Nightlife in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai's nightlife is the most happening in the north, although still a far cry from Bangkok's hot spots. The busiest night life zones are near Tha Phae Gate, Loi Kroh Rd and along Charoen Rat Rd on the east bank of the Ping River.
Bars and pubs
Bars close at midnight in Chiang Mai. The police are strict about this.
Many, but by no means all, of Chiang Mai's tourist-oriented bars and pubs are located along Loi Kroh Rd (ถนนลอยเคระห์), outside the southeast quadrant of the old city. In addition to the street bars, the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex (CMEC) (the CMEC sign is not prominent. Much more so is a lighted sign in front, Loikroh Boxing Stadium) can be found at the Night Bazaar-end of Loi Kroh. Here you will find around 30 bars ranging from sports bars that feature big screens to watch sports and play pool, to Pattaya-style girlie "beer bars", to even bars staffed exclusively by kathoeys (ladyboys). The complex also features a muay Thai boxing ring that has exhibition bouts for free or a voluntary donation, and on some nights (varies) real competitive boxing that requires an entrance fee unless your bar has provided you with complimentary viewing. And for extra fun, the occasional Westerner climbs into the ring, usually with hilarious results.
Also take a stroll along Moon Muang Road and its side Sois 1 and 2. Here you can find small expat hangouts and sports bars. Most have pool tables and hostesses, along with music videos or various TV sport programmes. Be aware that despite their charm and friendliness, the pressure to purchase lady drinks can result in a very surprising tab at the end of the night.
Loi Kroh Rd (Night Bazaar area)
- Ben Cocktail Bar, 71/1-2 Loi Kroh Rd (Across from Chiang Mai Saloon; cater-corner across the street northwest from the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex. Small sign. Look for it and you will be rewarded),. 17:00-last man standing. A tiny, hole-in-the-wall (~15 seat) cocktail bar that just may serve the best cocktails in Chiang Mai. Certainly the best price/performance. Run by Ben, an irrepressible, animal-loving, lovely female and her partner, Keng. She is especially proud of her mojitos, but all the 270 cocktails on offer are delicious. The conversation is good too as she speaks excellent English. Free Wi-Fi. Chang beer, 60 baht; cocktails, 120 baht.
- Blue Bat (Porn Ping Tower Hotel), 46,48 Charoenprathet Rd (Between the Night Bazaar and the river). On the 21st floor of the hotel, this is as high as you can go in Chiang Mai to have a drink. Good views all round. Serves full range of cocktails, also Thai and Western food. Take the lift to the 20th floor, then hike up a not-very-inviting staircase to the open rooftop. It can't compare with the fabulous rooftop bars of Bangkok, but it's the best Chiang Mai has to offer.
- Chiang Mai Cabaret Show (SE corner of Anusarn Market). Daily show, 21ː30-22ː30. A nightly revue, dancing to Western tunes by ladyboys in lavish costumes. The one hour show is tame and family-friendly, with children frequently in the audience. Lots of dancing to ABBA tunes and extravagant costumes, with no nudity. The show's length is perfect and the price is surprising affordable. Good fun. Happy Hour precedes the show, 19:30-20:30, and also follows the show. 200 baht cover, includes one drink.
- Dragonfly Bar, 8/1 Loi Kroh Rd. One of the smaller bars at the top of Loi Kroh but also one of the most cosy. What really make this place stand out is the friendly staff and that this bar has two floors so you can get away from the bustle of street level and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere from the balcony.
- Number 1 Bistro/Cafe, 2 Loi Kroh, Soi 1 (As you go down Loi Kroh, take Soi 1 to the right), . 15:00-24:00. Great expat bar. Free Wi-Fi with electrical outlets spaced at one metre intervals under the bar. They specialise in Belgian beer as well as having eight draught beers on tap, including domestic and Guinness. Excellent kitchen serving Thai and farang food, although the latter can be pricy: pad Thai is 80 baht, while the cheeseburger is expensive at 250 baht (July 2015). Number 1 is a refuge in Chiang Mai's red light district as it has no bar girls hassling you for a drink. And it's one of the few places on Loi Kroh where you can comfortably take a date. Two excellent pool tables, 20 baht per game (July 2015). Small Leo beer, 80 baht.
Northwest of the city centre, the area around Nimmanhaemin Rd is a popular hangout for younger Thais, perhaps due to its proximity to Chiang Mai University ("maw chaw"). The pubs tend to straddle a fine line between bar, restaurant and nightclub, and feature loud music interspersed with live bands fronted by musicians who are most likely hitting the books in the daytime. Tourists looking for something racier are better off staying in the east side of the city. Little English is spoken in this part of the city. Little doesn't mean none, however, and the staff of many bars, being students, still can understand what do you want, or even sometimes can speak English reasonably well.
- Mo'C Mo'L, Huay Kaew Rd. Pub and restaurant near Chiang Mai University, there are many zones in the restaurant: coffee shop, dining outdoors near the small pond, dining indoors with live music.
- The Pub, 189 Huay Kaew Rd (Near Amari Rincome Hotel), . 07:00-23:00. Long-established English-style pub, has had a makeover and extended the bar and the restaurant, but kept its charm. Great selection of food and drinks, including roast dinners on Sundays. Has an outside area where you can sit and enjoy the tranquillity of a tropical garden, and has recently added bungalows for those wishing to linger longer. Bungalows, 800+ baht.
- Warm Up Bar. This chain bar/restaurant/club has several venues in Thailand. The venue in Chiang Mai is a lot less touristy and the dance hall packed to the brim with Thai students.
Inside the moat
- Café Souvannaphoum, 20/1 Ratchamanka Rd (Near Moon Muang, next to Dada Kafe), . M-Sa 17:00-01:00. A decent wine bar with comfortable seating and relaxing music, a great escape from the busy street scene.
- Half Moon Pub, Soi 2 Moon Muang (50 m into Soi 2 from the moat), . 10:00-late. Sports bar with many regulars and tourists. Darts and pool area, big TV, really nice international cuisine, especially the burgers, but also good Thai and Indian dishes. Excellent (can be loud) music, friendly atmosphere and beautiful women.
- The Writers Club, 141/3 Ratchadamnoen Rd (about 600 m into the old city from Tha Phae Gate.), . , An old fashioned bar and restaurant purportedly for SE Asia's community of authors, journalists and screenwriters, though everyone's welcome. A good, informal source of information about SE Asia. This is where the some of those writing guidebooks gather.
- Zoe in Yellow, 40/12 Ratchawithi Rd (Inside the moat). Very large indoor/outdoor bar and club with a dance floor, live music or DJ, including lots of outdoor seating and multiple bars. If you're looking to party with foreigners in Chiang Mai, this is the place to be. Closes exactly at midnight except on special occasions, such as New Year or Songkran.
- Garden Bar & Restaurant (Lotus Hotel), 2/25 Soi Viangbua, Chotana Rd(Across the street from Adams Apple), . Outdoor garden bar and restaurant serving Lebanese, Western and Thai food. Popular meeting place for gay expats and tourists.
- Sabaidee Santitham, 65 Santitham Rd, Chang Phuak (Corner of Tewan Rd and Santitham Rd), +66 81-8851329 (Mr. Don) +66 89 9514554 (Mr. Louis), e-mail: [email protected]. Northern Thai-style outdoor gay bar and restaurant. Packed with very friendly staff and fun atmosphere. 45 baht for a large Chang beer.
The area along the east bank of the Mae Ping River on Charoen Rat Rd is famous for jazz, rock, pop, Thai, and country and Western live music, along with restaurants serving Thai, Western and Chinese food. Coming from the centre of the city, just walk from the Night Bazaar across the Nawarat Bridge, from where all the restaurants can be seen along the river on the left.
Most bands in Chiang Mai play for about an hour, and then move on to do the same at another restaurant or pub, so don't be surprised to see the same band if you move venues.
- Boy Blues Bar (In the Kalare Centre (near the food hall) in the Night Bazaar on the mezzanine floor opposite the dancing stage). 19:00-01:00. The owner, "Boy", plays great blues guitar and is a nephew of Chiang Mai legend "Took", of the now defunct Brasserie. Monday night is jamming night and some great visiting musicians have made this often memorable. Bangkok blues legend, Chai (of Chai's Blues Bar fame), often joins in. Well worth a visit.
- The Bridge Bar, Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi 11, . Till 01:00.Live music every night, except Monday: Brit pop, rock, Thai. Mostly Thais go to this bar but you will as well see some expats, ages: 22-32. Service is excellent and if you happen to go there by yourself, for sure someone will come up to talk to you. The menu includes delicious cocktails: "Mango Kiss", "Velvet"! Cheap beer & Sangsom (Thai rum) as well as snacks. The outside sitting area is perfect if you want to talk.
- The Good View, 13 Charoen Rat Rd (Next to The Riverside Restaurant), , e-mail: [email protected]. 10:00-01:00.Thai and Western varieties of rock, jazz, pop and country music in the evening. Their extensive menu offers more than 150 Thai, Chinese, and Western dishes, including curries, noodles, rice and pizza. Full-service bar serving wine, beer and spirits. If you want to get in, get there early and there's a queue every night.
- The North Gate Jazz Collective (Inside the moat, east of Chang Phuak Gate). Nightly jazz performances starting around 21:30 with different performers and occasional guests from the audience. Mixed bag in terms of quality: sometimes great, sometimes mediocre. Serves a variety of drinks not normally found in Chiang Mai, notably red and white wine, mojitos and other mixed drinks. The staff are quick and efficient, and the prices are reasonable.
- Riverside Restaurant, 9-11 Charoen Rat Rd, . The live music starts around 19:00 with dinner music from the Eagles, Beatles or soft jazz. Starting at 21:00, the music changes to more rock and pop. The restaurant gets very crowded, so arrive early to get a table. The Riverside also offers a nightly dinner cruise departing at 20:00 for 110 baht/person extra.
- Tha Chang Jazz Club, 25 Charoen Rat Rd (Next to Gallery Restaurant), . Live jazz on Saturdays.
- Discovery (Opposite Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre and Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel). A small club with live band, DJ, and huge screens showing music videos. Good for drinking nights and letting loose. Bring ID/passport as they can be strict about entry, especially on weekends.
- Hot Shots (At Pornping Tower Hotel). A Thai place with live music most nights, reasonable drink prices and no cover charge for foreigners or locals.
- Spicy (Spice Club), 82 Chaiyaphum Rd (Outside moat, across the moat from the Sompet Market), . 02:00-. A hectic after-hours place with good drinks, dancing and lots of girls looking to party. Be forewarned, many are bar girls (the place doesn't get rocking until they get off at 02:00) so do not be surprised if they ask for money to go home with you.