Posted by wkistler on 11/4/2016 at 06:15
I see a lot of requests for extensive itineraries for folks looking to see it all in a month.
This one is different.
I'm seeking some solace for a few months to work on myself, read, meditate and become a better human, and leave wherever I go better than how I found it, in whatever way is allowed by my Visa.
I could do this in the States, or anywhere really. But it's also an opportunity to see a part of the world and a culture I've never experienced before. For many of us these opportunities don't come very often, but I'm in a place financially to make it happen.
I'm not looking for a yoga/meditation retreat. I'll be self-guided, but if I can find a genuine spiritual teacher it would be of great help.
My initial vision for accommodation is a decent bungalow/flat in a rural area that's within moped distance to civilization. I don't want to drink all my nights away, and I'm in my 30's, but getting out, shopping around and making a few friends will keep me from going stir-crazy. I'll take a couple trips from my base camp during my stay, but I just don't want to end up being the weird guy at a full moon party surrounded by tripping Aussie backpacker kids. No offense to Australian backpackers: you guys are living out your youth to the fullest so Godspeed to all of you.
I'd ideally like to bond with local people and make some lasting friendships while leaving a positive impact on my environment.
Internet access is a funny business. In some ways it might help to have it at my residence, but in some ways, it might hurt via distraction. I'm open to having it or not, as long as I can go somewhere and log in to send email etc.
Some potential focuses to add to my life:
I'll have time on my hands. If I can swing it so that a couple days out of my week are devoted to volunteering at an orphanage or helping build an extension onto a temple, the hard work will mean a lot. I've always been big on hard work as its own form of spiritual service.
I'd teach English in exchange for learning the local language.
If there's a Muay Thai gym in the region, I might pick up where I left off in my teens and add it as a form of training and self-discipline. I don't want to compete, but I want to learn and stay strong.
To stay on track here though: I'm mainly looking to get tucked away and rewire. Seeing beautiful places, making friends, volunteering, etc are all possible means to this end, but they aren't the reason I'm going.
I'll be flying out in a few weeks. I don't mind rain. I don't mind heat, if I can fight it off with a fan or AC.
I'm looking to keep costs below $1000 USD per month, ideally less.
So all that being said, what do you folks think is the most ideal region/town/island that I could make this happen?
On the list thus far:
Prachuap Khiri Khan
That Phanom and the areas north and south, including Savannakhet in Laos
anywhere outside Kuta
around, but not in, Ubud
rural areas off the tourist path
I'm also open to other areas of Indonesia, but hesitant due to the political climate. I understand that Most of Indonesia is very tolerant and open to Westerners, but I just don't have a lot of guidance on possible landing spots.
I've heard great things about Northern Vietnam
So there it is. Rambling and confused as it is.
Where would YOU go, if you wanted to settle in for a few months?
Thanks in advance for all help and info. If you know a great place but don't want to broadcast it to the world, PM me and we can talk.
#1 wkistler has been a member since 28/3/2016. Posts: 4
Posted by antoniamitchell on 11/4/2016 at 15:20
I'd probably go for someplace like Prachuap KK - small enough to feel relaxed, but a big enough town to provide sufficient amenities (when they're wanted), and few Western tourists.
Just a side note: I'd recommend against trying to volunteer at an orphanage - voluntourism causes a lot of problems in the region.
Have a great trip.
#2 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569
Posted by wkistler on 12/4/2016 at 04:57
Thanks for the reply.
I've spent time researching volunteering, particularly the orphanage volunteer scenario. I see.
I had in mind moving bricks, building or painting walls, raking up rubbish etc. The problem lies in folks that want contact with the kids, which is the biggest issue. At best it's well-meaning people trying to show some love to the orphans but who end up messing with their hearts as they come and go in an endless parade of attachment and consequent abandonment. At worst it's sexual predators....
I've come to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't pursue volunteering as a prime directive, but instead embrace the opportunity if it crosses my path organically.
Helping a grandmother with her garden or working at a temple building an extension onto the dorms may be as good as it gets and I'm more than happy with that.
#3 wkistler has been a member since 28/3/2016. Posts: 4
Posted by DLuek on 12/4/2016 at 07:22 TF writer
It's a tough one because what you seek -- "to bond with local people and make lasting friendships", "to find a genuine spiritual teacher", to "volunteer", to "teach English in exchange for learning the local language", to do muay Thai, and to see beautiful places -- is not that easy to do, especially for under US $1,000 per month. Three months seems like a lot of time but it's really not when you're talking about real cultural immersion. For the most part these are things that come slowly and only if you go out and really try to make them happen.
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, you might be disappointed if you go stay somewhere for three months and find that you're not able to bond with locals or really help anyone -- for ex. what makes you think that a Thai granny is going to want a random foreigner helping in her garden? If you move to a small community permanently and try your hardest to learn the language, you will no doubt find that locals will embrace you. But in three months and with no help from any sort of program or organization, it may be difficult to get the kind of cultural immersion that it sounds like you're looking for.
With that said, here are some ideas (I'm in Thailand, can't help with Bali):
Do a homestay.:
Ban Lan Khe Homestay, Ayutthaya
Homestay program in Baan Khiri Wong, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Homestays of Batu Bute, Ko Libong
Ko Klang, Krabi
Akha Mudhouse, Mae Salong area
Thung Dong Farmstay, Chiang Mai province
Another place that comes to mind is Wat Sanghathan, a forest tradition temple located about 30 minutes north of Bangkok. I did a retreat there several years ago; there's an American monk in residence named Phra Frank and he's a good meditation teacher. He mentioned that it's possible to teach English as a volunteer there. You don't have to do an actual retreat... There's a little block of privately owned apartments next to the monastery where you can stay for cheap, going to the temple to meditate and eat and receive instruction when it suits you. The website is http://www.vimokkha.com/.
I probably wouldn't recommend volunteering unless you're really willing to give it 100% for a solid chunk of time. If so, you could check out the many volunteer listings on www.idealist.org.
Otherwise, for three months of self-guided meditation and whatnot in a single place, I'd probably look to the islands. Places like Ko Phra Thong, Ko Chang Noi, Ko Kut and Ko Bulon Lae would all be conducive to a long stay in a cheap bungalow. Ko Pha Ngan also comes to mind because it's home to the Kow Tahm meditation center. Of course it's also home to debaucherous full-moon parties but it's a big island with plenty of quiet corners.
Personally I'd steer clear of Prachuap Khiri Khan; not that it's awful or anything, it's just that there are much more interesting places IMO. I also couldn't see spending 3 months in Trat town. Ubon Ratchathani isn't a bad idea, though it's a big city that isn't exactly a "beautiful place". If you end up there, going to Wat Pah Nanachat for some meditation instruction from the foreign monks could be worth your while. Both That Phanom and Khong Chiam come to mind as friendly small towns along the Mekong, though it won't be easy to get to know many of the locals if you can't speak any Thai (or better yet the Lao-Isaan dialect).
Nong Khai is nice enough. You could also consider Sangkhom; Buoy Guesthouse is a great homestay-like place with bungalows beside the Mekong. Another place up north that comes to mind is Three J Guesthouse in Kamphaeng Phet; Mr Charin is a warm-hearted guy and I imagine he'd introduce you around the community if you stayed for a few months. He also runs a little farmstay place out in the boonies.
Other mainland places that I'd consider are Sangkhlaburi and Mae Hong Son and maybe even Trang or Phatthalung down south. There's also Amphawa and other little villages in Samut Songkhram province near Bangkok, like Bang Noi and Tha Kha, with homestays in wooden houses on stilts beside the canals -- very peaceful but they might get boring after a week or two.
#4 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,346
Posted by exacto on 12/4/2016 at 22:09
That's a million dollar answer from DLuek.
I tend to lean towards the Northeast of Thailand, and immediately thought of Nong Khai/Sangkhom and Mukdahan/That Luang for places that might cover most of your needs. But I also liked DLuek's suggestion of Kamphaeng Phet and Three J Guesthouse.
If it were me, rather than stay in one place, I'd make it a walkabout style journey through Thailand. Travelling by yourself can be a fabulous way to spend time with your thoughts and experience the world.
Start off in Bangkok and take a deep, long drink before you start your journey. That temple DLuek mentioned just north of Bangkok sounds like a great place to start, or if they are still doing them, Wat Suan Mokkh in Surat Thani Province used to have 10-day silent meditation retreats starting on the first of the month.
Spend an afternoon watching the shadows change at Wat Chaiwattanaram in Ayutthaya. Read the names and inscriptions on the graves at the allied war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi. Go for long walks along the coastline of Ko Samet (stay in the village so you can meet the locals). Get a plate of Phat Thai and a jug of fresh Chang Beer at the market in Kamphaeng Phet. Get a two or three or four hour traditional Thai massage. Wander the ruins at Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. Climb Phu Kradueng in Loei Province. Sit and watch the Mekong River go by.
I hope some of these ideas are useful for you and I'd love to hear about your journey either during or after. Best wishes.
#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,831
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