The Basics of Mahjong [Illustrated]

To a viewer unfamiliar with mahjong, the game can present a bewildering spectacle, what with its walls of tiles, talk of prevailing winds and the constant clatter of pieces being discarded in turn by the four opposing players.

Appearances, however, can be deceptive. This quintessentially Chinese game is, in fact, very similar to a number of Western card games such as rummy. The goal in mahjong is to complete a set with your tiles similar to a poker or rummy hand.

Anyone used to card games where a winning hand consists of a straight flush or a full house can easily get their head around the basic rules of mahjong.

Mahjong: The Tiles

Tiles Used to Play Mahjong

The most distinctive pieces in a mahjong set are undoubtedly the tiles.

Based originally on paper cards, the tiles are now solid, chunky pieces with an image or character on one side (similar in a sense to a domino) and a thick backing of bamboo or, more usually these days, plastic on the other.

There are three categories of tiles:

  1. simples
  2. honors
  3. bonus

As is the case with a set of playing cards, the simples fall into suits.

How to Play Mahjong Tiles on Table

In mahjong there are three suits for simples:

  1. bamboos
  2. characters
  3. circles

Each suit consists of nine tiles numbered one through nine. There are four copies of each of these tile in a set.

The honor tiles are divided between dragons (red, green and white) and winds (east, south, west and north) while the optional bonus tiles (flowers and seasons) are used mainly for the purposes of scoring and gambling.

Mahjong: The Dice

Attractive Women Holding Chinese Dice, Text on Image says "Mahjong Dice"

A mahjong set will also include a number of dice with which players determine who is to deal and where the dealing is to begin and a marker to show who is dealing and which round is being played.

Some sets may also include counters to help with scoring and racks into which players may place their tiles so they remain hidden from the other players.

Mahjong: Standard Game

Mahjong Tiles in box

A standard game begins with the players choosing a dealer either by means of a high-scoring roll of the dice or by the blind drawing of wind tiles (featured in image below).

The dealer is assigned the position of East wind and play proceeds in a counter-clockwise motion to the other players, each of whom is assigned the wind respective to their position in regard to the dealer.

Mahjong Wind Tiles, Chinese Character meaning North, South, East, West, Middle (zhong)

When a round is finished, the position of dealer shifts to the player on the dealer’s right.

Once a dealer has been chosen and the tiles have been shuffled, each player takes thirty-six tiles and builds a wall in front of them two tiles high and eighteen tiles wide, see image below for what this looks like:

Building Wall Mahjong

The players then push their walls together forming a square, the hollow center of which will be used for discarding tiles.

The dealer then rolls three dice and, counting along the row of tiles to his or her right, begins dealing from the tile which corresponds to the sum of the dice.

One by one, over three rounds, the players take four tiles at a time and one last tile for a total of thirteen tiles each.

Game play proper begins with the dealer taking an extra tile and then discarding a tile of his or her choice.

Three People Playing Mahjong Location Mainland China

A winning hand in mahjong consists of fourteen tiles.

Except when drawing a tile during a turn, however, a player should only ever have thirteen tiles in their possession.

The aim is to have your hand divided neatly between a number of groupings.

In mahjong these groupings consist of:

  • Lungs  – three of a kind
  • Kongs  – four of a kind
  • Chows – a run of three consecutive tiles of the same same suit
  • ‘A pair’ – used to round out a winning hand

During a round, a player draws a tile from the wall.

If the tile cannot be used to complete a set the player then discards it.

When another player can use the tile to complete a set, that player is allowed to claim it and take the next turn.

Otherwise, following a discard, play continues in a counter-clockwise motion until someone has completed a hand.

In Western games a winning hand is often referred to as a “mahjong” and the player will call it as such when he or she has drawn the winning tile.

How to Win Mahjong

Mahjong: It’s Easier than You Think

It is the unusual set-up of the game which often seems so daunting to the novice player of mahjong. But once a player is used to the assigning of winds, the building of walls and the dealing of tiles, mahjong is actually quite straightforward.

Games can, of course, get rather complicated once you begin to grasp the possible strategies involved.

Systems of scoring too can render the game overly complex, but a player can always just adopt the simple option of scoring winning hands only.

how easy is mahjong?

Ultimately mahjong can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it and this is perhaps the secret of its enduring success.

For those of you taking Heroic Adventures to your local China town or further wanderings to parts of Asia, knowing how to play mahjong can be a way to make a healthy connection with locals and gain deep insight into local culture.

Go Deeper with Heroic Adventures

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – A Beach Paradise

In the dry zone of Sri Lanka’s Southeast coast, 320 km east of Colombo, laid-back Arugam Bay beckons tourists to the Indian Ocean.

It has a local population of only a few hundred people, one main road, and one of the best point breaks in the region.

Map of Sri Lanka and S. India showing Arugam Bay

Many find the crescent of multicolored sand and turquoise water along Arugam Bay beach to be the ideal surf spot in the country.

Tourists can glimpse expert surfers vying for prizes, and beginners attending their first lesson at one of the abundant surf schools in the area.

Arugam Bay surfing is not the only activity attracting wanderers from around the globe.

Surfing in Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

There are abundant options for swimmers, windsurfers, kitesurfers, beach partiers, yoga buffs, and seekers of ayurveda and traditional medicine.

It is an ideal spot to begin an adventure into the surrounding rural parks or to do nothing on a beach while enjoying Arugam Bay’s low-key vibe.

When to Go

The hamlet is energetic from May to October, and quiet November to April.

Things to do in Arugam Bay

For the local populace, Arugam Bay is a fishing village.

An afternoon walk along the beach will reveal myriad fishermen preparing their wooden boats for the following day’s catch.

Beach Scene sunset Arugam Beach, Sri Lanka

Some are happy to take tourists with them for the day, for those who wish to experience local life. Lagoon boat tours are also plentiful.

Cooking classes and homestay visits are available, but strolling along miles of unspoiled beach should not be missed. For those who prefer not to stroll, scooters are available for rental to get around locally.

Restaurants and reggae bars light Arugam Bay and become busy as the sun sets.

Things to do around Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is a perfect base of operations for visiting Yala National Park, the most popular and second largest national park in Sri Lanka.

Wildlife in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park, which includes Ruhuna National Park and Kumana National Park, is a wildlife sanctuary important to the preservation of Sri Lankan Elephants, leopards and birds.

The site of ancient civilizations, Yala National Park also contains two pilgrimage sites.

On the way to Yala National Park, Kudumbigala monastery beckons from high atop a hill in the middle of the jungle. The 360-degree views are astounding, especially at sunrise.

The crocodiles, elephants, sloth bears, and birds seen en route is as spectacular as the monastery itself. Though you must remove your shoes at the entrance, keeping them with you to climb is a smart practice.

“…with wild elephants occasionally coming to drink at the lagoon, and langur monkeys and macaques roaming in the forests.” (New York Times)

Four kilometers north of Arugam Bay is the town of Pottuvil, site of Muhudu Maha Viharaya, a Buddhist temple nearly 2,500 years old.

Visitors can walk among the ruins and contemplate the history of King Kavan Tissa. The site takes about an hour to explore and is a must-do for tourists interested in Sri Lanka’s rich cultural past.

Nearby Sangamankandy Pilliyar Kovil, an ancient Shiva Temple, can be seen in the same day.

Whether your interests are sun and surf, history and culture, fishing, religion or nature safari, Arugam Bay beach and its surrounds are a fun and fascinating place to relax and explore, and a welcome respite from Colombo or your hectic Southern Asia travel itinerary.

Beach Bums Go Further with Heroic Adventures

No Need for the Amazon: Ayahuasca Ceremonies in the USA

There are physical adventures, there are mental adventures, and then there is ayahuasca: a relentless spiritual-physical-mental adventure that may be one of the most intense ordeals your soul can choose to experience in this life.

If an ayahuasca ceremony is on your bucket list, you no longer have to go all the way to South America’s Amazon to reach your goal.

Thanks to religious freedoms in the USA, you can finally check-off this list item, the ayahuasca ceremony, without leaving the USA. There are a handful of legal ceremonies popping up in urban areas and far-out locations in scattered pockets across the United States of America.

According to our new section, the ayahuasca retreat directory, a Native American Church is offering ayahuasca in the United States for people interested in the sacramental ritual of an ayahuasca ceremony and the full-on spiritual practice of ayahuasca tea imbibing.

“The tea, known as Ayahuasca, is revered as sacred by Church members. It is a sacrament serving to heighten spiritual understanding and perception, and brings the practitioners closer to God and the Divine.” — Chief Minister Steve Hupp

It seems that the religious protections invoked by the religious freedom in America have made it possible — for people acting under the auspices of a church — to recruit new members to the church’s spiritual practices, where, as a potential member, you can partake in the ritual drinking of ayahuasca.

In other ceremonies that take place in the USA, invoking religious freedoms, take the UDV, for example, where it’s typical for UDV ayahuasca sessions to include dancing all night, wearing pure white clothes, and singing Christian songs. That’s right, the UDV is Christian. During a ceremony you’ll be immersed in an alternative Christian world that — to outsiders, the uninitiated, fundamentalist, or bible pounding puritans — may seem like sacrilege.

For the Native American church in Kentucky, you’ll have contact them to find out exactly what their ceremonies entail.

This is the most unusual US ayahuasca experience to come across Heroic Adventures’ radar, and it happens to be located in the same state as one of North America’s most famous horse races, the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, you read that correctly, Kentucky.

Save the South American journey. Instead, buy your plane ticket to Kentucky.

In all fairness, probably not everyone is as excited about an ayahuasca adventure in Kentucky as they would be taking the sacred medicine, say, with a Shipibo medicine man in South America — but, the novelty of the offer can’t be disputed.

Imagine it, you can fly from New York City down to Kentucky in a weekend. After drinking ayahuasca and having a lifetime’s worth of spiritual bombardment entering your consciousness, you’ll be a new person when you go back to the office in New York on Monday.

It’s time to take a Heroic Adventure not to the Amazon but to Kentucky.


Compare the first photo from the Amazon, below, to the second photo of Kentucky, below, it would appear there is a spiritual connection between the two… Well, at least, they both have a lot of nice green plants.

USA Ayahuasca Retreats

The Amazon isn’t the only place to legally ingest ayahuasca. Ceremonies are now emerging commercially in the United States of America.

Kentucky, USA

Looking a bit like the Amazon without the river, in Kentucky you can now legally drink ayahuasca with a Minister from a Native American Church.


And, a caveat from a reader:

“Hey Team,

I’m not one to normally send feedback on posts, but this feels especially warranted. I appreciate you giving information to the public about Ayahuasca ceremonies being held in the U.S. I believe it’s a positive move forward that Americans will have Ayahuasca as a more accessible possibility. However, as someone who has experienced Ayahuasca, I really advise against saying things like “Imagine it, you can fly from New York City down to Kentucky in a weekend. After drinking ayahuasca and having a lifetime’s worth of spiritual bombardment entering your consciousness, you’ll be a new person when you go back to the office in New York on Monday.” That’s a very, very scary thing to advise people to do. When you take the medicine, it stays in your system for a much longer period than the one or two days you’ve actually consumed it. You need to have preparations in place for how you’re going to reintegrate into your daily life after the experience, and making it sound like it’s a “no big deal, let’s go do Ayahuasca this weekend” kind of thing is not only dangerous but it’s furthermore disrespectful toward and completely underestimating the power of the medicine.

I’m not trying to be a heckler, but please understand that this is powerful stuff. For the sake of your readers, I hope you reconsider the phrasing of your post and add in how important it is to seriously consider whether they’re ready to take the medicine, as well as how important it is for them to do their research regarding preparations before and after the experience.

Thanks for your time,
Lori”

(updated August 26, 2015)

Interesting Discussion on Legality of Ayahuasca in the USA

In the Fall of 2015, a website popped up touting the First Ayahuasca Church in the USA that is open for ceremonies to anyone. Now this is a distinct organization front Mr Hupp (in the article above). After this article was published detailing why this church is not legal–it seems the site went offline, maybe it will emerge again–for your own investigations–here is the link: https://ayahuascahealings.com.

And to see the site in it’s original splendor, the Internet Archive has a stash of how the site last looked on November 20th, 2015, available here: Ayahuasca Healing Internet Archive Snapshot 

A curious story in the world of spirituality, religious rights, internet marketing, and law.

(updated March 25, 2017)

What is the Best Detox Retreat in Thailand?

Thailand — Adventure to Phuket Island for Weight Loss and Detox:

Phuket Island is also known as Phuket Province, it is an island that is mountainous and covered in rainforests; located near the Andaman Sea.

Known for containing some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, especially the ones found along the coast of the clear waters near the western shore.

The island is home to all kinds of resorts, restaurants and spas that are high-end and top-quality; with all kinds of services, entertainment, and relaxation: There are many retreats and resorts for losing weight and detoxing in Phuket.

From research and talking to locals, our correspondent quickly discovered one of the best weight loss and detox retreats in Thailand, as can be seen by the reviews here, known as PhuketFit.

detox Thailand

The main town in this island is called, Patong and the inhabitants of this island say that there is a very casual vibe you can feel and see everywhere. Some aspects that help to create a vibe like are all thanks to the discos, the bars and the nightclubs that there are.

With that being said Phuket Island is a popular destination for the sole purpose of losing weight and or going through the process of a detox; such a wonderful and relaxing destination to go to when having to go through something so serious and so stressful.

The methods used here help you to lose weight in a safe manner yet it can be done in a very fast amount of time and the results will last a long time, so you can be happy with your results and that know all of your hard work and efforts are sustainable and strong and worth it all.

One way, offered by PhuketFit, is Muay Thai–that’s a Thai martial art that conveniently doubles as a great and adventurous way to get fit too, as the below shows:

There are plenty of weight loss and detox programs and retreats within Thailand but the most popular one and the best one seems to be PhuketFit on Phuket Island.

Did you know that more than one third of the population in the world today is considered to be obese, don’t worry because it is really not all of your fault; self-control, being active and healthy eating help but are not the entire solution to a problem such as being overweight.

Participating in a retreat program such as this means that you will closely be working with their team of fitness and health professionals from all over the world; they will guide you through the whole process step by step, they will cleanse your mind, body and soul, they will train you with how you think, how you eat and how you live your life.

On a detox retreat, you will also enjoy food with a menu that is designed to help you lose weight and boost your immune system in your body; think of a ton of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables as well as meats that are lean for your protein. Food items such as these are where you get your minerals, vitamins and nutrients that are needed in order for the body to work properly on a daily basis.

Lastly they will also educate you in all that you need to know about starting this program, going through and life after it; changing your life and becoming a healthier and better you is simple, you just need a guideline to follow, determination, patience and someone to enforce you to follow it all.

The approach of PhuketFit is vastly different than any other and this is a good thing, for starters they clearly acknowledge that there is no one size fits all and that when it comes to losing weight everyone is different.

Each person who participates in this program will get a regime designed specifically for them. This is done so he most weight can be lost in a healthy and safe approach. This cleanse only takes a total of five days to go through and their professionals are there for whenever you need them; they don’t just help you but they also support you.

From Muay Thai to Zumba, your specialized retreat program doesn’t have to be boring.

Lastly, you will learn how to take everything and apply it to your life after the program so you can continue to be healthy.

You will learn how to exercise properly as well as how to cook meals that are healthy. You will even be given several private consultations and be trained in physical education and even given a decent education in the field of nutrition.

Eliminate the bad toxins in your body and get rid of the stress you have at the same time with their help.

So you don’t get lost trying to find PhuketFit, we’ve included a map below. Getting fit can be just the thing you need to keep living your own heroic adventure…

—————

Traveling to Thailand don’t miss these other post to help you plan your adventure:

  1. Phi Phi Island Excursion by Ferry Boat
  2. Chiang Mai the Perfect Place for a Long Holiday

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