New video – Custom Travel

Check out our latest video!! It is about our most recent custom trip from Northern Thailand! Included in the trip were educational tours, English camps, and monk chats!!!

For more information about our custom travel options, click here.

*Video shot and edited by Antoine Gratian and Raghav Agarwal*


Golden triangle and reflections on borders

Welcome back Raghav

Me arriving at the Chiang Mai airport

This summer (2013) I am visiting Chiang Mai with ATMA SEVA for a second time for two weeks. This time, my trip’s main focus is teaching English camps at various schools and developing monk chats in preparation to bring them to different schools in Arizona. In addition to this, I also have some opportunities to travel and really get to explore some of the locations I hadn’t been able to yet.

On one of these trips, I got the opportunity to visit Chiang Rai, near the Golden Triangle of Thai, Laos, and Burma. Through this experience, I was able to see two major borders and see how they operate.

While visiting Chiang Rai, Tony, Lily, David, and I (some of the team members) saw some really cool places. Our first day, we stopped at a restaurant after visiting the opium museum. Across the restaurant, we had a beautiful view of Laos across the river while sitting in Thailand. This was the first time I’ve been sitting in one country looking at another, which was really cool to think about!

(L-R) Natch, Lily, Antoine, me, David

(L-R) Natch, Lily, Antoine, me, David at the Golden triangle

Before I saw Laos, I imagined some completely foreign land. While looking across, I found myself trying look for distinguishing factors between where I was and where I was looking. Seeing the borders on the map, I honestly at first almost thought that I would see a dark line separating the countries. Ultimately, I realized there was absolutely no difference. On both sides were the same beautiful green mountains, the same restaurants, and the same kind of people looking back at us. This made me realize how insignificant that border on the map is practically. These kinds of borders are just created by men to separate the world to try to create their personal territories.

At the Mae Sai border with Burma right behind us!

At the Mae Sai border with Burma right behind us!

After a scenic lunch, we went on a boat ride across the river to visit Laos for a bit. We toured a market that was near the dock. Still expecting vast differences between Laos and Thailand, I was surprised to see the striking similarities between the markets. They were selling the same cheap clothes, jewellery, souvenirs, exactly what the shops back in Chiang Rai were selling. This is when I realized that we were less than a mile away from the other markets, why would there be a major difference between the two? Just because there is a border between doesn’t change the fact that, because of the proximity, the cultures practically grew and developed together. The local people were crossing the river as casually as they would any river for their needs. Another cool thing that we saw that night was a really big casino on the Laos side, and Natch explained to us that pretty much every night boats go to and from Thailand and Laos because the people are really into the casino, it didn’t really matter that they had to travel to a different country! Things like this made boundaries becomes pretty much meaningless in the bigger picture. In the vision of a world without boundaries, although they seem necessary now, borders ultimately are serving to divide us in a time we need to unite to solve the world’s many problems.

written by: Raghav Agarwal

Photography Corner – Mae Sai part 2

In Mae Sai part 1, the ATMA SEVA team went to the White temple and also Mae Sai.  On our second day, in the morning we went to Wat Thampla MaeSai also known as the Monkey cave temple, as monkeys roam around and live on the premise.  The temple is set right into the mountain and jungle and there are two caves you can hike up to.  There are great views and the caves are fun to be in and the Buddha shrines within are stunning.  There are quite a few monkeys and visitors are accompanied by local teenagers who carry bamboo sticks in case the monkeys bite or jump on people.

After Wat Thampla, we set out to find a very unique temple named Wat Maa Tong or the Golden Horse temple.  The temple is famous because of the abbot Phra Khru Bah Neua Chai Kositto, who is a former professional kick boxer, and has also helped the local hill-tribe community immensely.  He also teaches self-defense and muay Thai to the young men to teach discipline and give them strength.  The monks in this temple ride horses to collect alms in the morning, hence Golden Horse temple.  A while back a horse was donated to the temple and the abbot saw how the horse could help him spread the Dhamma.

We went for a hike next to the temple to try and reach a stupa on the mountain.  After about forty minutes of hiking we found a farm in the jungle where lots of horses were and we also saw the abbot, but he was unable to speak as he was in the middle of a seven day meditation.  The area was so mystical with a muay Thai training area, horse farm, and Buddha statues nestled into the lush green background.  We never reached the stupa, but we were overly satisfied with what we had found.

Stay tuned for the next Photography corner as the ATMA SEVA team went to Wiang Haeng several days after this trip!


Photos by David Poppe

Photography Corner – Mae Sai trip part 1

This photography corner is broken up into two parts.  The ATMA SEVA team recently took a trip up North to Mae Sai to make a ‘visa run’ and also to explore and see new sights.  Mae Sai is a city in Northern Thailand that is on the border of Burma, and one location travelers can cross to renew their visas.

Although the trip was only two days and one night we managed to see and do quite a lot.  The first day on the way to Mae Sai, we stopped for coffee and breakfast at a nice resort and then visited the famous White temple.  The White temple was created by a famous Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, and the Thai name of the temple is Wat Rong Khun.  You start by ‘walking through hell’ and once you begin you cannot walk backwards.  There is a staff member at the entrance and they will not let you walk back down.  After ‘walking through hell’ you enter heaven.  The artist created his vision for what each realm would look like, and the White temple is still a work in progress.  It is very unique and a main attraction in Northern Thailand.

After the White temple, we went to Mae Sai to cross the border and also explore the local markets.  In the city of Mae Sai there are giant markets with a wide range of products.  The market is very cheap and a place many Thai people go to shop in bulk or even to supply their local market.  Products range from cheap sunglasses, shirts, pants, handbags, wigs, jewelry, toys etc.  Mae Sai is also famous for their fruit flavored wine and if you are not sure which flavor to purchase, most vendors will let you sample the various flavors until you are happy with your choice.

Stayed tuned for part 2 which includes the Golden Horse temple and also Wat Thampla which has fish caves and wild monkeys. (google map on part 2)

Photos by David Poppe