Chiang Mai is well-known as a cheaper Thailand tourist destination with a multitude of beautiful Buddhist temples. However, there is much more to Chiang Mai, including its many attractive little cafes, offering more of a Thai-style coffee culture.
One such cafe is a draw, not for the coffee or even the cafe food - but instead for its cats. The appropriately named 'Catmosphere' is one of the coolest cafes in Chiang Mai, but being away from the main Old City, it is not widely known about.
As soon as you arrive at the store front, you are struck by the clear fact that you are entering 'another world'. One where cats are the focus. Staff will greet you at the closed sliding glass door and politely ask you to exchange your shoes for provided slippers, and to wash your hands at the outdoor sink provided.
The health and safety of the cats on the premises is important, and this made me admire and respect the establishment straight away.
Walk in, and you will see immediately that this cafe is all about getting on the same level as the feline occupants. Literally. There are no chairs in this cafe, but instead comfy cushions adorn the floors at the sides of the cafe, and low tables are provided.
Stretch out and grab a menu; there are simple offerings of coffee, smoothies and cakes, with the place being more about the experience than the food. Easy listening music plays as the cats walk, play and run freely about the cafe.
You will find toys spread around which you can use to interact with your new-found feline friends, and you soon come to find out which are the playful ones, and which are aloof and above all the attention.
The place is designed so that the cats can climb above you on two sides and many of them choose to snooze and avoid photo opportunities, while many are eager for the attention. There are cats of different ages - kittens, adolescents and some older alpha males, making it an interesting little feline community. The cats that make their home there are a mix of purchased and adopted cats.
Chiang Mai is a popular spot for people who work on the road, and the ability to come here and spend some time with our animal friends is something that a lot of travellers enjoy, as they are normally unable to have the company of pets.
The coffee here is a little on the expensive side for cafes in Chiang Mai, but it is worth the slight extra cost for the novelty of the location. Also, the coffee is local, so it's always nice to support the local growers. There is a bathroom on site if you plan to spend a little time here - just ask the staff to guide you.
You may be interested to note that Catmosphere also has a branch in Sydney with the same fun space theme, but requires prior booking before visits. The Chiang Mai Catmosphere is a lot more flexible. You don't need to book, just drop in during opening hours from 10 am - 8 pm daily.
If you want a little keep-sake of your visit to the Chiang Mai Catmosphere, they have souvenirs, some of which have pictures of the resident cats on them.