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 Bazzar area, once the main gay district, is now more downscale, but still kicking with a row of a half-dozen beer bars and free-lance hustlers hanging about. Several more bars and saunas are scattered about the city. See our map & listings section for locations and website links of many local gay and gay-friendly businesses. Local website guides and media are listed below.
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. See the State Railway website. 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.
Local Media and 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.
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.
What's On Thailand/ Chiang Mai is another source for information on area tourism.
Aruntara Riverside 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.
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.
Find locations and website links for all the above, along with bars, clubs, restaurants, saunas and spas, at our map & listings page for Chiang Mai.
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