This post is about my visit to the monastery Wat Pah Nanachat. I visited it on 18th of February, 2017 and I love it very much. The place itself is so clean, fresh, beautiful and serene that as soon as we came there with my friend we both became calm, relaxed and peaceful. Speaking truly, I expected to see here dirty Thai style monastery, but this place turned out to be so nice, clean and tidy that I immediately fell in love with it.
The place doesn’t look like a monastery because, in my opinion, a monastery should have a temple, but there is no temple there, just a meditation hall, dormitory, kitchen and several houses in the forest. This place looks more like a summer camp and I would call it not a monastery, but a meditation center.
If you want to become a monk in this monastery, you’ll be interested in this article: How do a foreigner become a buddhist monk in Thailand?
If you want to visit the monastery you can read this link about how to get there and about the monastery life: Staying at Wat Pah Nanachat, but the reality is a little bit different.
You don’t need any letter to come to this monastery. On the monastery website they ask to send a paper letter to the monastery before you come here and you can not find an e-mail or phone on their website. In practice you can come without any letter at all. We arrived at the monastery without any preliminary letter at 1 PM. We met a smiling monk and he told us that the guest monk would come at 3 PM and asked us to wait for him. At 3 PM the guest monk asked us to fill a simple one-page form and showed us around. He even didn’t ask about a letter. So you can come without a preliminary letter and they will allow you to stay. But…
An Englishman who came here third time for one month, told me that he wrote a letter three times and nobody answered him. He also told me that supposedly they answer with a refusal only if there’s no place here. Also he told me that if you come without a letter, they can refuse you, if there’s no place.
While we waiting for a guest monk we went to 7 Eleven which is 15-minute walk from the monastery. Near the 7-Eleven there are several Thai eateries in on which we eat two portions of Som Tum (traditional thai papaya salad) with noodles just for 60 baht, it’s about $2. And it was so delicious!
Women are allowed here! Although it’s written on the monastery website that women can not visit the monastery, it’s turned out that this information is false. Women are welcome here! They live separately from the men, but we chanted and meditated together.
Electronic gadgets are not allowed here. You can not use your smartphone or computer. But it’s not strict. I used my smartphone all the time to make photos and to write this article and I even didn’t have to hide it.
We slept here. This is my bed).
It was very cold to sleep at night, very cold, and the blankets that they gave us were not warm enough to help. But you can put on any clothes and sleep in them.
We get up at 3 AM and at 3.30 we went for chanting. I loved it so much! There is something mysterious and majestic in buddhist chanting. We chanted until 4 a.m. and until 5 a.m. we meditated. I do not know why but to meditate here is so easy: it was very easy for me to focus on my breath and no thoughts disturbed my mind. And it was easy to sit one hour, to me, one hour passed so quickly as if it were 5 minutes.
After meditation I took a broom and swept the sidewalks. I couldn’t imagine before that to swipe sidewalks from the fallen palm leaves at 5 a.m. is such a pleasure. Oh no, it’s not a pleasure, it’s a bliss. I think now that janitors are the happiest people on Earth.
After the swiping I wrote this article. Usually I go to sleep between 1 and 3 a.m. and I never tried getting up at 3 a.m. So I never thought that to work at 5.30 AM is so easy. I felt myself so fresh, full of energy, serene, my mind was clear, I had no disturbing thoughts and it was such a pleasure to write an article at 5.30 a.m. Now I think that may be it’s a good idea to go to sleep at 9 PM and get up at 3 AM every day. At least I should try.
In the morning lots of Thai lay people came to the monastery and they chanted and meditated with us. They brought lots of food with them and we ate all this alms food after 8 AM. The process of having food organized as a buffet. There are lots of food on long tables and monks are the first who come to the tables and take the food, after the monks novices and students like us can take the food, and after us Thai lay people took the food.
There’s a skeleton in the meditation hall. I’ve found the story of this skeleton to be very strange and not suitable for the monastery. A monastery monk has told me this story. The skeleton is a skeleton of a woman who had cancer and who suffered a lot because of terrible pains and she shot herself with a gun. You can see a hole in the skull in the temple area. Why her skeleton is in the monastery now? The monks wanted to have some skeleton in the meditation hall to remind them of impermanence and to practice meditations with it. This woman was a wife of one of the important sponsors who helped to establish this monastery. Before death she bequeath her skeleton to the monastery, that’s why they put it there to remind everyone of impermanence and suffering. I am not sure that this is a completely true story, because it looks very strange to me, but I wrote my understanding of what the monk had told me. If you know other story about this skeleton, please, share it in the comments.
I loved this place, its fantastic, but as usual every place has it positives and negatives. What are the negatives of this place?
- There’s little to no guidance. You’ll be here alone. You are not supposed to speak. If you don’t know what’s buddhism and how to meditate, you’ll get no help. Of cause you can ask for help and the guest monk and guests will answer your questions and help you, but you should be ready to do everything yourself.
- Thai pop music. On the evenings there was loud Thai pop music outside. It didn’t bother me, but some guests found it annoying.
- Lots of mosquitoes.
- Very cold at nights and you have to sleep outside. But I loved it!
- Dhamma talks in Thai language only. Although Dhamma talks are supposed to be in English here, they were only in Thai language while I was there.
Toilets and shower
Toilets and shower are Thai style and are in the same room, but clean and nice.
It takes 20 minutes to get to the monastery from the Ubon airport and 180 baht. I don’t know why, but despite the taxi meter shows only 100 baht, taxi drivers on our way to the monastery and back to the airport asked 180 baht. When you are at the airport there are lots of taxis there. And you can order a taxi from the monastery by the phone 045 265 999, but you should ask somebody who speaks Thai to call this number. A taxi arrived in 5 minutes to the monastery after we called this number.