Set hillside in Rayong Province Thailand, Wat Marp Jan is a Buddhist Monastery inhabited mainly by Thai men training in meditation and daily life as monks (Bhikkhus) .
In 2011 I traveled there after researching and living in Monasteries in the Thai forest tradition. Venerable Ajahn Anan Akiñcano is the Abbott.
Some foreign monks there speak English as did many of the Thais but it’s a Thai speaking monastery. It’s free to stay short term for guests, anything over 10 days and you are asked to shave your head and eyebrows if you intend on being considered for ordination. Here is an excerpt from their website regarding staying as a lay guest:
“In general staying at Wat Marp Jan is about a way of life. There is no opportunity for silent long retreats. Instead, there is a focus for lay guests to develop themselves through living and participating in a monastic culture. Lay guests are expected to have an attitude of service towards the monastery and to the monks staying here. In participating in this service-orientated culture, Luang Pu Chah always stressed constant mindfulness in any activity and the attitude that abiding by the routines of the monastery is a way of letting go, the heart of the Buddhist practice.”
The daily routine starts with early morning chanting and meditation. Afterwards pretty much everyone is getting ready for the meal. Each morning the dozens of monks head out for alms round (pindabat), where they walk barefoot with their bowls to collect food offered by local supporters. When they returned, one or two guests like myself would rinse and dry their feet as they lined up outside the dining hall. The kneeling position caused a lot of pain on my toes but was maybe my favourite part of the day getting to greet all the Monks.
After eating the only meal of the day there is a work period. I tracked down the job monk and he put me on sweeping. I cleared leaves, branches, and jackfruit from the lawn outside the front gate and the first part of the driveway which lead to the dining hall. There were small teams of sweepers the entire way up the mountain to the dhamma hall. There’s a large koi pond near the hut I slept in. Most huts are on stilts but this particular one had a ground floor room. A scorpion ran from under the door toward me as I opened it the first time. The room was damp and musty, especially it being ground level, next to the pond, and rainy season. Further up the jungle-covered hillside are small huts where the monks have their own space and usually a walking meditation path. Overall the vibe was fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for a more ideal Monastery. This video gives a great look at daily life for a Novice Monk there.