HUA HIN, THAILAND

This is probably the most last minute trip I've taken since living in Thailand. Some friends called me up a couple weeks prior: "Hey, we're vacationing in Hua Hin. You should join!" Thanks to some really cheap tickets from Kan Air and Nok Air, I went. This would be my last trip to the coast before leaving the country indefinitely, so I was very much looking forward to some sun and swim.

We stayed at a nice beach front condo, yet the pool called louder than the waves and most of our swim time was spent in the infinity waters above the sand. The view from the Baan Suan Rim Sai was beautiful no matter the time of day, and time spent inside the condo's well lit living room was cheery and comfortable. It was hard to leave the apartment, but eventually I took Zoë and Miá to town to get some caffeine and sugar: the stuff vacations are made of, right?

We songtaew'd to downtown Hua Hin, wandering some back alleys on our way toward the shore. On recommendation from a friend in Chiang Mai, we stopped for a drink at Gallery Café Drip. Small and unassuming, the single origin pour over I tried here was to die for: smooth and delicious.

After drinks, we headed to Eighteen Below, a beautiful little ice cream shop that was completely packed when we arrived. It emptied out while we tried our scoops: lemon cheesecake and salted caramel, and I couldn't get over how adorable the place was. Sweet and small, like most things seemed to be in Hua Hin.

One thing in particular I noticed about Hua Hin is how perfectly it married the busy central Thailand life with the laid back vibe of Chiang Mai. It felt like the perfect combination of Thai city and Thai country. Certain streets looked just like Old City Chiang Mai, yet other roads were as tall and crazy as Bangkok sois. We chased the last bit of sun on our way back to the condo, planning to take advantage of the rainy season sky and take some photos for fun when we returned. 

Zoë and Miá are two of the most easily photogenic ladies I know, and it was a blast whipping hair and trying (and failing on my part) to model with them. It's only a matter of time before an agency snaps them up, I swear. Thankful to them and their lovely family for inviting me along on their little beach trip. 

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!