No words could do justice to Nong Khai, Thailand. No pictures could do the job right either. It’s a place for the inner soul to appreciate. It does not appeal by outer beauty, although it does sit beside the Mekong river and has one of the most memorable sunset on the river.
Most people come here to transit through Laos to Vientiane, its capital, thinking they would rest in the border town of Thailand for a day or two, but many ended up staying for weeks and months. Some come back year after year. As it goes, it is a “sticky” place, not just because its cuisine specializes in sticky rice.
Our family had returned to it time and again during our 2-year round-the-world trip. It felt like home.
We stumbled upon Nong Khai after an awful night in Vientiane last January, more than a year ago, being cheated again in beautiful Laos. We needed a place to recuperate for a few days in friendly Thailand before heading south to hardy Cambodia.
Our guide book pointed us to Mut Mee Garden Guesthouse by the river bank. The room was comfortable and the owners charismatic. Everything was wonderful, especially the tranquil garden that allured people to be their most authentic.
The kids naturally connected with the two dozens or so guests lounging in the garden. The last day before we planned to hit the road, a group of grey-haired musicians were making beautiful music at the corner and invited Anita to play when they saw her practicing guitar. By that time, she had practiced guitar for nine months. They jammed along and made her simple “Mexican Hat Dance” a rock star’s. That sparked her interest in learning chords.
One of them wore purple bandana and long white beard like an ancient sage. His skin glowing, eyes glittering, energy flowing, voice vibrating, he could be of any age. He got up, walked in graceful harmony. I learned that he was Pancho, from California, the great Yoga Master at Nong Khai Alternative Center (Pantrix.net) in the Mut Mee community. He was to lead a 7-day Intensive Yoga course with his wife, Beatrix, the next day.
We had no rush to head south. The guesthouse and garden were comfortable. The kids were engaged in interesting learnings. I had always enjoyed Yoga and wanted to learn from a Master. Peter doubted Yoga and ridiculed me when I practiced.
It turned out I didn’t even need to persuade him. He sought me out in the garden and asked if he could join the class himself.
A quiet Scottish young man Jamie arrived. Jamie came all the way from Scotland to attend Pancho’s class, and this was his second time. Our friend Brian, the English man who we bumped into time and again in Laos also stayed at Mut Mee and told Peter he ought to try. Later, an English couple arrived and Richard told us that he was in the course 8 years ago. This time he brought his girlfriend to attend as well. Jamie and Richard were both athletic, over 6-feet-tall strong men. In the short 7 days, 8-10 hours a day course, they felt their health and mind peaked to a level that they had never experienced before and wanted to come back to pick up whatever was left.
Peter found Pancho in the Yoga studio down the small alleyway outside the garden in lush greens. There was one spot left.
For the next 7 days, Peter got up at 5:30am, came back to the garden around 10:30am, went into class again at 2pm and joined us for dinner after 8pm. He meditated with Pancho 2 hours a day, performed yoga asanas for hours, practiced robust breathing (pranayama) and energy channeling (chakras), learned muscle anatomy, lifestyles, herbal, diet, philosophy, and many other health topics. Everyday he came back with a little less doubt and more glow.
Thank goodness, after the 7 days, he started to carry a Yoga Mat on our trip and no more laughing as we started doing Yoga as a family.
My chance to experience Pancho’s teaching came after a cold winter in Europe. We were considering backpacking through South America after our four months journey in Europe. I was already picking up some useful Spanish in Spain. But the setbacks of flu urged us to warmer places. Thailand came to top again. I was thrilled at the idea of joining Pancho’s class myself this January.
Peter had shared with me many things he learned in the course last year. But nothing compared to the presence of the Masters and the group energy. It certainly didn’t hurt when my classmates could see things I couldn’t see.
Changes had to happen from the inside out. Through connecting mind and body, I gradually saw my real self. It was like a little child sensing the world around her for the first time with wide open eyes. Dots connected to form lines, lines grew shapes, and shapes stitched into colorful master pieces. I sensed, I saw, I understood. It was real and magical, personal and healing. No wonder many people came back for the same class time and again. Some went on to the 30-day Advanced Class to further the experience.
Our stars shined when Don and Jeem, our new friends and loving hosts at Pikul Apartments (we changed lodging because we wanted a kitchen) happily agreed to be the girls’ second parents if Peter and I wished to join the 30-day course together.
Don was a Thai Australian. He moved to Australia as a little boy. After successful careers as Art Directors at marketing companies in Australia, he retired back in Thailand with his wife and ran the hotels. With big laughs, he and his toy gangsters on his tuk-tuk would hail the girls out on the Thai streets to scout for creativity. They would come back with bamboo skins to make hanging mobiles, pricks for threads, leaves for decorations. Both girls and Don were excited about all the fancy projects they could be doing together for one month.
If the 7-day course was eye-opening, the 30-day course was transcending.
We did Yoga for hours, many styles, Yin, Yang, Pantrix. We worked all the muscle groups, focusing on the most traumatizing ones for most people – the hip, the core and the legs. We studied the inner layers of muscles, oftentimes, the third and forth layers under skin.
We spent hours practicing deep breathings (Yogic pranayama). We learned Qi Gong (or Chee Gung) – Ancient Chinese breathing and energy channeling art. We danced like animals to cultivate our central energy. We played “Qi ball”. We felt our “Qi” gathering and dispersing.
We meditated extensively. We fasted. We fed on Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal tonics. We cleansed our stomachs. We flushed our livers. We zapped for parasites. We wrote introspective journals. We went deep into our physics and psychics.
We sang songs and made music. We looked into the sciences of health. We appreciated the Way of nature reading “Everyday Tao”. We practiced the new way of life in harmony.
8 hours a day, 5 and half days a week for 30 days. From internal organs to external physics, from body to mind, from energy to spirit, Pancho and Beatrix led the 7 of us through an inward journey with love and light.
We released pain and trauma. The workload was intense, but balanced, just the right amount for everyone, even after the 108 Sun Salutations. Again and again, we’d learned that we grew stronger and calmer out of it. Love, peace and strength followed.
We became One with Ourselves, with Nature, with Universe.
Thank You from our hearts, with Love and Light.
“And the end of our exploring will be to arrive at the place we started and to know that place for the first time.”
More pictures of the place of love and light.