditation 5:00 p.m.: chanting
8:00 a.m.: breakfast 6:00 p.m.: tea
10:00 a.m.: Dhamma talk 7:30 p.m.: Dhamma talk
10:45 a.m.: walking meditation 8:00 p.m.: walking meditation
11:15 a.m.: sitting meditation 8:30 p.m.: sitting meditation
12:00 a.m.: walking meditation 9:00 p.m.: end
12:30 a.m.: lunch

Special suggestion by Phra Claus: Laem Sor (on Ko Samui):
On the southernmost tip of Ko Samui (1.2 km off H 4170) there is a chedi (chedi
Laem Sor), called Pagoda, which is part of a Wat with friendly monks and nuns.
This idyllic Wat welcomes Westerners aspiring to meditation. The Dutch monk
Gunankaro (?), who is usually present, takes care of them.
The head of this Wat is Ajahn Poh of Suan Mokkh. If you want to meditate there for
an extended period of time, it is best to inquire with Ajahn Poh after a 10-day course
in Suan Mokkh. Ajahn Poh can then give you a letter of introduction for the abbot

(Don’t miss my article and photos of Wat Suan Mokkh >)
Wat Pah Nanachat

1.2 Wat Pah Nanachat (International Forest Monastery)
source: Dieter Baltruschat and info letter from the Wat, last updated Dez. 2005
Address: early registration strongly recommended!

Wat Pah Nanachat
The Guest Monk
Ban Bung Wai, Ampher Warin Chamrap
Ubonratchathani 34310, Thailand
Tel: 0845-4000-15 and Fax: 0845-400-16.

Internet: http://www.fsnewsletter.amaravati.org

Location: Wat Pah Nanachat is located on the road between the towns Warin and Si
Saket near the village Ban Bung Wai in a little forest. The Wat is about 15 km from
the northeastern Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani. To Bangkok about 600 km, to the
Laos border about 80 km.

Language(s): English.
How to get there from Bangkok: Mornings, there are two trains to Ubon (depart ure
5:45 a.m. and 6:40 a.m., arrival 2:05 and 5:45 p.m.). We recommend the night train
with sleeper (depart ure 9 p.m., arrival 7:20 a.m., about 500 Baht). Ubon train station
is located in the nearby town of Warin (the inexpensive Rivermoon guest-house is at
walking distance). Then take a Songtaew to Bung Wai (about 20 Baht).
From the northern bus terminal about 15 busses per day leave for Ubon (starting
4:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.). In the town center you’ll find an excellent tourist information
(town map, interesting brochures, Tel. 045-243770).

If you arrive by bus at Ubon you can take the pink city bus to Warin (5 Baht). Then
take a Songtaew to Bung Wai (about 20 Baht).

Twice daily (morning and evening) there is a flight from Bangkok to Ubon (about
1400 Baht). A taxi to the Wat is about 200 Baht.
Tradition: The Wat was founded in 1975 by Ajahn Chah, a Theravada meditation
teacher highly regarded in Thailand. Ajahn Sumedo was its first abbot.

Meditation technique: Life and practice according to strict Thai forest monastic
guidelines. No part icular technique is practised; rather, meditators are invited to draw
from the abundance of the Theravada tradition’s recommended reflections and
practices (e.g. Anapanasati, 32 body part s …).

Costs: Guests are welcome to give a donation.

Extended stay and possibilities to ordain: Since the monastery is not a retreat
center for laypersons, it does not offer meditation courses. Hence there are no
part icular dates to adhere to. However, six male and six female guests can be
accommodated for some time to part icipate in monastic everyday life. Since demand
is high, early registration is highly recommended. Usually, guests have the option to
practise several hours a day individually.

Wat Pah Nanachat offers to the interested the opportunity to live the authentic life of a Thai forest tradition monk. Laymen who want to be accepted into the sangha train about 18 months as novices before being fully ordained as monks. There is no community of nuns/nunnery at Wat Pah Nanachat. However, women can apply to this monastery in England:

Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Gt. Gaddesden, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
HP1 3 BZ, United Kingdom.

Accommodation: For the first three days guests are accommodated in dorms. If you
want to stay longer, you have to consult the abbot. Men are then asked to shave their
heads, wear white clothing and move to a kuti (hut) in the forest. A light sleeping bag
is useful, especially during the cooler season. Mosquito nets, sheets, blankets and
pillows are provided by the monastery.

What to bring: Before the retreat, be sure to get an alarm clock, a quality torch
(spare bulb and batteries), flip-flops, water bottle, insect repellant, toilet Articles,
candles and matches. All these things are available in Warin or Ubon. A warm jacket
may be useful during morning meditation.

Food: The only meal of the day is breakfast at 8 a.m. Laypersons receive a share of
the food offered to the monks. Bring disinfectant to increase potable water safety.

Medical care: Good by Asian standards. The nearest hospital and pharmacies are in
the province capital Ubon. The area is not considered malaria area but in other part s
of Thailand malaria is common.

Rules: All guests commit themselves to adhere to the eight silas (moral precepts).
Clothing should be white, comfortable, and decent (no shorts or tank tops). Female
guests traditionally wear a white blouse and a black skirt.

Daily schedule:

Dawn: monks and novices go out for alms, guests sweep paths or help in the kitchen.
8:00 a.m.: meal
9:00 a.m.: tidying up
9:30 a.m.: individual practice
3:30 p.m.: communal work
4:30 p.m.: afternoon drink (sometimes sangha meeting)
6:30 p.m.: individual practice
Climate and best time to go: November to February.

Notes: part icularly interesting for men who want to live for some time according to
the rules of Thai forest monasteries and who consider ordaining, and for people who
are interested in this tradition.

Day guests best arrive before 8 a.m. They are very welcome to part icipate in the
offered meal. After that, there is an opportunity to speak with the abbot.

An interesting visit can be made to the memorial (stupa and museum) to Ajahn Chah
at Wat Nong Pa Pong.

Texts by Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho at:


Affiliated monasteries:

Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
Great Gaddesden, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP1 3BZ
Office Tel: (01442) 842455, Retreat Info – Tel: 843239
Guest Info – Tel: 843411, Fax: (01442) 843721 www.amaravati.org
Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery, Harnham, Belsay, Northumberland, NE20 OHF
Tel: 01661 881 612, Fax: 01661 881 019
email: communiti@ratanagiri.org.uk Web site: www.ratanagiri.org.uk

Cittaviveka Chithurst Buddhist Monastery
Chithurst, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 5EU
Tel: (01730) 814 986 Fax: (01730) 817 334
Devon Vihara, HArt ridge Buddhist Monastery
Upottery, Honiton,Devon EX14 9QE
Tel: (01404) 89-1251, Fax: (01404) 89-0023

Dhammapala Buddhist isches Kloster
Am Waldrand, CH 3718 Kandersteg
Tel: 033 675 2100 , Fax: 033 675 2241, Internet: www.dhammapala.ch

Santacittarama Monastero Buddhist a, loc. Brulla, 22, 02030 Frasso Sabino (RI) Italy
Tel: (+39) 0765 872 186 (7:30-10:30, every days except Monday), Fax: (+39) 06 233 238 629
email: www.santacittarama. org website: sangha@santacittarama.org

Bodhinyana Monastery
Lot 1, Kingsbury Drive, Serpentine. WA 6125
Tel: (61-8) 9525 2420 Fax: (61-8) 9525 3420
Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre(Perth)
18-20 Nanson Way, Nollamara. WA 6061
Tel: (61-8) 9345 1711 Fax: (61-8) 9344 4220 Website: www.bswa.org.au

Western Australia Bodhivana Monastery
780 Woods Point Road, East Warburton, Victoria 3799
Tel: +61 (0) 3 5966 5999, Fax: +61 (0) 3 5966 5998
New Zealand
17 Rakau Grove, Lower Hutt, Wellington
Tel: (04) 563-7193, Fax: (04) 563-5125
email: sangha@actrix.gen.nz
Auckland Buddhist Vihara
29 Harris Road, Mt. Wellington,Auckland
Tel: (09) 595 5443

North America
Abhayagiri Monastery
16201 Tomki Road, Redwood, Valley, CA 95470
Tel: (707) 485-1630, Fax: (707) 484-7948 Website: www.abhayagiri.org

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