Why We Retreat
To retreat means to withdraw, remove, get away or retract. When things get chaotic, we retreat into the sanctuary of our bedrooms and close the door so we can go within and quiet the outside world. As yogis, we know that the practice of yoga also offers retreat from the constant chatter of the mind and the noise around us. We find refuge on our mats, the four sides acting as walls to anything not serving us spiritually so we can tune into the breath and go within.
These days, we have the option of retreating even farther from home, to serene places all over the world where yoga retreats are held for those who need to reconnect and find clarity on a much deeper level. By attending these yoga getaways, we get to escape the distractions of home to immerse ourselves in peace. When attending one of these faraway retreats, we are forced to leave behind everything, everyone and every thought that doesn't contribute to the peace and clarity we seek so we are light enough to travel.
Because we are seeking clarity, stillness and peace with our decision to retreat, we are drawn to places like Thailand, Mexico or Bali because of the popular images of crystal waters and clear, unobstructed views of sunsets and oceans. These seem obvious choices when our intentions are silence, serenity, clear thoughts and relaxation.
During the planning stages of a trip, it can be difficult to remember what tips we've heard or get a handle on the region because the names of places are foreign and we have absolutely no context of knowledge about the country to draw from. In this two part article, I will break down some of the most popular destinations in Thailand so you can get a general understanding for what the main attractions offer and start to research and sketch out your itinerary; both places to visit and those to avoid based on the intention for your trip or retreat.
This urban hub is in the geographical center of Thailand. The antithesis of retreat but a large part of the essence of the country, it offers Buddhist temples, spicy street food, vibrant culture and world renowned nightlife making it one of the world’s most notorious cities that never sleep. Experience the bazaar-like street markets and soak in the city’s history as an urban and spiritual place which now combines modern tourism with ancient culture. Connect with travelers from all over the world and live the full experience of big city Thailand….before you retreat into peace and serenity.
Surrounded by mountains in Northern Thailand, lies what is said to be the cultural heart of Thailand. Chiang Mai is deeply rooted in Thai culture and spirituality. Travelers will enjoy the night bazaar and walking street as well as an eclectic array of food and more than 300 magnificent and sacred Buddhist temples. Things to do include wandering the markets, getting a massage, visiting an orchid farm or getting to know the well treated elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand. Travelers can surf, take cruises around the island, sunbathe on white sand beaches, play golf, enjoy nightlife or visit historic, Old Phuket Town with its eclectic mix of cafes, museums and shops. The large Big Buddha statue, this one dwarfing the shrine on Koh Samui, is a recent arrival to the island. It stands 45 meters high and 25 meters wide and sits on a spot well-known for its spectacular views of the island. Take in a stunning sunset from here or one of many other viewpoints on the island. Phuket is the perfect place to take in a the well-rounded Thailand experience that includes beaches, culture, nightlife, shopping and spiritual shrines and temples.
In Krabi Town you’ll find more white sand beaches, more crystal blue waters and more saturated tourism. However, Krabi is also known for its coastal and inland cave systems and as a world class climbing destination. Inside the caves you’ll find cavernous lagoons and prehistoric paintings and carvings depicting spiritual Buddhist art. Half-day, full-day and three-day climbing classes are offered in this locale which draws climbers from all over the world. Also in Krabi are regular ferries to other islands, including Koh Yao Noi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.
In the middle and to the east coast of the arm that extends to Southern Thailand, this island resort town offers picturesque views of clear blue water and white sand beaches. Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island and travelers can enjoy a wide range of nightlife, sunbathing, live music, hiking and water sports like diving, snorkeling and kayaking. Starting from Koh Samui, travel can be arranged to other, smaller islands. Koh Samui’s signature landmark, The Big Buddha Temple, sits atop a tall climb of outdoor stairs leading up to the 12 meter high gold statue of Buddha. There are many resorts and other types of lodging on Koh Samui, which has grown from its roots as a small fishing village into a popular tourist destination. Koh Samui is your dream of everything an island vacation or yoga retreat should be.
Have you ever been to Thailand? What's was your favorite experience, or what would you most like to see while visiting?
Kristin Daemon is a yoga teacher, freelance writer and owner of Seaside Yoga, a new studio in the small town of Seaside, Oregon on the rugged Pacific Northwest coast. You can find and friend her on Facebook or check out and follow her blog, kristindaemon.com.