January 2013 we took off on retreat at the beach in Rayong province.
Thanks to Sujata we had taken an exploratory trip to investigate this location as a possible retreat venue in mid 2012. It is a quiet location near to the village of Chaag Phong, about 40 km West of Rayong town. It is a collection of about 30 or 40 houses in a managed compound. They are all privately owned, but 12+ are available to rent on a daily basis – so it gets more active on Saturdays and holidays as people head to the beach. Still, even then it is pretty quiet.
We took one full van of 13 people – if the van is full we have excess funds, if we’d had 15 people we would have had 2 vans which works out more costly. As it turns out, 13 was a good number to test the venue out. All the bedrooms had air-con, but not our meeting room. The weather however, was as good as it gets on the coast of Thailand. The sea breeze is nice and cool. A light shower or two kept things cool also.
This being a trial run, it was chancing fate to assume we could arrange for all the catering after arriving. But being Thailand, there is not usually a problem with food. Usually it is the job of lay people to feed monks on almsround, but in this case the roles were reversed, and it was the monk’s job to cater for everyone’s feeding schedule. It is quite a job keeping 13 people fed day and night – I’m starting to appreciate my mother feeding us all those years. We monks are happy with one meal a day, but this seems horrifying to lay people. Luckily Mary was around, with her eye for detail, to help buy the breakfast foodstuff. We went for Western style breakfasts of breads, jam, cereal, oats …. which reports suggest was a good idea.
On arrival the restaurant next to our main building was shut, but after a phone call they turned up with veggie Kow Thom served at our own house – can you imagine a restaurant in the West that will open up and deliver food specially for you on a moments notice? They did a fair and reasonably priced job of the following lunches and light evening food, and now we have their number this can be arranged in advance next time.
Our visiting teacher Grahame White is to be admired for his willingness and enthusiasm. He arrived on Thursday evening, and by 7am Friday we were feeding him breakfast and whisking him off, jet-lagged, to teach a meditation retreat, before getting back to Bangkok for a Dhamma talk, and then off to India with 20 yogis in the morning. It is always a privilege to be around others committed to the Dhamma. His down-to-earth Aussie style guidance was appreciated too, and fitted the relaxed surroundings. Thanks as always, are due to the incredible support of the fabulous Ariyasom Villa in Bangkok for providing facilities to host Grahame.
Relaxed until Saturday afternoon that is, when the Thai population from Rayong, looking for peaceful surroundings as a break from the city, turned up – with 8 foot tall loud speakers. And they really were loud. What can you do? This is Thailand and you can never be sure of peace and quiet. Fortunately the noise is only from 3pm – 10pm on Saturdays, during which time we were mostly in group meditation at one of the other houses far from the noise. So it is workable.
On previous retreats I had always cut every expense down to the absolute bone, which inevitably left me holding the can when unexpected expenses arose, or people just don’t turn up on the day incredibly leaving their van/accommodation fees to be paid by others. In the last two retreats then, 50% was added to the projected costs, to make sure everything is covered and we can afford a few luxuries along the way. Previously we were stung by a 10 000 baht bribe that had to be paid to a local official, so we really do need some leeway.
On this occasion we are left with 5000 baht after paying all the expenses (roughly 500 baht per person excess). This goes to the general fund which now stands at 9000 baht – not bad since we have not fund raised since mid 2010.
Our next Rayong short retreat is tentatively planned for late March.
Many special thanks to K. Tawatchai and K. Phaisal for the use of their houses.
Some photos from the retreat below. For the full album see Our Mindfulness Meditation Retreat Near Bangkok