Quick Links

We welcome all those interested in entering the paradise of spiritual adventure. Engage in the ultimate quest for the truth while enjoying all the magic of a tropical lifestyle!  Below is a list of quick links to help you find the information that you need.  Much more detailed information is contained within the rest of the FAQ.

How Do I Get to Your Center?
 
1. To reach us from Bangkok:


A special air-conditioned tourist bus leaves regularly just outside and downstairs from the new Bangkok Airport arrivals area, and takes you directly to Khao San Road (in Banglamphoo district) . For newcomers to Thailand, this may be the best place to start out, as it is the most "tourist-friendly" neighborhood. Then purchase a joint ticket from any of the hundreds of travel agents in Bangkok. You may choose with this ticket to go by overnight bus (usually 36 seats) for approximately 600 Baht or to go by second-class train sleeper (fan) for approximately 1000 Baht (ticket is around 50 Baht cheaper for the upper bunk). If you choose to take the bus, you will be directed where to meet it usually at about 18.00; if you choose the train it is your own responsibility to get yourself to the Hualamphong Train Station in the later afternoon; any taxi or tuk-tuk can take you.  This ticket pays for your journey south to Surat Thani, transfer early in the morning (usually about 06.00-07.30) to the pier, and a boat ticket for the remainder of your journey to the island. You will arrive at the pier in Thongsala, the main town on Koh Phangan, usually by noon.

For a complete schedule of trains between Bangkok and Surat Thani, call +66 (0)22 204334 or visit www.railway.co.th. It is possible to do this trip on your own, but a bit more cumbersome than the joint ticket option.

If you have a lot of luggage, you may enjoy taking the government bus, +66 (0)2 434 7192 in Bangkok (or +66 (0)77 238762 on Koh Phangan). It leaves daily from the Bangkok Southern Bus Station ("Sai Tai Mai") at 19:45, and costs about 1200 Baht. Get there early to secure a seat - travel agents cannot book this for you. Fare includes snacks and light dinner along the way. The main advantage to this route is that once you put your luggage on the bus, you will not need to move it from taxi to train to shuttle bus to pier to boat to taxi. The bus will take your luggage all the way from the Bangkok bus station to the Koh Phangan taxi stand. You may also take the Lomprayah catamaran via Chumporn pier combined with bus to reach the island quite fast. Buses leave Bangkok from the Khao San Road area (just off Rambuttri, where the Lomprayah office is located) at 21.00 (arriving on Koh Phangan at 10.30) and at 06.00, arriving on the island at 16.00. Tickets cost around 1100 Baht. Call +66 (0)77 238412 or visit www.lomprayah.com.

For those who wish to save time instead of money, you may also fly directly from Bangkok Airport to Koh Samui, the adjacent island, for approximately (cheaper fares can be found at inconvenient hours but you might may not find a connecting ferry). The main carrier is Bangkok Airways; arrange this flight in advance, online, or at the Bangkok Airport.  You can also try www.airninja.com or www.flylowcostairlines.org to find which airlines are currently flying this route.

From Samui you would take a shared taxi to the Lomprayah pier near Big Buddha (if you can catch the Lomprayah catamaran, you can check the ferry times at the airport or to the main port of Nathon, from where all other boats leave regularly for Koh Phangan, again, check the times at the airport. Call Bangkok Air at +66 (0)22 655555 or visit www.bangkokair.com. Lomprayah often has representatives at the airport who will book you a taxi and boat ticket on site; and the airport has a stand just after the luggage pickup which arranges taxis and group-share buses to the ferry terminals.

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2. Once on Koh Phangan

Once on Koh Phangan, if you are joining our First Level Intensive Course, tell any of the taxi drivers (tsong-tao, or shared truck taxis) that you wish to go to Agama Yoga at Srithanu - about 6 km north of Thong Sala. Click here for a detailed map of Koh Phangan.

Welcome to Agama!
Our phone number is +66 (0)89 233 0217. Call if you need any further assistance.

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3. Where can I find a map of Koh Phangan?

Click here for a detailed map of Koh Phangan.

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About Yoga
 
1. Why study with Agama?

Agama returns to the primary sources of Yoga, restoring the original meaning to the Yoga system: the complete development of the being for the aim of attaining spiritual liberation. Through systematic teachings based on curricula that become more and more advanced, progress is assured to all sincere practitioners. See also About Agama.

For many people, Agama is the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream. People of rational orientation have always waited for a scientific presentation of metaphysical and spiritual truths, which do not lose their mysterious, magical, and sacred flavor and yet remain common sense-based and grounded. Many seekers have sought a system of practice and evolution that is clear and coherent, but also truly transcendent and compassionate. We feel that this is precisely what we can offer to the modern world. Agama has had thousands of international students since its inception in 1998. Our Integral Yoga courses have been our most popular offerings; they begin with an intensive one-month introduction to Kundalini, Laya, and Tantra Yoga, and evolve into a multi-year program entailing the deep and gradual revelation of these teachings.

Agama is unique in the world. We teach some of the most esoteric and potent forms of Yoga that India and Tibet have given to world spirituality. Our system reveals the actual mechanisms behind Yoga; wonderful results have been obtained, leading to a wider fame for the courses, mostly by word of mouth. By using previously little-known techniques that have been adapted for the 21st century, the student has a very special opportunity to learn and experience all that 5,000 years of Yoga tradition can offer. Together with regular practical classes, workshops, lectures, and group meditations, we ensure that an understanding of a genuine spiritual path can be gained here.

We offer a synthesis between the rational thinking of the West and the mystical traditions of the East, incorporating many spiritual methods and systems of personal development. Our teachings generally concern spiritual evolution and Self-realization, although we also gladly touch on subjects as down-to-earth as healing, physical development, and quality of life. We use Yoga as a very strong instrument, among many other genuine spiritual techniques, to create a powerful and comprehensive program.

You can find additional information on Agama Yoga's unique approach to Yoga and Spirituality here, and a brief overview of our history here.

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2. What is Yoga?

Yoga is a system of techniques developed in ancient India and designed to lead the dedicated practitioner to full enlightenment as to the nature of reality and the Supreme.

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3. Why do Yoga?

The practice of Yoga allows the practitioner to reach his or her highest potential and reveals the greatest mysteries of the Universe. It also has more worldly applications that promote healing, improvement in the quality of life, and the realization of paranormal phenomena.

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4. Why are there so many types of Yoga?

The many types of Yoga suit the many different types of practitioners. Hatha Yoga (sun-moon Yoga) involves the physical body and leads to the balance of the solar and lunar energies. Most popular forms of Yoga, e.g., Iyengar, Sivananda, Ashtanga (not to be confused with Patanjali's traditional eight-fold Ashtanga Yoga), Vinyasa, Kundalini (not to be confused with traditional Kundalini Yoga), etc., are styles of Hatha Yoga. There are four classic types of Yoga: Jnana Yoga (the Yoga of direct knowledge), Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of devotion), Karma Yoga (the Yoga of action), and Raja Yoga (the royal Yoga which includes Hatha, Tantra, Laya, Kundalini, and other forms of Yoga). The Agama courses give teachings on all these forms, with an emphasis on Raja Yoga and its various sub-forms. See courses for more information.

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5. What is the Agama First Level Intensive?

The First Level Intensive Course is our most popular course offering worldwide. At our Thailand headquarters and at our primary branch centers (RishikeshDharamsala and Mexico) this course is taught in an intensive daily format over four weeks, approximately six hours per day. The experience is an excellent and comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of Yoga combined with two Hatha Yoga sessions per day, forming a retreat-like atmosphere.

Our students also very much enjoy the experience of community that we cultivate at Agama. We sponsor nightly rare documentaries and Yoga-related films, bhajans and kirtan, special meditations as announced, evening lectures and Q&A with Swami Vivekananda or occasionally guest presenters, monthly parties, etc. Unlike in the West, where students merely drop in to classes and leave, it is one of our aims to promote a yogi community that resembles the strength of connections found in ashram life.

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6. What is Tantra?

The word Tantra is often translated as "warp," as in the base of threads on a loom. This symbolizes the idea that all aspects of the Universe are connected like a web. Tantra is the Yoga that uses the diverse elements of manifestation - such as the body (Hatha Yoga), colors, sounds (mantra), shapes (yantra), dreams, and sexuality - to elevate the consciousness and reach spiritual realization. The word Tantra also refers specifically to the Yoga of sexuality, but technically this is too narrow a use of the term.

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7. What is initiation and why is it important?

Agama is a Tantric Yoga school dedicated to traditional methods of teaching spirituality via the process of initiation. Knowledge passed on from teacher to pupil during initiation involves the direct transfer of a specific form of energy that imparts a subtle influence. This process can only be achieved in person - it cannot be acquired from books. Initiation greatly accelerates spiritual progress and ensures accurate practice, opening the gates for true personal evolution.

Through teaching by initiation we provide you with abundant practical tools for better health, the balance of emotions, improvement in mental capacity, greater happiness, and insight into the deeper meanings of existence.

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8. What is Kundalini Shakti?

Kundalini Shakti (the coiled energy) is the strongest potential force in the human being whose arousal is essential to any spiritual evolution. In the average person, it lies dormant at the base of the spine. Kundalini Yoga is the Yoga of directly awakening Kundalini Shakti and directing it up the spine to the crown center (sahasrara, above the top of the head).

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9. Is Yoga dangerous?

Some advanced techniques of Yoga can be dangerous if practiced without proper preparation and the guidance of a qualified teacher. Fortunately, such techniques are generally inaccessible to unprepared students. For this reason, it is very important to respect the process of initiation and transmission of Yogic teachings.

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10. There are many Yoga terms I don't understand, please explain?

Here is a link to a page which gives information on many of the terms used throughout this site and in many of our classes.  You can also look at our articles page, which has a lot of useful related information.

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11. How can I apply my Yoga practice and knowledge?

There are many ways of bringing a Yoga practice and awareness into your daily routine.  Here is an article which gives some ideas of how Yoga can be applied to help you face various circumstances in your life.

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12. I would like to know more about Yoga

The subject is Yoga is immense and to help you to further understand, we have collated some of the available information for you.

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About Agama Yoga and Our Classes
 
1. What is Agama Yoga?

For many people, Agama is the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream. People of rational orientation have always waited for a scientific presentation of metaphysical and spiritual truths, which do not lose their mysterious, magical, and sacred flavor and yet remain common sense-based and grounded. Many seekers have sought a system of practice and evolution that is clear and coherent, but also truly transcendent and compassionate. We feel that this is precisely what we can offer to the modern world. Agama has had thousands of international students since its inception in 1998. Our Integral Yoga courses have been our most popular offerings; they begin with an intensive one-month introduction to Kundalini, Laya, and Tantra Yoga, and evolve into a multi-year program entailing the deep and gradual revelation of these teachings.

Agama is unique in the world. We teach some of the most esoteric and potent forms of Yoga that India and Tibet have given to world spirituality. Our system reveals the actual mechanisms behind Yoga; wonderful results have been obtained, leading to a wider fame for the courses, mostly by word of mouth. By using previously little-known techniques that have been adapted for the 21st century, the student has a very special opportunity to learn and experience all that 5,000 years of Yoga tradition can offer. Together with regular practical classes, workshops, lectures, and group meditations, we ensure that an understanding of a genuine spiritual path can be gained here.

We offer a synthesis between the rational thinking of the West and the mystical traditions of the East, incorporating many spiritual methods and systems of personal development. Our teachings generally concern spiritual evolution and Self-realization, although we also gladly touch on subjects as down-to-earth as healing, physical development, and quality of life. We use Yoga as a very strong instrument, among many other genuine spiritual techniques, to create a powerful and comprehensive program.

You can find additional information on Agama Yoga's unique approach to Yoga and Spirituality here, and a brief overview of our history here.

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2. Is Agama associated with or partnered with any other Yoga schools?

Agama Yoga is an independent network of Yoga schools and ashrams committed to the study and dissemination of the authentic traditions of Indian Tantric Yoga. Agama has no lateral equivalent anywhere in the world, excepting its own branches and subsidiaries. It is not possible to "transfer into the curriculum" based on previous studies elsewhere within different systems or schools under other names.

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3. What makes Agama Yoga unique?

When Swami Vivekananda Saraswati decided to reveal the Agama style, he did a broad survey of Yoga on several continents: what was being offered, how it was being taught, what the spiritual objectives appeared to be (or not be), etc. The answers to these questions painted a bleak picture of the state of this extraordinary system in today's world. Crucial aspects of Yoga were being diluted, omitted, or distorted in the teaching process. Western students especially were being offered a marketed form of Yoga that had more in common with gymnastics and fitness classes than the ancient art and science of cultivating union with God.

He set forth an authentic system, based in the genuine Indian and Tibetan tantric Yoga traditions, incorporating the proper methodology of Yoga transmission – initiation – and using a structure that highly values clarity and efficiency of the teachings, as well as proper atmosphere.

For most people who discover us, Agama is a revelation and a pleasant surprise. We have tried to summarize below some of the reasons which make this school so special, and unlike most spiritual organizations you may have experienced. While nothing can replace direct experience, these ideas will give you a hint of what to expect, and together with the indispensable reading of the other pages about Agama and our courses, it is a good start in knowing us.

Atmosphere
When joining regular Yoga courses, many people expect to find either some blurry New Age environment or a group of rubber-bodied fitness fanatics with a distinct physical fixation. As a result, those who do not fit into these groups naturally don't feel inclined to join such courses.

We believe that neither of these approaches accurately expresses the spirit of the spiritual search, or Yoga. Neither fantasy nor gymnastics can provide that remarkable degree of self-awareness and lucidity that constitutes the backbone of spiritual life and realization. At the Agama courses one feels a spiritual fervor in the air from determined seekers who take responsibility for their lives and destinies, and who are willing to give up self-pity and ignorance for a courageous, knowledgeable approach full of humor, vitality, and common sense.

Clarity
Many people who have skimmed the surface of "spiritual" circles have been turned off not only by the degree of imagination often propagated in such environments, but also by the hazy, fuzzy way in which essential problems are approached and explained. Subjects that are outside the circle's dogma or outside of the teacher's competence cannot be tackled, or they will be answered in arty, baffling, psychoanalytical, or fruitless manners.

If you ask a fundamentalist Christian teacher about the meanings of the worship of tantric goddesses, or go to a classical Patanjali Yoga teacher from India and ask him to explain the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, most often you will get a dismissive, confusing answer that reflects ignorance.

While we believe that no one knows everything, and that there is an inherent mysterious, poetic, and abyssal nature of this manifestation, we still consider that we must reach a basic, accurate knowledge of the world in which we live. As soon as some fundamental information is scientifically and rationally understood, clear answers to most problems of our world become possible, and we are able to solve them in a spiritual manner.

At times, we encounter people who, although involved for a long time with a "spiritual path," lack an elementary compass for the vast ocean of this existence; they are unable to realize where they are placed in the big picture, what the meaning and purpose of their life is, what the next step to take is, what to expect from the great surrounding cosmos, and what their integration in the process of personal and global evolution is. We believe that all spiritual seekers must be given the opportunity to rise above such confusion. Therefore, the Agama teachings address these questions earnestly, giving a clear exposition of the subtle energies at work on the spiritual path, which includes lucid explanations of the mechanisms of diverse spiritual paths.

Quality – Defining the Agama Approach
We believe in high quality, and therefore permanently strive to keep our teaching at top-notch levels. The Agama teachings are comparable to a university-level education with a full curriculum stretching over five years, divided into consecutive blocks of study, and reaching almost all aspects of Yoga, natural self-healing, and spiritual life.

The teachings build over the years to lead dedicated students to profound depths of spiritual awareness. In addition, we also often organize workshops and events with specific themes. Comprehensive course notes, designed to ensure that students assimilate all the information, always accompany the teachings. To give you an idea, the First Level Intensive Course includes a 150-page book covering the studied topics.

At Agama, we never forget the big picture and the vertical dimension of the spiritual process. On the other hand, you don't have to worry that things may get "too serious" or that you won't find a place for simple, down-to-earth concerns, such as managing your diet, for example. What is important is to have a clear picture of life, and of the role you are performing by your actions; sometimes big things actually depend on some very small and trite factors.

Initiation – the Method of Yoga Transmission
Initiation is essential in teaching spirituality and Yoga, and this element is quite different from "teaching" in the Western sense. Initiation is a "subtle influence" whereby a specific form of energy is transferred from teacher to pupil. This is a personal experience, and cannot be acquired from books. It greatly accelerates spiritual progress, ensures accurate practice, and opens the gates for true human communion.

Through teaching by initiation we provide you with practical tools for better health, balance of emotions, improvement of mental capacity, greater happiness, and insight into the deeper meanings of existence.

Efficiency
Western people tend to have a pragmatic, goal-oriented style of living; they often transfer this approach to the spiritual quest, and expect concrete results from spiritual practice. Consequently we often encounter sincere, but confused, seekers who are using ineffective methods, and therefore only travel in fantasy lands: while dreaming about all kinds of parallel worlds and subtle energies of the Universe, they are unable to control their mind and emotions for everyday purposes. While imagining that they feel mysterious energies and that they can guide them at will, they are for example unable to obtain the most simple, down-to-earth, or healing effects in daily life.

The Agama tantric style makes such loss of resources impossible: our courses put the emphasis on practice, with specific aims to get specific results. The techniques are efficient for purifying the body and mind, removing blockages and inhibitions, and improving life so that real advancement is easily within reach. Agama gives comprehensive, clear, and deep teachings on esoteric Yoga and the spiritual life.

Other Reasons Why You Might Like to Join Us

  1. Have you ever thought about a natural system of healing in which information and methods from other alternative systems can be easily integrated?
  2. Have you ever dreamed about a way of understanding the human psyche and mind?
  3. Have you wished for a spirituality in which sexuality could be fully and truly integrated, and used practically for the attainment of higher states of consciousness?
  4. Have you desired a spiritual path that is transcendent and metaphysical, but also able to solve day-to-day problems and focus on worldly issues?
  5. Have you ever wondered about a spiritual path in which you could be disciplined and austere, but also where you can laugh and love, socialize, and have adventure?
  6. Are you interested in telepathy, parallel universes and other forms of consciousness, hypnosis, time travel, mysterious energies of nature, paranormal capacities of the human mind, Kundalini and chakras, human auras, lucid dreaming, tantric meditation, astrology, or Shambhala?
  7. Have you ever dreamed about the existence of a knowledge that liberally allows the practical understanding of other forms of spirituality, and which can become a "backbone" for your evolution; a system to which you can freely and constructively add many other practices from other teachings, without making a "salad" out of them or becoming ridiculous?

If you answered "Yes!" to any of these questions, Agama may be the place for you. We look forward to welcoming you soon at one of our centers, workshops, or lectures.

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4. What does the daily program look like?

The daily program looks like this:

08:30-10:30 Morning theory, Hatha Yoga practice, and deep relaxation
16:00-18:00 Afternoon sun salutations, Hatha Yoga practice, meditation, and deep relaxation
18:00-19:30 Evening lecture on the fundamentals of Yoga
20:00 Evening events as announced (optional and free)

In addition, we schedule daily optional meditation sessions and many additional lectures, parties, and spiritual activities. These vary from location to location and according to season. See each center for schedule.  Our calendar lists major events such as workshops, retreats, classes and synchronised meditations, however there are many more events that take place at each center.

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5. Do I need experience to join the First Level Intensive?

No, this course is designed for absolute beginners.

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6. Do I need to reserve in advance to join the First Level Intensive?

No. You are welcome to join us whenever you arrive; your first day is free! This course runs in a constant cycle, year-round, such that you can complete the course within the four weeks following the date on which you arrive.  More information on the First Level Intensive Course can be found here.  You find find information on registration and payments on our 'Registration at a Glance' page.

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7. How much does the First Level Intensive cost?

Your first day is free. Thereafter, the course daily fees can be found here (click for current conversion).  A guide to registering for courses, workshops and retreats can be found here. A student who has attended and paid for this course once may repeat it at no charge on any future occasion.

Due to bank fees, discounts are extended for cash payments only and do not apply to PayPal payments made online using electronic transfers.

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8. What do you offer after the First Level Intensive?

We offer our Level 2 course (meeting three times weekly, 3-4 hours per class, for four weeks), then our Level 3 course (also meeting three times weekly, 3-4 hours per class, for four weeks), then our Level 4 course, etc. This is a five-year curriculum, with all course levels offered a minimum of twice per year. Levels 2 and 3 are both offered constantly, year-round. See Curriculum Overview for more details.

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9. Is it possible to attend the First Level Course on a drop-in basis?

The First Level Intensive is a certificate course. To receive this certificate, a student needs to attend at least 75% of the course sessions (18 of 24 days in total). However, it is not necessary for you as a student to seek the certificate. Therefore, yes, the course is open on a drop-in basis. You may attend for one class, one day, one week, or the full month.

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10. I am already a Yoga teacher - can I start in advanced classes?

Agama Yoga provides a unique Yoga system in the world and we ask that all students begin with our First Level Intensive - regardless of their experience studying or teaching other Yoga varieties. Agama adheres to the traditional Indian Yoga methodology of teaching by initiation and, therefore, we do not believe it is possible to learn Yoga properly through self-study of books. Additionally, since we cannot know the manner, accuracy, depth, or completeness of information, techniques, or methodology taught by any number of thousands worldwide who call themselves Yoga teachers, we need to verify that our students are "on the same page" with us, that they have received the proper foundations, that they understand the fundamental Yoga concepts, and that they are adequately prepared for their introduction and journey through this highly energetic Kundalini Yoga program. Kundalini Yoga must be approached with attention and care, and it would be irresponsible on our part to place students unknown to us at higher levels of the curriculum. For all of these reasons, everyone starts at the beginning.

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11. What is included in the cost of the course?

Our course fees apply toward courses only. Accommodation, food, and other personal expenses are the responsibility of the student himself or herself. Agama does not own any property of its own (we rent all of our Yoga halls), so we do not have ashram facilities (yet! we continue to hope this dream may become real in the future).

 

To find our more about registration, click here; and our online payments are located here.

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12. How do I register for course Levels 2 and up?

We have set up a special 'Registration at a Glance' page, which details all current information for registration and payments. Any further questions can be directed to our 'Welcome and Registration Center' at info@agamayoga.com.

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13. Can my children attend Yoga courses? If so, what are the fees?

Children 11 years old and younger may attend other Yoga classes free of charge as long as they are accompanied by an adult and they do not disrupt the class. Children 12 years old and older must pay full price.

For those under the age of 12, permission to attend each course level beyond the First Level Intensive Course must be granted by Swami Vivekananda on an individual basis.

For those under the age of 18, attendance of workshops and retreats requires either approval in advance by a Level 5 or up teacher on an individual basis or co-attendance by a parent or guardian.

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14. Are there are special classes just for children?

Every Sunday from 11-12pm Ganesha Hall at the Sri Thanu Campus becomes the place to be for children who live on, or visit Koh Phangan. All ages are welcome, parents can stay and watch or join in, and are encouraged to do so with younger children. We practice yoga asanas (postures) and the children are encouraged to teach the newer members of the group. We also play many fun games and activities that relate to the spirit of yoga. See you there.  These classes are free!

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15. How do I contact Agama Yoga around the world?

We have a number of Centers and classes internationally, click here for a page listing our current offerings.  From this page, you can find contact details of our international centers.

For a list of teachers world wide, please click here.

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Accommodation Overview
 
1. Accommodation Overview
 

Accommodation Overview

It is possible to find a house just by walking/riding around the area in which you wish to live. There is no proven way to find a house; you basically just need to wander from place to place looking for vacancy signs, and seeking out the owners. This takes more time and good fortune - finding a house is often entirely a matter of good timing. We have listed some accommodation options below – there are many others we have not listed.

Accommodation can be relatively cheap, depending on your needs and tastes for luxury (or simplicity).  This accommodation section is intended as a guide only as actual prices and conditions of bungalows listed may vary – this is intended just to give a general idea of what is available.

A budget price bungalow with attached bathroom may cost around 5,000-7,000 Baht per month.  Budget bungalows are usually older, may not have hot water and may not have a kitchen. Medium price (which may include hot water, tiled floors, kitchen, air conditioning, new) bungalows may start from around 7,000 to 14,000 Baht per month.  High price bungalows start from around 14,000 Baht per month, and would normally be a much larger and more luxurious bungalow.

The Thais are constantly building new accommodation near our three locations, although more and more students are joining us annually. However, the abundance of new construction probably helps to keep rent down and increases your options of finding something suitable.

A word about seasons: Peak season rates are highest of all, and are in effect in December and perhaps the first half of January. High season remains in place then through April. At that time low season prices take effect from summer until the next high season. Generally, to negotiate prices, it is best to ask the daily rate first, and from there for discounts applicable to a one-month stay, and then if you wish, a three-month stay. If you ask for a monthly rate from the start, you may pay a higher rate.

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2. A Map of Koh Phangan

Click here for a detailed map of Koh Phangan, showing the locations of our various campus sites.

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3. Yoga Holiday Package

If you want the simplest way to enjoy your Yoga experience with Agama, our Yoga Holiday Package may the  solution for you.

Agama Yoga co-operates with a number of resorts/bungalow owners to offer a 'First Level Intensive Yoga Package' including accommodation and much more. Please follow the link and contact the resort/bungalow owner directly for availability.

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4. Can you reserve a room for me?

Agama is a Yoga school; we do not own a resort and therefore do not arrange any accommodation.

We refer our students to Ananda Wellness Resort. Please contact owner and Agama student Vangelis through http://anandaresort.com

In the event Ananda is full, you are seeking a house, or you need other accommodation options for your budget, please see Accommodation Overview for a complete assessment of housing options in the vicinity of our halls.

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5. Local contacts

At this time, we do not have phone numbers for the many obscure owners scattered around the island, but we do affiliate with a lovely Thai woman, Pi-pat, who speaks English well and can help you find resort accommodation, possibly houses, or she also offers scooter rentals fairly cheap for a long-term basis (2,000-4,000 Baht per month, depending on condition and age of scooter). She is located at the Art Café and her number is +66 (0)7 734 9222.

You can also try Ning, who owns/manages a number of bungalows in the area, and who speaks quite good English.  Her number is +66 (0) 86 947 2282.

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About Teacher Training, Workshops and Retreats
 
1. What workshops and retreats are you currently offering?

Please visit our calendar for a comprehensive list of the workshops we are currently offering.

Payments for these workshops and retreats may be made online using PayPal.

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2. Can you tell me more about the TTC teachings?

Please read all about our TTC in our online TTC section which presents a syllabus outline, application, deposit, tuition payment and refund policies, terms of agreement for participants, testimonials, etc. All of this information is available on our TTC overview page

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3. Can I attend your Teacher Training Course in India?

No. At this time, our TTC is only offered in Thailand, at our Koh Phangan headquarters under the direct supervision of Swami Vivekananda Saraswati.

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4. How much does your Teacher Training Course cost?

The cost of Agama's 12-week Teacher Training Course can be found here, along with information about discounts. 

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General Orientation Information
 
1. Where can I find a map of Koh Phangan?

Simple - click here!

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2. How do I get to your Center?

To reach us from Bangkok:
A special air-conditioned tourist bus leaves regularly just outside and downstairs from the new Bangkok Airport arrivals area, and takes you directly to Khao San Road (in Banglamphoo district) for 150 Baht (€3.25). For newcomers to Thailand, this may be the best place to start out, as it is the most "tourist-friendly" neighborhood. Then purchase a joint ticket from any of the hundreds of travel agents in Bangkok. You may choose with this ticket to go by overnight bus (usually 36 seats) for approximately 450-500 Baht (€10.25) or to go by second-class train sleeper (fan) for approximately 850-900 Baht (€19) (ticket is 50 Baht cheaper for the upper bunk). If you choose to take the bus, you will be directed where to meet it usually at about 18.00; if you choose the train it is your own responsibility to get yourself to the Hualamphong Train Station in the later afternoon; any taxi or tuk-tuk can take you.
This ticket pays for your journey south to Surat Thani, transfer early in the morning (usually about 06.00-07.30) to the pier, and a boat ticket for the remainder of your journey to the island. You will arrive at the pier in Thongsala, the main town on Koh Phangan, usually by noon.

For a complete schedule of trains between Bangkok and Surat Thani, call +66 (0)22 204334 or visitwww.railway.co.th. It is possible to do this trip on your own, but a bit more cumbersome than the joint ticket option.

If you have a lot of luggage, you may enjoy taking the government bus, +66 (0)2 434 7192 in Bangkok (or +66 (0)77 238762 on Koh Phangan). It leaves daily from the Bangkok Southern Bus Station ("Sai Tai Mai") at 19:45, and costs 1,034 Baht (€22.50). Get there early to secure a seat - travel agents cannot book this for you. Fare includes snacks and light dinner along the way. The main advantage to this route is that once you put your luggage on the bus, you will not need to move it from taxi to train to shuttle bus to pier to boat to taxi. The bus will take your luggage all the way from the Bangkok bus station to the Koh Phangan taxi stand. You may also take the Lomprayah catamaran via Chumporn pier combined with bus to reach the island quite fast. Buses leave Bangkok from the Khao San Road area (just off Rambuttri, where the Lomprayah office is located) at 21.00 (arriving on Koh Phangan at 10.30) and at 06.00, arriving on the island at 16.00. Tickets cost 850-900 Baht (€10.25). Call +66 (0)77 238412 or visit www.lomprayah.com.

For those who wish to save time instead of money, you may also fly directly from Bangkok Airport to Koh Samui, the adjacent island, for approximately 3,500 Baht (€76) one-way (2,000 Baht/€43 fares can be found at inconvenient hours). The main carrier is Bangkok Airways; arrange this flight in advance, online, or at the Bangkok Airport. From Samui you would take a shared taxi to the Lomprayah pier near Big Buddha (if you can catch the Lomprayah catamaran at 08.00 or 12.00, 250 Baht / €5.50) or to the main port of Nathon, from where all other boats leave regularly for Koh Phangan (120 Baht / €2.50). Call Bangkok Air at +66 (0)22 655555 or visit www.bangkokair.com. Lomprayah often has representatives at the airport who will book you a taxi and boat ticket on site.

On Koh Phangan

Once on Koh Phangan, if you are joining our First Level Intensive Course, tell any of the taxi drivers (tsong-tao, or shared truck taxis) that you wish to go to Agama Yoga at Srithanu - about 6 km north of Thong Sala. Click here for a detailed map of Koh Phangan.

Welcome to Agama!
Our phone number is +66 (0)89 233 0217. Call if you need any further assistance.

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3. How do I go about getting a visa for Thailand?

The information presented on this page is here for your convenience and guidance, but please always check the details before you plan to travel, as the information on visas, times, travel and costs can change quickly (sometimes overnight) in Thailand. The information has been supplied by other students who have made these trips so the accuracy of the information is dependent on their experiences.

One easy way to improve the quality and depth of the information provided is to help us to update this document with new or additional information and recent experiences. You can also provide maps, business cards for hotels, shopping and accommodation tips, as well as anything else you can think of to make the border/visa run experience as easy as possible for all Agama students. 

You may send your updated information to lori@agamayoga.com. Thank you for your support. 

While the whole process of obtaining a visa may seem like an unnecessary hardship, during your journey try to remain focused in gratitude for the positive aspects of our host country, Thailand. Use this trip to relax and to meditate! Remember you can do Yoga of the mind anywhere….

THAILAND VISA INFORMATION

The information given here is for guideline purposes only. Each individual’s circumstances may differ such that a definitive description of the procedures involved is impossible to present. The final decision on visa application/issue or entry into the country will always be at the discretion of the immigration officer.

This visa section is updated regularly, but be aware that Thai visa regulations change frequently and it is ALWAYS advisable to check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website or www.thaivisa.com before travel. The Thai regulations regarding visas change regularly, and will often then be “interpreted” according to each individual Thai Embassy or Consulate. The official Thai government websites are difficult to navigate and the actual regulations in place at the time are often difficult to interpret.

If you need to extend your visa period, be sure to verify which visa or border run is appropriate for you (for example, Israelis may not go to Malaysia, Romanians may not enter Thailand without a prearranged visa, etc.).  Also remember to check the many public holidays throughout the year, please check on the Thai Embassy website to check which apply to the Consulate you will visit.

Also, be aware of the certain problematic situations faced by Agama students in the past year in the section “Consulate Information and Yogi Travel Tips.”

AN EXPLANATION OF ENTRY STAMPS, VISAS, BORDER RUNS, AND VISA RUNS

The basic entry stamp or visas that most Agama students might need are listed below. For full information you may want to read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website. There are two main types of entry permit that most students will come across – the visa exemption entry stamp or an actual visa.

Thirty-day visa exemption stamp: For the majority of passport holders, this is a “permission to stay” stamp only obtained free of charge at a port of entry into Thailand for applicants from certain countries (see list of visa exempt countries below). You normally get 30 days if arriving by air and 15 days if arriving by land. Be aware that the 15 days by land entry now also applies to border runs. This may be extended for up to seven to 15 days at an Immigration Office (and possibly 30 days at the discretion of the immigration officer) after which time you must leave the country and re-enter, either obtaining a new exemption stamp or a visa. This stamp is not a visa.

visa is a document allowing entry into the country for a limited period. Visas can only be obtained outside of Thailand from a Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate. A visa has a validity period which is the period during which you must enter the country. The validity period is not the length of time you will be permitted to stay in Thailand using the visa. There are limits to the number of these you can get consecutively – see section below.

A border run involves leaving and re-entering Thailand, only for purposes of either getting a new exemption stamp or activating a second entry on a multiple-entry visa. Be aware that re-entering Thailand by land will now only grant you a 15-day exemption stamp if you are not activating a second entry.

A visa run is a trip to another country in order to obtain a new Thai visa. Most people choose visa runs to Malaysia as this is the cheapest and quickest trip from Koh Phangan.

Types of Visas:

Three-month validity, single-entry tourist visa: Pre-obtained outside the country at a Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate and will result in the holder obtaining a 60-day 'permission to stay' stamp upon entry. If required, this type of visa may be extended by 15 to 30 days at an Immigration office (Koh Samui is the closest), but after that time the holder must leave the country and obtain a new visa exemption stamp or visa. After one entry, the visa is used, so if you leave the country for any reason during this time, the visa is deemed finished and therefore invalid for re-entry. In this instance, you would need to get an exemption stamp or obtain a new visa. 

Six-month validity, two- to four-entry tourist visa (i.e. a double-entry visa): pre-obtained at a Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate and will result in the holder obtaining a 60-day “permission to stay” stamp upon entry if from a 30-day visa exempt entry country (listed below) or 30 days if not. This visa is usually not issued by any of the Consulates in countries surrounding Thailand. If required, this type of visa may normally be extended by 30 days at an immigration office, but after that time the holder must leave the country on a border run. The holder may then return to Thailand and will obtain a second 60-day “permission to stay” stamp which can also be extended as previous and then the holder must leave. After the stipulated number of entries the visa is “used.”

Three month validity, single entry non-immigrant visa: pre-obtained at a Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate and will result in the holder obtaining a 90-day “permission to stay” stamp. This visa can be extended up to one year for specific reasons and with the required documentation. You will need to check yourself on these conditions as they will vary depending on circumstances. This visa is usually not issued by any of the Consulates in countries surrounding Thailand.

12-month validity, multi-entry non-immigrant visa: pre-obtained at a Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate (usually) in your home country and will result in the holder obtaining a 90 day “permission to stay” stamp upon entry. Each time the holder enters the country whilst the visa is valid, he/she will obtain a further 90 day “permission to stay stamp.” Such visas can be issued for students/work/family etc. but normally require supporting documentation. This visa can also be extended up to one year for specific reasons and with the required documentation. You will need to check yourself on these conditions as they will vary depending on circumstances.  This visa is usually not issued by any of the Consulates in countries surrounding Thailand.

List of visa exempt countries (September 2007):

Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Brunei, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, United Kingdom.

 

OVERSTAYING YOUR VISA

Since March of 2006, the fee per extra day of overstay has been raised to 500 Baht (€11), so it’s wise to observe your visa expiration carefully and plan accordingly. Overstaying your visa is technically illegal (although widely accepted as inevitable and expected by Thai authorities); if you want to avoid any potential problems, do not overstay even one day. If you do overstay through circumstances, you must pay 500 Baht per day and you will have to photocopy your passport signature and visa pages at the border.  You may also have a warning notice entered into your passport.

When this penalty was raised from 200 to 500 Baht per day, however, the fee for one day of overstay only when leaving the country via an airport was lifted, meaning there is no penalty for one day of overstay if you are flying out of Thailand. But in such a case, on your second day of overstay the penalty is 1,000 Baht.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF ENTRIES

The current rules for the visa exemption stamp state that the stamp can only be used back to back for a maximum of 90 days, after which no more will be issued for another 90 days. The rules only apply to those using the 30-day visa exemption stamp to stay long term. In practice, it seems so far that a person can leave and enter as many times as they like within that 90-day period, but after 90 days of getting back to back entries using this method, people will be refused another 30-day visa exemption.

To avoid this issue, if you are planning to study with Agama for an extended time, you should apply for the appropriate visa in your home country before traveling. Tourist visas can easily be obtained in countries neighboring Thailand, but many Consulates seem to be only issuing the single entry type, but for those with no other choice it's a good option. There are theoretically no limits on how many you can have each year, but be very aware that individual Consulates may set their own limits, and have been known to refuse visas when more than two or three have been issued at the same Consulate. It is always best to ring the Consulate that you plan to visit to find out their rules.  There are additional notes about current visa issuing situations at various Consulates in the section Consulate Information and Yogi Travel Tips.

VISA COSTS

The visa exemption stamp (visa entry stamp) is free. If you want to extend, there is a fee payable at the Immigration Office of 1,950 Baht. Remember to bring two passport photos with you. Most consulates will have shops nearby which can help with photos, photocopying, etc.

Currently, tourist visas are being issued free of charge at embassies, but this promotion to help bolster tourism in the Kingdom after unrest in 2010 will expire at some point. After that, the visa cost is expected to be 1,100-1,900 Baht. It is best to call the Embassy or Consulate that you plan to visit to find out what their issuing policy is – this can change from Embassy to Embassy as well as day to day!

CONSULATE INFORMATION AND YOGI TRAVEL TIPS

Here you find information on how some of the consulates operate as well as ideas for the most pleasant visa runs, good places to stay, eat or stop in between, organic shops, vegetarian restaurants, shopping and more

Be aware that there are many public holidays throughout the year, please check on thehttp://www.thaiEmbassy.org/ website to check which apply to the Consulate you will visit.

Yogi Travel Tips

VISA RUNS - MALAYSIA

Currently everyone gets free two-month validity, single-entry tourist visas in Penang, Kota Bharu, and Kuala Lumpur (due to the unrest in 2010 – but this can expire at any time). Note: If you have previously had an extension of your visa in Koh Samui, you won’t be issued another visa in Penang, but chances are you get one in Kuala Lumpur or Kota Bharu. Don’t forget to bring two passport photos.

If you want a multiple visa, the closest places are in Chennai (India) and in Laos. All the other neighboring countries around Thailand give only single-entry visas (two-month tourist visas).

KOTA BHARU :

Kota Bharu Royal Thai Consulate-General

4426 Jalan Pengkalan Chepa

15400 Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Tel: (609) 744-5266, 744-5934, 748-2545

Fax:.(609) 744-9801

E-mail: thaicg@streamyx.com

Office Hours: Sunday – Thursday : 09.00 – 17.00.

Visa and Consular Section: 09.00 – 12.00 and 14.00 – 15.30

 The closest and quickest place for a visa run is Kotu Bharu, though it is not as pleasant a place to visit as Penang or other visa run destinations. It is not generally a place you would choose to spend extra time simply to relax and enjoy a short holiday.

Visa Information

In Kota Bharu is it possible to get a three month validity, single entry tourist visa; and some have gotten a six-month validity, two to four entry tourist visa (i.e. a double-entry visa) just by asking at the Consulate. The single-entry visa is free currently (due to the unrest in Thailand in 2010), but will at some point revert to its normal fee, so plan to bring this amount with you: 110 Ringgit or around 1,100 Baht. Remember to take two passport-sized photos and a photocopy of your passport for your visa.  Be aware that there are many public holidays throughout the year, so please check on the http://www.thaiEmbassy.org/ website to see which apply to the Consulate you will visit.  The Consulate is normally closed every Friday and possibly Saturday because of the Muslim holiday.    

Getting There

Note: It is recommended to try to obtain some Malaysian currency (Ringgit) before you go to Kota Bharu.  If you take the train option outlined below, you normally will arrive and need to go directly to the Consulate, so will need money for the taxi or bus service. Also, be aware of the time change as Malaysia is one hour ahead of Thailand time. Make sure you take this into account when deciding whether you have time to get to the Consulate before it closes on the day you arrive.

The easiest way is to buy a joint ticket (ferry, bus to train and train) from any travel agent. Take the 17:00 boat from Thongsala to Surat Thani, with connecting bus (which is included in your joint ticket) to the train station.  Take the 00.10 train from Thong Sala to Sungai Kolok near the border. If you want a sleeper/bed you need to book about one week in advance at a Koh Phangan travel agency. The most comfortable is an upper (not lower) bed for convenience, and take your own food as the train menu is not vegetarian/vegan friendly. It is not recommended to take third class as you will share a crowded wooden bench all night long!

You will arrive at about 11.45 in Sungai Kolok. From the train station, you can take a motorbike taxi to border for 30 Baht for the five-minute trip. At the border, you can walk through customs, get departure stamp from Thailand counter on the left side before the bridge. After you have your exit stamp, cross the bridge and enter into Malaysia. 

As soon as you cross the border you will probably need a taxi to go directly to the Consulate because often the trains are very late and with the time change – Malaysia is one hour ahead of Thailand time - by taking a taxi you can arrive at the Consulate just before it closes for the day. It will take around 45 minutes or so from the border to the Consulate in a taxi and is usually longer on a bus which you take from outside of the train station.

The Fuji Film Photo Shop on the left after the Malaysian border will change money and arrange a taxi if asked, and so will the Azam Photo shop nearby. If you have time to take the bus, you can catch bus #29 for 5 ringgit (50 baht) to the center of Kota Bharu, a trip of at least an hour.  If you don’t have time for the bus, you can take an expensive taxi for about 30 Ringgit (300 Baht) which will take less than one hour, but the time difference of the trip is due to being dropped off directly at the Thailand Consulate rather than the bus terminal and then walking to the Consulate. The Consulate is open until 16.00; you must arrive before 15.40. Note: the Consulate is closed every Friday and possibly Saturday because of the Muslim holiday.  You can check the holidays at http://www.thaiEmbassy.org/.

The Consulate is about a 20-minute walking distance from the bus station and hotel area. Ask locals for directions, or you can follow these simple directions – follow the main road for around 1 km from the bus station, left curve at Sky Scraper Hotel which is on your right. The Consulate is on the right side after another 500 meters. Visa processing is normally by the next day. If you ask politely and firmly if you can pick it up the next morning at 09.00, you may receive your visa and passport back early the next morning. They might say “no” or “maybe at 11.00” but go there anyway at 09.00 (or before) and ask. Either it is already done or they might finish it for you immediately. If you are well prepared you can go back to the hostel, get your bag, go to the bus station and return to the border in time to make the 11.30 (confirm the time) or 14.20 (confirm the time!) train from Sungai Kolok to Surat Thani. If everything has gone according to the directions outlined, this is possible which makes this the quickest option for a visa run. Remain aware that Malaysia is one hour ahead, so the time is very limited. 

To return to Koh Phangan, do everything in reverse – take the bus # 29 back to the Thailand border from the Kota Bharu downtown bus terminal. It is recommended to go there in advance, and check for departure times and purchase a ticket before you leave; or take a taxi from Kota Bharu center to the Thailand border. Simply walk through both borders and get your Malaysian exit stamp and your Thailand visa validation entry stamp. You can take a motorbike taxi to train station or walk if you enough time, remaining aware of the time difference.

Buy a train ticket at the train station when you arrive, because buying a return ticket in advance is risky as you may not know what time your visa processing will finish, and therefore what time you can return to the border by. The train to Surat Thani is 11.30, (make sure you confirm the time) Thailand time, and is sometimes sold out. If you are able to catch this train, you are likely to arrive in Surat Thani in time to take the night boat back to Koh Phangan leaving at 23.00, and arriving on the island at 05.00 the following morning. If you miss the last boat, you will need to stay in Surat Thani overnight and take a ferry the next day, the earliest is usually at 08.00 with SongSerm ferries. 

Accommodation in Kota Bharu

There is one main hostel street close to (and between) the bus station and the night market – most stalls at the night market do not cater for vegetarians/vegans. The Backpackers Inn is an option, but the best value is definitely the green Pesona Inn just next door. Try to get a room with window to the front.

Another option is the Ideal Travellers' House. The address is 3954-F&G, Jalan Kebun Sultan / Jalan Pintu Pong (behind Juita Inn). H/Phone (6)012-986 6138 Phone (6)09-744 2246 www.ugoideal.comreservation@ugoideal.com  This hostel is extremely simple, but cheap and clean enough, traveler friendly, with wi-fi Internet available for only 50 Baht for the day. Single rooms with shared bath start at 20 Ringgit (200 Baht).  Ideal Travelers’ House is five minutes from the bus station, shopping, restaurants, the center of town, and the owner can arrange a taxi to the border for you, about 140-150 Baht per person; probably best with a minimum of two people.

PENANG

Penang Royal Thai Consulate

No. 1, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman

10350 Penang, Malaysia

Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9.00-12.00 and 14.00 -16.30; visa application from 9.00 - 11.00.

 Obtaining a Visa: All the hotels and guesthouses arrange visas. The cheapest places used to be Banana Backpackers at 5 Ringgit, they have have recently changed their price to 30 Ringgit so it is probably easiest to do it through the place where you are staying to save yourself two trips to Banana to drop off and pick up your visa. Remember you need two passport sized photos. Wherever you choose to take your visa in for you will give you the paperwork to fill out and take it to the Consulate for you and return it for pickup, usually the same day, provided you have it to them in the morning. If you bring the passport in the evening, you should have it back the next afternoon by four pm.

If you want or need to go to the Consulate yourself, most guest houses can arrange this service for around 20 Ringgit for the two trips you will need – one in the morning around 09.30 to drop off your passport and one in the afternoon around 15.00 to pick it up.

Be aware that there are many public holidays throughout the year, please check on thehttp://www.thaiEmbassy.org/ website to check which apply to the Consulate you will visit.

General Tourist Information - Penang

Four hours by minibus from Hat Yai near the Thai Border, is a fascinating peninsula, on one side jungle and orchards with a huge variety of durians, butterfly farm, beaches besides a city full of skyscrapers and fancy shopping malls, where Malayan Muslims, Chinese Buddhists, Christians and Hindus live peacefully together. The main tourist area around Chulia Street lies in the old town, close to both Little India and Chinatown, where you can indulge in delicious Indian food, go shopping for ghee, spices, saris and incense.  You can also indulge and taste the 35 different dishes in one of the Chinese vegetarian buffet places of the Amithaba sect, visit the Chinese Temples or visit one of the Chinese herbal and health food stores.

Getting There

Option 1

The most comfortable way (apart from taking the train, though the train is much longer) is to take the morning boat at five AM to Donsak, take a motorbike taxi to the next pier (Koh Samui pier, two km), which is where the boat from Koh Samui arrives.  There you can board the big tourist bus to Hat Yai which leaves around nine am and arrives in Hat Yai at around two pm. There is an information stand in the terminal where you can ask how to find the Hat Yai tourist bus.  Don't buy the ticket at the counter as it is cheaper if you get on the bus and pay the driver directly. 

You will arrive in at the Hat Yai bus stand.  Staff from the bus company will normally try to sell you a ticket to Penang. You can buy a ticket from there, but they will tell you that it leaves at a certain time – what this actually means is that you will board a minibus at this time and then normally driver around Hat Yai for up to 2 more hours picking up more people.  It is probably better to just arrange the minbus yourself and take the time in between to find somewhere to eat and relax. From Hat Yai, there are many minibus services to Penang, the most convenient is at 3.30pm – this will normally give you 1.5 hours between arrival and departure, enough to quickly eat and shop. It’s good to book ahead. Cathay Tours can do the booking for you (Tel. 0864880086, 074235044). Any taxi driver can bring you there from the bus stand. You will then arrive in Penang around 20:00, ask to be dropped off in Chulia Street if this is where you are planning to stay, this is the area around Little India / Chinatown where many yogis prefer to stay.

In Hat Yai there is good Chinese vegetarian buffet restaurant opposite Hotel New Season, about 10 minutes walk from Cathay Tours.

Option 2

There is another visa run bus service which you can access after getting off the night boat to Surat Thani.  When you get off go to the woman shouting “Ranong” and tell her you want to go to Penang. She arranges to put you on a mini bus to Penang for around 900 to 1,000 Baht. The mini bus normally leaves at around 06.00 and will take approximately eight hours. 

 Option 3

For convenience, you can also choose to book the entire ticket (called a “joint ticket”) from any travel agency around Koh Phangan. They will book the ferry and all bus services for you. It will cost slightly more and you will be on a smaller, less comfortable minibus instead of the larger tourist bus. You also may have to change buses frequently or have no meal stop, or stop in an inconvenient place (if you are vegetarian/vegan) depending on which bus service you are booked on.

Getting Back

If you’re in a hurry, you can take a minibus and drive all night to Donsak and catch the morning ferry to Koh Phangan. You could also choose to stop for a night or a few days in Hat Yai and from there take the eight pm big bus back to Donsak ferry terminal. The ferry leaves every two hours and the trip is around three hours long to Koh Phangan.

If you don’t mind travelling by minibus, there are plenty of buses leaving every few hours and can be booked at any agency or guest house around Penang. The earliest is 05.00 which would normally get you back to Donsak pier in time for the last ferry back to Koh Phangan on the same day.   

You may take a bus back to Hat Yai departing around noon (if you have already received your passport back previously), but finding the transportation going from Hat Yai to Surat Thani is not as easy that late in the day. If you get back by train, taxi, or bus, it will be late but you may be just in time for the night boat from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan (departing from the city pier at 23.00, arriving on the island at 05.00).

You could also choose to buy a minibus ticket to Hat Yai and then from there take the 23.00 tourist bus (ie big bus, not minibus) service overnight to Donsak pier. There is also a 16.00 minibus service leaving Penang which is the earliest you can catch after picking up your passport, normally around 15.30.

Places to Stay:

Most people choose to stay around Georgetown, which is an historical area and takes in both Little India and Chinatown. There are many hostels and guesthouses in the area around the 711 store on Chulia Street and Love Lane, which is where most minibus services to Penang will drop you off.

Hotel Noble: In a side road off Chulia street, close to the Kuan Yin temple. A clean, quiet and friendly place with shower inside, shared toilet, for 22RM (220Baht) per night. Call Mr. Sims for reservation (0060/42642372) as it’s often fully booked.

If you’re on a budget, there is a Dorm in Crystal GH for 15RM in Julia Street. Banana Backpackers is opposite the 7-11 and is the cheapest place to get your visa. Here it is 5

RM (about 50 Baht) instead of the 20 RM that all other guesthouses and agencies will charge.

Eating:

Little India: Try Ananda Bhavan for Indian Food, the main restaurant is opposite Ramana Supermarket on Bishop Street and a pure vegetarian branch with fantastic dosas and other Indian snacks a bit further down Penang road, opposite Woodlands Indian Restuarant.

Woodlands: classy Indian food with excellent Indian sweets in an air conditioned restaurant; you can ask for less spicy.  They also have excellent chai in comparison to most places in Little India.

The Samosa Man at the entrance to Queens Road, near the Indian Mariamman Temple  has great snacks.

Chinese Buffet: If you continue Bishop down road past Ramana Supermarket and Ananda Bhavan, you will come to a Chinese buffet, were they serve around 35 different vegetarian dishes.  The food is delicious if you don’t mind the MSG. There’s another Chinese vegetarian place of slightly lesser quality near the Chinese Kuan Yin Temple, you will pay roughly by the weight and number of dishes you choose.  Both are open for lunch only.

Shopping:

LYS Organic Shop, Burma Road has everything from stainless steel ricecookers to Himalayan rock salt, organic personal care and cleaning products as well as plenty of organic food and supplements. They also serve lunch for around nine RM. To get there you can take a bus from Chulia Street to Komtar and change to bus number three, getting out at Pulau Tikkus Police Station. There is also a second organic shop in the area.

A bit further down the road and turning left you come to Panthip Plaza, one of the shoppings malls, which has cinemas and plenty of food (Cold Storey Building).

Komtar is the nearest shopping mall from Chulia Road. Nearby there is a health store where you might also get organic products.

Little India has plenty of shops selling incense, clothes, food and much more! A suggestion is Enrico’s which you find on the big road after the Chinese buffet place (Lebuh Pantai) to the right across the street, or Ramana Supermarket. There are a few spice markets in Cina Road.

In Chinatown there are some good herbal and health food shops. There are also some tea shops selling wonderful though expensive tea.

Kuala Lumpur

Royal Thai Embassy

206 Jalan Ampang

50450 Kuala Lumpur

Telephone: (60-3) 2148-8222, 2148-8350, 2148-8420, 2145-8004

Fax: (60-3) 2148-6573

Email. For Visa contact: thaikl2@tm.net.my

Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 09.00 -13.00 and 14.00 -17.00.

Consular: 09.30-11.30 for visa application and 14.30 -16.00 for visa collection.

There is considerable information available online about where to stay, eat and shop in Kuala Lumpur.  Try Lonely Planet Thorn Tree for up to date information.  To get to Kuala Lumpur, you can fly from Koh Samui with Berjaya Air or Firefly, or arrange a joint ticket for ferry/bus/train with any travel agent on the island.

VISA RUNS - LAOs

Visa Information

Remember to take your passport and three passport-sized photos plus a copy of your passport. Before you leave, make sure there are no Thai holidays when you plan to go and also remember that the Embassy is closed on Saturday and Sunday.  

Getting There

First, you need to get to Bangkok, any travel agent on Koh Phangan can arrange a bus, train or ferry for you.  From there, a bus to Vientiane should cost around 800 Baht. You could also check out cheap flights on www.airninja.com. After a night on the bus, you will arrive around 05.00 at a restaurant stop at which you will give your passport to some Thai people, who will give you forms for Laos immigration to fill out. It is recommended also to take a Thai immigration form from them for you return trip from Laos, but this can also be done once you return to the Thai border.  After all the forms are filled out, you return to the bus for a short time until you get to the Thailand immigration exit gate. Go and wait in line for Immigration to stamp your passport, and return to the bus.  After about five more minutes of driving, you will arrive at the Laos immigration entry, there you will be asked to take your luggage in order to change buses.

Go to your left (usually there is a Thai person who will show you the way) to the Laos immigration and there you will have to pay 1,340 baht for your Laos entry visa. You will need to give them your passport and one passport photo and wait for about 30 minutes until your passport is returned with your new Laos visa.  After you pass through Laos immigration you move forward to a bus that will take you on to Vientiane.  On the bus it is advised that ask the driver to make a stop for you at the Thailand Embassy. He will likely ask you for money, but don’t pay more than 50 Baht. If you would prefer to find a room first before going to the Embassy in Vientiene then continue with the bus till it arrives at the bus stand in Vientiene. Find yourself a guest house then take a tuktuk to the Thailand Embassy. It is recommended to go straight with the bus to the Thailand Embassy as it will save you time, as you can go from there to find yourself accommodation afterwards.

The Thai Embassy opens at 09.00, when you arrive you will see a long line, so you will have to wait patiently, but first go inside and ask for the form that you need to fill out. You will probably have some Thai people offer to fill the form for you for some money, if you would prefer that they do the work and lining up for you then make sure to negotiate for a good price. If you prefer to do it yourself, just fill the form yourself and use the glue provided to attach your two passport photos to the form as well as the passport copy you brought with you. Once you reach the front of the line, give the form and passport to the official and then continue to the office on the right, again there are often many people lining up there. You will have to wait there for your name to be called; once you are called you will need to pay 1,000 Baht and you will get a receipt for your payment. It is very important that you don’t lose this receipt because the following day you need to return to the same place at 13:00 and show it to receive your passport back with your new Thai visa. 

After you have finished with that, you can relax and go find a guest house. There are two recommended cheap guest houses. One is called Elkalath and the other Bouasy, and they are located close to each other. Try first Elkalath, if they tell you that they don’t have any cheap rooms (this is quite standard as they are trying to get you to pay more) go to Bouasy. You can ask the woman at Elkalath how to get there.  Bouasy nearly always have cheap rooms for around 240 baht. The rooms have a shared bathroom but they are quite nice. You now you have 24 hours in which to relax, eat nice baguettes and wait for the following day for your visa to be returned. In Laos the currency is the kip, but most places will accept baht so it is usually not necessary to exchange money

The following day take a tuktuk to the Thailand Embassy before 13:00, it is recommended to arrive as early as 12.15 and line up next to the gate so you are sure to finish quickly when they open at 13.00. Once the Embassy has opened, go inside to the counter, give them your receipt and then you will get your passport back. Before you leave, check that your visa is valid for three months. At the Thai border they will stamp you for two months entry. 

It is probably a good idea to check bus times the day before you expect to leave and find out if it is high season, in which case you might prefer to purchase a bus ticket back to Bangkok on the day before you plan to travel. The bus ticket should cost around 750-800 baht. Once you are on the return bus you will have to go through the same process in reverse in order to re-enter Thailand. Make sure at the Thailand border that they give you an entry stamp for 60 days.  After all the border crossings have been completed, it’s just another ride back to Bangkok and from there back to Koh Phangan.

VISA RUN – MYANMAR (BURMA)

Myanmar (Burma) – Ranong

Visa Information

Remember you need two passport sized photos.  Be aware that there are many public holidays throughout the year, please check on the http://www.thaiEmbassy.org/ website to check which apply to the Consulate you will visit.

To get to the Consulate in Myanmar (Burma), take the 22:00 night boat from the longest pier in Thongsala. A woman who meets the night boat at the pier, Chilli (+66 (0)89 9733552), is a travel agent who will arrange all your visa run details: a minivan to the border, to the pier, the boat to/from Myanmar, return to the border, and then back to Surat Thani, dropping you at the pier, where you will most likely take the Raja ferry (leaves at about 16:00-17:00, to arrive at about 19:00-20:00).

If you announce yourself as being from the Yoga school you may be able to receive these prices: 1,000-1,500 Baht (€25-37.50); you must additionally give US$10 to the Burmese government. If you do not have this US$10 bill, one will be provided to you for 600 Baht (€15), bringing your total to 1,300 Baht (€32.50). (The Burmese Immigration charges 500 Baht for the $10 entry.) However, please be warned that sometimes lately no one is going to Ranong and you may be the only one, which can double the price. This especially affects people who cannot go to Malaysia for a border run (such as Israelis, for example).

Border Run - Malaysia

If you simply need to exit Thailand and re-enter to reactive your visa if you already have  a double/multiple entry visa, then you can try Mr. Kim 0819 582 223,  077 377 274 or 0815 371 960.  He is a kind and helpful Thai man who speaks quite good English.  His office is in Thongsala, heading toward Songserm Pier, on the left side before the traffic roundabout (the one with the fantastical Disney-like dolphin and deer display!), next to the optical shop.  There you can buy a return ferry ticket. Each single ticket costs 220 Baht. The regular border run visa trip in a minibus costs 1,500 baht, this runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. You don’t need USD$10 for a border run to Malaysia as you do for Burma. 

You can also arrange with Mr. Kim to rent a private car with driver to take you directly to and from the border on any day, as this is the fastest and most comfortable way. The car will cost around 4,000 baht in total so it is cheaper if you can find 2-4 other people to share the trip and expenses. Check with Mr. Kim as he may also know of people willing to share the costs of the trip if you don’t know of anyone.  To make use of this service, book the car service with Mr. Kim, then take the 05.00 ferry from Thongsala to Donsak. To buy your ferry ticket on the morning of departure, you need to arrive at the LATEST by 04.45 to buy your ticket at the ticket counter to the left of Songserm pier (close to traffic circle).  The ferry doesn’t always leave from the same pier where you buy your ticket, so check.  If you don’t know which ticket counter and which pier, it is better to arrive at 04.30 and ask. 

On arrival at the mainland on Donsak pier, there will normally be someone there to meet you, so ask around for Mr. Kim’s staff. The minibus or car will take you directly to the Malaysian border (usually at Satun border crossing). You will make the border crossing by foot, exiting the Thai border, then entering the Malaysian border. Filling in all entry cards in advance will save you time, and make sure you get ALL entry and exit stamps. There are a few stalls around selling food, fruit, clothing and general market items on both sides of the border. You then do the same in reverse, walking back out of the Malaysian border and re-entering Thailand.  The minibus or car will take you directly back to Donsak pier arriving between 15:00 and 17:30 in time to catch the last ferry back to Phangan on the same day.

Border Run  - MYANMAR (BURMA)

Myanmar (Burma) – Ranong

As there is now a restriction of 15 days on an entry stamp via land, Ranong is no longer a useful place for getting a stamp.  If you simply need to make a border run, then here are the directions. 

If you have a multiple-entry visa and just need a stamp, you can also go to Ranong, cross the border and immediately re-enter into Thailand. If you are not in a hurry you can also take the big bus and stop midway in Khao Sok National Park for a few days, swim in the river or go hiking in the park or make a trip on the lake. Ranong itself has hot springs and a Chinese vegetarian restaurant on the way to the Immigration office. There’s a nice guesthouse near the bus stand (painted yellow). You can also spend up to three days in Burma, have a look at the pagodas or buy spices and have chai in the little stalls around the pier.

Take the 22:00 night boat from the longest pier in Thongsala. A woman who meets the night boat at the pier, Chilli (+66 (0)89 9733552), is a travel agent who will arrange all your visa run details: a minivan to the border, to the pier, the boat to/from Myanmar, return to the border, and then back to Surat Thani, dropping you at the pier, where you will most likely take the Raja ferry (leaves at about 16:00-17:00, to arrive at about 19:00-20:00).

If you announce yourself as being from the Yoga school you may be able to receive these prices: 1,000-1,500 Baht (€25-37.50); you must additionally give US$10 to the Burmese government. If you do not have this US$10 bill, one will be provided to you for 600 Baht (€15), bringing your total to 1,300 Baht (€32.50). (The Burmese Immigration charges 500 Baht for the $10 entry.) However, please be warned that sometimes lately no one is going to Ranong and you may be the only one, which can double the price. This especially affects people who cannot go to Malaysia for a border run (such as Israelis, for example).

VISA EXTENSION – KOH SAMUI

Koh Samui – Extension Only

If you have a three-month validity, single-entry tourist visa or a double- or multiple-entry visa, you can make an extension of 30 days at an Immigration Office.  Be aware that currently Penang will NOT issue a new visa if you have previously had a visa extension.   The closest Immigration Office is handily located at Koh Samui, the neighboring island. There are numerous ferries leaving daily from Thong Sala, Baan Thai and Haad Rin, most take around 30 to 45 minutes.  Different ferries land in different places around the island, so check where you will be arriving. Once arrived there, Songserm or Raja ferry companies at times provide a complimentary minibus to the Immigration Office (one way only), you can rent a scooter for the day, take a motorcycle taxi (you can arrange that they wait for you and return you directly to the ferry terminal) or shared truck taxi to Immigration and for 1,950 Baht (€42.20) receive a stamp for half of your current visa period. After you have received your extension, check which ferry service you can return by, as the last ferries may return earlier in the afternoon.

There are many shops, including a large Tesco’s on the island, as well as many wonderful places to eat. Look for the Art Café, opposite the Nathon Pier, it is almost worth the trip alone to savor their vegetarian and vegan friendly food and atmosphere.


Useful Travel Resources

Surat Thani:

Eating: There’s a Chinese vegetarian buffet place at Hotel Thaitani (open from seven am to one pm), near the city bus stand.

Shopping: There is a Tesco at the town entrance on the way to or from the bus stand / railway station.

Sleeping: If you have to stay overnight near the railway station, there is the Queens Hotel which has quite nice rooms.

Hat Yai:

Hat Yai is the border city to Malaysia, with lots of big shopping centers, cabaret shows and massage places. It’s a great place for shopping or you can take a songthew (shared taxi) out to the national park and see the amazing water falls and enjoy the jungle. It’s also the gateway to the paradise islands of Koh Tarutao and Koh Lipe, a mecca for divers and snorkelers and nature lovers; or you can spend a few relaxed days in Songklah, a nearby town with beautiful Kasuarin Beache.  A recommendation for accomodation is Narai Hotel, a cheap and homely place around ten minutes walk from the beach.

Places to stay:

Cathay Guesthouse. Has shabby, rundown rooms for 200 Baht, some are really noisy, the ones to the back are better. Tel. 0864 880 086 or 074 235 044.

Park Hotel to the left of Cathay has much nicer rooms from 350 Baht on and is also much quieter.

Shopping:

Hat Yai has a Tesco, Big C and Carrefour as well as lots of clothes shops and markets. Hat Yai is paradise to shop for sexy underwear and high heels as all the ladyboys and ladies of the night need to get dressed up properly!

Eating:

The best found is the Chinese Vegetarian Place, opposite Hotel Four Seasons. They also have some vegetarian sauces for sale, such as vegetarian tom yam sauce, vegetarian chili sauce and dried soy products.

Web Resources

www.airninja.com – this website will give you a list of any low cost carriers – LCC’s or budget airlines - between two points, e.g. Bangkok/Vientiane. You can then click through to the airline to check pricing and availability.

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4. I have a young child. Do you know how I can arrange childcare?

Agama does not have the staff levels to arrange childcare, but we have had students (both single mothers and couples) who successfully attended our courses with their child or children in tow, so we know it's possible. Further information may be obtained from our Welcome and Registration Center as availability changes frequently.

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5. Is it safe there?

Koh Phangan is quite safe. Violent crime is extremely rare, although petty theft is a fairly common occurrence. Police increased their presence on the island in 2007 and 2008 due to the incidence rate of predatory petty thieves (who usually do not live on Koh Phangan but travel here to prey on visitors to the monthly Full Moon Party on the opposite side of the island) as well as drug addicts who also frequent the party and whose compulsive behavior sometimes leads them to crime.

We would like to warn you about some common scenarios in which trusting foreigners often find themselves vulnerable to a crime, and to provide you some common-sense suggestions.

  • Please lock your backpack and luggage when you are traveling. Unlocked baggage may be subject to search and theft by unscrupulous people working or traveling on buses, trains, boats, etc. While you are separated from your luggage, i.e., when it is in a bus hold, or while you are sleeping, etc., use zipper locks. The same goes for purses and daypacks when you are sleeping and traveling.
  • Do not ride a scooter with your valuables sitting in the scooter basket. Some talented thieves are known to ride alongside a motorist and steal these things.
  • Do not leave your bungalow door (or windows, if they provide access to your bungalow) open or unlocked while you sleep at night. Some thieves prowl late at night especially along beaches for unsuspecting people who enjoy fresh air…. Similarly lock your windows and door while you are away from home.

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6. What is the quality of the food like on Koh Phangan?

Food is generally fresh, healthy, and plenty of restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options, and - increasingly - some organic options. Many types of international cuisine can be found (one may find on our side of the island Thai, Israeli, French, Indian, some Japanese, etc.). A lot of students eat out for almost all of their meals; others buy a rice cooker (about 600 Baht in Thongsala) or gas cylinder (about 1,000 Baht to set up) and prepare their own meals in their kitchen (if they have one) or on their porch. Both Ananda and Bovy are located almost equidistantly from a large green market selling fruits, vegetables, tofu, eggs, etc. A 7-11, again almost equidistant from both Ananda and Bovy, sells fresh milk, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, phone cards, eggs, and … ice cream, 24 hours a day!

Generally, you should prepare to spend at least 200 Baht per day - perhaps 100 Baht if you eat entirely at home and prepare your own meals - or more if you: eat out for all of your meals, have a big appetite, eat at more expensive restaurants, etc. 

A word about purity of diet: Although we do not wish to control what you eat, we would recommend to you that if you eat an unrestricted diet normally, you try to maintain a vegetarian diet for the duration of the course. Also, we would like for you to refrain from smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and certainly using any drugs during your participation in the course. Yoga purifies the body on many levels, from the nadis (like the meridians of acupuncture), to the bloodstream, to the mental and emotional bodies, and more. We additionally teach kriyas to accelerate this purification. Therefore, it is for your health and also safety on more subtle levels when practicing Kundalini Yoga that you try to adhere to these recommendations in order to harmonize with your studies and assist your own progress.

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7. Restaurants

There are numerous vegetarian restaurants in our area of the island. We recommend:

  • Ananda Wellness Resort for its great vegetarian menu, excellent soups, homemade yogurt, wheatgrass juice, etc.
  • Soma Restaurant, Ananda's sister restaurant, located at our campus in Srithanu, with an excellent menu catering to Yogic tastes.
  • Art Cafe: a great selection of teas, very good coffees and fresh baked delights.  Also has a small but delicious range of meals catering to vegetarian tastes.
  • Eos: a macrobiotic restaurant with delicious, healthy food and a small selection of grocery items for sale.
  • Big Mountain: garden salads, feta salads, vegetarian sushi, spring rolls, tofu burgers, dahl and chapatis, hummus and falafel, etc.
  • Jungle Hut: excellent and inexpensive Thai food, plus Western favorites
  • Tantawan: excellent pizzas, soups, crepes, salads, French and Thai cuisine
  • Golden Rock: Delicious Thai vegetarian food, plus sauna on the beach.

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8. Is there Internet access?

Yes! Internet access is everywhere, including at Ananda Wellness Resort. Most often access costs 1 Baht per minute with a 20-minute minimum. You may do Internet in Thongsala for up to half this price, and - if you have a Bluetooth phone, Bluetooth transmitter, and laptop - you may do wireless Internet in your bungalow for much cheaper than this: approximately 130 baht for 20 hours,  250 Baht for 60 hours, 375 Baht for 100 hours, etc. Such options are paid through AIS (1-2-Call) or DTAC phone service and recharge ("top-up") cards.

Also check which restaurants have wifi access which means you can surf for free while eating.

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9. I would like to understand more about Thai culture

Thailand is the country where Agama Yoga School makes its home, and therefore this land is our host. As foreigners, we are guests here – something happy travelers often forget but worth a reminder now and then….

A few little stories and tips can go a long way toward deepening a cultural understanding that helps integrate a visitor personally – and our entire school community generally – into our Thai landscape. Therefore, we invite you to read these tips, passed from an excellent resource website for everything from customs to news to holidays and helpful information: www.thaizer.com. Please visit often for new articles and updates!

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Land of Smiles

Thailand is famously known as the “Land of Smiles,” and for good reason. But a Thai smile does not automatically mean that a person is happy. Such an assumption can lead to misunderstandings between Westerners and Thais.

Roy of thaizer.com gives a highly illustrative example from his second trip to Thailand:

“I was at an Internet café near Sukhumvit in Bangkok. An American man at the computer next to me spent an hour typing away only to watch his computer crash. Understandably, he was frustrated at losing all his work. He explained to the shop owner that the computer had crashed and asked if she could retrieve what he had been working on. The shop owner spoke English well and apologized for the inconvenience. After quickly assessing the computer was, in her words, “kaput,” she smiled at the man and told him that he would not have to pay. The man then said that he had wasted an hour of his time. The lady again smiled and offered him a free fruit shake. The man was still upset and raised his voice and said that a free fruit shake did not make up for the fact that he had wasted an hour of his time.

“This time the lady smiled even more broadly than before and simply said ‘yes.’ Each time she smiled, the American customer became more irate. He eventually stormed out of the shop cursing about Thailand being a Third World country. The Thai lady continued to smile.”

As Roy explained, the Thai woman’s smile was initially a smile of apology which turned into a smile of embarrassment. The American man had misunderstood it as a sign of indifference and unhelpfulness. As Roy lives in Thailand, he said he has since on many occasions witnessed British, German, Australian, and other Western tourists misinterpreting the Thai smile as a sign that they are being mocked. In Thailand, he says, a smile isn’t necessarily (or only) a sign of happiness. Thais smile when they are amused, bemused, apologetic, annoyed, uncertain, wrong, furious, or embarrassed. In fact, there is a Thai smile to cover just about every circumstance and thus it is no wonder this can lead to confusion.

Roy notes that it is common for Thai television to show pictures of criminals in handcuffs being taken back to the scene of their crime where they are photographed and filmed. Not only do the policemen smile, but so do the criminals! He adds: it is certain that they are not smiling at the thought of spending the next 10 years of their life in a Thai prison!

However, he also insists that often the Thai smile is a welcoming one. There is a definite attitude in Thailand that life should be enjoyed. Being too serious is unhealthy and causes stress and illness – “not think too much, be happy” is common Thai advice, Roy says, adding: “It’s good advice.” 

Beach Etiquette

According to thaizer.com, Thailand is a relaxed country to visit but that doesn’t mean anything goes…. Some tourists unfortunately forget that when they hit the beach. Although Thais working in tourist resorts are generally very tolerant – partly due to practicality, as tourism brings revenue and jobs – there are some things that show disrespect to local culture and customs and should be avoided.

Women Sunbathing Topless

Topless sunbathing by women is frowned upon by local Thais. This is true everywhere in Thailand, but in particular on some of the southern islands and beaches where there is a local Muslim population. The fact that it’s highly unlikely that any Thai person will actually reprimand a foreign woman for sunbathing topless doesn’t make it right or acceptable.

Put Your Shirt on in Restaurants

You may be dining at a cheap and cheerful beach-side restaurant, but if men don’t have the courtesy to put a shirt on it shows disrespect to the owners and other people eating there and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Thai people. In Thailand, food and food etiquette is important and no man should need a sign in English to tell them they need to put on a shirt before eating at a restaurant, even a restaurant on the beach.

Thai Greeting – the Wai

Whether they’ve been to Thailand before or not, most people are familiar with the traditional Thai form of greeting, the wai, in which the palms are pressed together in prayer-like fashion and the head is lowered. However, what appears to be a simple gesture is in fact governed by very subtle rules of etiquette.

The Wai as a Form of Respect

In the title, I’ve described the wai as a greeting, but it is more than that because it is also a form of respect. The wai may be used as a greeting, but it isn’t the equivalent of saying “hello” and there are times when use of the wai would be inappropriate. There are different types of wai for different situations and Thai people inherently know the correct form to use. As a foreign visitor you will not be expected to understand them all so don’t worry, but it’s important to realize that it is the social inferior who always initiates the wai.

Social Superiors

The idea of all people not being equal may rest uneasy with some visitors, but it is part of Thai culture. Monks and elderly people are at the top of the social hierarchy, but again that doesn’t mean you should wai the old lady selling fruit outside your hotel! Social superiors may or may not return a wai.

Returning a Wai

Advice given in some guidebooks says that you should always return a wai. Strictly speaking that isn’t true. For example, if the waitress or cashier at the restaurant wais you for leaving a tip, it would not be appropriate to wai in return. Like it or not, in this instance you are the social superior and respect is being shown to you; a smile in return would be a more appropriate response. Similarly, the bellboy and receptionist at your hotel are not your social equal even if you do the same job in your home country. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly, but there’s no need to return a wai every morning. In fact, doing so may cause them embarrassment. In many other circumstances though, you can safely return the wai, but if you’re not sure a smile will almost always get you by.

Waiing Objects

On the bus or in a songthaew (truck taxi), some Thai people routinely wai when they pass sacred places or Buddha images. And it isn’t just the passengers; don’t be surprised if you see the driver lift both hands off the steering wheel as he passes a Buddha image or wat (monastery).

No Wai

Although the wai is often used as an indication of respect, it does not automatically mean all Thais will use it in deference to an overseas visitor. Thai people, particularly the younger generation, know it is not the way foreigners do things so don’t be offended if you don’t receive a wai. In some instances a handshake or smile may be offered in place of a wai.

Advice drawn from: http://www.thaizer.com/.

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