I came to Thailand with a strong will to take a part in Vipassana meditation course. For each of us there comes a moment when we are looking for peace or change. This is what I needed after the accident, personal problems and when basically everything started to fall apart. Besides, my fascination with meditation, healthy lifestyle, yoga and traveling in Asia and Buddhist countries (Thailand and Burma) made me extremely interested in such experience.
I was reading, browsing, looking for the right place on the Internet. I came across many paid opportunities as well as free options. As a budget traveler I wasn’t interested in a paid retreat. The problem was that the free meditation courses were set for a certain dates and none of them matched my itinerary. Finally, I got recommendation from one Couch Surfing host in Bangkok about the Forrest Monastery Wat Pa Tam Wua. I was so happy when I learnt that I can go there anytime without prior registration. That was a perfect solution for me as well as for many other travelers, which I met in the monastery.
How life in the monastery look like?
The Forrest Monastery is well hidden in the mountains, surrounded by beautiful nature. Place is well-designed for relax: a green garden around, few small falls giving the relaxing sound, mountains, caves and lots of space. Atmosphere is, above all, an incredible peace, which is contagious. Nobody speaks loud, nobody is in rush. Time seems to be moving slowly.
There are few big halls for sleeping, of course separate for boys and girls. Besides, there are individual wooden houses where you can be totally private. Conditions we lived in were comfortable. Of course, it’s not a hotel so no fluffy mattresses or bath tubes with bubbles. The monastery is modest, but having a hot shower is possible, as well as sleeping good. I have nothing to complain about. I heard about some hard-core meditation retreats in Thailand where there was just a wooden lag instead of a pillow and freezing cold water in the shower.
In Wat Pa Tam Wua there is even a coffee shop where you can get snacks if you are hungry in the evening and the internet if you miss your family or have some job to do.
As you may have heard, meditation retreats require white clothes from participants. If you are traveling and while packing to Thailand, you didn’t bring any white clothes, don’t worry. There is a storage of used, but washed clothes left by other participants and you are free to use as much as you want.
Daily schedule at Forrest Monastery Wat Pa Tam Wua
The day starts before 7 a.m., when everyone has time for morning meditation or just to prepare for daily activities. At 7 a.m. we all meet in the meditation hall for a traditional rice offering to the monks. This is a symbolic act that you can see not only in the monastery, but in every town and village in the Buddhist countries. Monks make a living from donations and all the food they collect in the morning is supposed to be enough for the whole day. A Buddhist monk goes to collect offerings every day of the year, regardless of the weather.
After offering the rice we eat breakfast all together. Vegan food is also part of the experience: meditation frees our mind, while a light meal cleanses our body.
At 8 begins the first meditation session, which consists of walking in silence and practicing mindfulness. Everyone walks in a row in the park so slowly that we have time to focus on every movement our body makes.
After returning there is lying down meditation. It’s also about mindfulness, although some people just fall asleep. Finally, we start sitting meditation sitting, which we continue after lunch as well.
Lunch is the last meal of the day. In the afternoon we could only drink (available was water, tea or coffee).
In the afternoon there is a lot of free time for individual meditation. This is also the time for tidying up the monastery: raking leaves, sweeping. Mindful cleaning is also a way to cleanse your thoughts.
At 6 p.m. we meet in the meditation hall for singing Buddhist songs together. Later you can meditate, talk to others or go straight to bed.
Who can come for Vipassana meditation course in Thailand?
Generally speaking I can advise the Forrest Monastery Wat Pa Tam Wua for everyone: beginners, experienced in meditation, every age or belief. It’s interesting to try. You can stay there from 3 to 10 days. Longer stays are also possible but monk needs to agree for that and see if you are really motivated. However, if you don’t like the place, you can leave any time you wish.
Place is well-prepared for beginners in meditation. Besides, there are 3 types of meditation not just sitting one. For beginners, it is really hard to maintain sitting position for few hours every day. Here we had a bit of movements throughout a day, so it was easier.
Most of the visitors are foreigners, though Thai people are present as well. Leading meditation monk speaks in both languages: English and Thai.
Do I have to keep silence on Vipassana meditation course?
In the Forrest Monastery you don’t have to keep silence. Only if you want it. Then you put a badge on your clothes, so that nobody disturbs you.
Originally, Vipassana courses were always silent. However, nowadays, the rules depend of the teachers and monastery. In Wat Pa Tam Wua, the idea is to do meditation accessible to everyone, not only old people. It’s much easier to reach youth by easing the rules.
Do I have to pay for Vipassana meditation course?
The Forrest Monastery runs on donations, mostly Thai people, not necessarily coming here for meditation. It is part of Buddhist tradition to donate, because it provides good luck and positive karma. Everything in Wat Pa Tam Wua is free (except in the coffee shop). You don’t have to pay for meditation course, food or accommodation. However, there is a donation box, and leaving some money is up to you.
Vipassana meditation course in Thailand – my experience
Every day I was recording my impressions and reflections on the changes happening on the meditation course. Hope to inspire you to try adventure with meditation.
How to get to the Forrest Monastery Wat Pa Tam Wua?
The monastery is in the north-west part of Thailand, 70 km from Pai. From Bangkok take a train, bus or plane to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. On the route from Chiang Mai to Pai, there are only buses, because it’s in the mountains. From Pai to Wat Pa Tam Wua there is only one bus, which is in the morning(!).
From Bangkok to the monastery is about 900 km, so you have to plan your route and accommodation on the way. The fastest way is to fly to Chiang Mai or take a night bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to save the day. Personally, I hitchhiked alone the whole route, and I can recommend it.
If you are interested in participating Vipassana meditation course in Thailand, I handle you the link to the Wat Pa Tam Wua Monastery. You may also want to check Dhamma, meditation school which organises free meditation courses in many countries of the world.