At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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The Night Bazaar covers a large area around Chang Klan Road. Prices can be slightly higher than at the Sunday market that takes over Ratchadamnoen Road every Sunday evening. Both markets are packed with vendors who sell clothes, souvenirs, textiles, handbags, hill tribe arts and crafts from the villages in the mountains, fake designer goods, DVDs, jewellery and delicious food.

Food is another good reason to visit Chiang Mai. You can find excellent Thai food, cheap but delicious street food and foods from all parts of the world. The many local markets are great places to sample local food and fresh tropical fruit.

Traditional Thai Massage

Chiang Mai is a centre for learning traditional Thai massage and the perfect place to get a massage. There are dozens of Thai massage schools in Chiang Mai and even more places that offer massage treatments, but the quality of the massages can vary. Reputable traditional Thai massage schools include the Old Medicine Hospital and the Loi Kroh. The latter also offers massage treatments. Respected and well known Thai massage masters who teach and give treatments in Chiang Mai include Pichest Boonthumme and Sinchai.

Travel to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is easy to get to. There are daily flights from Bangkok and there are comfortable and affordable overnight trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Buses connect Chiang Mai to many destinations in Central and Northern Thailand.

Most guesthouses and hotels arrange trips to destinations around Chiang Mai. Day trips and longer excursions include treks to the mountains, visits to elephant camps and tours of handicraft villages. It is also easy to arrange onward travel to other cities in North Thailand or trips across the border to Laos.

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and a peaceful alternative to Bangkok. The capital of Northern Thailand is known for its temples and its markets, and it is one of the main centres for learning traditional Thai massage. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains, forests and national parks that are perfect for daytrips and for trekking.

The Chiang Mai Old Town

The old town is protected by a moat and stone walls. Its narrow lanes are lined with guesthouses, restaurants, coffee shops and stores that serve the crowds of foreigners who travel to Chiang Mai every year. The old town is a good place to find budget accommodation and its restaurants serve both Thai cuisine and Western food.

300 Buddhist Temples

Chiang Mai was once the centre of the Lanna Kingdom that ruled Northern Thailand for hundreds of years. Today Chiang Mai has more than 300 Buddhist temples (wat) and many are built in the Lanna style. It is difficult to walk anywhere in Chiang Mai without passing the gilded rooftops of a temple.

Wat Chedi Luang in the old town is one of the most impressive temples in Chiang Mai and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The old brick chedi (a tower that contains relics) that is now partly ruined dates back to the 15th century. Wat Chedi Luang was once briefly the home of the famous Emerald Buddha that is now located in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.


Next to the old chedi is a viharn (an assembly hall where the main Buddha images are kept) that was built in the early 20th century and houses a large standing Buddha statue. A beautiful wooden temple, Wat Phan Tao, stands next to Wat Chedi Luang and is also open for visitors. Most Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai are free to enter and welcome foreign tourists, but visitors should dress appropriately and behave respectfully.

The Doi Suthep Temple

It would take a long time to visit each of Chiang Mai’s more than 300 wats, but one temple that is definitely worth exploring is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This 14th century wat stands on the Doi Suthep mountain just outside Chiang Mai and is one of the holiest Buddhist shrines in North Thailand. Daytrips to Doi Suthep are easy to arrange and the drive up the mountain is very scenic.

Street Market Shopping

Chiang Mai is known for its street markets and many visitors end up doing a lot of shopping here. There are few things you cannot find at the daily Night Bazaar or the weekly Sunday market in the old town.