I seem to have traded one paradise for another, having just arrived in Bali. But more on that later. First – the 8-day silent meditation retreat. Part 1 – Getting there.

To my pleasant surprise, the 13 1/2 hour flight to Hong Kong ‘flew’ by. With the help of a few movies…

  • Crazy Stupid Love — was wondering how many times I could watch it during the flight, but resisted that temptation and moved onto…
  • Love Actually — hey, it was boxing day, and I consider this to be a Christmas movie
  • Friends with benefits — liked it a lot more than I thought I would (could have been the  wine…)
  • The Help — awesome. Now I really want to read the book.
  • Elf — really, it was still Christmas!
  • 2 episodes of Modern Family. Oh how they make me laugh.

Love flying Cathay Pacific. So friendly, so many flight attendants, and the meals are actually meals. They still give you menus – even in the back of the plane, which I can guarantee you is where I was.

Hong Kong to Bangkok was uneventful (thankfully) and after a short night at the airport hotel I flew from Bangkok to Suratthani, which is where the adventure really begins.

There were a number of us on the flight from Bangkok to Suratthani, but mostly we didn’t know each other. I was the first to find the van driver with his small ‘jungle yoga’ sign – which he wasn’t really all that interested in actually holding up for people to see. Apparently there’s something about me that made people think I was the yoga instructor who’d organized the retreat registration – so slowly people started asking me if I was here for the retreat. I’m putting that down to my shaved head, not so much to exuding a ‘yoga/meditation teacher’ aura. Julie, the actual yoga teacher at the retreat, was also on the same flight and we were soon put into two vans and on our way to Khao Sok National Park. It really is an amazing place. You get to the dock, pay 200 Thai Baht  (about $6.50 Cdn) as an entry fee to the park and then you’re loaded onto big banana boats with even bigger engines at the back. Just look for yourselves…

Banana boat engine

Yup, that’s it alright. Noisy sucker too.

The lake itself is quite incredible. It was made in 1985 when the Thai government built a dam. It’s a reservoir that provides southern Thailand with power. I can’t imagine the lake not being there. Trust me, this is no small lake! And very, very beautiful.

That’s our banana boat driver, and you can start seeing the limestone cliffs and jungle.

It was a little hazy when we got there – it is a rainforest after all. But still so incredibly gorgeous.

Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary

Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary

45 minutes after leaving the dock, we approach our ‘jungle home’. This is where we’re going to spend the next 8 days resting, reflecting, meditating, doing a little yoga, eating some of the most wonderful food I’ve ever eaten – seriously, every mouthful was an explosion of deliciousness. And we never ate the same thing twice! Well, other than the fresh papaya and pineapple, which I just could not get enough of. All the ‘buildings’ are on water, except for the washrooms which are on land. So we’re also on water for the next 8 days. Thankfully it’s a calm lake. As we get closer, we know we’re headed to an incredibly special place.

Our home for the next 8 days comes into view

Our homes for the next 8 days

When the banana boat’s engine cut, we all fell to silence. Partly in awe of this place, partly because we simply did not want to intrude. We were surrounded by the most amazing ‘quiet’ – filled with the sounds of the jungle: birds, gibbons, monkeys, cicadas, etc. Slowly we came out of it and started talking as we unloaded our boat and waited for the second one. Then it was time to pick a hut and get settled. Our first sit (seated meditation) was at 6pm and that’s when the silence officially began.

More on the silent retreat to come…this post is long enough! I thought it important that you see where exactly this retreat takes place – it is incredible, and honestly, part of the reason I decided to do this. So thank you Erin for telling me about your experience here and getting me hooked on the idea of doing it myself. It was awesome.