Location:Thai Plum Village 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong (district), Nakhon Ratchasima (province), Thailand
Starting the Day Right Into my second day, I woke up at 4am just like the rest of the monks. I meditated at 4:45am according to schedule, by myself not knowing where it's done. But I was able to join them for the subsequent walking meditation. Lunch and dinner were a healthy vegetarian offering.
Peoplescape Everybody is friendly. I would have liked to talk at great length to the monks but they were either busy or simply didn't know enough English. There were a few foreigners, Julie being one of them. I also met Andy from the United Kingdom. He gave me a few tips on Plum Village convention which I found useful. We shared a bit while pulling-out garden weeds. Through the people I met, I slowly became accustomed to my surroundings within the confines of the monastery.
Mindfulness in High Gear I've had my fair share of being mindful given my yoga and meditation practice. But in this center, mindfulness is leveled-up a few notches. Not surprising since the lessons of Thich Nhat Hanh is all about mindfulness. Eating is done is a mindful way, chewing the food is done mindfully, walking is mindful, even synchronized with the breath, etc. All actions are made deliberate, taking focus in the here-and-now, staying ever present.
Yoga Andy, one of the lay Caucasian Buddhists who was spending some time at the center expressed his flexibility issues. I offered to conduct a yoga class with him. Some monks were watching us and I motioned for them to join us. It didn't take long until there were 4 of them. After the asana, I conducted pranayama and meditation. Although challenging for Andy and the monks, they liked it. I offered it as a daily workout routine, starting 4pm.
Rites and Rituals I learned a few practical rituals after a conversation with Julie, a psycho therapist who has been at the center 3 months. We also shared a bit of ourselves on why we came to the center. Every quarter hour, a bell sounds and everybody would briefly stop whatever they were doing. I thought it was a "freeze" moment, something akin to the flash-mob at the Grand Central Station in New York - I didn't know why. Julie advised it's to remind everyone to be mindful of the moment, to take refuge in the breath and observe the body sensation - just like Vipassana! Done every 15 minutes throughout the day, I could imagine this will become a habit during my 3-month stay. This is hardcore mindfulness!
Mornings are for seated meditation followed by a walking meditation. Dinner is also followed shortly by a guided meditation sit. I was free to participate with them on just about everything. Outsiders are actually welcome to stay for a mindfulness immersion. Some find solace in the center and invariably take an extended hiatus.
Going with the Flow I am usually offered tea, or enjoined to participate in a dhamma talk or to even help out pull out the weeds on the garden. I say Yes to everything, not wanting to miss out on my immersion. I try to internalize the moments, staying mindful of my steps, my breath and my passing thoughts. I only have 3 months to learn as much as I can. I feel a sense of urgency. Every moment is golden.
Internet On the third day, I was finally allowed to use the internet. It was a shot in the arm, although in fairness, I relished the unavailability while it lasted. It allowed me intelligent use of my hard-drive time before taking them online. Additionally, Facebook would have sucked me in again. At least, it's regulated here.
Thought for the Day I am slowly acclimatizing to my new environment, meeting more people, involved in a number of increasing activities, loving the vegetarian cuisine and just enjoying the moment...every bit of it.
Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre
with direction coming from Bangkok
GPS waypoint: 14°33'25.4"N 101°31'45.0"E
174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
How to Get to Plum Village from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
You are encouraged to arrive at the Center Friday afternoon between 2-4 pm
Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok proper (Phaya Thai Station) there is already a direct train from the airport that goes all the way to Bangkok with a final stop at Phaya Thai. Upon airport arrival, go down to Basement and take the Airport Link train to Phaya Thai Station35 mins | Baht 45. Get off at Phaya Thai Station (the last stop) and walk (.8km) to the Phaya Thai BTS Station.
Phaya Thai Station (N2) - Mo Chit Station (N8) by BTS TRAIN board the BTS train heading to Mo Chit and get off there.
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Platform 6, public van at #78 this is a short walk. Go to Platform 6 and get on the public van at #78 offering Jamnong Tour.
IMPORTANT ! - make sure you make it clear to the driver that HIS van drops you off at Plum Village. Otherwise, they might finish the tour in Pak Chong proper. If this happens, you're still 45 minutes away from Plum Village which costs 500 Baht by cab! Best to copy/print/take a picture of the image below to show to the driver:
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Plum Village by VAN the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong costs Baht 500 and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Take the 11am or 12 noon van to ensure you arrive at the center before 4pm.
How to Get to Pak Chong (Proper) from Bangkok by train
ignore this if you plan to go to Plum Village. Take the direction above instead
If you are arriving Bangkok and would like to proceed directly to Pak Chong without spending a night in Bangkok, best to take a plane that will land in Don Mueang Airport in time for the #71 Train (Bangkok to Si Sa Ket) to stop at the MRT Train Station, Bang Sue, which is only a short walk from the airport. Train schedule at Bang Sue Station: Fri 10:27am, arriving Pak Chong 1:30pm. Express aircon car (Baht 289), non aircon (Baht 198). Duration is 3 hours, stopping right in the heart of Pak Chong. From Pak Chong.
You can also take the train from the main terminal near the center of Bangkok at the MRT Station, Hua Lampong Railway Station. Departure, Friday 10:00am.
Plum Village Cost Index
(US$1 = Thailand Baht 35.77 = Php 47.52 as of Feb 28, 2016)
Baht 500 van from Victory Monument to Plum Village
Baht 289 Express train from Bang Sue MRT Station (Bangkok) to Pak Chong Train Station, aircon (non aircon, Baht 189)
Baht 500 taxi from Pak Chong to Plum Village (call this taxi number, Mr. Khun Paisan: 085 772.4519 for the trip to Plum Village)
Things to bring if staying overnight
not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in