๐Ÿ‘ฒ๐Ÿป Monk Chats in Chiang Mai: Firsthand Review & Tips

An old monastery on a clear day.
๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating6.9
๐Ÿฆ„ UniquenessAverage
๐Ÿ˜Š EnjoymentModerate
๐Ÿ’ฐ ValueVery Affordable
๐ŸŽ’ PreparationVery Minimal
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Monk chats in Thailand are informal conversations visitors can have with local Buddhist monks to learn about Thai culture and their lives. Here, I review my experience with a coherent rating system before sharing firsthand tips.

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๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating

6.9
I recommend doing a monk chat in Thailand โ€“ do it if you’re interested.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience. I break down the factors in my review below.

Verdict

I recommend attending a monk chat when visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s a unique and enlightening cultural exchange opportunity that benefits visitors and local monks.

Monks chats are free (but you can donate), and very little preparation is required. You only need to cover up and know where and when they’re offered.

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

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

๐Ÿ† Where Does It Rank?

Attending a monk chat ranks as my #7 thing to do in Thailand. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1๐Ÿœ Old Siam Bangkok Food TourBangkok8.3
2๐Ÿ˜ Elephant SanctuarySeveral8.1
3๐Ÿœ Chiang Mai Street Food Tour Chiang Mai7.9
4๐Ÿ’†โ€โ™€๏ธ Thai MassageAnywhere7.6
5๐Ÿ’ง Sticky WaterfallChiang Mai7.4
6๐Ÿ–๏ธ Phi Phi Island Day TourKrabi7.1
7๐Ÿ‘ฒ๐Ÿป Monk ChatChiang Mai6.9
8๐Ÿฐ Grand PalaceBangkok6.8
9๐Ÿฅพ Doi Suthep & Monk’s TrailChiang Mai6.8
10๐Ÿ–๏ธ Railay Beach Rock ClimbingKrabi6.8
11๐Ÿฎ Yaowarat (Chinatown)Bangkok6.8
12๐Ÿฅพ Railay Lagoon HikeKrabi6.7
13๐ŸฅŠ Rajadamnern Stadium Muay Thai MatchBangkok6.3
14๐Ÿฏ Wat Pho TempleBangkok5.9
15๐ŸŽค Cabaret ShowChiang Mai5.4
16๐Ÿ›๏ธ CentralWorldBangkok5.2
17๐Ÿ  SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean WorldBangkok5.0
Overall Rating is calculated using Lukiihโ€™s rating system.

See my Thailand itinerary featuring the experiences above.

โœˆ๏ธ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ€ย Self-fundedย โ€“ I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2022 โ€“ This post has updated 2024 information, but I did a monk chat in 2022.
  • โ˜€๏ธ High season โ€“ My Thailand trip was in November when it was more crowded and expensive.

๐Ÿฆ„ Uniqueness: Average

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Uncommon

Monk chats are an uncommon experience, as only about 50 temples offer them worldwide.

๐Ÿ’Ž What Makes It Rare?

  • They’re only found in countries with a predominantly Buddhist population and are most accessible in Thailand.
  • Outside of the Southeast Asia region, very few temples offer them.

Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand famous for its temples, offers several places with monk chats.

๐ŸŒ What Makes It Less Rare?

  • You can interact with monks in nearby countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Burma.

Memorability: Moderate

Monk chats are one of my many memorable experiences in Thailand.

๐Ÿ“ธ What Makes It Memorable?

  • As expected, I learned a lot about Buddhism and monk life, but what I found most memorable was how eye-opening, honest, and humorous the conversations were.

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • If you are not interested in monk life at all or already know a lot about it, the discussion will be less memorable.

๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoyment: Moderate

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: Moderate

I found talking to local Thai monks fun and delightful.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • I conversed with two monks who were very open and humorous about their lives (ask them what they dislike the most), which made the exchange fun. I spent 90 minutes talking to them when I originally had planned for only 30 minutes.

A monk chat can last as long as you like. You can chat for five minutes or hours. If the chats are busy, multiple visitors can join a table.

๐Ÿ˜ฅ What Makes It Less Enjoyable?

  • As is true for every conversation, the quality of the chats varies depending on personality and ability to converse with each other.

Reward: High

Monk chats are a highly rewarding experience.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • Attending one was one of my two most enlightening experiences in Thailand. It changed the way I view monks.
  • Many visitors find the exchange rewarding as they learn about Buddhism and monksโ€™ way of life in a respectful, low-pressure environment.

Participating monks are usually young men trying to improve their English, Spanish, or French. They also learn about visitorsโ€™ home countries, lives, and experiences.

๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ What Makes It Less Rewarding?

  • Monk chats are strictly just conversations. There are no opportunities to experience the culture more intimately and outside of talking (e.g., observing prayers, practicing meditation, etc.).

Many temples also offer meditation classes and retreats separately.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Value: Very Affordable

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Price: Free

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 is offered to them. Donations should ideally be in Thai baht.

See my Thailand trip expenses.

๐ŸŽ’ Preparation: Very Minimal

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: None

You don’t need any skills or fitness to do a monk chat.

If you’re unsure what to ask, scroll down for ideas.

Transportation: Very Easy & Short

Monk chats are found in tourist hot spots in Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. They’re typically in temples that foreigners are already visiting, so you can walk on over during their office hours.

Booking & Packing: None

Monk chats don’t require any advanced booking or packing. The two things to keep in mind are:

  • Bring cash to donate if you like.
  • Be respectful and follow monk etiquette.

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in doing a monk chat after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

Where To Find Monk Chats

Monk chats are prevalent in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

  • Wat Chedi Luang โ€“ offers them 9 amโ€“6 pm daily. The monks are located on the northern end of the temple. Only two other visitors were there when I visited in November on a Tuesday at 1 pm, so it was very uncrowded.
  • Wat Doi Suthep โ€“ offers them 1โ€“3 pm daily. This temple is very popular, so you might see more crowded tables, especially on the weekends.
  • Wat Sri Suphan โ€“ offers them 5:50โ€“7:20 pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Wednesday.
  • Wat Suan Dok โ€“ offers them 5โ€“7 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham โ€“ offers them 5:30โ€“7:30 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Several ornate buildings with gold-plate facades against a sunset sky.
Doi Suthep

Etiquettes

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

  • ๐Ÿงฃ Cover your knees and shoulders โ€“ This is the same etiquette in most Chiang Mai temples.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿป Women should never touch a monk โ€“ Women are allowed to participate but must avoid touching them as it goes against their vows.

If you want to hand something to a monk, place it on the table instead of directly giving it to them to ensure you donโ€™t accidentally touch them. Thatโ€™s what I did when I handed my phone over to show the location of my home country.

  • ๐Ÿ“ธ Ask for permission โ€“ You can take photos, but ask for permission first.
An intricate Buddhist temple with two dragon sculptures at its entrance.
Covering knees and shoulders

Topic Ideas

Monk chats are informal, so you can talk about anything you want thatโ€™s within reason. Questions should focus on Buddhism and monk life, but some monks are willing to share personal opinions and details.

Below are a sampling of questions I asked that led to interesting and surprising answers.

  • Why did you become a monk? (I was surprised to discover that many younger monks become one to get a better education rather than to reach some level of enlightenment.)
  • What Buddhist rules do monks abide by? Which rules do you like and dislike the most?
  • 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?
  • Can women be monks? Why or why not?
  • Have you found inner peace?

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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