One of my favorite places for a meditation retreat is Wat Suan Mok, in the Surat Thani province of Thailand. Just an hour’s drive from the planet’s oldest rainforest and Khao Sok National Forest, this gorgeous retreat center holds a monthly 10 day vipassana retreat for westerners from the 1st to the 10th of each month. You can’t make reservations–just show up the last day of the month and you can spend the night for free at the monastery next door. Registration happens early morning on the 1st.
The living situation is simple, but there’s everything you need: private rooms, natural hot springs, lots of nature to walk around in, afternoon teachings with a seasoned western monk– he guides you step by step through the approach to shamatha and vipassana meditation–and some of the best vegetarian meals I’ve had in Thailand, created with organics from the garden.
Oh, and it’s the only meditation retreat I’ve ever found where you have two full free hours dedicated to yoga practice each and every morning. There are led classes for beginners, one for men, one for women; and there are also two open spaces reserved if you have your own practice: one for men, and one for women. At the time I was there, I was the only one practicing in the women’s hall, so I had glorious silence (punctuated by crickets) as I practiced each dawn. So inspiring.
After the retreat you can make your way south to the pier and hop on the ferry to Koh Phangan for some transition time on the beach.