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Discovering a mans body in the streets of Chiang Mai

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Photo of a backstreet in Chiang Mai


This article is a brief account of discovering a man who had died on the streets of Chiang Mai. I couldn't decide if I wanted to write about this, but I have as I feel that it is important part of my journey.

The Story

It's my last day in Chiang Mai. It's 10am and I have a flight at 2pm. Intent on saying good bye to some of the people that I met in Chiang Mai old town, I decide to pay them a visit on the way out. I walk through the backstreets of old town and from the corner of my eye see a group of people huddled around a low wall on a street corner. Curious about what the commotion was, I took a peek. What I found was a man's body, protected from line-of-sight by the wall, a few feet from a busy street. Surrounding him are the usual suspects: a group of paramedics, and a group of tourists. The most tragic part was the tourists, half of them were filming the ordeal on their smart phones. More than the sight of the body itself, I found their actions to be the most sickening element of the whole situation. I had walked past just as they were turning him over, it was a gruesome sight. I quickly depart.

Soon after leaving I send a message to my dad and he gives me some advice that I should try to replace the image with a more pleasant one. He suggests that you can visit a temple and replace his image with one of a golden Buddha. Taking his advice, I immediately head for the nearest temple. I am running out of time now as I have a flight soon. In the Temple I practice some of the prayers that I learnt in Kopan Monastery, while trying to imprint the image of the golden Buddha atop his shrine in my mind. Up until now I could control my emotions, but in front of the Thai Buddha, the Chinese Buddha, and the Ganesh idols I am overwhelmed and the tears came. For the man, of apparent homelessness, I pray that he has a positive rebirth where he is free from the sufferings that he has experienced in this life. I light a stick of incense and donate a small amount of money for his memory, then depart.

I hailed a took Tuk Tuk and headed to the airport. On the way to the airport, on a busy road under an overpass, another Tuk Tuk pulls up alongside mine. In the back is a fellow traveller from Canada, who is returning home. We both laugh together at the randomness of the situation and talk light-heartedly about where we are from and what we have been doing in Thailand. It was a beautiful moment which brought with it an intense light to clear the darkness which had bound my mind. Her laughing face was precisely the image that I needed, as my dad had suggested.


Later I found an article about the man who had died. He had died due to a previous sickness, being inebriated, and being unable to tolerate the cold of the night. Read news article here.