Meditating at Wat Umong and Dipabhavan

A sign in the forest at Wat Umong

A sign in the forest at Wat Umong

I’ve been learning about meditation and Buddhist philosophies for the past few years, but I’ve been struggling to really commit to a meditation practice. I decided to attend a couple of vipassana retreats to learn more and really eliminate all excuses I was making not to do it. While I can’t say that my life is completely changed from the experiences, I did learn a lot about my limits and I have renewed motivation to make meditation a part of my daily life.

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Scuba Diving in Koh Tao

The Yank without a Chain scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

The Yank without a Chain scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

I got my PADI open water diving certification in Turks and Caicos in 2005 and had grand plans to dive all over the world. Unfortunately, for various reasons it didn’t quite work out that way and I only went on a handful of dives before focusing my interests elsewhere. So when I came to Thailand and heard that there is beautiful, cheap diving on Koh Tao, I knew I had to take full advantage of it.

I got a recommendation from a German friend for Crystal Dive Resort, so I booked a few nights there without doing much research about other places. It definitely turned out to be a good choice. The afternoon I arrived I took a refresher PADI course in the pool to review scuba basics like buoyancy, removing your equipment in the water, clearing your mask, etc. Afterward I felt confident to start fun diving.

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Adorable Street Art in Sukothai

Some baby animals adorning a wall along the river in New Sukhothai

Some baby animals adorning a wall along the river in New Sukhothai

Just outside the Sila Resort, the hostel I stayed at in New Sukhothai, there was a wall about 1km long that was covered in some of the cutest street art I’ve ever seen! There were illustrations of baby animals, local dress, and famous characters like Psy. I took some photos of my favorite bits.

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The Ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park

A Buddha statue at Sunrise at Wat Mahathat at Sukothai Historical Park

A Buddha statue at Sunrise at Wat Mahathat at Sukhothai Historical Park

On my way down to the Gulf of Thailand to do some scuba diving, I stopped off at Sukhothai to see the 13th-century ruins of the Sukhothai kingdom. Somewhat similar to Angkor Wat, but much smaller, the ruins are easily accessible by bicycle and entrance costs just a few dollars. Sunrise at the temples was particularly striking and worth waking up early for.

In addition to the temples, I had a lovely time staying at Sila Resort, a nice hostel in New Sukhothai. I’d highly recommend it!

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Food in Chiang Mai

The local Chiang Mai noodle dish - Khao Soi - at a tiny restaurant called Khun Yai at the northern gate

The local Chiang Mai noodle dish – Khao Soi – at a tiny restaurant called Khun Yai at the northern gate

One of the best parts of spending a month in Chiang Mai was exploring all of the different food they had in the city. In addition to the typical pad thai and fried rice dishes, you could find an assortment of awesome curries for about $1.50 a plate. The local speciality is Khao Soi, which is a coconut-based noodle dish. I ate it at least 20 times at different places. Then of course there are the Saturday and Sunday night street markets, where you can try lots of different dishes for fifty cents each and get stuffed in the process.

I also took a cooking class with Zabb-e-Lee, which was an incredible experience. I made a ton of delicious food, including the best fried spring rolls I’ve ever eaten. The recipes were much more accessible than the fancy food I made at my cooking class in Laos and I actually think I could repeat some of it. I just need to buy a wok!

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