Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Hangouts

Stay anywhere more than 72 hours and you zero in on a few favorite hangouts. Depending upon your preferences, you will find places that fulfill your needs and where you feel comfortable.

Back in the 60's in San Francisco when I was young and idealistic, it was to North Beach I gravitated. That Bohemian attraction to artistic venues never left me. Nor did my personal taste for espresso (early a.m.) and white wine (late p.m.). I don't always have the option of adding creme de framboise to the white wine like I do in Paris, but I can adjust.

In Chiang Mai I have been lucky enough to find both within walking distance of my lodging.

House of Thai Thai Coffee

When I was still new here, I would walk the full length of Ratchadamnoen Rd. for my morning "Joe." A few hundred meters beyond Tha Pha Gate was JJ's with distinctly farang prices, but the espresso was reliably good and their croissants are, in my opinion, the best available in Chiang Mai.

The route took me directly by the Chiang Mai Language Center which is also Chiang Mai Adventure Travel. Sometime my first season here, Thai Thai Coffee Shop made it's debut in with the other two.

As an early riser, I passed it several times before they were open, until one morning I got a late start and decided to try their coffee and stay closer to home. I became an instant convert.

It's a very special place run by a wonderful local family. In addition to coffee drinks they have selection of food, both local dishes and light western meals. But it's the particular care they take with coffee is what this coffee lover appreciates. Only the best beans, stored properly and ground fresh immediately prior to use. Truly the best coffee in Chiang Mai at the lowest cost. They live up to the reputation of their sign, "Unforgetable Coffee."

Over the last two or three years other coffee places have both come and gone, but Thai Thai Coffee holds top honors. Chiang Mai even sports a Starbucks now near Tha Pha Gate, but you better be prepared to pay double if you chose that option.

Writers Club & Wine Bar
How convenient for me. This little gem is right on the street where I live on Ratchadamnoen Rd., about three blocks equivalent from my guesthouse. (And a few hundred meters from my coffee venue.)

Like my morning coffee place, they weren't yet open when I first started hanging out long term in Thailand. But it's been there for so long now I can't remember what was there before.

Owned and run by Bob, a British expat and his charming Thai wife, Tong. Bob Tilley was a freeland journalist for some 50 years+ and still at it. The ambiance is that of a writer's social group with a touch of the Bohemian.

Soon after they opened I noticed the sign, checked the menu and ventured in. They open shortly after noon and this was early afternoon--good time to stop for lunch. I so thoroughly enjoyed both the food, the conversation and the wine, I've been a regular there ever since.

Narrow and long with heavy wooden tables outside surrounded by a jungle of plants, while inside a lot of dark wood makes one feel at home right away. And books--lots of books--in two glassed-in book cases at the back in a corner with comfortable seating and lights to read by.

On one side is the long teak bar with an old manual early 1900's typewriter sitting prominently on one end. The overall feel is warm and cozy. Magazine racks near the bar with a variety of ferang publications--lots are British--but many are local. It's a readers paradise.

I usually stop by in the afternoons when it's quiet and I can enjoy a glass of wine while I read the newspapers. But on Friday evenings the place buzzes with activity as many of the local journalists and writers stop by for lively conversation.

It's been written up in international travel journals, and I consider it one of the premier spots in Chiang Mai. Chock dii!

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