I actually have 3 incredible experiences worth sharing.
I had the good fortune of being in Chiang Mai for the Loi Krathong festival, their festival of lanterns. For an entire week, there was a build up of people launching burning lanterns into the night sky, with firecrackers occasionally popping off, but the weekend celebration was something I will never forget.
Thousands of people gathered all over in the streets to launch lanterns into the sky, and float flowers down the river to pay tribute to the river for her life-sustaining gifts. To experience that in all its beauty and chaos was amazing.
At one point during the volunteer service, I had some time off, so a couple of volunteers and I opted to travel down to Phuket, an island in Southern Thailand. The beaches were beautiful, the scenery was incredible, and the time I had to spend with the special friends I had made there was truly unforgettable.
Each year, the monks at the university I worked at will do an off-site meditation retreat. This lasts 10 days, and the monks will learn about meditation methods, and have the chance to practice for themselves. As members of the staff, myself and another volunteer were invited to attend, which we were thrilled to do.
For four days, I had the chance to live with monks, chant with monks, learn with monks, and meditate with monks. Most of these monks were my students, so I had the chance to become very close with them, and develop strong friendships while we were essentially camping together.
Several of the monks approached me and said that the two of us were the first lay people (non-monks), he had seen in all his four years attending the University. To be the only non-monk, living and learning meditation with 125 monks from 9 nations, was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.