Of the hundreds of meditation temples in Thailand, a few cater specifically for foreigners by holding meditation sessions and retreats in English.
Novices as well as practised meditators are generally welcome at these wats. Absolute beginners might like to consider the regular retreats at Wat Suan Mokkh and Wat Khao Tham. These Thailand meditation retreats are conducted by supportive and experienced Thai and Western teachers. They include talks and interviews on Buddhist teachings and practice.
The meditation taught is mostly Vipassana, or “insight”, which emphasizes the minute observation of internal sensations. The other main technique you’ll come across is Samatha, which aims to calm the mind and develop concentration.
Longer retreats are for the serious-minded only. All the temples listed below welcome both male and female English-speakers, but strict segregation of the sexes is enforced and many places observe a vow of silence. Reading and writing are also discouraged, and you’ll generally not be allowed to leave the retreat complex unless absolutely necessary, so try to bring whatever you’ll need in with you.
An average day at any one of these monasteries starts with a wake-up call at around 4 am. It includes several hours of group meditation and chanting, as well as time put aside for chores and personal reflection. Visitors are usually expected to keep the eight main Buddhist precepts. The most restrictive of these being the abstention from food after midday and from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex at all times.
Most wats ask for a minimal daily donation (around B200) to cover the costs of the simple accommodation and food.
Looking for a place to escape from the bustling city life for a while? Check our list of top 5 isolated retreats.
A useful resource about meditation retreats in Thailand is Dhammathai, which provides lots of practical advice and details of meditation temples and centres around Thailand. Little Bangkok Sangha is a handy blog maintained by a British-born monk, Phra Pandit, which gives details of talks in Bangkok and retreats. Another resource is Theravāda-Buddhism - a collection of materials which can be useful for self-study.
Also in Bangkok, keep an eye out for developments at the Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives in Chatuchak Park in the north of the city. A recently built centre in honour of the founder of Wat Suan Mokkh may host more events for English-speakers in the future.
Meditation retreats is surely one of the things to experience in Thailand. Find more things not to miss in Thailand.
The House of Dhamma is a converted shophouse in Jatujak District, Bangkok, where you can learn Insight meditation, Buddhist Mindfulness, how to do Reiki healing and much more.
Regular two-day courses in Vipassana, as well as day workshops in Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation. Courses in reiki and other subjects available. Find all the details on their official website.
Set in Bangkok, 1.5 km from Siam Discovery, LKN Grand offers accommodation with a terrace, free WiFi and an ATM. Guests staying at this apartment have access to a balcony.
Located in Bangkok, 12 km from Central Festival EastVille, Raweewan Residence hotel provides accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. Around 19 km from Central Plaza Ladprao, the property is also 21 km away from Chatuchak Weekend Market and offers free WiFi. Every room has a balcony.
Located in Bangkok, within 6.6 km of Central Festival EastVille and 8.2 km of Emporium Shopping Mall, Madison Bangkok Hotel provides accommodation with a restaurant and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive. The property is set 10 km from Amarin Plaza, 10 km from Central World and 10 km from SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World.
Eighteenth-century Wat Mahathat provides a welcome respite from the surrounding tourist hype, and a chance to engage with the monks studying at Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University. As the nation’s centre for the Mahanikai monastic sect, and housing one of the two Buddhist universities in Bangkok, the wat buzzes with purpose.
It’s this activity, and the chance of interaction and participation, rather than any special architectural features, that make a visit so rewarding. The many university-attending monks at the wat are friendly and keen to practise their English.
Thailand Vipassana Centre Section Five, Wat Mahathat • Practice daily 1–4pm & 6–8pm •
Vipassana meditation is a technique, originally taught by the Buddha, whereby practitioners learn to become more aware of physical sensations and mental processes.
At the wat’s Vipassana Meditation Centre, where the monk teachers speak some English, sitting and walking meditation practice, with chanting and dhamma talks, is available to drop-in visitors. There’s now a competing “Meditation Study and Retreat Center”, nearby in Section One of the wat, but this is less geared towards foreign meditators.
The famous monk, Ajahn Chah, established this forest monastery, 17km west of Ubon Ratchathani, in 1975 specifically to provide monastic training for non-Thais, with English the primary language.
Visitors who want to practise with the resident community are welcome, but the atmosphere is serious and intense and not for beginners or curious sightseers. Accommodation for students is limited, so you should write to the monastery before visiting, allowing several weeks to receive a written response.
The peace and quiet of the northern capital make it ideally suited to meditation sessions, short courses and longer retreats, many of which are conducted in English.
Wat Phradhatu Sri Chom Tong Voravihara is situated on a Holy Buddhist Site with a history dating back more than 2,500 years. The temple is a Royal Historic Treasure and means "Holy Relic Monastery on the Glorious Golden Hill”. Enshrined within the temple is the Holy Dakkhinamoli Buddha Relic.
Located in, 58km south of Chiang Mai, this is the centre of the Northern Insight Meditation School. It's developed by the well-known Phra Ajarn Tong Sirimangalo (the meditation teachers at Chiang Mai’s Wat Ram Poeng and Wat Doi Suthep are all students of Phra Tong). Offers 4- to 21-day Vipassana meditation courses taught in English and Thai and some European languages as well. By donation. Find more details on their official website.
Introductory retreat courses on meditation and Thai Buddhist culture, for which you need to wear white clothes, available for B300. Including yoga, chanting and almsgiving, they begin at about 1pm on a Tuesday. Before departure to the training centre, returning to Wat Suan Dork at about 3pm the next day (B500). Courses are sometimes cancelled so check the schedule on the website.
Disciplined Vipassana courses (with a rule of silence, no food after noon and so on), taught by Thai monks with translators. The minimum stay is ten days, with a basic course lasting 26 days, and payment is by donation.
Set in Chiang Mai, 2.5 km from Chiang Mai 700th Anniversary Stadium, Sareeviengping Hotel Chiangmai offers accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. With free WiFi, this 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and room service. The hotel has a garden and provides a sun terrace.
Located in Chiang Mai, 100 m from Chang Puak Market, Premier Hostel Chiang Mai offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. The property is around 1.5 km from Chedi Luang Temple, 1.8 km from Tha Pae Gate and less than 1 km from Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre.
85 percent of the population in Thailand are still practising Theravada Buddhists. A unifying faith that colours all aspects of daily life – from the tiered temple rooftops to the omnipresent saffron-robed monks and the packed calendar of festivals.
The World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) is an international Buddhist organization initiated by Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera. It was founded in 1950 in Colombo, Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), by representatives from 27 nations. Theravada Buddhists are most influential in the organization, (its headquarters are in Thailand 616 Benjasiri Park, Soi Medhinivet off Soi 24, Thanon Sukhumvit, Bangkok).
Members of all Buddhist schools are active in the WFB. It now has regional centers in 35 countries, including India, the United States, Australia, and several nations of Africa and Europe, in addition to traditional Buddhist countries.
Meditation is an individual experience best experienced alone with oneself. If you prefer travelling alone but are far from a spiritual practices check this list of the best places to travel alone.
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