With the wonderful feeling of not waking up to an alarm clock, I begin to stir when I hear the distinctive song of the morning birds. Other than the dogs and a few times to turn over I slept well through the whole night.
My eyes are wide open as I emerge from the tent, half expecting the dogs to have outsmarted me, waiting in silence. I adjust quickly to the soft morning light and am filled with energy for the impending adventure. Oh wait, I still have most of the day to wait at the train station. Okay, I better calm my energy down. It only takes a few minutes to get off the tent rain cover and pack the rest back down to its packaged size. I’m stopped dead in my tracks when I hear a pack of dogs barking in the distance. I focus and realize it’s really far away and they’re probably on their same morning routines, as in Laos, when they go around to all the dogs in the neighborhood to fight and mate. Still though, this could mean the same pack from last night is on the move, so I better get out of here quickly.
With 99% packed away, there’s a problem. My tent and rain fly don’t fit back into the tent pouch. It’s not even close, as there is still half of it hanging out and the pouch completely full. Still worried about the dogs, I just throw it all back into the bag to just figure it out later.
Back at the station I hang around for awhile before noticing a set of stairs that I haven’t seen anyone use. Naturally, I head right up to explore. Most of it is empty, with the look of and expected expansion. There are a few offices with some people doing desk work and then I find a bathroom that’s empty, free, and clean. Totally opposite from the other bathrooms anywhere near by. There, I get ready for the day and then head back out to the main road for some breakfast. I follow some truckers across the busy main road to a food stand on the other side. Forgetting completely where I am, I go right back into Lao mode. I get rice, vegetables, and meat and am slightly disappointed at how much it was until I remember when I’m eating that I’m paying in Bhat, not Kip (money in Laos. I end up spending slightly less than a dollar for all that wonderful tasty and fresh food. I keep forgetting how much cheaper Thailand is than Laos. At least in this case it’s about half as much as I’d pay in Laos for the same thing.
Back at the station I wait out the rest of the day with not much excitement other than some good people watching. The retreat people show up right on time and we all file into a taxi to head to the even smaller town where I’ll be sitting in isolation for the next 10 days.
After about 30 minutes of driving off into farm area, we get off in the middle of what looks like a big farm with a small house in the middle. There’s still lots of forest, so It’s hard to see much around.
I enter the building labeled registration where everyone fills out some papers and give up their iDs, wallets, and phones.
The only instruction I get is to walk down the path and find room A4. I hear a bell and guess to go back where we just were. There, we get some orientation stuff and are fed a meal. The next bell we’re told to go to the meditation hall.
At the hall, everyone is split in half, men on one side and women on the other. We’re all facing the front where there is a male and female leader both facing each other, toward the middle of the room. Lastly, there is a male and female teacher sitting up on an elevated platform, facing everyone else. The instruction from the teachers is in Thai and the female group leader does all the English translation.
After a quick group meditation, a few of the men head over to a smaller room with chairs set up in front of a TV. There, Goenka, the teacher of this course, tells us about the course. 10 days, no talking, 2 meals and one snack a day, follow the strict moral rules, and follow the daily schedule. That’s about it and then we all go back to our rooms for the night.