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Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016

Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre

Goodbye Thai Plum Village

GPS waypoint: 14°33'25.4"N 101°31'45.0"E
Location: 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand

The Visa Snag
With my visa snag, my planned 3-month English teaching at Thai Plum Village came to an abrupt 3-week halt. After more than 3 weeks living a serenely cadenced monastic life, it was time to say goodbye and leave Thailand.

Goodbye Thai Plum Village

Finding Time
I always default to being on my laptop, doing web work that never seems to finish. Here at the center, I fought the urge to go to my laptop when a brother or sister approaches me for anything. Sometimes, they just want to get to know me, to see if I am having a nice time at the center. Sometimes they would ask me if I can take a look at their English work. They never impose. It is always with assumed humility. I am flattered that they would feel comfortable enough with me to talk and share. Whatever it is, I always find time to be with them. The laptop work will have to wait.

Lessons Learned
I would say the 2 biggest lessons I've learned from this experience is mindfulness and connectedness.

  • mindfulness - I thought I was mindful enough. But at Thai Plum Village, mindfulness is taken many levels up. I became mindful of the steps I take, taking notice how the little stones press against my shoes and body weight shifts from heel to toe. When I eat, I am aware that nature's powerful forces were at play to nourish my food. It was heated by the sun, watered by rain, enriched by the soil and caressed by the wind. Now, I will eat that food to nourish me. I am what I eat...all of nature's bounty become me. I begin to notice the symphony of flavors that explode inside my mouth on every bite.
  • connectedness - When I find myself in a strange place with strange people, I remind myself that we are all connected. That alone changes everything. The strange place becomes my home and the strange people become friends I have yet to meet. So I thought I had 'connectedness' all figured out. Again, at Thai Plum Village, it's taken many levels up. Here, I become the air that has been rendered polluted. I am the same man who cut down the trees and deforested the mountain. I am the caterpillar inching its way on a tree bark. I am also the bird that ate the caterpillar. I am not only connected. I am them. We are one. We are the leaves of one tree.

The Practice
I cannot speak for other traditions, but here at Plum Village, the monastics take their practice seriously. They may have come for various reasons, but when in here, they devote their lives to serious practice in the pursuit of mindfulness, happiness and helping others. Interestingly, I never heard of anyone talk about enlightenment - just mindfulness.

On The Fly Lesson Plan
I planned on teaching conjunctions one day but a student said, "Teacher, I want to ask you so many questions but I don't know where to begin - how to use the words to ask you." The others nodded in agreement. Forget about conjunctions then. On the spot, I junked my planned lesson and shifted into a new plan. With my remaining few days, it's more urgent to get them to formulate conversational questions. That was the impromptu lesson for the day. I think a teacher should be able to do this, otherwise, I'd be more of a text book reader than teacher.

Endearing Gestures
My students are grateful for what they have learned - and they made it clear through their endearing gestures. Someone would give me a papaya fruit, another would bring water to class to offer me, others would openly express that their English has improved considerably and so has their confidence. A group scheduled a picnic hike with me while another group hosted a tea gathering. At the end of my stay, they gave me a card saying wonderful things about their experience with me, either through my English class, the yoga class, and perhaps the most flattering of all, about me as a newfound friend. I cannot say enough about their kindness and gentleness.

At the risk of seeming to go beyond my bounds, I suggested a few things to the center...but always with the best intentions at heart.

  • English Corner - my students were apprehensive that when I leave, their English would be put on hold. They wanted continuity, independent of the teacher. I talked to the decision makers to create an "English Corner" - a comfortable area (nice cushions, tea amenities, internet) accessible to both nuns and monks. No Vietnamese can be spoken here - strictly English. This way, they would feel safe to talk English and make mistakes. Internet channels will be limited to dictionary and English tutorial sites - no Facebook!
  • Internationalism - although the name of the center has the word, "International", it is still far from being truly international. 99% of the monastics are all Vietnamese and the literature around is mostly Vietnamese. It feels like Little Vietnam. I suggested that any material the center uses should be available in at least 3 languages - English, Vietnames and Thai.

Ending Thoughts
As I taught English and yoga, I was also a student, learning Tai-Chi from one of the monks, a student of Thich Nhat Hahn as I learned mindfulness with every breath, and a student of the Sangha as I learn about community harmony and cooperation. It's a rare privilege to live a monastic life - 4am waking up followed by meditation, Dharma talks and Dharma sharing within the day, meditative work to maintain the center, mindful eating on all meals, 15-minute bell reminder throughout the day for mindfulness. Life takes on a deeper dimension. All these I'll take with me back to the default world...hopefully make it a better place.

--- TheLoneRider

Next stop: Siem Reap, Cambodia

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

the monastics at the kitchen give their love and attention to the food we eat seeing the 3 Vietnamese sisters walk away...didn't see them again a monk in contemplation we eat healthy vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine at the center
laundry duties...the unglamorous side of traveling lining up for food Bro Luc giving me a check-up. He says I'm healthier than some of the monks half my age some lay friends leaving already...always emotional
formal meal where the monastics line up for eating at the chanting hall before our meal at the meditation hall lining up to wash our own dishes Dharma talks in the afternoon
one of the nuns gave me a papaya...the nuns are sweet the monastics in full robe beating the heat with my students, the Dharma teachers, at my afternoon class
more going away gifts from my students...they are the nicest people like ghosts in the morning meditation walk with my 2 friends at the center, Helena and Sabrina with Bro. Phap Trach who spent time in America and will temporarily replace me as the English teacher
with students from my morning class. The brothers will soon be sent to Germany classroom work with lay friends by Buddha with my 2 Sisters, both Dharma teachers
monastics in formal meal      
Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre

Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre

Location: 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
Tel: +66(0)2-885-5980

Blogs on Thai Plum Village

  1. Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
  2. Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
  3. Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
  4. Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
  5. Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
  6. First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
  7. Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
  8. Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
  9. Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
  10. Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
  11. Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
  12. Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016

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
  1. Suvarnabhumi Airport to BTS Train Line by TRAIN
    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 Station. Get off and walk (.8km) to the Phaya Thai BTS Station | 35 mins | Baht 45
  2. Phaya Thai Station (N2) - Victory Monument Station (N3) by TRAIN
    board the BTS train heading to Mo Chit. This takes you north but get off at Victory Monument Station (N3) which is just one stop away
  3. Victory Monument Station - Plum Village by VAN
    upon arriving at Victory Monument, take Exit 4 and go down to the basement and walk 100 meters towards the Suzuki Showroom. Across is a pool of vans. Line up at ticket counter No.18, "Jamnong tour" for the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong. (Baht 500), 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

  1. mosquito repellent
  2. hat/umbrella
  3. flashlight
  4. not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in
Adventure Hostel Bangkok

Adventure Hostel Bangkok

Location: 1541 Phahonyothin Rd., Payathai, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: 062 527 2581
Hours: open 24 hours
Features: central location by the N7 Saphan Khwai BTS train station, clean aircon rooms, fast and reliable internet, staff who will go the extra distance for you, reasonable rate
Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai

Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai

Location: 184/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: 061.272.8008 / 053.326.583
Features: salt-water swimming pool, expansive space, big luxurious rooms, great hotel cafe using top-of-the-line espresso brewer
Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai

Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai

Location: 37/1 Singharat Lane 2, T.Sriphum, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Features: upscale container-themed, luxury appointments, central location

Thailand Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Loving Bangkok All Over Again Feb 22-26, 2016
  2. Adventure Hostel Review Feb 22-26, 2016
  3. Hotel Review: Riva Surya Bangkok Oct. 20, 2014
  4. The Shopping Malls of Bangkok Oct 6-20, 2014
  5. Bangkok's Street Food Delight Oct 6-20, 2014
  6. Bangkok Revisited 3 Oct 6-20, 2014
  7. Bangkok Dec 31, 2005

  8. Chiang Khong
  9. Ten Days in Chiang Khong, Thailand Apr 30 - May 9, 2016

  10. Chiang Mai
  11. A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
  12. Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
  13. Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
  14. Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiangmai (Thailand) April 9-10, 2016

  15. Chiang Rai
  16. Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016
  17. Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) May 15, 2016

  18. Chiang Saen
  19. Exploring Chiang Saen, Thailand Apr 28-30, 2016

  20. Mae Sai
  21. 4 Days in Mae Sai, Thailand Apr 25-28, 2016
  22. Border Crossing - Mae Sai (Thailand) to Tachileik (Myanmar) Apr 23, 2016

  23. Pai
  24. Exploring Pai, Thailand May 19-24, 2016
  25. Visiting the Land Split in Pai, Thailand May 23, 2016
  26. Trekking the Ridges of Pai Canyon May 23, 2016
  27. Climbing up the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) May 21, 2016

  28. Pak Chong
  29. Pak Chong (Thailand) En Route to Siem Reap (Cambodia) Mar 20-21, 2016
  30. Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
  31. Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
  32. Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
  33. Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
  34. Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
  35. First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
  36. Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
  37. Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
  38. Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
  39. Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
  40. Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
  41. Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016

  42. Phan District, Chiang Rai Province
  43. Yoga with Amm Prajna Pitchaya and the Sivananda yoga community of Phan May 16-18, 2016
  44. Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016

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Facebook Users

Reader Comments:

(Jun 4, 2018) I came across your website by chance as I was looking up Thailand Plum village. I just had some brief reads and felt very inspired by your writing especially about yourself. I wish I could do something similar to what you do and express so real in writing. Thank you, Rose

Julia ClaretteJulia Clarette
(Mar 24, 2016) That is a beautiful experience, Git. Thank you for sharing what it is like in the village. Yes, mindfulness. Oh wow, let me know when I may hug you!!

Amazon CarpenterAmazon Carpenter
(Mar 24, 2016) Bummer about the visa snag...but it sounds like you really had an enriching visit. I love your suggestions for the sangha. They were lucky to have you!

Sis Nen NgocSis Nen Ngoc
(Mar 20, 2016) Dear teacher, by the time you stay here, I nourish myself everyday with yoga exercises and lived English which you gave us. I feel a lot beter after every studying. Thanks for be here, teach us and bring good energy to our monastery. I will remember your words, "If you don't feel excited with life, there's something wrong" and "One strong self will be able to spread peace to the world" (I don't remember clearly your words, but main content is like this.) They also remind me of my way of living. Very hope to see you again. Happy teacher, you are changing the world (and we are too). Goodbye.

Sis. Diem NghiemSis. Diem Nghiem
(Mar 20, 2016) Dear teacher, I am really feel thankful to you, because you have contributed wholeheartedly to good energy source of the Sangha. I see you happy, we happy too. I hope that you'll come back here and teach us more. I know that all of us brought many happy to you also. "We are the leaves of one tree. We are the waves of one sea. We are the stars of one sky. The time has come for all to live as one. We live together." I hope you have enough friends, time, health, money...for traveling anywhere you want to go.

Bro. Nguyen SinhBro. Nguyen Sinh
(Mar 20, 2016) When we are happy, everything will be okay. Don't forget, practise meditation everyday.

Bro. Dinh LucBro. Dinh Luc
(Mar 20, 2016) I feel very happy when I met you and I feel we're happy when I have a chance to study English with you. You already made me more excited in English. I think my capacity in English will be improved after this class. Thank you for your wholeheartedly.

Bro. Ha TamBro. Ha Tam
(Mar 20, 2016) The happy teacher can change the world! I believe that. You will become a happy teacher within mindfulness.

Bro. Tue GiacBro. Tue Giac
(Mar 20, 2016) I become more diligent in learning English whenever I remember your sharing, "the more you make mistakes, the more you learn." Thanks for everything you have done. I wish you always generate a lot of mindful energy for your daily life.

Sis. Phuong KheSis. Phuong Khe
(Mar 18, 2016) Dear brother, thank you for present in here, to bring diligent energy to do everything. I'm happier than I'm before, after studying English class and practicing yoga and I feel I'm stronger, healthier, solider, peacer than I was. I can see one thing - that the good mind, gentle speak, compassion heart spread good energy to everyone and everyone around you has benefit so much. So I wish, where you come, you bring that happy energy to everybody. Be happy, be healthy, be your self.

Sabrina SchindlerSabrina Schindler
(Mar 18, 2016) Gigit, it was a pleasure meeting you. I am sure too, we will meet again in my next home, Austria. You will always be welcome to enjoy the beautiful mountains and some nice cheese, bread and wine together.

Mar 20, 2016

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