Travelling by Pedalling


Buddhist Monastery

We lived for a few days in a Buddhist monastery. To get to know Buddhism better and to better understand a large part of the culture in Thailand.

We ended up here because of our Warmshowers host. Marc received us in his self-designed traditional Thai house. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Beautifully detailed woodwork, on the rivier site with a view of mountains that flow into each other.

Not only Marc advised us to go here, a monk at the last temple where we stayed not far from Marc said we should go here. The day we went cycling here, we still thought we would spend one night there as usual. Without really knowing what was coming our way. But the moment we arrived we knew it would be different than usual. We are welcomed by a German guy who speaks Thai but is also here temporarily. He tells us a little more about the place. We can only stay if we join for two full days. So that means staying 3 nights and joining this day halfway. We walk around discussing what to do while a large group of people slowly walk past in silence, hands clasped, looking at the ground. We hesitate for a moment but decide to stay. It gives us the chance to learn about Buddhism and to take a moment of silence. We are going through Thailand so fast that it doesn’t hurt to stop and discover more about the culture.

We sign up with a group of people who also just arrived. Get assigned a room number. Which are no more than rooms where men and women separate can lay down a mat on the floor or on a shelf. We get a thin mat, a pillow, blankets and white clothes.

We immediately feel the tranquility of this place. You may talk to each other or get a silent batch. In the beginning we don’t really feel the need to talk to people. Occasionally we whisper to each other. It’s a quiet day anyway. Few people are talking.

It is a large complex between the mountains with rock walls on one side and a forest on the other. People are sitting here and there in their white clothes reading, writing, meditating and some people are talking.

There is a whole day schedule. The day starts at 5 am and ends after the last meditation which starts at 6 pm. There is only breakfast and lunch and before we eat ourselves, food is first offered to the monks. There are different ways of meditation, walking, sitting and lying down. In the evening there is chanting. Everyone talks in melody with the monk in three languages. They are mainly positive texts and texts about the important factors in Buddhism. Once a day the monk tells more about Buddhism and there is a question moment. We work one hour a day to maintain the complex. No one directs you so you have to choose a task yourself. Some sweep the floor or the gras, others refill drinking water that is filtered or lay the cushions ready for meditation. In between we have time for ourselves, but it is recommended to read books about Buddhism from the library during this time and to reflect and write this down for yourself.

It were intense days. Meditate about 6 hours a day. Sitting cross-legged became more and more painful as the day progressed. By switching off your monkeymind and breathing mindfully or feeling your body, you can get into a state where you disconnect from your body, as it were. The monks say that you get the truth through meditation. Your desire, your anger, your insecurity are all part of the me and you. But when you detach from your self you find enlightenment. Then you end up in Nirvana and you don’t reincarnate anymore. But enlightenment is only for a very small group of people.

I try to explain it clearly in a short piece of text, but there is more to it.

What we like to see is that Buddhism is clearly reflected in society. The people are mindful, are aware of the choices they make, are relaxed and seem very satisfied with their lives. Everyone is polite, from young to old and that feels sincere. We do not have an unpleasant feeling because of a group of young people passing by, which we have sometimes experienced as unpleasant in other countries. This is one of the few countries where people do not immediately tell us that we have it so good because we come from the Netherlands. People do not discuss with us what is wrong in their country. All villages are still full of life, so the simple life on the land continues to exist.

In Western life we often make choices from status and money perspectives. If I am a manager people around me will look up to me. And we would like to continue to grow, we keep coming up with different names for new positions. When we introduce ourselves it is about our work but not about our qualities or personality. Are we our work? And are we actually doing what we really want? Do we make conscious choices in our lives? We rage on and on and take little time to think about how we live our lifes. 

By meditating we get our thoughts under better control and we have the idea that the choices we make come more from ourselves and are less influenced by the outside or by the negative side of ourselves. You become mindful about your ego, your unjustified desires and frustrations. We notice that there is already more room for this when we travel by bicycle, but we would like to integrate this into our lives back in the Netherlands.

After having learned a lot and met very interesting people, it is now time to continue our journey. Today we leave for Pai, where we have only heard good stories about and are therefore very curious about how we will experience it. Only we first have to cycle 75 km with 2 big climbs. Fortunately, body and mind are well rested and ready for the challenge.