Here are the things to expect regarding food, clothing, and physical conditions while at retreat.
There are separate men’s and women’s dorms, and each is strictly off-limits to the other gender.
The rooms are very basic, with bunk beds, sleeping pallets, and a fan. You will usually share with one other person. A sheet, blanket, pillow, and mosquito net are provided. Please bring your own towel.
Toilets are in buildings outside close by. Bathing is done by scooping water from a bucket.
- Keeping the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise we will not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
- Gautama Buddha
There are two meals a day during the retreat: breakfast at 7 am, and lunch at 11am. There is no dinner, as we are following all Eight Precepts during the retreat. This means no food after 12 noon. Herbal tea is provided at 5pm in the Dining Hall.
There is also welcoming Thai food for the participants on the first day of activities, and farewell food for the final day.
The food provided is ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means it might contain eggs and milk. Chili and other spices are used (moderately) in the cooking. We are in Thailand, and our wonderful and hard-working cook is Thai.
It is not possible to cater for a strict vegan diet or other special needs.
Filtered water and hot water are provided for drinking.
If you have special dietary needs due to illness or allergies, the kitchen staff may not be able to accommodate them. Please let us know about them to make sure you will be able to attend the retreat in this situation.
- You will want to bring lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that is comfortable for sitting, yoga, and sleeping — and also sturdy enough, or cheap enough, that you are comfortable wearing for activities such as toilet-cleaning and leaf-raking.
- Retreatants must wear modest, loose-fitting clothing at all times. Clothing must fully cover the body, and arms at least to the elbows, legs at least to below the knee.
Please read and follow Khao Tham’s dress code.
We can be understanding how the calmness and peacefulness of our clothing reflects our care for the experience of our companions. Also keep in mind that we are on the grounds of a Thai monastery — the monks are under strict vows, and we would not like to make them uncomfortable. And here we are a part of traditional Thai culture; we are not in the Thailand of Bangkok or of the tourist beaches!
Bedding and laundry
- A sleeping pad, blanket, sheet, pillow, and mosquito net are provided by the center. Please note, we do not provide towels.
- You hand-wash your clothes during the breaks. Please bring washing powder.
Khao Tham is on a hill, and steep paths and stairs connect its various parts. There is a steep road between the dining hall and the meditation areas, and stairs to the dorms and on the paths between. All of these can be slippery, especially during rain.
Animals and other life forms
Khao Tham Center and Monastery are embedded in the forested hills of Koh Phangan. Many living beings have lived here for millions of years before we came to sit here, and they will still be living here when our short space of sharing with them is over.
So we are sharing this space with many beautiful plant forms, including trees bearing coconuts, nests, and dead branches, which may occasionally fall. We also are in the home of many animals, birds, reptiles, snakes, insects, and more. We want to be mindful of their presence, so as not to disturb them, nor in their fear have them disturb us!
You can watch where you walk, check your shoes before you put them on, keep toilet lids and doors closed, do not have food in your living area. Do not feed any animal, especially monkeys. Don’t stand underneath a coconut tree.
There are a few venomous critters here. 99.9% of the time, they would be running away faster from you than you would from them, and we rarely actually see them. Siam-Info has some good summaries and photos so you can know what to watch out for.
If you would like to learn more about the rich life on the island, Ecology Asia has nice summary pages.
The country and people
If you have come from the West and have not spent much time in Asia before, you may find that the culture and people are very different from what you are used to. Learning more about them can be very interesting to you, and very thoughtful and respectful to the people whose world you are visiting. We have some resources in our Thailand section that may be helpful.
Due to lack of money, we don’t have much in the way of specific study materials at this time.
- We have a printout of the chants.
- We do have lots of downloadable books and sound files, and links to more, in our Resources section.
- There are some very nice books in the dining hall about our Thai Forest Tradition. Please read them, but leave them there for others.
- Sometimes we have general books and cds on meditation and other teachings, either free or at low donation cost. These are usually made available at the end of retreat.
You possibly may prefer a vegan diet, a softer bed, less mosquitoes, more ice cream, less heat and humidity, a more or a less structured course, etc.
We will try our best to make your stay at Khao Tham as convenient as possible. However the purpose of retreat is to practice letting go of our selves, our needs and wants — therefore Khao Tham is not set up to cater to them.
The core of Buddhism, the thing we are trying to learn, is acceptance of everything that occurs around us. We are here to learn how to let go of what we are clinging to — we learn that all clinging is a source of suffering.
If we find in ourselves, the need to emphasize our “Self” with special requests (whether to ourselves or others) — especially when it involves disrupting another’s flow — it could be time to look again at the purpose of our practice.