I last visited the northern city of Chang Mai 11 years ago and with my love of train travel the 700km+ train journey from Bangkok was too good to pass up. Cherished by the Thai’s for it’s history, 300+ temples and ostensible quaintness, it a thriving modern city equally popular among travelers.

Whether you are interested in temple hopping or learning the finer arts of Thai massage or ccoking- there is something for everyone in Chang Mai. The full day culinary classes are stepping it up a notch and offering organic and vegetarian cooking, some with a visit to a local organic farm, like Thai Farm Cooking. The 35th Annual Flower Festival started Feb 13th, a world famous event that see’s parades with flower covered floats, flower competitions and spectacular horticultural exhibits.

I went to the Women’s Prison to get a full hour massage by female inmates trained in Traditional Thai massage (180baht). The facility and therapists were very professional and it is wonderful to support empowerment of these women as they transition back into society with a solid skill in healing (what the world needs!).

Again I found myself on a motorbike heading for the hills- the drive to Pai is a lovely one once you get off the main highway. The fresh and cool mountains are home to a number of coffee plantations and you will find excellent coffee proudly served at roadside cafes made from the local beans. Yum!

I wasn’t seduced by the elephant parks, treks or other excursions and preferred to watch life go by, enjoying local cafes and the handicraft markets that Chang Mai is famous for.

On my final night I lit a paper lantern that I’d written my wishes, dreams and intentions and watched it sail high into the dark Chang Mai sky- a beautiful way to end my time in Thailand. Next stop Bangkok then Mother India.

Om, Dani