I have always loved the smell of coffee shops. The way the scent of freshly brewed dark roast lingers on my clothes reminds me of my barista days. As I breathe in the espresso steam of my Americano with my hands cradled around the warm mug, I wonder why I ever tried to give up coffee.
It is a ritual of mine to say goodbye to all my favorite cafés before I move from a place. I did this before I left Grand Junction, before I left Salt Lake, taking a moment to sit at my favorite table and sip my favorite drink. This is where I would spend solitary time writing, reading, studying, or I would laugh with friends and have difficult conversations over the blare of open mic night. It is always a bit melancholic for me to leave these sanctuaries behind.
Fortunately, Thailand has some of the best cafés. They are popular hangout spots for both locals and foreigners. The cafés here typically have full menus and serve a variety of delicious Thai meals. Meals tend to be a bit more expensive than street food but are reasonably priced. Often, this is where I eat lunch or dinner. Sometimes, they are connected to hotels or hostels but are open to the public.
In my time here, I have tried a few notable cafés.
There is a fabulous café right around the corner from my apartment where I am becoming a regular. They are only open on the weekends and always wave when they see my passing with my laundry basket. They are always kind when I come in for a Sunday cup of coffee. One barista is friends with my landlord and the other lets me practice ordering in Thai even though he speaks very good English. They even offered to let me borrow their bicycle if I ever need it. It is calm and cool with a pile of shoes outside the door, giving it a homey feel. This is a place I will miss.
Another café in my community is owned by the family of one of my students. Whenever I come in, she lingers around my table. Conveniently located, this café is important to the community. It is where our school parade took a break in the air conditioning, occupying every chair and overflowing along the surrounding street.
I visited a Star Wars-themed café recently that had fountains flowing with artificially dyed blue water and swings overlooking idyllic green fields. In lieu of chairs, some tables had nets to sit in.
There is a café that doubles as a hostel where people stay in enormous pipe-shaped rooms. This one had bookshelves full of novels in Thai and delicious lemon iced tea.
One of my favorites is located among fields of flowers in stunning reds, purples, whites, and yellows. Our group spent hours roaming the fields and snapping photos. We drove 45 minutes to see this spot, and it was definitely worth the trip.
In places without much entertainment, cafés are the place to be. Each has a unique atmosphere and memorable quirks. They are places one goes for the experience as much as the refreshments. In Thailand, cafés are a place of peace and wonder, culture and language. When I do leave here, I will have many cafés to bid farewell.