This past January, Julie Kirkpatrick and I took 20 students on a yoga retreat to Hoi An, Vietnam. It was a big endeavour to coordinate travel for all these Holy Beings across the world, but completely worth it. I've only begun to download all the photos. I'm seeing so many more incredible images from the various participants-- but I'll only share those with their permission! I'll do my best to recap this experience from my own records.
From various parts of the US and Switzerland, we all flew into Ho Chi Minh City. This is about 20 hours of travel, minimum, so there were some bedraggled and brave souls touching down in Vietnam's capital. Most of us arrived late Saturday evening, stayed the night, and then flew out to Da Nang the following morning. This was a quick commuter flight up the coast. From Da Nang, Hoi An is about 20 minutes away. On our ride from the airport we stopped at China Beach, made infamous for it's RnR during the US-Vietnam war.
The group stayed in three boutique hotels in a small radius in Old Town Hoi An. Breakfasts were at each individual hotel, everyone was on their own for lunch, and we had dinners together in various top notch Hoi An restaurants. Each morning, we walked along the river and through the bustling market place to a patio we had rented for our yoga space.
After practice, participants spent their days taking in the bustle of Hoi An, visiting temples and pagodas, taking boat rides on the river, cycling through the surrounding rice paddies, commissioning tailor-made clothes, shopping, learning to make lanterns, taking cooking lessons, and much more. The more ambitious amongst us went further afield to neighboring towns like Hue while others (like me) went hard on the inexpensive massages. A 60 min massage ranged from $12-18. At a certain point I was averaging about one a day!
Hoi An is known for its food so there was a lot of sampling. In between massages I was a fan of matcha tea lattes. Not only is the food delicious and locally grown, but it's really beautiful. That strikes me every time I'm in Vietnam-- there's this rare ability to make everything beautiful: your meal, the moment, the land. There's an intricacy and attention that moves me.
Evening practices were more gentle or restorative. We incorporated meditation, chanting, and sometimes philosophy discussions. Unfortunately, Vietnam is not the quietest place in general! There are constant motorbikes going by, music, and the general hub bub of life. Julie taught us amazing meditation techniques to let the noise bring us to a centered space, so that we learn how to let our circumstances facilitate peace and not feel at odd with our circumstances. A good lesson in general and a great lesson when you're traveling.
The nearest city to Hoi An is Da Nang. The Solar Wheel, the big ferris wheel shown below, is said to be one of 10 biggest in the world! We visited Da Nang one day on the hunt to visit a local fortune teller (that story to come). While waiting for the fortune teller we wandered through some local farm plots. They were so beautifully tended. They showed the same sweet attention I find again and again when in Vietnam. This was among the many reasons I was so glad to go back and visit this place again with all these dear yoga retreat participants. We got to take in the beauty and the cacophany with equanimity and bring these lessons back home.
As this retreat was so far away, and in a time zone 12 hours off from most of the group's usual EST, we spent 12 days. This requires more than one post! Stay tuned for recaps from Marble Mountain, My Son, and An Bang beach village.