We had the honor of attending the first Meditation Retreat put on by the Chiang Rai Sangha College of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University at Wat Phra That Phangao. The retreat was designed to provide foreigners an opportunity to learn about the Buddha’s teachings and to gain a greater understanding of the rituals, practices and life of a monk.
While most of my background in meditation has pertained to martial arts and visualization practices, my “practice” has always been rather informal. I definitely took away a greater technical understanding of meditation and how to be more mindful in my activities and daily life. Stay tuned for video of me floating in the air.
Our days began with a morning meditation at 5:00am, followed by a vegetarian breakfast. We had lectures each day by a meditation master, a retired Army officer, followed by more meditation – seated and walking (yup, a walking meditation). While I didn’t mind the vegetarian meals, we didn’t waste any time after we got home to run into town for some meals that included meat.
One of the more powerful experiences of the weekend was being present for the monks chanting. I wish I could have sat in the middle of them and listened to this for hours.
Serving the monks lunch.
Field trip! Some of these temples and sites are close to a 1,000 years old. Talk about historical significance. In a couple of the pictures, you can see the Mekong River in the distance and the border between Burma, Thailand and Lao, or better known as the Golden Triangle. Hard to imagine but all of the agriculture in the area was once opium fields.
We were headed to the store this afternoon and decided to stop at this beautiful Temple along the way. Turns out there was a ceremony being completed for a young man becoming a Novice Monk going on inside (pictured lower right).
We just happened upon this Temple while out on a motorbike ride. This temple was built into the side of a limestone mountain and included a number of different access points. While the main temple appears to be fairly active, we ventured up a steep set of narrow stairs into a cave further up the hillside. Once inside, it didn’t take long to notice that the ground was covered in bat dung, but it was too irresistible to not venture the rest of the way up. There was a large, sitting Buddha statue inside but we weren’t about to use a flash and possibly disturb all of the bats that were overhead. There was some natural light inside and I bet at the right time of day, the Buddha statue would be illuminated just right. It’s worth noting for anyone interested in seeing this temple, the stairs are very steep and the climb requires some physical agility.
In the main temple, there was a single monk sitting by himself and I couldn’t help but wonder what he may reflect on all day if anything at all, I envied the solitude in many ways. The large Buddha carved into the limestone was one of my favorites so far.
This was a spontaneous trip to the White Temple and we weren’t dressed appropriately so we weren’t able to go in. I will post additional pictures and information when we can spend more time there.
Additional photos from our most recent visit to the White Temple. There is visible damage from the earthquake in May of 2014 however visitors are still able to go inside the primary Temple. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed to be taken inside however it’s worth noting that there is a great deal of symbolism about the current state of the world, the influence of media and other propaganda outlets that currently alter the perception of the general public.
There was a beautiful art gallery next to the temple containing many pieces of art from Chalermchai Kositpipat. If this statue of Ganesh would have been for sale, I would have picked it up on the spot. Getting it home on the motorbike would have been exciting but we could have made it …….. haha. Prints ranging from 500 to 3,000 THB can be purchased so be sure to bring some extra cash.
The White Temple can be incredibly busy during the peak of the tourist season. Try to arrive as early as possible and please be mindful of others.
The White Temple
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The White Temple19.824405, 99.763048[caption id=\"attachment_172\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"300\"] White Temple[/caption]
Unfortunately the skies were overcast the day we visited. Personally, I think the views of Chiang Mai below would be spectacular and, in my opinion, it would be worth waiting for a clear day. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is definitely a must see for anyone visiting the Northern Thailand area. I think just about every Songthaew in Chiang Mai has an advertisement for rides up Doi Suthep and you can probably get a ride much cheaper than what we paid but we had a Songthaew available at our discretion. I believe we paid 1,500 THB for the ride up to the temple (‘Wat’ in Thai) and an additional 300 THB to continue further up the mountain to the Royal Garden. (NOTE: If you are sensitive to curvy, mountainous roads, I’d suggest hiring a cab).