A Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Thailand white walls plants
Chiang Mai Thailand white walls plants

I've got a confession to make: I have never once been interested in traveling to Asia. The bug just never bit me, so I didn't prioritize taking a trip there until my dear friend Alli invited me to visit her in Thailand. Free place to stay + amazing company + an escape from the English winter = YES.

In a complete surprise to me, I fell head over heels in love with Thailand. Warm weather, friendly people, laid back culture, and the most photographable details in every nook are basically my idea of paradise. In my opinion, Thailand strikes the perfect balance of accessible and exotic. Maybe that's why it's been nicknamed "Asia Lite". Take the advice that I shrugged off: visit Southeast Asia, like, TODAY.

Chiang Mai Thailand wat temples Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand wat temples Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand wat temple take off your shoes
Chiang Mai Thailand wat temple take off your shoes
Chiang Mai Thailand white wall brick moat color Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand white wall brick moat color Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand temple wat Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand temple wat Buddhism
Chiang Mai Thailand wat temple Buddhism flowers lanterns
Chiang Mai Thailand wat temple Buddhism flowers lanterns

Wats, or Buddhist temples, can be found all over Chiang Mai and smiling monks in vivid orange robes are a fixture of city scenes.

Chiang Mai Thailand Alli Quattlebaum coffee portrait
Chiang Mai Thailand Alli Quattlebaum coffee portrait
Chiang Mai Thailand Samanmitr House coffee cafe
Chiang Mai Thailand Samanmitr House coffee cafe
Chiang Mai Thailand I like you and I love you
Chiang Mai Thailand I like you and I love you
Chiang Mai Thailand beautiful people
Chiang Mai Thailand beautiful people

As a kindred spirit, Alli fluently speaks my love language: food. We spent my first morning in Chiang Mai popping into the most gorgeous bakeries and coffee shops. It's like some Asian wizard peeked into my dreams and built all these places just for me! First stop was Rustic & Blue for an acai smoothie bowl, then Samanmitr House for an iced coffee, and finally Khagee for banana bread French toast. I heart Khagee. I will name my firstborn Khagee.

Chiang Mai Thailand Khagee bakery white wall cafe
Chiang Mai Thailand Khagee bakery white wall cafe
Chiang Mai Thailand Khagee bakery food french toast
Chiang Mai Thailand Khagee bakery food french toast
Chiang Mai Thailand sunflowers birkenstocks
Chiang Mai Thailand sunflowers birkenstocks
Chiang Mai Thailand Alli Quattlebaum songthaew
Chiang Mai Thailand Alli Quattlebaum songthaew
Chiang Mai Thailand home paper lantern
Chiang Mai Thailand home paper lantern
Chiang Mai Thailand neighborhood gate alley
Chiang Mai Thailand neighborhood gate alley
Chiang Mai Thailand cactus cacti paper lanter
Chiang Mai Thailand cactus cacti paper lanter
THAILAND-206
THAILAND-206

I became slightly obsessed with the perfect little vignettes that seem to be in every corner of Chiang Mai. Cacti, paper lanterns, colorful walls, gritty streets, and buckets of natural light make for one photogenic city.

Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food
Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food
Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food
Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food
Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food marquee sweet
Chiang Mai Thailand Diff Home Bakery Kitchen cafe food marquee sweet

Alli set Mary and I loose one morning and we found our way to Diff, the sweetest little mint-colored bakery I've ever seen.

Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong kids
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong kids
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong ferns
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong ferns
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong
Chiang Mai Thailand Sticky Falls Bua Thong

We spent a glorious afternoon at Sticky Waterfall, which is nearly impossible to describe well. These natural limestone formations are the texture of sandpaper, which allows you to climb/walk/run up the waterfall like Spiderman. We visited the falls during a Buddhist holiday, so we were surrounded by tons of Thai people just chilling out in the water. I would climb that waterfall every day if I could because we all need to feel a little more like superheroes.

Chiang Mai Thailand Chinese lanterns temple wat sky red
Chiang Mai Thailand Chinese lanterns temple wat sky red
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe cactus cacti birkenstocks
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe cactus cacti birkenstocks
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe mint tea green
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe mint tea green
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe sun dried tomatoes
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe sun dried tomatoes
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe cat kitten green couch sofa white wall
Chiang Mai Thailand Bay's Cafe cat kitten green couch sofa white wall

Because we refused to leave a latte untasted in the city of Chiang Mai, we headed to Bay's Cafe, which is owned by a friend of Alli's and sadly not called Bae's Cafe. I ordered a mint tea, and Bay literally picked the mint leaves from the back garden and brewed them in front of me, which took "farm to table" up a notch.

Chiang Mai Thailand street art mural brick wall painting
Chiang Mai Thailand street art mural brick wall painting
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe cactus cacti coffee
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe cactus cacti coffee
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee iced latte
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee iced latte
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee
Chiang Mai Thailand Graph Cafe coffee

Graph Cafe was my favorite stop of the Great Thailand Coffee Tour. This tiny, too-hip-to-be-real shop filled with antique cameras and tiny plants served the most bewitching coffee elixir that will make all other beverages pale in comparison for the rest of time.

Chiang Mai Thailand Woo Cafe fresh flowers
Chiang Mai Thailand Woo Cafe fresh flowers

After giggling our way through a Thai massage (which a friend accurately described as "yoga being done to you") and bopping around the bustling night market, the last stop before our redeye flight to Beijing was Woo Cafe, Alli's favorite spot in Chiang Mai. I'm a tiny bit devastated that we visited so late at night because my low-light photos do not do Woo justice. Every surface of this sprawling restaurant was positively spilling with fresh flowers and greenery. Heavenly. Woo also doubles as an art gallery and a home goods/apparel shop, so you KNOW I left the rest of my baht there.

Thailand, I miss you every day. I'll come back for you soon!

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