Chiang Mai Nightlife

The Chiang Mai nightlife is much tamer and quieter than Bangkok, but enjoyable all the same. People in this city like to enjoy themselves and are happy to party with the many foreigners visiting their town. In Chiang Mai there are plenty of relaxing bars, a couple of banging discos, one street full of go-go bars, and a smattering of karaoke lounges. Thailand is also very accepting of the gay and lesbian scene.

The city is a great place for a pub crawl because it's easy to walk (or stumble) from bar to bar (crossing the city centre on foot takes about 20 minutes). Many bars in Chiang Mai feature live music and the Thais are fabulous singers, with repertoires that include lovely Thai ballades, MOR, soul, blues and pop favourites. There are also a number of discos which have talented DJs spinning dance floor anthems, cutting edge trance and house, and retro classics.

The Chiang Mai nightlife is unfortunately quite restricted after midnight due to a current directive from the Governor to spoil the fun. There have been considerable complaints from all quarters, but only a selected number of places have so far been allowed to remain open until 2am.

Bars are found all over the city, but are mostly congregated on either side of the Moat's eastern flank (in the Tapae Gate area), along the Ping River near Nawarat Bridge or in the vicinity of the Night Bazaar. Some are lively, friendly affairs, others are quiet and more mature. The Night Bazaar keeps Chiang Mai's centre busy after hours, and there is plenty of late shopping and eating. At the Galare Centre adjacent, you can enjoy some quick food while watching a free display of Thai cultural dancing and music. There is also a cluster of bars, coffee houses and restaurants at the intersection of Chang Klan and Loi Kroh road. A little further down Chan Klan road (heading North) there is a small arcade, known for it's 'Peak Climbing wall' where you'll find several informal bars, some with plenty of 'company'.

Karaoke is a national obsession and these lounges can be found all over the city. Many of them attract a male clientele by including a bevy of young hostesses who will sit and sing with you for a small hourly fee. Many of these are found at Chiang Mai Land, a purpose-built street off Changklan rd, south of the city.

Like the rest of Thailand, the nightlife in Chiang Mai is well known for its go-go bars. These are located mostly along the western end of Loi Kroh rd, including a walk-in arcade near the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, and a stretch of Moon Muang rd south of Tapae Gate. Popular with some, these areas are well contained, more discreet than Bangkok and relatively tame.

There is also plenty of good clean fun to be had.

Multiplex cinemas are found in the Kad Suan Kaew mall (also known as Central) and Airport Plaza, both showing movies with English soundtrack. An ice skating rink and bowling alley are also located in Central. There is also a karting track and mini golf, as well as a Thursday night quiz at the Irish Pub, while writers congregate at the Writers' Club and Wine Bar on Friday nights to spin a yarn over some tipple.

Recommended Bars to Visit

Note! It's a characteristic in Chiang Mai for bars, restaurants and night clubs to spring up all over the place, but close down just as fast, therefore it's difficult to list too many places or keep up-to-date. Places frequently change name, owner or location. Many open cheaply but don't last.

Riverside Restaurant: large and lively riverfront place with live band, good food and friendly people. 9 Charoenrat rd, across Nawarat Bridge and turn left.

The Brasserie: serious music venue featuring legendary blues and rock local, Tuk. 37 Charoenrat rd, across Nawarat Bridge and turn left.

The Cottage: rocking restaurant and bar popular with Thais, great atmosphere, plenty of room. 27 Chiang Mai - Lampoon rd, across Nawarat Bridge turn right.

The Tavern: comfortable British-styled pub, with good English pub food and tipple selection. 23 Chiang Mai - Lampoon rd, across Nawarat Bridge and turn right.

The (UN) Irish Pub: magnet for local ex-pat crowd, serves food, sports on a big TV, hardly Irish but hosts quiz and Spoken Word evenings. 24/1 Ratvithi rd.

The Chiang Mai Micro Brewery: far out of town but worth it for the beer and food, cavernous atmosphere and live entertainment. Behind Carrefour on superhighway.

The Pub: an ageing but very reputable English-styled pub popular with the older long-standing ex-pat crowd. Huay Kaew rd (West of the Amari Rincome).

The Saloon: American-styled burger and beer place, good food and music videos with good location. Loi Kroh rd, near Night Bazaar.

O'Malley's Bar: Irish pub with several good beers on tap and comfy interior, plus pub grub. Anusarn Market, near Night Bazaar.

Sax Pub: popular with visiting German motorcycle crowd, good music, convenient location. Moon Muang rd, opposite Tapae Gate.

Peak Pool Bar & Restaurant: is conveniently located near the night market, beside the climbing wall and among a cluster of bars with a lively atmosphere. Chan Klan road, offset fromt he street (walk through the arcade)

Rasta Bar: popular, laid-back outdoor place among a cluster of underground bars, with live music and cheap drinks. Off Ratvithi rd, behind Irish Pub.

THC Rooftop Bar: a bohemian place above the Hemp Shop, with good views of Tapae Gate and floor level seating. 19/4-5 Kotchasarn rd (opposite Tapae Gate).

The Writers' Club and Wine Bar: popular with local writers, friendly owners, great wine selection and good food specials. Ratchadamnoen rd, two blocks from AUA.

Warm Up: attracts a young crowd of university students, especially on Friday nights and is a good place to meet locals. Nimminhemin road near CMU Convention Centre end of street.

Discos in Chiang Mai

The following are popular with visitors:

Bubbles: usually full with a mixed crowd of Thais and foreigners, up-to-date music, easy atmosphere, reasonable drink prices. Below Porn Ping Hotel.

Spicy: Formerly known as Nice Illusions, is sometimes busy, live music, full of friendly girls, open late. Chaiyaphun rd, alongside the Moat, can't miss it.

Club G: An all-Thai affair with ear-splitting music, dance floor full of bar tables. 68/2 Chiang Mai - Lampoon rd, over Nawarat Bridge, turn right, drive 1km.

Mandalay Bar: is the newest venue in town located in a large multi-storey venue down a soi (alley) off the Moat, which gets busy but charges foreigners 300 baht! (last we heard anyway), so it's mostly a local crowd and atmosphere. Soi off Moonmuang road (inside east side of moat) near Katam corner.

Boom Senxy: is a popular Thai music venue with an odd name but attracts the local in-crowd to its roomy and modern pavillion off the Canal road near the Phucome Hotel.

Gay and Lesbian

Suggested popular gay-friendly bars in Chiang Mai include: Coffee Boy Bar (Thanon Tung Hotel), Circle Pub (Erawan lnn) and Adam's Apple (both on Chotana rd), and Doi boy (near Novotel Hotel), each featuring live cabaret shows. There are also a number of gay go-go bars behind the Night Bazaar. The lesbian scene is far quieter and the only magnet is Femme Fatale (located at Chiang Mai Land, south of the city off Chang Klan rd).

Thailand's cross-gender extravaganza

Simon Caberet is uniquely Thai. Only here can you experience an evening of beautifully slender bodies, exquisite faces, colourful costume and unmisstakeable flambouyancy from an all male cast of ladyboys, gay actors and transsexuals. Whether you're straight or gay, this outrageous permanent performance, which also has a show in Phuket, is a worthwhile evening's entertainment.

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