Following are step-by-step directions to the home/school of Ajahn Pichest Boonthumme in the Hang Dong area just south of Chiang Mai, Thailand
Also, at the end you’ll find instructions on what to bring, when to arrive, etc. To help you find your way, here is the exact location on GoogleMaps: <https://maps.google.com/maps?q=18.696555,98.929894&num=1&vpsrc=6&ie=UTF8&ll=18.696578,98.929881&spn=0.001646,0.002401&t=m&z=19&iwloc=A> If you zoom in all the way to StreetView you can even see the sign with Pichest’s name on it.
The first time I went to study with Pichest I had no idea where to go, so I paid a taxi driver 300 baht ($10) to take me there. We had a fun adventure, but he actually had no idea where to turn off the main road so we got a bit lost. I would love to prevent this from happening to any other students. It can be both easy and VERY cheap to get to Pichest’s. It’s easier and much cheaper to take a shared-ride yellow truck instead of a taxi or tuk-tuk.
Starting from Chiang Mai gate (at the south-center of the old city), if you have a motorbike it’s about a 15 minute ride that involves only one turn. If you don’t have a bike, you can take a yellow Songthaew (shared taxi), which will take about 20 minutes and costs only 15 baht each way.
A Songthaew (pronounced “song tao”) is a pickup truck/utility vehicle that serves as a shared-ride taxi. They are found all over Chiang Mai. The words “Song Thaew” literally translate to “two rows,” describing the two benches that face each other in the back of the truck. The Red colored trucks stay closer to the old city and will take you just about anywhere you ask for 20 baht (don’t ask for the price! it’s 20 baht unless they ask for more), but the other-colored trucks (yellow, blue, white, black) operate more like a bus and drive along a prescribed route. The fare depends on the distance you ride, but it’s almost always under 25 baht. Each different color truck has a different route.
To find the Songthaew: just south of Chiang Mai gate (across the moat from the market), you should cross the street and look to the right to see a 7-Eleven. See the map at the bottom of this page for reference. Just behind the 7-Eleven is a diagonal road (Wua Lai) heading south-west (this is the street with the Saturday Night Walking Street). There should be a YELLOW COLORED Songthaew parked on the left side of the road facing south-west. No need to talk to the driver, just hop in the back and have a seat; within 5-10 minutes it will leave for Hang Dong, stopping along the way to drop off and pick up anyone that asks.
You’ll need to pay attention to know when to push the buzzer (on the ceiling) and disembark, and it’s not always easy to see out the tiny windows so choose your seat strategically. You’ll need to look out on the right side for a VERY large and identifiable sign/billboard that says “TOA”. It comes up shortly following a narrow brick pedestrian bridge (but you will pass under about four of these during the journey, so make sure it’s the right one before you buzz). Please note: the old “American Standard” sign was removed in late 2014, so you need to watch out for “TOA” instead. When you pass under the pedestrian bridge preceding the “TOA” bridge (about 1 km earlier) you will see a “Mitsubishi Motors” sign about 50 meters past the bridge, so you’ll know to be ready for the next bridge. Both of these bridges come up well after you pass the “Superhighway,” which is a very large intersection and is heavily labeled with signs to turn here for the “Night Safari.”
After you pass the TOA sign, keep your eyes to the right and wait for about 20 seconds until the trees and bushes in the median disappear. Push the buzzer now and the truck will stop on the left side at the street that leads directly to Pichest’s. It is marked by the sign pictured below, which has unfortunately become almost completely obscured by a mango tree. So, look carefully! The sign is written in the Thai characters, but there are also some recognizable numbers on the right side of the sign: a small 4 on the first row, and a large 2 on the second row. Walk along this street for about 200 meters until the road makes a 90-degree turn to the right. As you approach that turn, Pichest’s home is directly in front of you and the sign says “Pichest Boonthumme.” If you’re on a motorbike or bicycle, park it inside the gates.
Turn left when you find this sign (it's now partially hidden behind a mango tree) — you’re almost there! See photo of the sign at bottom of page.
Class begins officially at 9am but usually Pichest does not start on time (more like 9:30). Despite this, I recommend you come at 9am. Pichest says some of the most interesting and funniest things during the “unofficial” portion of class when he is just hanging out smoking cigarettes and talking to people. To arrive at 9am I would aim to be getting on the Songthaew at Chiang Mai Gate by 8:30am.
There is no curriculum. There is no book. There is no certificate (although the Thai Healing Alliance recently began recognizing a limited number of continuing education hours from studying with Pichest). Each day Pichest teaches whatever he feels like, so come with an open mind.
If you want to see what a class is like before you commit for a whole week, you should feel free to come observe for a day (Pichest won’t charge you anything on your first day). It’s a relaxed and relatively informal setting so feel free to show up whenever you like; classes are every Mon-Fri from 9am-4pm, sometimes running until about 4:30pm. If you would like to speak to Pichest ahead of time you can call (although this is not necessary). His phone number is +66-53-441-704, and the best time to call is just before or after class (between 8-9am or 4:30-5pm). He is not great about reading or responding to emails.
On your first official day (probably Monday) you should bring a package of incense, some candles (the larger variety that come in a pack of 12, and he prefers white or yellow), some flowers (any type, doesn’t have to be lotus), and some pieces of fruit (3, 5, 7 or some odd number). You take one of the red bowls and an envelope from just inside the classroom on the right. Write your name and the dates you will study on the envelope, include your tuition (4,000 THB per week or 800 THB per day), and place the envelope (with money inside), candles, incense, and flowers in the red bowl. There will be a separate wicker basket for the fruits. Inside the room to the right you will see other students placing their bowls near the altar: Men’s on the left, Women’s on the right. Add your offering to the others with the flowers facing the altar. Later (Monday only) there will be a ceremony where each student enters the altar and presents the offering to Buddha. All of these items can easily be purchased at Chiang Mai Gate Market, just north of the moat road. To put together a modest offering, you should expect to spend about 150 baht: flowers for 20 baht, incense 60 baht, candles 40 baht, and fruit 20 baht. Of course you can spend more money and get bigger, nicer, more expensive items… but it’s not necessary to buy the nicest things you can find. When students occasionally bring extravagant or excessively large bouquets of flowers Pichest will make jokes about ego. *These price estimations were made in 2013 and of course could change.
I think this is everything you need to know. I hope you enjoy your time studying with Pichest, and maybe I will see you there. Feel free to email me questions, though no promise that I will have an answer
-David Rhein <David@healingrhino.com>