Mae Chan Winery, which aside from cultivating grapes also grows rice and oolong tea in the area. The vineyard is located in Mae Chan valley of Ban Pa Mieng in Mae Chan District. You take the road towards Doi Mae Salong but turn left at Ban Mai Pattana School and drive five kilometres to the pier to cross Mae Pern Lake to the winery. The winery offers a half-day tour to let you observe the wine-making process and taste Chateau de Mae Chan. You can also the visit gem-cutting factory and tea factory in the area, which covers about 300 acres. You can opt to stay over at Doi Hom Fha Resort, a boutique resort that calls itself the winery resort of Chiang Rai.
From there, it is possible to head up to Doi Mae Salong along a scenic mountain route. The little town is home to descendants of Chinese Nationalists who settled here in 1940. The scenery is stunning in winter when the cherry trees are in bloom. But it’s also a great place to visit all year round, offering accommodation, good Yunnanese restaurants, tea and coffee plantations as well as fruit orchards.
Q: Can you recommend a Buddhist meditation centre on Koh Samui? A friend tells me there is one but can’t give me the name. What I am looking for is a 7-10 day retreat in July for beginners, taught in English. Thank you, Sonia.
A: Your friend is correct. There’s the Dipabhavan Meditation Centre on Koh Samui, which was founded by Ajarn Pho, the abbot of Wat Suan Mokkh in Surat Thani, a very famous retreat centre known throughout Thailand. This place offers Buddhist teaching as well as serving as a meditation retreat for both Thai and foreigners. Registration is required and bookings can be made through www.Dipabhavan.com. A meditation retreat in English is held from the 20th-27th of every month. You can book the retreat anytime in advance through to the end of 2012.
It’s a unique experience for beginners. Ajarn Pho and monks from Suan Mokh come to Dipabhavan to run the retreat so the meditation teaching is the same as at Suan Mokh, focusing on dharma and anapanasati or mindfulness breathing.
Accommodation is provided in separate dormitories for men and women. You have to sleep on a straw mat with just a mosquito net and blanket, and all your valuables have to be deposited in the safe during your stay. Thai vegetarian breakfast and lunch are provided.
Thais have the option of a three-day meditation retreat at Dipabhavan starting on the first Saturday of each month or a five-day retreat starting on the 12th of each month.
All the programmes are free of charge, but you can donate money upon the completion of the retreat.