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.
Sooooooo we’ve been seeing these huge banners posted all over the area for the 2014 ASEAN Flower Festival and finally decided to check it out. If I had to describe it, it was like the Rose Parade meets the Arboretum meets the LA County Fair …… on steroids. In addition to all of the flowers and plant life on display there were rows and rows of vendors, tons of local food varieties, carnival rides, and lots of plants for sale (from vegetable and fruit starts to decorative plants and of course, our favorite …. orchids).
Here’s another thing I appreciate about Thailand …. there doesn’t seem to be a consistent effort to try and take advantage of consumers at every possible opportunity – parking for the Flower Festival was 20 baht (about $0.60) and there was no (as in 0) entry fee.
For anyone planning on visiting Northern Thailand, the Flower Festival would be well worth including in your itinerary.
The orchid area was probably my favorite part of the Flower Festival.
Here’s some of the orchids that were on sale by the vendors. Most were 40 – 150 THB.
We stopped by on New Year’s Eve to check out the festivities.