CHIANG MAI, THAILAND • BAY'S CAFE & FOOD 4 THOUGHT

It wasn't very long after moving to Thailand that I kept hearing "you haven't been to Bay's?!" from just about everyone I knew in town. Granted, I didn't know that many people then... However, when Katelyn had a birthday and we all came to Bay's and Food 4 Thought to celebrate, I asked myself with every bite why I'd waited so long to try the place.

Bay's Café and Food 4 Thought are two amazing establishments tucked away down a soi off Canal Road and Huay Kaew. Bay, a good friend and coffee connoisseur, is a master of espresso and an expert brewer. Food 4 Thought shares the property and kitchen, making incredible food to match the prowess of caffeinated drinks available from Bay.

It is rare to come to Bay's without seeing him brewing something new. An avid collector of roasts and beans from all over the world, he'll begin tastings at his leisure, those present getting to partake in the festivities. This particular time, we tasted beans from Japan, Rwanda, and some other place I can't remember but am sure was exotic. I've got a few bags of beans I've been meaning to take by to try with him, and he's been known to send lists of "beans to get" with friends who are traveling to other countries.

The café is known for its cold brew, more recently made with coconut milk. It's slow brewed, bottled and sold in house only, but is worth the drive to get it and every sip afterward sings of... well, you know. It sings.

Food 4 Thought's menu is one of the best in Chiang Mai. Wraps for days, fancy pastas and unique combinations of veggies and grains set it apart from your average "farang" food establishment. The Mexican Wrap is by far the best thing on the menu, and the chickpea salad (though deadly spicy) is another favorite. It's impossible to come here and not enjoy what you get. It is completely possible to come here and spend more time deciding what you want to eat than actually eating it. The decision is tough.

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CHIANG MAI, THAILAND • NATWAT HOME CAFÉ

Katie and I had discussed trying this place for months, she'd been driving by multiple times each week but never actually stopping. Once we tried the food, we were sold. Therefore, this year for my 25th birthday we sat down with the owners to discuss a special dinner (they're usually only open for lunch) menu and BAM: instant to-do.

The garden backyard of the restaurant is beautiful no matter the time of day, with hanging moss plants and plenty of beautiful greenery. It was just golden hour when we arrived, so we took advantage of the situation to take some very sit-com-esque pictures before we ate.

The interior of Natwat is simple, wood metal, but not too industrial. A blue cushioned bench lines one side of the dining room and the location where our dinner table was set. Katie bought orange flowers at the market to decorate and accent the sweet summer vibe perfectly.

The menu was nothing but delicious. There was chicken cordon bleu and a honey mustard chicken and brie burger to choose from for a main course, grilled vegetables or a walnut-arugula salad, and the freshest of sides: spinach parmesan mashed potatoes, homemade thyme gnocchi with sautéed tomatoes... And this comes after we'd already been blown away by their brunch menu and fancy drink selection.

We ate our fill (literally) before dessert: Emily (our fondant queen and cake decorating whiz) created a beautiful cake to look like a latté, art and all. There were little salted caramel brownie mugs for each guest to go along with the chocolate and caramel buttercream of the latté cake. I can't begin to describe how great this cake was and how sad I will be when the leftovers are finally gone from my refrigerator.

I have the best coworkers. It's obvious from these photos, no? Been fortunate enough to spend a year here with them, some gone already and maybe others to come soon, and they did a swell job of helping me kick off year twenty-five! Don't know what I did to deserve such a great little community here!

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND • WOO CAFÉ

About a year ago, my sister-in-law's brother Matt visited, and I sent him to a pin I'd received from a friend for this "café you HAVE to try." Later Matt texted me with a resounding: "Yes. This place." So Katie and I joined shortly, with some notebooks in tow to plan our upcoming vacation. Ever since, Woo has been our home base for late night coffee hangs, a happy place when the days are long and annoying, and somewhere we can count on to have the best things: good drinks, fresh green food, and friendly staff.

The shop is constantly filled with fresh flowers and plants, like a garden is spilling out of each nook and cranny. The sunlight outside spills into the space as well, and at night the candle-like glow of the chandeliers and lamps make for a peaceful place to chat or work.

Woo serves just about every coffee drink you'll normally find at cafés in town, the art is done spectacularly, and the iced drinks come in giant glass jars, not to mention the delicious cookies that come with each drink. If that doesn't win you over, I don't know if anything will.

Woo also boasts a great food menu. The caesar salad and chicken sandwich never disappoint, and the Thai food is just as good, flavorful and spicy as any other place you'll find in Chiang Mai.

In a separate part of the building, you'll find a "lifestyle" shop, a beautiful and expensive boutique filled with ceramics, jewelry, funky art, and rich fabrics. I can't afford most things in that store even on payday, but it's a blast to walk through and browse the ever-changing items.