A night at the Daen Maha Meditation Center

“Do you know what this place is?” a lady, who I later learn is named  Kai, asks me.

“Yes, yes I do” I grin.

“And you’re sure you want to stay here?”

“If I can, yes, I would.”

I follow Kai to the first building, where I would check in to the center. Judging by the looks I was receiving from the other residents, I am assuming that the Daen Maha Meditation Center does not get a lot of foreign, white-faced visitors very often.

With Kai as my translator, I met with the head of the meditation center. After agreeing to the 8 precepts of Buddhism (which as as followed: no lying, no stealing, no makeup, no gossip, no killing any creatures, no alcohol or drugs, no sexual conduct, and no eating after noon), she gave me my  new wardrobe, which was a white robe, and sent me to the shower.

After I settled in, Kai showed us around the center, while teaching us how to do walking meditation.

“You do walking meditation to be one with your body. Everything you do you focus on and you become aware of yourself and your surroundings. You feel the ground with every step you take. It’s hard, and it is sometimes warm. But you become aware of yourself through this.”

After our walking meditation lesson, it was time for the afternoon chanting service. When I walked into the area where they do the chanting, my mind was blown away. Green marble floors reflected the many green columns holding up the roof; everything was spotless. On one wall, a giant Buddha is erected, maybe 50 feet tall. There are really no words to describe how small and simple a statue can make you feel. The Buddha was painted in gold, with big, pink flowers hanging around the edge of it. It was so beautiful. I was instantly humbled.

Because Haley and I don’t speak Thai, the main teacher didn’t want us to get bored during the hour long chant, so she sent us with an English translator to go meditate on our own. Our translator took us to another building; this one constructed of an even more intriquite Buddha statue, this one had a mosaic of glass tile built into it.

I learned how to do sitting meditation, by focusing on the path of air going in and out of my body. Once I controlled that, I could move on to other areas to focus on. If I had pain or if my feet went numb, I should concentrate on that. Then I could move on to focusing on specific thoughts, such as missing my father, missing my mother, missing a friend, etc. Focus on one thought at  a time and then move on to another thought.

It was really cool.

After meditation I visited the Buddha Tree. One is suppose to walk around the Tree 3 times, focusing on a wish or your  prayers to the Buddha. After the 3rd go-around, you poor a cup of water down a bamboo trunk into the tree’s roots.

Bed time was 9 o clock. I slept with nothing more than a blanket; everyone sleeps in rows on the marble floor (you are not to sleep higher than the ground). It was cold at night, but I slept just fine.

The bell woke us up at 3:30. In between showering and getting ready for the day ahead, the ladies are allowed to have coffee or tea. 4 o clock is the start of morning chanting.

We had to leave early in order to catch our train. Walking away from the center, listening to the echoing of the chanting, I felt refreshed.

Before I left Kai told me her goal is to try and meditate at least 5 minutes a day when she returned home from the center. I think I might try that too.

My first portrait in Thailand (finally)

Finally! I have taken a portrait in Thailand. I don’t know why it took me so long! I’m a little disappointed in myself :)
Anyways, I was walking down the road in Kanchanaburi when I noticed this elderly woman sitting on a couch on the side of the road. What struck me as beautiful was that her skirt happened to be the same shade of yellow as the couch. I asked if I could take her picture, and before she could nod her head her husband was running across the street to join her. I think he was the most excited out of all of us to get his picture taken.
After I took the picture, I showed them and their approval and excitement alone was enough to make my whole trip to Thailand worth it. I think I’m going to print out the picture and ask the hostel I was staying at to deliver it to them.

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The last of Koh Samui

1)Wat Khunaram

Wat Khunaram is a temple where a monk has been petrified for over 20 years! It was super cool! When I was looking at the petrified monks gritty teeth and fuzzy head, the monk on sight called me over. I sat down across from him and we started chatting while he made this bracelet. While he put the bracelet on me he said a few prayers for good luck, and told me that I can’t take the bracelet off. Then I went back to the petrified monk. I kneeled before him, shook some sticks in a cup until one of them fell out. Each stick had a number on it, and the first stick that falls out of the cup is your fortune (from the dead guy). I drew an 8. I went over to see what my fortune for the New Year was. It wasn’t that great.To sum it up, I haven’t found my treasure yet and this year I won’t find it either. Because this wasn’t a very good fortune, I folded my paper up and stuck it to The Big Tree, where all bad fortunes go. By sticking it on the tree, I hope that good luck finds me.
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2)Elephant Trekking
I did it! I finally rode an ellie! It was the best day ever. Riding around on this path through the hills of lush, green, landscape, our elephant stopped a few times to grab some bananas or drink from the stream, while the mahout (guy who steers the elephant) sang songs and made us rings made out of grass. It was super cool! Then after the most amazing thing happened to me: I got a massage by an elephant! Haha. He pretty much suction cupped me with his trunk but it felt so cool! I love elephants.
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3) Eat food
We eat all the time here. Everything is so delicious! My favorite stuff though is the fruit here. They have banana shakes and coconut shakes here which as sooooooo yyyuuuummmm-aaayyy! Coconuts run rampant here. There are mounds piled up on the sides of the roads and they wash up shore in the waves. I can also now say that I have ate lots of mangosteens and rambutans. yummmm

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4) Rode around on a motorbike

Sick of relying on public transport, Haley and I rented a motorbike and rode around the island. We did have a few slight bumps  along the way (these bumps may or may not have caused minor crashes for us) but once we got the hang of it, it was awesome! The island of Koh Samui is so beautiful, and driving around with the ocean on one side and green forest of palm trees and hills on the other side was pure perfection.

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The Original Full Moon Party

I spent my New Year’s Eve at the most epic party ever.

Every full moon, Koh Phangan turns into one big, fat, rave. The beach is packed shoulder to shoulder, the bars are spilling out with people,  people are coated with glow paint and the streets are lined with vendors selling “Buckets” (pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a plastic bucket filled with alcohol).

To get to the island, you have to get a 10 minute speedboat from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. Unfortunately, it rained in the late afternoon here at Koh Samui, so the speedboats were backed up hard core. Our taxi pickup was running an hour and a half late, so Haley and I banned together with a couple of Brits and started heading to the pier. We were determined! Lucky for us, we didn’t get too far down the road before a local with a pickup truck asked if we needed a ride. Feeling adventurous, we hopped in.

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Once we got to the pier, we barely made the last speedboat before midnight. We counted down 2012 on the boat, which was pulling up to the dock at Koh Phangan. It was actually nicer being on the shore during the countdown than on the island in a mob of people, because I was able to see the fireworks from all the neighboring islands. It was really a sight to see.

As soon as we got off the speedboat I picked up a bucket (vodka and redbull… did you know redbull originated in Thailand??) and we headed to the party. Each beach had a different DJ and music selection, but no matter where you went the island was buzzing.

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We partied till we couldn’t party any more. Around 5 in the morning people started dropping like flies. Like, literally. People were falling asleep in chairs, on the street, pretty much anywhere.

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We took a ferry home around 6:30 in the morning.  We spread out with the rest of the backpacker partiers on the ferry deck, and one by one we all started falling asleep. Watching the sun rise I recapped our adventure of the night. It was a great way to end 2012 and begin 2013, and I hope the rest of my year is filled with adventures like this.

Cheers, and happy new year :)

Buddha Magic Garden

Yesterday Haley and I visited my favorite place thus far in Thailand: the Buddha Magic Garden. The place is relatively new (about 42 years old I think) and it was originally built as a place where Monks could come meditate on retreats (it’s set high up on a mountain so it was a task to get up there before roads were built!).

The little magic garden was so green and lush, and it had tons of statues built all over the place. I have to say, the place did feel a little magical to me. It was just amazing. I really can’t do any justice talking about it, so I decided just to put up some pics and let you see for yourself :)

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The itsy bitsy spider (Continued)

We slept great that night.

Haley and I even talked about how great we slept when we woke up, and laughed about how when we both got up to pee, we checked the walls to see if the beast had shown himself. He didn’t.

Well, he didn’t until that morning. It was I who saw him first this time. Again, I was too scared to do anything. Haley felt brave this morning, so she did the work. I contributed by letting her use my shoe.

In the end, the beast was killed. I thought I would redeem myself a little by showing the little Thai ladies at the front desk the smooshed monster. I now understand why my dogs bring the rabbits they’ve hunted to our backdoor, wagging their tail and waiting for approval from me. The Thai ladies approved, and spoke the first English word I have heard from them this whole time:

“Gooooodbye spida”

The itsy bitsy spider…

Koh Samui is wonderfull!  After our pretty chill day of eating, walking around, and eating some more it was definetly time for a nice, long sleep. Haley was already tucked into bed and I was about to wash my face when all of a sudden Haley shreeked “Oh my God!” while looking right behind me. Slowly, I turned to see what she was looking at. It was a beast if I’ve ever seen one! The monster with 8 legs was staring right at me and I froze in terror!

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We didn’t know what our next move should be, so we brainstormed ideas of how to kill the beast. Haley’s idea was to throw a shoe at it and I said no. My idea was to spray bed bug spray on it and she said no. Our next move was to open the door and pray that some big, buff backpacker dude would walk by and we could ask for his help. That didn’t happen, so after a while I gathered up all the pride I had left and walked to the front desk, where two little old Thai ladies were working. To disguise my request, I simply asked if they had a broom to kill a spider with (hoping they would get the hint and do it for me). Unfortunately, they didn’t understand any English so they followed me back to my room and I pointed at the monster… They laughed.  But then they went into action! The little lady grabbed her broom and started swatting like she was spankin a baby!

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But her haste made waste and she lost the spider! I don’t know how it happend, but it happened. So she went to her cleaning closet, grabbed some bug spray and started looking for the spider under the TV and by the fridge and all sorts of creeks and crevaces.

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She didn’t find it though and gave up. Then she started giving us what I assume to be instructions on what to do if we see the beast again. I don’t speak Thai, so all I have to go on was her hand gestures which were her pointing to her thumb, spreading her legs out mimicking spider legs (I think) and pointing to the front desk. I take this as meaning one of two things. Either the spider is deadly enough to bite my thumb off and if I see it I should go get her, OR the spider was tiny and I shouldn’t bother her at the desk again…. I’m not sure. But I know that Haley and I will not be at peace until the beast is dead.