Inner Exploration, Among the Meditation Retreats in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and its gorgeous temples (Check out Wat Pha Lat if you don’t mind hiking), so it’s no surprise that meditation retreats are big news all across the city.
Tourists flock to Chiang Mai from across the globe to enjoy the laid back lifestyle and to experience Buddhism first hand. If you’re heading to Chiang Mai to try a meditation retreat there’s a wealth of great options to choose from, so here’s our guide to picking the one that’s right for you.
Your Main Considerations
There are a couple of major decisions to make before you choose your retreat. Firstly, how long do you want to stay? Some centers offer ‘taster’ courses of a few days that you can try before you commit to a long stay. Others will ask that you stay for the whole length of a full meditation cycle, which can be as long as a month. Make sure that you’re comfortable before you start!
The second consideration is whether it’s a silent retreat or not. Some centers allow conversation and debate while others ask you to remain silent pretty much all of the time. This is harder than it sounds, and can be pretty tough mentally. Plus you’ll have to save all those amazing jokes you’ve thought up until the end of the retreat!
Wat Umong Meditation Center
This beautiful temple offers guided and self-guided meditation courses that last around six days. You stay on site in the temple accommodation and eat meals that are prepared in the temple kitchens with the other course attendees. This retreat isn’t silent so you can take the opportunity to share your learning with others.
When? All year round
Where? Wat Umong Meditation Center, Su Thep, Muang, Chiang Mai 5020
Contact: 089 998 8055
Wat Suon Dok
The enigmatically-named ‘Monk Chat’ courses that run at Wat Suon Dok are light touch and perfect for beginners to meditation. Turn up at 2pm on a Tuesday and you can enjoy an introduction to Thai Buddhist meditation including chanting and alms giving, lasting 24 hours. This is a very quick way to introduce yourself into the lifestyle of monks without committing a large period of time to a more serious retreat. Wearing white is mandatory, but appropriate clothing is sold at the temple.
When? Every Tuesday, but check with the temple before turning up as they’re sometimes cancelled
Where? 139 Suthep Rd, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai, 50200
Contact: 053 278 304
Wat Chom Thong
If you want to experience a longer retreat then Wat Chom Thong is a great choice. The temple is about 60 km outside Chiang Mai but it’s a popular place due to its status as the center of the Northern Insight school of meditation. All the teachers are followers of the Vipassana meditation method and can offer courses in English, Thai and a selection of other European languages.
When? As per staff availability and student demand; ring for more details
Where? 199 19 Moo 2, Baan Luang, Chom Tong, Chiang Mai 50160
Contact: 089 700 7129
Wat Tham Wua Vipassana Center
The natural surroundings are what really set this meditation retreat apart. The monastery is set deep in the forest about 35 kms from the city and a few days here really makes you feel like you’ve left the modern world. There’s no set schedule for retreats so you can just turn up, talk to the monks and join in with whatever program is running when you arrive. It’s recommended to stay at least 4 days to allow yourself to relax into the meditation.
When? No set dates; just turn up and join in
Where? Ban Mae Suya, Tambon Huay Pha, Amphur Mueang Mae Hong Son, 58000
Contact: 081 031 3326; English is spoken from 1-4 PM
Preparing for a Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai
Most retreats don’t charge for their courses, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave a donation to the temple. The amount is up to you but if you’ve been offered accommodation and food as part of your retreat then factor that in to your calculations.
Make sure you turn up prepared for a pretty ‘basic’ life! Monks get up early, don’t eat a lot and do a large number of manual chores; you may be asked to join in as well. It’s a really good way to bond with the monks and your fellow meditators so don’t pass up the chance to help! Make sure to pack respectful clothing suitable for a temple and you’ll fit right in. Namaste!