Travel | Chiang Mai, Thailand

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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

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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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Travel | Edinburgh

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My darling sister came to spend three weeks with me on this side of the Pond and we tried to stuff as many adventures into her trip as humanly possible. We waffled back and forth about visiting Scotland, but an email about Virgin Atlantic's £15 tickets from London to Edinburgh made our decision for us. We only had about 48 hours in the city, but every one of them was saturated with magic! All cities have personalities, I believe, but Edinburgh's character was more potent, more pronounced than any other place I can remember. It was gloomy and heavy and mysterious, yet a dash fanciful and droll. The place was so charming, in fact, I felt like I was cheating on my lovely London!

 Keep reading for ideas on how to spend your next weekend in Edinburgh...

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to SEE & DO

Edinburgh Castle: Kind of a "duh" suggestion, but a visit to the castle is non-negotiable. Mary and I especially enjoyed the exhibition on the history of the Scottish monarchy and seeing the rooms where Mary Queen of Scots spent her days. (Anyone else a Reign fan?!) Snow began falling as we were wandering through the castle, which added an extra glint of magic!

Walk the Royal Mile: We fought the snow and rain down the Royal Mile, the stretch of road between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. Expect to see beautiful cathedrals, an abundance of pubs and shops, bagpipe players, and owls!

Scottish National Gallery: Admittedly, the National Gallery was a free place to escape the cold at first, but we ended up spending hours soaking in the collection. The Impressionism exhibit was especially gorgeous.

Pop in and out of shops: Edinburgh has a wealth of adorable, winding streets with shops full of wonderful knick knacks and artwork. Check out Grassmarket, Victoria Street, Cowgate, Candlemaker Row, and Cockburn Street.

Wander through the kirkyards: The graveyards of Edinburgh were so intriguing. In fact, Mary and I were lured into a kirkyard en route to almost every destination. We made the rather irresponsible decision (but the RIGHT decision) to risk missing our train home to track down the grave rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling's Tom Riddle. We had to run all the way to the train station, but that one was for Harry, darn it!

Arthur's Seat: We had the best intentions of making the hike up to this famous Edinburgh overlook, but the freezing rain won. Arthur's Seat was recommended to us over and over, so I will be making it a priority on my next trip to Edinburgh.

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to EAT

CiverinosWe ducked into this hip pizza restaurant to escape what felt like the coldest snowstorm of the century (don't believe the photos... it was pouring snow). The food was delicious and the atmosphere was so trendy and fun.

Mary's Milk Bar: I know I employ this hyperbole a lot, but Mary's Milk Bar changed. My. Life. We ordered the Hot Chocolate Shake (hot chocolate with a scoop of hazelnut ice cream) at this precious throwback of a cafe. I was ready to quit my job, buy an apron, and beg Mary's Milk Bar to hire this poor American girl with a love for all things dairy.

Under the Stairs:You'd expect a place like Under the Stairs, with it's mismatched retro furniture and avant-garde menu and ironically bespectacled wait staff, to feel inaccessibly cool, but it didn't! Instead we found it to be a cozy, funky peek into Edinburgh's foodie scene.

Lovecrumbs:Mary and I shamelessly planned our itinerary around what bakeries were open when. We reached Lovecrumbs just in time to grab the last piece of Rose & Raspberry cake, and they threw in a bunch of free cookies since it was closing time. The little white-walled shop was spilling with live plants and beautiful pastel cakes and twinkle lights, which is basically my idea of heaven.

The Milkman: This rustic little shop, tucked away in a stoney nook on Cockburn Street, was such a pleasant place to people-watch and enjoy a latte and (free!) hot chocolate.

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to STAY

The Caledonian: Nice hotels are my love language, so I was really excited to find a great deal on this stay thanks to Agoda. We got so much good rest in this tranquil. sprawling old castle and found it so conveniently located (about a fifteen minute walk from Waverly Station and Edinburgh Castle).

The Balmoral:We didn't stay at the Balmoral, but I would love to someday. Fancy and located in the heart of the city, it is a guaranteed win.

Airbnb: An Airbnb rental is my accommodation of choice almost everywhere I travel because they are often far less expensive than a hotel and you get the experience of real home life in your destination. Check out these 11 gorgeous Edinburgh Airbnbs and prepare for a bad case of wanderlust. Ugh, take me back!

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