In Chiang Mai there is an opportunity to chat with Buddhist monks. There is an exchange program in various temples.
Discussions usually involve young monks during the training period. It is an excellent way for you to understand the culture and the local religion and also how they perceive their life and values. And in return, the monks improve their English language.
Don’t lose moments like this in your travels, because it can teach you essential things in life.
You can have a completely different way of life from the monk’s life but you will discover that we are all human and there is always common ground.
Buddhism originated in India in the 6th century BC. Buddhism later arrived in Thailand from Sri Lanka. It became the dominant religion in both Thailand and Laos in the 12th century. Thailand is now 95% Buddhist country.
Buddhism is a part of Thai people identities. They are respected and usually are given priority to pass before other people in buses, planes or simple ques.
People give a daily offering to the monks or to the spirit houses. With this offerings, Thais believe they will live longer and happier lives.
There are many monks living in Thailand.
Their orange robes are very recognizable in a sea of modern-day clothing.
I was expecting this opportunity for a long time. I was very happy when I heard that there are such programs.
While in Chang Mai we tried different temples to have this monk chat, but without success. Not all the monks are open to speaking with foreigners.
So at one point, we reached Wat Chedi Luang Temple, where we knew that there are such programs.
We spotted a place in the shadow where few monks chatting with people.
There were few tables and we were invited to sit at a table and two monks sat opposite us. We never shook their hand, it is forbidden for a monk to touch a woman.
Our monks introduced themselves and then we introduce ourselves.
And we started to have a very nice and open conversation about basically everything.
We wondered what their lives are were, about daily routine or if they missed anything.
And we found out that if a man does decide to become a monk, there are several rituals and processes they must go through. For instance, they must shave their head and eyebrows in a number of ceremonies. They also receive daily duties in the temple they stay at, such as cleaning or receiving offerings in the mornings.
To be a monk is not easy. There are hundreds of rules by which they must submit. Some are pretty basic, while others are more difficult tasks, such as swimming for fun or playing football.
And then we spoke about spirituality. Or what is to be done to be a better and happier person.
And for that, we have to thank our monk, Boun Bounma, for his precious advice and for the fact that he showed us that we are not so much different.
Monks struggle with different things and they work with their feeling to become a better person. So we should do the same.
Monk Chat Etiquette
Temple etiquette rules apply at monk chat. You have to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees.
Never point your feet at a monk.
Women are very welcome at monk chat sessions but need to be aware of the sensitivity over their interactions. Women should never touch a monk. If giving something, women should put the item on the table to be picked up rather than offering them directly.
Monk Chat is free, but it’s always a nice gesture to offer a donation to the temple.
Temples in Chang Mai where you can have a Monk chat
Wat Chedi Luang Temple which is located in downtown Chiang Mai, with constant availability.
It’s very easy to find a place at the open-air tables in the north of the temple. Usually, there are 5-6 tables where you might find monks.
Chat hours: Daily between 9:00 and 18:00, Saturday and Sunday are more crowded.
The Srisuphan Temple has hours for discussion every day.
Chat hours: daily from 17.30 to 19.00 hours before classes of meditation
Wat Umong is another temple where such meetings are organized
Chat hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 17:30 and 19:30
The Doi Suthep Temple: Here the situation is a little more complicated because the monks here lead the International Buddhist Center and the temple is next to the city.
The place where such meetings are held is in the eastern part of the temple.
Chat hours: daily between 13.00-15.00
Flower Garden Temple (Wat Suan Dok) has dedicated rooms for these discussions.
Chat hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 17.00 and 19.00
They have also a meditation program for 2 days.
Registration is done on Tuesdays at 13.00, after which the transfer is made outside the city to the meditation center which is about 40 minutes from Chaing Mai.
There you will have 24 hours without talking then you will be taught to meditate
Accommodation conditions are ok and there three meals per day.
Transfer, accommodation and meals cost about 500 baht / 14 euro and you will have to pay also for the new clothes which will be about 300 baht / 9 euro.