A Two-Day Silent Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand is home to amazing food, beautiful beaches and over 400,000 Buddhist temples. One of my favorite things about Thai culture (after the food, of course) is the Buddhist influence, and some cities have dozens of wats (temples) where visitors can pay their respects to the Buddha and his students, and seek blessings from the resident monks.

In Chiang Mai alone there are over 300 temples–from the relatively tiny, tucked away Wat Pansao, decorated with golden sitting monk statues, to the massive, crumbling Wat Chedi Luang. You could spend months trying to visit them all!

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In the gardens at Wat Pansao

 

Halfway into my stay in Chiang Mai I decided to do a multi-day silent meditation retreat where I could learn more about meditating and Buddhism. I’d been practicing meditation here and there with the Insight Timer app and could sit through 10-minute sessions but I squirmed through anything longer and my legs always turned into bricks from going numb. I was a baby meditator at best.

I chose a two-day retreat run by Monk Chat University (MCU), which is based in Wat Suan Dok in city center, but you can find retreats lasting anywhere from one day to several weeks in or near the city. I highly recommend this experience for anyone looking to get outside their comfort zone or learn more about Buddhism and what it’s like to be a monk.

The Experience

Our group of 20 met at the Monk Chat University office at the temple, where we started with an introduction to Buddhist philosophy by one of the resident monks. He explained that Buddhism is a way of living, not a religion, and shared the 4 Truths of Buddhism and what to expect from the retreat–lots of time sitting, lots of practice. We went around the room with introductions. There were lots of singles, early-20’s backpackers, and two couples. A handful of people had been to other retreats but most were also ‘baby meditators’. Continue reading “A Two-Day Silent Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand”

Why I Hated Hanoi and Why I Went Back

I first traveled to Hanoi in 2015 after visiting Phuket and Ho Chi Minh City. After making my way up the coast to Danang and Hoi An, I was excited to be back in a major city. Unfortunately, it turned out that Hanoi became one of my least favorite destinations.

Thinking back on my first trip, I realize now the things that contributed to my negative perception of Hanoi. For one, Airbnb was just taking off, and the listings were less regulated than they are now. I stayed at what was listed as a homestay, expecting another amazing experience like I’d had in Ho Chi Minh; I enjoyed my stay there so much I ended up extending. Upon arrival, though, the place looked nothing like the photos. Instead of a family home, it was like a dirty, former brothel that was run by a slimey hustler who repeatedly tried to pressure me into booking tours or using his friends for rides, despite my explanations that I wasn’t interested–especially after I realized the mistake I made booking a tour through him at the beginning of my stay. Everything about the place seemed in-genuine and made me uncomfortable, but because my phone had a taken a dip in the Andaman Sea earlier that trip in Thailand and I had no secure means of accessing the internet, I decided to stick out the few days I was there.

The one tour I had planned to do was a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Not being the wiser yet, I booked one via my host for about $65 USD on the second day of my stay in Hanoi. 

Continue reading “Why I Hated Hanoi and Why I Went Back”

What to do if You Need Medical Care While Traveling (That Time I Went to a Hospital in Vietnam)

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If you’re a long-term traveler like me, it can be pretty scary to find yourself feeling sick and needing medical care in a foreign country. Back home in New York, I could haul myself down the street a few blocks to the emergency walk-in clinic, see a doctor or nurse who spoke my language, and be out pretty quickly with a small co-pay and prescription order in the works. Last week, I found myself really sick and in need of a doctor’s consultation (I’m OK now!), and I want to share my experience at a Vietnamese hospital in case you, dear traveler, find yourself in a similar situation and need help. Continue reading “What to do if You Need Medical Care While Traveling (That Time I Went to a Hospital in Vietnam)”

Hello, world!

I’m Kate, and I’m planning a long-term solo trip. I’ll share my experiences and advice here as a resource for others–especially women–who are interested in in solo travel!

‘Hello, world’, the title of my first post, is the standard output for new programmers. Part of my time spent traveling will be dedicated toa personal goal–practicing and improving my programming skills.