Have you ever been backpacking and fallen in love with the way complete strangers can instantly come together in evanescent groups and bond by a mutual love for travel? And have you then returned to Malta and grown frustrated at how tight-knit and impenetrable to outsiders many cliques and communities are over here?
The newest cafe on the block in Attard, a quaint and bright little outlet called Chai, intends to fill the gap and provide a hangout for local travellers in between trips.
Chai is owned by Luke and Romy Desira, a daredevil couple who threw caution to the wind a few years ago, quitting their jobs and postponing their wedding plans to travel the world together.
Luke and Romy share a romantic moment in the Himalayas
Luke and Romy have now married and settled down in Malta, but once the travel bug bites it never truly lets you go. In fact, the pair didn’t return to their original jobs but set up their own travel agency called Kraze Travel for like-minded people – offering experiences ranging from casual hikes across Mellieha to jungle treks in the middle of Peru.
The couple are also known as the Tag Along Travellers, which reflects their views on travel – that it has the power to intimately bond complete strangers from all walks of life, particularly if the groups are small and they are forced to interact with each other and not enclose themselves into cliques.
While the travel agency has proven to be popular, it was missing an official hangout spot where the tag-along travellers old and new could get together in between trips – to reminisce about past adventures and, more importantly, to plan new ones.
Which is where Chai comes in.
Nestled in a cranny right off Mdina Road, visitors are instantly hit with a large welcome sign chalked into the wall that would not look out of place in a wacky Thai hostel, reading: “Eat well, chat with new friends and chill!”
This is the raison d’être of the cafe, which is in fact it is purposely designed to get you to meet new people, with only a few individual tables and chairs and a L-shaped sofa taking up half a wall.
“We were inspired by a trip to Nepal,” Luke tells me. “People feel more at ease speaking to people they’ve just met if they’re sitting next to them on a comfortable sofa.”
The cafe is crammed with reminders of faraway lands – from the rugs on the floor to Romy’s well-curated photo albums of past trips that visitors can leaf through, to the occasional Buddhist-themed music to the constant chitter-chatter of past and future trips.
Some of the food on display at Chai
In between conversations, people can try out some of the nutritiously tasty and very reasonably priced homemade items on display. The Tag Along Travellers have something for every mood – from light salads and generously-filled ciabattas to muesli snacks dipped in honey, fresh juices and, of course, chai tea.
“We felt Malta was missing a place where like-minded travellers could come together and so we decided to set one up ourselves,” the couple said. “It’s proven quite popular so far.”
So if you feel gripped by a thirst for adventure or even if you just want to chill out with a group of friendly people who can offer you some travel inspiration, then you could definitely do worse than head down to Chai – which is shaping up to be Malta’s first true haven for travellers.