Chiang Mai Gay Scene Overview

The Chiang Mai Gay scene

What is the gay scene like?

A question often asked by prospective visitors to Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai is, “what is the Chiang Mai gay scene like?” The answer is slightly more complex than one might expect with several sectors and diversity based on both ethnic and geographical boundaries.

Chiang Mai Thapae gate

Thapae Gate – Chiang Mai Landmark and center of the tourist district Source: Wikimedia

Chiang Mai has an abundance of openly gay Thai men, and many more from the surrounding towns and provinces come to the city to study and work, making it seem that gay people are everywhere. However, the “gay scene” in Chiang Mai, for most Thais, really doesn’t exist in the western context. For Thai’s, gay is not the issue it is in many other countries; there is little need for specific “gay bars”. Thai gays happily go out with their friends, gay, straight, male, female to places all over town. However, please do not confuse visibility with acceptance. Gay Thais still suffer from many prejudices within Thai society.

For a greater understanding you might read this article: The Chiang Mai Gay Scene – A 2017 perspective

Gay – Thai Style

For many Thai gay boys now, life predominantly revolves around their smart phone and not around bars. Of course, through online associations they may know of Chiang Mai’s two gay saunas and even have visited. But, the chances are they won’t know anything regarding the places where foreigners go and won’t be interested. And with the proliferation of dating apps, why would they be, when a sexual encounter can be only a few clicks away?

 
Grindr |  The world's largest gay social network ap Let's Connect on Hornet, the Premier Gay Social Network

With the internet has come knowledge, and with knowledge empowerment. The youth of Chiang Mai, can appreciate so much more about life than that limited agenda they were taught in school or gleaned down on the rice farm. They can grasp the issues surrounding sexuality and find friends online to discover and share the latest local gossip with.

There is also a better comprehension of social issues associated with homosexuality including the role of prostitution. In the past prostitution, whilst not acceptable, was tolerated by blind eyes mindful of economic realities. In this modern era, it is considered with far greater disdain.

Online friendships extend into the real world too. Sure, there are places where gay Thais congregate in groups to eat drink and socialise in Chiang Mai, though they are not what westerners would call gay establishments. The popularity of such places is very changeable. One week, this or that restaurant is the gay place to go, and next week another place opens and becomes the next trendy venue of choice.

Chiang Mai Gay scene - thai boys party in Santitham

Some cute Thai Boys enjoying dinner together in Santitham

The late night scene in Chiang Mai was always an attraction for gay Thais. But, this has been curtailed during the last couple of years with stricter enforcement of closing times. Some big clubs such as Mandalay Bar CMI, Warm Up and Tawan Deang are still frequented, and often a gay corner emerges as customers of similar persuasion coalesce together. Prior to the crackdown two big gay clubs emerged and at weekends were packed until dawn, sadly G-star has gone and See Man Pub is currently closed.

Chiang Mai Gay Scene - Mandalay Bar CMI Chiang Mai

Mandalay Bar CMI – big nightclub in Chiang Mai popular with Thai gays

Gay – Foreigners (Farang)

For many foreigners Chiang Mai has become the perfect gay lifestyle paradise; a gay friendly and tolerant city (though the perception of tolerance by foreigners is perhaps different to that experienced by Thais). Add to this Chiang Mai’s world renowned status both as a tourist and retirement destination and it is easy to understand the ever growing numbers of gay foreigners who visit and come to live here. An almost separate gay scene has grown up to cater for foreigners; both tourists and ex-pats. This social scene revolves around a few gay bars or restaurants where gay foreigners meet up to socialise. These also attract a few older Thai’s and some money boys but they are in a rapidly decreasing minority.

The nightlife in Chiang Mai has changed significantly in recent years with many new modern bars and restaurants opening, especially around the Nimmanhaeminda area of town. Increasingly, gay farangs are going out in non gay venues and traditional gay bars are not the only game in town anymore.

Commercial Gay Scene

Chaing Mai Gay scene - Gay Massage Boy

Gay Massage Boy

Thailand is well known for its commercial sex workers, both male and female. For years this has been a major lure for many visitors. Whilst there are many who have strong opinions on the moral aspects of Thailand’s sex industry one cannot deny its existence and, rightly or wrongly, it forms a significant part of the gay entertainment and nightlife. The aim of this website is to provide useful information about all aspects of gay life in Chiang Mai, so that our readers can make informed choices about where they go and what they do here. This does not imply we condone the sex industry; equally we seek not to pass judgement on those involved in it. See this website’s terms and conditions of use for more information

The commercial gay sex scene in Chiang Mai is smaller than cities like Bangkok or Pattaya. It is dominated by numerous “boy massage” shops, but also boasts three go-go bars (better described as host bars with shows – with a lot of nudity), some late night Karaoke bars and a few foreigner oriented bars with freelance hustlers.

Chiang Mai’s go-go and karaoke bar scene is more Thai orientated than tourist destinations elsewhere in Thailand, but, even though small, there is still plenty of fun to be had.

Something which differentiates Chiang Mai’s commercial scene, from other cities like Bangkok and Pattaya, is that many of the male sex workers here are not Thai but come either from Burma or the various hill tribe ethnicities of Northern Thailand. In fact, most of the guys working in Chiang Mai’s go-go bars are Tai Yai refugees from the Shan State in Burma. With their own ethnic identity, different culture, and perhaps more masculine features they are different from boys in, for example Pattaya, whom are more likely from Isaan, Cambodia or Laos.

Shan (Tai Yai) Boys in Chiang Mai

Shan (Tai Yai) Boys in Chiang Mai Gay Bar

Where are the gay areas?

The gay venues are spread out geographically which prompts another frequent question “where should I stay in Chiang Mai?” Our map gives an overview of the city and different areas.

The main tourist areas are around Thapae Gate and the Night Bazaar, which are packed with hotels, guesthouses, bars and restaurants catering for tourists. In the last two years, the night bazaar area, traditional home of the Chiang Mai gay scene, has reestablished itself with several bars now located along Gay Soi 6 (Soi 6 Charoen Prathet Rd) making this an attractive part of town for visitors.

In contrast, the Chang Puek and Santitham areas, once home to many bars, have declined in popularity with many places closing recently. However, the area is still where you will find most of the commercial gay scene including the gay go-go bars, gay karaokes and some massage shops. There are also some gay accommodation options here too.

Alternatively, if you are not looking specifically for gay nightlife, the Nimmanhaeminda area has a lot to offer in terms of smart restaurants, bars, coffee shops and increasingly several boutique hotels.

Chiang Mai Gay Map

Main Gay areas of Chiang Mai

In the last few years traffic chaos has increased substantially in Chiang Mai and the city is not so easy to get around like it once was. For this reason you may prefer to stay in the area most suited to your interests.

Night bazaar and Gay Soi 6

A few years ago the Night Bazaar was a thriving hub of gay life with more than fifteen small outdoor beer bars in two nearby locations on Thapae Soi 1 attracting many visitors to stay in the hotels there (read more on the Night Bazaar’s gay history). However, by 2014 this died away to almost nothing. This has now changed again with 2017 seeing six gay bars located in the area on or near Gay Soi 6.

If you are looking to visit Gay Soi 6 places you may find staying in the Thapae or night bazaar areas of town is your best option. Although there is no specifically gay accommodation close by, there are numerous non-gay hotels and guest houses which are typically quite gay friendly. The area also has the advantage of having more to do in the day, being close to the main temples, sights and river with many tour companies and other tourist oriented businesses close by.

For gay accommodation close to the Night bazaar you might consider Club One Seven guest House and Sauna. This is just outside the city centre on Charoen Prathet Rd (Same as Gay soi 6) and as well as a great place to stay it is now Chiang Mai’s best gay sauna offering even more possibilities. Read more later.

Gay Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and gay soi 6 map

Chang Puek and Santitham

The Chang Puek district to the north west of the old city is where all of the Go-Go bars are located, as well as most gay accommodation options: Lotus Hotel, Santitham Guest House, Qi 68 and the luxury Pj’s Place. This is the area to stay to be near all the go-go bars, and is perhaps more real Thailand compared with the increasingly artificial tourist zone.

The Chang Puek and Santitham areas have many small Thai style bars, local Thai restaurants, and markets with a vibrant buzz as many cute students live here too. A few Cafés Coffee Shops and restaurants have sprung up in Santiham serving western food making this now an interesting cosmopolitan area. The nearby Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall and surrounding area around Huay Kaew Rd has plenty of western food options. Chiang Mai’s other sauanHouse of Male is just behind the mall in the the adjacent Nimmanahaeminda area which also offers plenty more entertainment options.

Santitham is a popular location for long stay tourists with an abundance of serviced apartments available at modest rates. Check out our articles on serviced apartments and. A major new addition to the area in 2014 was the Maya Lifestyle mall, at the intersection between both Chang Puek and Nimmanahaeminda areas. This mall is proving to be a popular hang-out for young Thai gays and has a rooftop terrace with several new bars and some great views over the city and Doi Sutep moutain.

Maya Mall, Think Park and the Eastin Hotel

Maya Mall, Think Park and the Eastin Hotel

Nimmanahaeminda Road Area

Nimmanahaeminda Road and its many side streets is Chiang Mai’s trendy neighbourhood, packed with chic cafés, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and luxury apartments. If you want something more upmarket than rustic tourist venues, this is the area to be, and several new boutique hotels have recently opened here. Whilst there aren’t many gay venues here, it is the archetypal metro-sexual area where gay people can feel comfortable. Apart from the gay See Man Pub(Currently closed – March 2017) there are plenty of mixed clubs too, some mentioned earlier. For a hotel, try the smart Kantary Hills (not gay) it is central for everything the area has to offer and has a popular restaurant, Nimman Bar and Grill, or there is the new Eastin Hotel adjacent to the Maya Mall and another new luxury hotel opening soon on the site of the old Amari Rincome.

Chang Klan Area

Several massage shops are located around Chang Klan Road, South of the Night Bazaar. This area is also home to the beautiful Club One Seven gay guest house and sauna, located in an old Lanna Style teak wood mansion right on the banks of the Ping River. Whilst offering clean and modern sauna facilities, the guest rooms are furnished in an antique style retaining the feel of the old Lanna Kingdom, surrounded by lush tropical gardens.

Club One Seven Gay Sauna in Chiang Mai

Club One Seven Gay Sauna in Chiang Mai

Club One Seven Gay Sauna Website - Gallery Intro Pictures

Club One Seven Sauna and Guest House

Our map and listing gives more details of all Chiang Mai’s gay businesses.

Last updated March 2017