The heat of May is finally abating as June heralds the start of rainy season in Chiang Mai. But, how hot is the gay scene in Chiang Mai these days?
The last year or so has seen major transformations in Chiang Mai’s gay lifestyle. Smart new Thai bars and clubs have taken over; whilst the old style prostitution oriented farang bars are transitioning to a more food oriented social scene. The changes started last year when Chiang Mai’s first 100% gay super club, See Man Pub opened its doors. See Man Pub was the trend setter bringing to Chiang Mai the kind of gay venue that has already proved popular in Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng district, away from the Silom tourist scene.
Foam Party at See Man Pub
See Man Pub provides a mixture of music, entertainment shows and coyote boys in a smart, modern air conditioned building. Realistic drink prices and a location close to Chiang Mai’s student enclaves made the place an instant hit, with weekends seeing the venue packed to overflowing with the young and handsome gay crowd out to enjoy themselves.
But, See Man Pub was only the starting point. In April, just in time for Songkran, Chiang Mai saw the opening of another new mega gay venue in Chiang Mai’s main gay neighbourhood of Chang Puek. G Star Vintage is a direct import from Bangkok’s Radchada soi 8 and has proved a major force for change in Chiang Mai. Offering a similar format to See Man Pub, but with a more professional and raunchy show, intimate atmosphere and discreet location with plenty of parking, G Star vintage has taken Chiang Mai by storm. It is packed even on weekday nights and will no doubt get even busier this week as thousands of students return to nearby Rajaphat University for the start of term.
Packing them in at G-Star Vintage
As well as the pure gay clubs, See Man Pub, and G-Star, Chiang Mai’s mixed clubs continue to be popular with the gay crowd too, Sign-in, Warm up and Infinity all attract good numbers of Thai gay boys, as do the student bars of Santitham and JJ Market. All round, gay Thais in Chiang Mai have never had it so good.
Coyote Boys at G-Star Vintage
In contrast, the once thriving beer bar and bar boy gay scene that used to attract so many farangs to Chiang Mai continues its decline. Particularly noticeable now is the scarcity of free-lance prostitutes that used to be found in abundance in Chiang Mai. Although some of the old hands are still around there is a distinct lack of new entrants to the business.
The reasons for the decline in overt prostitution are perhaps complex, but first and foremost, the socio economic changes that have permeated Thailand over the last few years have had their effect. Not only are people with more money less likely to turn to prostitution, but the stigma attached to the business has become much more prominent in Thai society, particularly with the spread of social media. Online activity with dating sites and smart phone apps provide a more inconspicuous environment for the boys to find their tricks.
Further factors include the income drop suffered by many ex-pats due to the high baht and recession hit western economies, coupled with the ageing of the ex-pat population leading to a decline in the sex-pat appetite and budget for prostitutes. At the same time, the war on drugs has had an impact on Chiang Mai’s bar boy population with quite a few having been re-located to new purpose built accommodation in Mae Taeng district.
Chiang Mai Boys – the way it used to be
Sadly a knock on effect of the social changes in Thailand is that, whilst many gay Thais are now more comfortable visiting the big gay clubs, most self-respecting Thai gays now won’t go anywhere near bars where Farangs hang out for fear of being labelled as prostitutes themselves.
However, for those whose prime purpose in visiting Thailand is to find gay for pay sex, don’t write Chiang Mai off just yet. Despite the dearth of freelance guys in the bars, the commercial scene: go-go, massage and karaoke bars continue to prosper. With discreet locations away from prying eyes and almost exclusively Burmese guys working go-go these venues remain popular with Thai customers and Farangs alike. The oldest and most popular venue remains Adam’s Apple Club, a smart foreign owned venue with a professional show and some really handsome and hunky go-go boys from Burma’s Shan state. For full details of Chiang Mai’s gay for pay scene check our go-go listing here.
Handsome go-go boys at Adam’s Apple Club – Chiang Mai’s best known gay bar
One bar that is bucking the trend for low season and doing deservedly well is RAM bar. Staffed by ultra-friendly and exceedingly attractive gay staff, RAM bar has found the winning formula and become the drinking den of choice for discerning ex-pats. This is not a place to go for sexual encounters, but somewhere to enjoy a drink and a chat with like-minded people and attentive smiling staff. Of course, if the urge takes you, River House Massage is only a few paces away too.
Friendly and handsome staff are waiting for you at RAM bar
Another venue that has quickly established itself as a Chiang Mai favourite is the gay sauna at Club One Seven. With its unique location, riverside terrace and antique buildings it has a great atmosphere, whilst a range of special promotion nights are packing the people in with the sauna complex often full to capacity. Their special party nights on 7, 17 and 27 of each month are particularly popular. Club One Seven is also a guest house which offers beautiful Lanna style rooms with four poster beds and river views in their beautiful old teak wood house.
Increasingly, Chiang Mai is attracting more affluent gay tourists who come to enjoy the beauty and culture of Chiang Mai, rather than just to find cheap sex. One place successfully catering to the more demanding well to do visitor is Mansfield Residence, a boutique resort providing five star accommodation in a very discreet location with un-intrusive personal service. Despite being a short distance from the Santitham bar and restaurant scene, Mansfield Residence, with its relaxing garden and loft terrace is an oasis of calm in the city.
G-Star Vintage Club Layout
So for gay Farangs in Chiang Mai, what are the attractions? For younger visitors and the young at heart, Chiang Mai’s big gay clubs are now undoubtedly the best places to go to meet gay Thai’s. But, these are not places to go alone, find some Thai friends to go with you and share a bottle of whiskey or spirits with (drinking individual drinks is not normal in these places). Learning a few words of Thai will go a long way in helping you meet new friends too. Remember to be discreet! Exchange phone numbers or agree to meet people later and don’t engage in excessive shows of affection in public.
The Farang gay scene in Chiang Mai is evolving into a purely social scene (rather than pick up joints where older Farang seek young Thais). The successful bars are becoming more mixed and placing emphasis on being nice places to hang out. Many are adding value by improving the quality of the venue and providing food to bring in the customers. Out are bamboo shacks, rickety wooden furniture, decrepit bathrooms and prostitutes. In are granite, chrome, stylish contemporary Thai design, air conditioning and competent professional service staff.
Looking to the future, this high season in Chiang Mai saw far more younger gay visitors than previous years. Often gay couples travelling together who were here to enjoy what the city had to offer and weren’t looking for sex. Also, a larger number of younger gays from eastern Europe and elsewhere in Asia to which the new venues like G-Star Vintage are highly appealing. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue to grow and a younger refreshed gay scene will emerge as a result.