In Chiang Mai, there are more meditation retreats, temples, yoga studios, and smoothie bowl joints than you can count.
With the popular Buddhist way of life, travelers flock to the ‘Rose of the North’ to get some spiritual healing and development.
I am no exception.
…Except I try not to go to touristy places.
Next time you’re wondering what to do in Chiang Mai (especially the non touristy things), here are 7 hidden gems to level up your spiritual game!
- Meditation Retreat
- Akashic Records Reading
- Chiang Mai Holistic
- Infinity Breath Work & Ice Bath
- Yoga Rang Nok
- Miracle Card Reading
Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya Buddhist University (MCU) is where the original Monk Chat in Chiang Mai came from!
Most who show up are foreigners, but I wouldn’t say it’s touristy. I’m someone that craves local, authentic experiences and I went twice!
On the grounds of Wat Suan Dok (a temple by the airport) on Suthep Road, MCU offers a chance to chat with the monks and varying lengths of meditation retreats.
Time: Monday-Friday from 5pm-7pm
Cost: Free, but you can donate if you want
The monks get to practice their English and you get to ask them questions about monk life, Buddhism and anything else your heart desires. Win-win!
I’ve asked questions like:
- Why do monks shave their heads?
- What is the meaning of life?
- Why become a Buddhist monk?
- What is the daily life of a Buddhist monk?
- Why do monks wear orange?
I don’t think anything is off the table – just try not to offend them.
1 Day Meditation Retreat (8H)
Time: Every Friday from 9am to 5pm
Cost: By Donation (Monks don’t get paid a salary, so please be generous!)
Led by Phra KK (Phra means ‘Monk’ in Thai), the day was full of knowledge, wisdom and laughter. This guy is hilarious!
The first half of the day is Buddhism 101 workshop, then lunch followed by practice time and Monk Chat in the afternoon.
You get free tea and pineapple cookies throughout the day, but lunch is not included. There is a tasty organic vegetarian/vegan place around the corner that KK will tell you about.
It was a great refresher for me, I took 10 pages of notes (yes, I’m a nerd!) and here are my top 5 takeaways:
- Buddha is not a religion, it’s a philosophy
- Buddha was human (not a god) and passed away. He never said to build temples to worship him in or to take his word as gospel.
- Always “investigate [it] yourself”, then form your own opinion
- Everything is “impermanent” – let it happen, let it go and don’t dwell
- Suffering comes from dwelling – you’re inflicting pain on yourself, don’t do it
- Knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is applied knowledge
- Balance the body and the mind – we know to exercise and eat clean, but what do you do to train your mind? Meditate 15-20 minutes daily.
2-Day (Overnight) Meditation Retreat (26H)
Time: Every Tuesday to Wednesday
Cost: 800 baht + 300 baht for white clothes (or you can bring your own – I did!)
I went to this overnight meditation retreat back in 2017, hence why the 1-day was a refresher for me.
It was my first time getting so intimate with Buddhism so the immersion was a bit intense, but I needed it at that time.
Also led by Phra KK, I thought it was quite entertaining and interesting as an outsider. I remember coming out of it feeling very light and carefree!
Basically, it’s the same as the 1-day, except:
- You’re whisked away to a meditation center 45 minutes outside of the city
- You’re fed 2-3 yummy (veggie) meals a days, and
- You spend a lot more time practicing your new-found meditation skills
For those who want a gentler introduction, stick with the 1-day.
4-Day Meditation Retreat
Time: Tuesday to Friday once a month – it’s conjoined with the 2-day meditation
Cost: 2000 baht + optional 300 for white clothes (or bring your own)
Never been – it’s probably too much for me.
There are other meditation retreats in town (SO MANY!), but most are a) a lot longer than I would like (7-10 days), b) too expensive, or c) I’m unsure how authentic they are.
So, do your own research or just stick to MCU – they are the original monk chat in Chiang Mai afterall!
Akashic Records Reading
I heard about Neil from Global Akasha from a friend.
It sounded super interesting and not something that just any old psychic can do, so why not?!
How it works
1) Research what the Akashic Records are
This is my understanding:
The records contain everything that has ever happened or will happen since the beginning of time, so you can find out about your past lives, things about your current life and get guidance on how to achieve your highest potential.
There is still such a thing as free will, so based on your decisions, your future can change.
Here’s a better (and more accurate) explanation of the akashic records from the man himself!
2) Come Prepared with Questions
You can ask any question pertaining to yourself.
Here are some akashic records sample questions to start with, but I found it more helpful to ask something specific.
For example: Next year I plan to travel to [insert city], what will that experience bring me?
3) Be Open to the Experience
This is how the session goes.
Neil will open up your records, answer all your questions and pass on any messages from your Guides.
There might be things you don’t want to hear, or you can’t get the answer to.
Life is about the journey, not the destination, so sometimes our guides won’t reveal everything to us. Even if they do, remember that free will exists and you can change your path.
After he closes your records, he’ll ask you to pick a few Oracle cards to complete the session.
You’ll have a recording of your reading, so you can listen to it again (and again – I did!).
Who it’s For
People who want to learn more about:
- their highest potential in this life and how to achieve it
- their past lives and how it still influences them today
- a current situation (Eg. family drama, a personality trait, quirky habits, repetitive issues they’re facing)
I’ve referred many friends (at least 5!) to Neil, and they’ve all said wonderful things about him and their readings.
It’s phenomenal value for what you get – I think this might be an annual thing for me.
Introduced to me by the same friend (Love you, Lena!), she saw wonderful results – the carnivore in her turned pescatarian, a non-yoga believer turned tantric and developed a more positive attitude in life.
Already vetted by my friend coupled with a chat with Max – he came across trustworthy and genuine – I felt like I was in good hands.
I, of course, did some digging of my own too.
This guy has performed hundreds of Kambo ceremonies for many, many years, was trained by a Shaman in Peru and only uses legit powdered herbs made by native tribes in South America.
So what is Kambo?
Basically, Kambo is medicine that allows our body to purge.
We inject ourselves with poison from the tree frog by burning it into our skin and wait for our immune system to fight it out.
People deal with the toxin purge differently, but most throw up. You can also sweat, shake, or get the runs.
It’s NOT a hallucinogen or psychedelic. It’s more inwards than outwards (Ayahuasca).
I see it as a reset to my system. In fact, my intention for the whole experience was to reset, rebalance and refocus.
Nov 17 – This is how it went down
We arrived at 9am sharp.
Max sent us all the information we needed to know beforehand, but (like most people) we forgot, so I appreciated him walking us through the process, allowed us to ask any questions and just spent time getting to know each other more.
We went to the ceremonial space inside the house. I was so happy it was indoors with no mosquitoes!
We lit up some sage and did some breathwork as a warm-up.
The important thing to remember is long, deep breaths. Whatever you’re facing, you’ll be OK, it’s a mental game.
1) Happeh for the nose
I wasn’t expecting this.
Max asked us if we wanted to also incorporate this as part of our Kambo experience on the day of. And since it was complimentary – sure, why not?!
He put a special blend of herbs (called Happeh) into a pipe and blew it up my nose.
It stung – it was spicy.
You’re supposed to balance it out by blowing the powder into both sides of the nose, but it was too intense and one was enough for me.
I got a quick high from it – a dizzy feeling, then it slowly started to subside.
Meanwhile, my eyes teared up, my nose was a bit runny, and I felt like I was on fire. I broke out in a sweat.
I focused on deep breaths. Long inhales and exhales – it helped a lot to stay present. I felt like I needed to hold onto something to feel grounded, so I reached for my lip balm.
I grabbed my puke bucket – felt more substantial.
I was slightly nauseous but nothing came up.
My heartbeat quickened, my whole body was shaking, especially my hands. They were vibrating – I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. It was interesting.
I had my hands facing each other at shoulder length and I felt energy(?) passing through them. The closer I put my fingertips together, the more intense that felt. Like electric jolts jumping from one finger to another.
I noticed that I didn’t want to make eye contact, talk too much and what other people were doing around me affected me.
After that faded a bit, we were instructed to drink 1L of water in about 10 minutes.
2) Kambo for the skin
While we were drinking the mineral water, Max put dots on us.
Traditionally, men get 5 dots and women get 3.
So sexist, but really, because how much you weigh correlates to the amount of dosage you can handle – makes sense.
We had discussed placements of the dots beforehand, so he knew where to burn our flesh.
Literally, he lits a long, thin piece of wood on fire, blows it out then puts it on our skin. It hurt a little bit (duh!) but very tolerable.
As for placement: usually you get dots on your arms or legs. If have typically have cold feet, you may not feel the effects as fast because of poor circulation.
I wanted mine a bit hidden so it was a toss up between inside of my arm or on the back of my shoulder.
Max said inside of the arm might make the healing annoying because I’d rub it against my side. Fair point. Shoulder it is!
After we finished our water, he got to work on the Kambo.
The poison from the tea frog is actually dried on a small, flat piece of wood. To make it come alive, he poured water on the wood and scrapes the top with a knife to form a translucent ball of poison.
He puts this ball on one dot.
For the first 2-3 minutes, they monitor if you have an allergy to it.
How are you feeling? Is your throat closing up? Do you have a reaction on your skin?
If you’re good to go, then he’ll put on more dots.
Most people don’t react to just one, because the dosage is pretty low.
I’m not most people.
I felt the poison spreading from my shoulder. It was hot everywhere, even my ears.
Puking again, a few tears slid down my face. The hand vibration thing came back, except this time, my hands became stiff and closed up. It took a lot of strength to open them.
Max said that’s normal, just means that I’m lacking a bit of oxygen, so keep on with the deep breaths.
It took tremendous effort to focus on breathing and to not disassociate.
No pictures of my bile because 1) that’s too gross to show you, and 2) I was too busy making that bile.
All I can say is that it wasn’t a small amount, but at least it was clear – like water.
He gave me 1.5 dots of Kambo in total. I puked again the second time.
It’s important to keep upright during the purge rather than lying down.
When the timer went off (each portion kind of has its own time allocation), I was a bit dizzy so I laid down on the yoga mat and closed my eyes.
Time to rest.
I didn’t fall asleep, but I was close.
15-20 minutes passed by and I got up when I was ready. I had no idea I was sweating so much – my whole back was wet.
I downed that coconut water was beside me.
3) Sanaga for the eyes
Just like Happeh, Sanaga was an on-the-spot offer.
Sure, why not?! It’s the trifecta – we must complete it!
We laid down and prompted our eyelids opened for Max to squeeze 1-2 drops in each eye.
It stung like a bitch.
My whole body reacted to it. Well, it is called lightning to the eyes for a good reason.
I think I only got a half dosage because I blinked/closed my eyes at the wrong (or right!) time.
Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably to wash away whatever was irritating my eyes.
I was having an easier than my friend. The only stinging is only supposed to last 2-3 minutes, but after about 60 seconds, I felt OK.
I was able to sit up and open my eyes at the 2-minute mark.
My friend took his time.
When he came up, his eyes were bloodshot. Mine was apparently normal.
And that was our experience.
We chatted for a bit after, Max put on antiseptic cream on us and we hugged goodbye.
We were sent aftercare instructions that I followed.
This is how I felt afterward:
Immediately after, I felt like I was functioning normally, no downtime.
I thought I may need to take a day or two to recover, so I’m surprised I bounced back so quickly.
Maybe I was less toxic than I thought!
I wasn’t hungry at all (which is rare!). By the time I ate, I would have been fasting for 26H – my longest one ever.
I can barely do the normal 16/8 for intermittent fasting.
By the time I returned home, it felt like a dream. The only reminders were pictures and the dots on my shoulder.
After a few days:
- Still a bit of digestive confusion
- Eyes are not more sensitive from the Sanaga (thank goodness!)
- Still feel energy jolts between my fingers but way less intense
- Haven’t sensed a palate change (but I usually opt for healthier food)
- The imbalance in my life hit me like a tonne of bricks and I immediately deleted and logged out of all social media channels to do a digital detox
All in all, I didn’t notice any major physical changes, maybe that means I’m already quite healthy and there wasn’t too much to alter.
However, mentally, it was a huge reset for me. I’ll keep monitoring though.
FYI – Only in CM until June 2020.
Chiang Mai Holistic
This is the hot spot in town with many spiritualists coming here on the daily.
Chiang Mai Holistic offers everything from yoga classes to reiki training to free movie nights and more on a rotating monthly schedule.
Here’s the pricing as of November 2019:
- 250 baht – Drop-in
- 1,000 baht – 5 sessions
- 2,000 baht – 30 days unlimited
- 5,500 baht – 90 days unlimited
I only went to a few classes and here’s what I thought:
For new members, they had a special promotion for their yoga class – only 150 baht for a 1.5H class.
My first yoga class in months!
It was tough because I wasn’t as flexible anymore, but I’m glad I went to get my stretch on.
Kru (“Teacher”) Jack was patient and gave clear instructions in English.
I learned that a 90-minute yoga class is too long for me. Maybe, when I’m more nimble.
Tibetian Singing Bowls Sound Bath
I really like Tibetan singing bowls – my friend has one back home and I would just get mesmerized with the low baritone sound it makes.
So, naturally, I was very interested in this 90 baht sound bath.
It was cool!
We all laid down on mats in a dimly-lit yoga studio while 2 people played the Tibetian bowls for us while we slept.
Spiritually, I was told it’s supposed to align the bottom chakras.
I felt nice and relaxed afterward, probably because I took a long nap.
It was pretty cool when they brought the bowl close to me, and I could feel the vibration on my skin.
I would go again!
Crystal Singing Bowls Sound Bath
Come on, of course, I had to try the crystal bowl just to compare and contrast! (It’s also just 90 baht!)
All I got to say is…I like the Tibetian one better. The crystal bowls were a bit too loud and high-pitched for me – couldn’t nap at this one.
I’m told that crystal bowls are more for aligning your upper body chakras.
This one didn’t really do it for me, unfortunately.
Basically, you lie down and listen to the music that puts your brain in different stages so that you will emit different brain waves. They do some reiki healing on you throughout, then, in the end, you pick a few cards for a mini reading.
I thought the music was going to be calming but it was too strange for me. It went from calming Chinese music to techno to Arabic tunes.
Maybe it stimulated me too much – I couldn’t fall asleep that night.
Infinity Breath Work & Ice Bath
Wim Hof is the latest craze and wanting to learn more about breathwork, I signed up for the Infinity Breath Work & Ice Bath workshop.
I didn’t do the ice bath – I just wanted to learn how to breathe.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much – I mean, how spiritual can breathing be?!
The answer is very.
I was caught completely off guard when I couldn’t stop crying.
Not sure what I was sad about, but that’s OK – sometimes we don’t need to understand why we release. Just be happy that you did.
Next time, I’ll get in the ice bath.
I’m sure it’s another great way to reset your system. I’ve tried cryotherapy before, so I’d imagine it to be more intense since it’s wet against your skin.
FYI – Only in CM until end of November 2019, then you can find them in Vietnam. If you’re into this, they even have a retreat that they host called Infinity Camp.
Yoga Rang Nok
Cost: 150 baht for drop-in OR a pack of 10 is 1200 baht (120 baht/class)
I really like this place!
It’s walkable distance from my apartment, good value for the money, they provide everything without charge (mat, blocks & ropes), and the Kru (“teacher”) Dim is AWESOME.
She REALLY pushed me (that’s what I look for in any trainer or coach!), will instruct English, takes pretty pictures of you and massages/sings to you during Savasana.
The class was only supposed to be 1H15 min but it was more like 1H 45 min.
Again, a bit too long for me, but you certainly get your money’s worth here.
The only downside:
- They don’t offer too many sessions. It’s limited to weekdays – only 1 class in the morning and 2 in the evening.
- The studio is small. Get there early to get a space.
I haven’t had the chance to go again because of the limited sessions, but if I were here for a longer time period I would definitely get the 10-pass.
Miracle Card Reading
Yet another referral from a good friend!
Chada is a loving, sweet soul that gets satisfaction from helping others in a spiritual manner.
You can sense her warm yet calming presence the second you sit down with her.
I loved that it’s a low investment, fun reading that’s different than the norm.
- You don’t shuffle the cards.
You actually do a breathing exercise with your eyes closed while she prepares the cards.
- You interpret the cards first
Here’s the low down:
- Pick 10 cards from the spread
- You interpret them one by one in the order you chose them
- After each interpretation, Chada will give you her spin on it – card by card
It’s unique and personal to each individual because you’re the one deciphering the message.
There’s no running away from it. It can’t be ‘faked.’
It’s all you.
Of course, these 7 are just a small sample size of the many other places you can receive spiritual healing in town.
You know I only talk about things that I’ve actually done!
If you know of any other good spots to try out, please comment below to let me know.
As I wrap up my spiritual healing quest, my time in Chiang Mai has also come to an end.
Now, it’s off to the islands for some R&R and self-inflection.