๐Ÿ“ฟ Monk Chats in Chiang Mai: How To & Firsthand Tips

An old monastery on a clear day.

A free and unique experience in Thailand is attending a monk chat where you get to talk to local Buddhist monks in a casual environment and learn about their lives.

Conversing with English-speaking monks was one of my most mind-opening experiences in Thailand, and here, I share firsthand practical tips. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿ’ก What is a monk chat
  • ๐Ÿ“ Where can you find one
  • ๐Ÿ“ท Monk chat etiquette
  • ๐Ÿ’ฌ What to expect & ask

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Thailand.

Monk Chats at a Glance

Here are general things to know about monk chats to help you plan and add this to your Thailand itinerary.

๐Ÿ“ฟ What Is a Monk Chat?

Monk chats are a program offered in Thailand, a Buddhist country in Southeast Asia, where more than 95% of the population practices the official religion.

The monk chat program is most widely available and popular in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

Monk chats allow visitors to have a casual conversation with Thai Buddhist monks. They are open to everyone (e.g., women, kids, people of all nationalities and religions).

A woman sitting at a table with two monks wearing orange robes.
Monk chat in Chiang Mai.

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ How To Join a Monk Chat

Participating in a monk chat is easy and a great way to enrich your trip.

All you need to do is show up at a temple that offers them (see the participating Buddhist temples below) and follow proper etiquette when talking to available monks.

๐Ÿ“ Where To Find Monk Chats

Chiang Mai is the city known to offer monk chats. This map shows the different places that have them:

Here are the different temples in Chiang Mai that have monk chats:

  • Wat Chedi Luang has monk chats every day from 9 amโ€“6 pm on the northern end of the temple. When I visited in November on a Tuesday at 1 pm, only two other visitors were there, so it was very uncrowded.
  • Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most popular temple, has monk chats every day from 1โ€“3 pm. The monk chats here are more popular, so you might see more crowded tables, especially on the weekends.

The monks at Doi Suthep temple run the International Buddist Center, which offers meditation retreats ranging from 4 to 21 days.

  • Wat Sri Suphan has monk chats every Tuesday, Thursday, and Wednesday from 5:50โ€“7:20 pm.
  • Wat Suan Dok has monk chats on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5โ€“7 pm.
  • Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham has monk chats every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:30โ€“7:30 pm.

Many of these temples have a meditation center where you can take a meditation course to learn about Vipassana meditation and concentration meditation.

Several ornate buildings with gold-plate facades against a sunset sky.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

See other great things to do in Chiang Mai.

โณ How Long Are Monk Chats?

A monk chat can last as long as you like. You can sit down and chat a little bit for five minutes or stay for a long time. I talked to two monks for about an hour and a half.

If the monk chats are busy and you stay for a while, other visitors can join your table.

๐Ÿ’ฐ How Much Do Monk Chats Cost?

The monk chat program is entirely free to visitors. However, all programs have a donation box.

Monks do not earn or make money. They only use and eat what’s offered to them.

I share all my travel expenses in this Thailand trip cost breakdown.

๐Ÿ“š Why Are Monk Chats Offered?

The monk chat program is offered as part of the monk’s language training education.

  • Language improvement โ€“ย Participating monks are usually young monks aiming to improve their English, Spanish, or French. They get to practice these skills while talking to visitors about Buddhism, monk life, and other topics you’re interested in. They also learn about foreigners’ home countries, lives, and experiences.
  • Cultural exchange โ€“ Visitors benefit from monk chats by learning about Buddhism and monks’ way of life in a respectful, low-pressure environment. The overwhelming majority find the conversations engaging and educational, and most agree that they’re fun cultural exchanges.

Most monk chats are with a novice monk, but you’ll sometimes get to talk to a senior monk who has a good handle on English and simply enjoys learning about different international visitors.

Monk Chat Etiquettes

When participating in a monk chat, make sure to be respectful and follow these etiquettes:

๐Ÿ‘• What To Wear to a Monk Chat

Just like visiting most Chiang Mai temples, you should wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders when chatting with monks.

๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿป Can Women Participate in Monk Chats?

Women are allowed to participate in monk chats but need to make sure never to touch a monk as it goes against their vows.

Monks are not allowed to have any physical contact with women.

If you want to hand something to a monk, place it on the table instead of directly handing it to them to ensure you don’t accidentally touch them. That’s what I did when I handed my phone over to show the location of my home country.

๐Ÿ“ธ Can You Take Photos of Monks?

You are allowed to take photos at monk chats, but ask for permission first.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Donating to Monk Chats

As mentioned above, monk chats are free, but if you spend a decent amount of time having an enjoyable conversation, consider leaving a donation, as monks do not make money and only use what they’re offered.

Ideally, donations should be in the local currency, Thai baht.

What To Talk About at Monk Chats

Monk chats are informal, so you can talk about anything you want that’s within reason.

I spent about an hour and a half talking to two monks, and below are some of the questions I asked them. Some of their answers surprised me, leading to eye-opening, honest, and humorous conversations.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Monk Chat Introductions

You can start a monk chat like any other normal conversation by introducing yourself (e.g., your name, where you’re visiting from, and why you’re interested in doing a monk chat).

The monk will also likely introduce himself, but shyer monks may need more prompting.

๐Ÿ“ฟ Buddhism and Monk Life

Typical topics in a monk chat center around Buddhism and the monk’s way of life. You can ask them anything you’re curious about regarding their religion and everyday life.

Some questions I asked at the monk chat include:

  • Why did you become a monk? (I was surprised to discover that many younger monks become one to get a better education, as opposed to reaching some level of enlightenment.)
  • What Buddhist rules do monks abide by?
  • What does a monk’s daily routine look like?
  • Why do monks meditate?
  • Why do monks wear orange robes?
  • Can women be monks?

๐Ÿ’ก Opinions and Personal Questions

The monks are usually open to discussing different topics, and some less shy ones will ask you questions about your life and home country.

I asked a lot of questions that can be considered personal or opinion-based. The two monks I chatted with were very open to answering them in an honest and sometimes funny way.

Some of the questions I asked at the monk chat include:

  • How old are you?
  • What’s your least and most favorite thing about being a monk?
  • What do you like doing during your free time?
  • What do you miss about your life before becoming a monk?
  • Do you personally agree with all Buddhist teachings?
  • Where are your family members located, and how often do you see them?
  • What do you think about other religions?
  • What are your thoughts on Americans?
  • Do you watch YouTube? What videos do you like watching?
  • Do you want to become a layperson after finishing Buddhism university?
  • Have you found inner peace?
  • What is the purpose of life?

Questions the monks asked me include:

  • What’s my nationality?
  • How much money do I pay for rent in the United States?
  • What is the typical cost of education in the United States?

Attending a monk chat was one of the most enlightening experiences I had in Thailand, and I hope you have an engaging conversation as well.

For another amazing experience in Chiang Mai, visit an ethical elephant sanctuary.

An intricate Buddhist temple with two dragon sculptures at its entrance.
At another Chiang Mai temple.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

Lists by Lukiih is Readers-Supported

If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea๐Ÿง‹!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *