PATTAYA (Meditation Retreat) - THAILAND

Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
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Trip End Oct 14, 2009


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We got to Pattaya late and hiked it with our bags to a restaurant to get a bite to eat. On our way to our hostel we quickly realized why this is the prostitution capital of Thailand (maybe the world).  I would guess that 95% of 16-40 year old women in town spend their nights on the boardwalk or in the side street bars.  I can't explain how many women were looking for work.  The goods outweigh demand in this area but not by much.  Unbelievable amounts of Western men just walk up and down the streets of the city.  Even with all this, Pattaya is a family resort town as well.  I wouldn't suggest bringing a family here though.  Children would probably be very confused afterwords.  Our hostel was very nice though and didn't sell rooms by the hour - which is a rarity.  Although we saw a good amount of Thai women knocking on doors.  "Did you order this?"

 

While in town we managed to get tickets to a famous "cultural" show.  All singing and dancing.  100% Ladyboys!!!  Fascinating how these men can change themselves to women - most completely looked like a female.  Then there are the few unfortunate ones that probably don't look good as men or women.  The costumes they wore were beautiful but they all were lip-singing.  Still, very very entertaining.  One song had 5 of them painted completely in gold and silver.  They had on skirts but no tops.  You could very easily see which ones had good boob jobs and which didn't.  After the show we went to Walking Street.  A famous street where all this crazy stuff started.  It's impossible to visit Pattaya without walking Walking Street!  Again, bar after bar of women (and ladyboys) but also cool outdoor bars with live music and good drinks.  We stopped at a place for a few beers right on the water.  Pattaya is interesting but 2 days is plenty!

The next day we got ready and headed to our meditation retreat.  We showed up about 4 pm and these ladies showed us to our kuties (or bungalows).  We had separate ones.  The women could not speak any English but understood that we were supposed to meet with our teacher at 5pm.  But at 4:30 they came to get me.  I got to meet Ms. Vitoon first and got to hear how she had been waiting for us to arrive for 4 days, then Brian came and had to hear it too.  Oops, I don't know why she thought we were coming 4 days ago.  Not the best way to start off - but she didn't seem to care too much.  Afterall, she is in a state of continual enlightenment. 

We had read about doing a meditation retreat before we left home.  I had meant a couple that did one in Thailand really enjoyed it.  The retreat we picked was not on a schedule and had no set dates.  You simply come when you can and leave when you want.  The others have very strict rules about everything from eating to bedtime.  The deal was that we stay for 6 nights and practice meditation during the day and meet with our teacher once a day for instruction.  She gave us a book to follow as well.  This type of meditation is very hard to learn and not so sure it is the right type for us.  But we gave it a shoot anyway and had an incredible time.

Okay, I will try and explain it.

We each have our own kuti or bungalow.  We aren't supposed to talk to each other.  The men and women are separated into different sides on the retreat.  There are a number of nuns and monks that live on the grounds as well.  We eat breakfast at 7am and lunch at 10:30am and there is no dinner.  (Which is why we both gorged ourselves right before we arrived). But, you are free to get your own food out if you are hungry.  Sometimes we would get a fresh coconut on our decks in the afternoon.  You aren't supposed to kill any creatures, including insects!  But that was okay because the only things we had in our kuties were lizards.  They would hang out in my trash can.  They would also always knock over my empty water bottles I put on the floor.  Brian also had a cat that wouldn't leave his deck.  He'd chase it away but it always came back.  What is it with these cats liking Brian so much?  We meet with the teacher once a day (together) and are supposed to meditate the rest of the time.  It is VERY hard to do this when it is easily 100 degrees outside and 100% humidity.  We only have a fan in the kuti. 

Our food was 110% real Thai.  For breakfast, we usually got a bunch of fruit (more then anyone could ever eat) and always white rice porridge with some sort of stir-fried veggie - always something different.  Sometimes a fried egg or weird brown cinnamon hard-boiled egg.  For lunch we got 4 or 5 containers of food - way too much to eat.  Always, white rice with some other mixed meats and veggies or soup or something strange.  Our last day we each got 2 fish with their heads still on.  I had to pass on that one.  My favorite was when I got some type of soup with what I could easily tell was a chicken neck in it.  You never know what to expect and Brian and I ALWAYS got different food.  Our last day Brian got a bag of white rice, a bag of soup and a bag of jello with his lunch.  I'm sure it was a going-away dinner for the road.  They were so sweet but eating a bag of soup is not easy.  They were always thinking of us though.  Most of the time the food was great.  We tried a lot of things we would never have and it was always exciting to see what was waiting for us.

The grounds were teaming with chickens and dogs.  Which is why there were chicken necks in our lunches.  Every morning we woke up to the roosters and every night we were chased around by the dogs.  The first night there we went for a walk after dark just to see the grounds.  The next morning, Ms. Vitoon told us not to walk around at night because there are lots of snakes.  We are pretty sure she didn't know we were out the night before, but still, this information would have been very helpful when we first arrived!  One night I didn't get any sleep because this one dog was sitting outside my kuti barking for hours!  In the morning I was talking to one of the ladies about it and she said he likes to bark at snakes.  Hmmm, that makes me feel good. 

They really didn't mind if people left the grounds together and went to do something in town during the afternoon.  Two days we went to the beach, but its so overcrowded and the water was fairly dirty so another day we visited a nearby elephant camp - yet it was called "Dino Adventures".  We're pretty sure this Dino place went out of business and sold it to these elephant people who never took the time to change the sign or even get rid of the 30-some huge dinosaurs around the property.  It was pretty run down and we didn't see any elephants.  No one spoke English but we managed to understand that we could feed crocs here.  We didn't get to do that in Oz, so we tried it.  We each got 4 sticks with chicken tied to the end.  We walked out on a bridge that was over the croc pit with about 100 crocs in it.  They all swam out under the bridge and waited.  We bobbed our sticks up and down and they started jumping out of the water - so terrifying!  We had a lot of fun with that.  Glad the gate we were leaning on didn't brake.  It seemed a little mean because we were basically teasing them with food - the sound their jaws made slamming together when they missed the bait was so loud

We also saw they had a monkey so we checked that out and followed this old trail thru the grounds to where they had loins (not sure what for) and all the dino statues.  Didn't realize they had motion triggers for the dinos - so when we walked by they started roaring and moving their heads.  It was like something out of a movie - a bad movie.  When we were leaving we saw the elephants.  Four of them came up to the main lobby and were eating coconuts.  They let us feed them which was cool.  One of them was pregnant and you could see the baby moving inside - her belly stuck out about 3 feet.  Elephants are pregnant for 2 years, but she was still a working mom with the basket tied to her back for rides.  Really cool Dino park, a little sad, but overall a pleasant surprise.  Didn't think we'd feed crocs.

The retreat overall was a wonderful experience and really glad we did it.  Besides it being REALLY hot and humid, everything about it was prefect - I highly recommend doing something like this.  It would have been even better if there was yoga practice as well.  Even though the meditation style was really hard to learn, we did learn a lot about ourselves and if nothing else, it was a lot of piece and quite.  Seems like our theme for Thailand - relaxing. 

Name of retreat: Boonkanjanaram - http://www.meditationboonkan.org/

Highlight:  Getting a ride to the bus station on one of the workers motorbikes.  He had a metal cage-like thing attached to it.  We could both fit but it was hard with our bags.  I still have no clue how the engine didn't explode.  Best part was, his 2 year old daughter was standing between his legs holding on the the handle bars the entire ride.
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