It’s a mystical place with a medieval aura; connected to civilization only by a precarious hairpin road that takes over an hour to traverse to the nearest town, Gangtok (in Sikkim State, India) near the Chinese border, at the foothills of the Himalayas. At 1500 meters, surrounded by snowcapped peeks, Rumtek Monastery (Dharma Chakra Center & Golden Stupa) may seem inhospitable, but amidst the cozy, smoky interior of the largest monastery in Sikkim, the atmosphere is conducive to peace of mind & inner calm. The fragrance of a thousand types of incense dances with chanting monks and reverberates with incessant rumbling drums around aged Buddhist masters, smiling child-monks (and Indian army guards), in scenes reminiscent of Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet”.
A hidden gem (in the form of an organic farm) is tucked away in the hills of a village called Pang Term, of the Samoeng district in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. It’s known only by a few, but word of mouth is slowly spreading, as are the rows of vegetables, herbs and fruits that are grown au naturel. But it’s not just the rolling hills and flourishing farm that the senses can imbibe. There are also communal buildings and bamboo/mud-brick huts built by Chinnaworn and volunteers; places where visitors can come together to eat and meditate. At times, these two elements come together, such as during silent breakfasts & lunches. At Mindful Farm guests & volunteers work hard, but it’s also a place to unwind and relax while experiencing a unique lifestyle for a minimal cost.