It is one of those trips when photography takes a back seat. I visited Chiang Mai to pursue my other interest – Yoga. I had been practicing yoga for more than two years and I was keen in joining a yoga retreat which I haven’t done yet. My bucket list is to maybe hop on one of those Jet Airways flight to world’s yoga capital, India. But my time allowed me only a week out so I stayed in Thailand. I was heading to Suan Sati, a yoga retreat place I found 40-minutes away from Chiang Mai. Here, I spent 4 days and 3 nights of twice daily yoga, daily meditation, healthy meals, permaculture environment and good vibe community.
I found Suan Sati while researching for a good yoga retreat in Chiang Mai. Suan Sati has one of the best value offers I found online. For a 4D/3N retreat, I paid roughly 4,800 THB (P7,500) which includes twice a day yoga, meditation, 3 vegetarian meals and accommodation in a 2 person bungalow. That doesn’t include the free optional activities or sessions like talks, workshops and even cooking tips. Add-ons are private yoga sessions, Thai cooking workshops, and even Thai Massage.
Garden of Mindfulness
I arrived at Suan Sati via uber from Chiang Mai town proper. The place is located in a quiet neighborhood near the Mae Jo Resort and Farm. The retreat place is an enclosed area with a spacious permaculture garden, a few open huts, dorm and bungalow cottages and the main 2 story practice area with a porch that doubles as a social hangout and creative space.
Will, the founder of Suan Sati welcomed me with a big smile. He showed me around the place while orienting me of what the place is all about. Will, the dark-skinned lanky American is an advocate of permaculture. He showed me his Garden of Mindfulness he is developing. He got some papaya trees, guava and a few herbs growing. Currently, he still gets supplies from outside but he hopes that the place be self-reliant in time. Suan Sati’s name actually came from this garden, Suan meaning “garden”, sati is “mindfulness”.
Lodging in Suan Sati are modest and breezy huts. Very much like a Philippine’s bahay kubo. Basic but with comfortable beds, mosquito nets, lockable drawers and fans. Toilet is shared but kept clean and has this small notebook to write on if any spark of inspiration would kick in while on the royal throne. The outdoor shower with bamboo walls is a good example of keeping things natural. Suan Sati is strict on using natural products especially for hygiene as the water used for bathing would be absorbed by the soil and affect the nearby pond which also feeds the plants. Good thing I use natural products myself but they do have this home made mixture of shampoo and bath gel available.
One thing I really enjoyed here is the food. I’m not vegetarian but I was able to enjoy a lot of their Thai dishes. They were really flavorful. I almost didn’t miss eating meat. I always enjoy a good cup of coffee and their brewed coffee here is also soothing. For a sweet tooth like me, I’m always looking something for dessert and at that time, bliss balls were a post meal delight. We even got to learn how to make one.
Yoga Practice and Meditation
A typical day at the retreat house is hearing the sound of a gong in the early morning at 5:30 am, signaling the start of the day. There’s the rule of silence where no one is allowed to speak until breakfast. We go up the 2nd floor for our practice which starts with a meditation and the yoga practice. Morning practice is typically more dynamic and strong. Breakfast follows and we have our free time to do whatever we want. There are sessions and activities that may be of interest to some which they can attend. At that time I tried the Bliss Balls cooking, Tai Chi and also the talk on Ashtanga 8 Limbs. Lunch usually starts around 1pm and afternoon yoga session at 4pm. The afternoon class is more relaxed and slower paced. A few minutes after, followed by dinner.
For a yoga practitioner for a couple of years I was looking more into deepening my practice when I went here. I thought the teachers were good but the intensity was a little on the mid side. I guess I’m just so used to the local practice in the Philippines of strong vinyasa classes and my personal ashtanga practice. But there were some sessions which I did enjoy. What’s good here is that Suan Sati offers different types yogis can explore. It also kinda irks me when yogis would leave the class midway which is a bit of disrespectful for the practice. Or when other participants would open the fans when you really want to sweat.
Despite feeling a bit short on deepening the practice, I thought Suan Sati is more on experiencing the yoga lifestyle. I enjoyed the twice-daily yoga and meditation, healthy food and just slowing things down. I appreciate moments of just chilling by a hammock to read a book or spending time mastering my balance and attempting to walk on a slack line. I also had some time to walk around the neighborhood. One afternoon after yoga class, I went for a short hike at Mae Jo Farm to watch the sunset from a higher point. Suan Sati is a place to wind down and just enjoy the stillness. If you are starting out in yoga or thinking of exploring the practice, this is a great place to take a retreat with like minded individuals from different parts of the globe.
Suan Sati – Yoga Retreat Chiang Mai
326 Moo 3
Tambon Ban Kad
Amphoe Mae Wang
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50360
Phone: +66 91 076 4970
Email: [email protected]
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.