This walled city is one of the most enchanting places in Thailand. Founded in 1296 AD, the old city is surrounded by a moat and there are 30 Buddhist temples within the walls, giving it a fairy-tale feel. Over 300 temples cover the local area, with Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna Thai architectural styles, reflecting the region's varied cultural heritages. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, overlooking the city from high ground 13 km away, is the most famous of these. Home to the hill tribes of Thailand, the district's people have a diversity of physical appearances, and many workers in Chiang Mai come from Shan, in SE Burma. With more natural forest than anywhere else in Thailand, this northern region has retained much of it's scenic beauty too.
Located about 400 miles north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai sits high among the foothills of the Himalayas. Reached only by a difficult river journey or elephant trek until the 1920s, it had an isolation which helped preserve many of it's charms until today. Temperatures tend to be cooler than elsewhere to the south of the country, attracting expatriate foreign settlers, who have opened many bars, restaurants, guesthouses and shops. The city has good quality, low priced accommodations, food and shopping and a very international vibe, making it a favorite destination for gay tourists.
The gay scene is surprisingly varied. With a more subdued nightlife than Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket, it does have host and go-go bars (some with naked dancers), many massage parlors (some with "happy endings"), two gay saunas, gay-friendly mixed dance clubs, pubs, cafes, and coffee houses .
Gay areas include: Chang Phuak, the biggest gay district, with the larger, most popular gay venues; and the upcoming and upscale Huay Kaew/Nimanhemin Road neighborhood. The Night Bazaar area, once the main gay district, lost ground for many years, and in 2014 its last two bars moved out, along with the free-lance hustlers who would hang around. Several more bars and saunas are scattered about the city.
Chiang Mai International Airport is the country’s second largest gateway. Buses, minibuses and taxis will get you downtown, and most hotels provide cheap or free transport to and from the airport.
Train services from Bangkok's Hualamphong Station leave on a regular daily schedule and take 12-15 hours to reach Chiang Mai. The State Railway website is difficult to follow, so try Train Travel in Thailand website for an overview, and Bangkok to Chiang Mai times & fare information. Overnight sleepers with fold-down bunk beds are relatively comfortable and good value for a nights accommodation as well as transport.
You can easily walk around the old city. You’ll also want to take a tuk-tuk, one of the speedy, three-wheeled motorcycles that ply the downtown streets. Ask a local how much your fare should be, because drivers may overcharge tourists. Locals get around on a songthaew, a covered pick-up truck with two long bench seats in back running around on fixed routes, picking up passengers enroute. Warorot Market is a central point for finding a songthaew. Regular taxis can take you to outlying sights, and are a good bet for heading home at night.
Currency and Money
The local currency in the Thai baht. You’ll find ATMs most easily in the downtown tourist areas.
Prostitution is technically illegal, but widely tolerated so long as both people are over 18 years old, and various legal caveats make 18 the practical age of consent. Check out Squirt.org for more.
Media & Resources
The Radchada Cafe Gay Guide to Chiang Mai is a very good and well-updated local source of information. Their new boutique cafe at 15 Thewarit Road, near the Grand View Hotel, in an old Lanna-style teak mansion, has a tranquil garden, coffee, drinks snacks and light meals. Gay-friendly and helpful staff, open 10am to 7pm, it's a good place to start, when you arrive.
Gay in Chiang Mai is another local website associated with Radchada Cafe, with listings, a news blog, and all the latest goings-on. GThaiCity, a national websitesite with photos, also covers Chiang Mai.
Out in Thailand, and Thai Puan are magazine-style websites with news and features about gay life in Thailand. Utopia and Travel Gay Asia regional websites also have listings for Chiang Mai.
Attitude is the national gay Thai monthly magazine. Buy at newsstands or an online copy at Ookbe.com
Chiang Mai Citylife is a general-public magazine and website for the area. 1-Stop Chiang Mai, and the The Chiang Mai Mail also have general-public news and guides to the city, with gay listings too - all in English.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Chiang Mai listings pages.
Aruntara Boutique Hotel (351/1 Charoen Prathet Rd, Changklan, Muang), general public hotel mix at riverside, pool, spa, restaurant, WiFi, bikes
Dusit D2 (100 Chang Klan Rd, A Muang), 131 central rooms, pool, spa, restaurants/bars, WiFi
Four Seasons Chiang Mai (Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Rd, Mae Rim), 98 spacious rural pavilions, luxury villas, & residence resort, spa, full amenities.
Lotus Hotel (2/25 Viangbua Rd, Tambol Chang-Phuak), popular gay hotel/restaurant, garden bar, guests' guests ok.
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhev (51/4 Sankampaeng Rd, Tasala A, Muang), 54 suite, 64 villa luxury resort, full amenities, spa, restaurants and bars, American breakfast buffet.
Oriental Garden Guesthouse (69 Loikroh Rd, T Changklan, A Muang), Thai restaurant and bar, Dutch twists; garden-view rooms, WiFi
Phucome Hotel (2 Khanklong Chonprathan Rd, Muang), modern rooms/suites, restaurant and bar, live music, pool, sauna, spa.
PJ's Place (19, Soi Plubplueng, Huay Kaew Rd), gay-friendly hotel, en-suite rooms, cable TV, WiFi, full breakfast, tour arrangements.
QI 68 Hotel (68 Santitham Santirak, Chang Phuak), gay owners, 6 modern, spacious guest rooms, full breakfast, WiFi.
Santitham Guesthouse (61 Santitham Rd, Chang Phuak), modern teak wood villa, 11 large standard and deluxe rooms.
Soho Bar & Guesthouse (20/3 Huay Kaew Rd), five guest rooms, standard, budget and superior grades, cable TV, extra amenities; bar with dance contests, wine and cheese parties.
Soulmates Retreat (31/1 M8 Ban wangtan T Luangnua, A Doisaket), luxury country guesthouse, infinity pool, bikes, WiFi.
Tamarind Village Boutique Hotel (50/1 Rajdamnoen Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang), 45 rooms and suites in historic district, serene garden courtyards, all amenities.
Adam’s Apple Club (1/21-22 Tanon Viangbua, Chang Puek), handsome young go-go dancers from 9pm, erotic and exotic costumed ladyboy shows from 10:30pm, hi-tech sound and lights, karaoke, comfy sofas.
Barocco (Soi Erawan Chang Phuak Rd, Chang Puek), one of several late night gay karaoke host bars; big screen TV, food, waiters who "go out." Local guides advise you go with Thai friends to late night clubs such as this.
Chiang Mai Coffee Stop (203/12 Huai Kaeo Rd), gay-friendly terrace cafe from 7am; coffees, sandwiches, Halal and Singaporean restaurant, cool interior lounge.
Circle Pub (161/7-8 Soi Erawan, Chang Phuak Rd), host bar, shows, muscle boys, mostly Thai crowd.
Free Guy Club (181/40-41 Changpuak Rd), host bar, sexy, nude go-go boy shows, hot staff, massage services.
Garden Bar at Lotus Hotel (2/25 Soi Viangbua, Chotana Rd), gay bar set in lush tropical gardens at Lotus Hotel Thai/Western restaurant; outdoor tables, expats and locals mix, easy conversation.
Ginger & Kafe Bistro / The House (199 Moon Muang Rd), gay-friendly Asian fusion restaurant and antique/ novelties shop from 10am daily. Coffee, cake, cocktails, snacks or gourmet Thai or Euro-Asian fusion meals.
G-Star Vintage (Chottana Road, Chang Puek), gay dance club, young locals crowd, shows and cayote go-go dancers.
Metro Bar & Café (1/21-22 Wiang Bua Rd), by Adam's Apple, a downstairs bar and restaurant with western comfort foods and all-day breakfast.
New My Way (3/5-6 Hatsadi Sawee Rd, Soi 3), host bar, nightly "special" (nude) and ladyboy cabaret shows each night.
The Pub (189 Huay Kaew Rd), English-style pub for everyone; British beer, restaurant, full breakfasts from 7am, Thai and international dining, Sunday afternoon roasts with Yorkshire pudding, plus bungalow lodgings.
Radchada Café (15 Thewarit Rd, Santitham), garden setting, gay-owned café behind the Grand View Hotel; coffee, tea, drinks and Italian pizza/ pasta, breakfast, sandwiches and snacks, beer/wine and cocktails, free WiFi access.
Ram Bar (14/1 Wang Sing Khan Rd), gourmet coffees, pastries, WiFi, relaxed evenings at air-conditioned lounge and full service outdoor bar, food, local Thais, expat residents and visitors mix.
Relax Karaoke Bar (92/3 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd), oldest and best known of the late karaoke clubs, dark, loud, young Thai crowd, go with local.
Secrets Bar (70/18-19 Chaiyaphum Rd), new location for gay cocktail bar, formerly in Night Bazaar now in Somphet Gold Place, friendly mix of locals, expats and tourists; pool tables, WiFi. The similar C U Bar also moved to this same compound.
See Man (Canal Rd), modern new bar, live music, "coyote boy" dancers on stage, Thai crowd.
Warm Up Café (40 Nimmarnhaemin Rd), gay-friendly, young college crowd mix, dance bar and café, courtyard
CLOSED: X-Change Club (25/9-10 Ratvithi Rd), gay dance/ DJ bar; Yokka Dok (11 Ratchamankha Rd), gay and mixed crowd restaurant, bar and guesthouse.
Club One Seven (385/2 Charoen Prathet Rd, Changklan), guest house, gym, steam and sauna; Thai Massage, Natural Nights (clothing off, mask on), pool parties.
House of Male (19 Sirimangklajarn Rd, Soi 3), gay sauna, fitness and relaxation center; pool, gym,garden, young Thai student and foreigner favorite.
We list a dozen male for male massage spas in our services pages, but there are more. A high turnover rate among these establishments keeps guidebooks and websites busy with updates, so check the websites and local press, and ask around before you go.
Find locations and website links for the above, along with more bars, clubs, restaurants, and spas, at our map & listings page for Chiang Mai.