Well-known for its relaxed nature and immersive cultural experiences, Thailand’s Chiang Mai is also home to an established gay community and a hotspot for LGBTQ travelers. Situated in the mountainous area of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai not only boasts an ancient Old City of fortified walls and religious centers, but caters to modern sensibilities with a wide and varied range of gay-friendly hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, and spas, along with LGBTQ-friendly tours and travel experiences.
A strong contender for the traveler’s favorite of all Thai cities, Chiang Mai’s eclectic mix of ancient temples, rural charm, and lively nightclub scene means something for everyone, welcoming all who wish to experience Thailand’s “Rose of the North” in a fun, safe, and respectful environment.
Nightclubs and entertainment
Most LGBTQ-friendly establishments can be found within one of the two main nightlife areas that make up Chiang Mai. The first is the up-and-coming Gay Soi 6 near the Night Bazaar. The other includes the Chang Puek and Santitham Districts, which are outside of the more commercial tourist areas and host a greater selection of gay-friendly accommodations. For those who love to party the night away, these areas of Chiang Mai deliver pumping nightclubs, lively cabaret shows, and loud karaoke bars.
To get your night started with a “Thai style” club experience, head to the large and modern Cher Club, which showcases a stage show and male coyote dancers. Ten minutes away is Warm Up Cafe, one of Chiang Mai’s longest-running clubs and an institution in the city’s nightlife scene. Though frequented by a mixed clientele, Warm Up Cafe is gay-friendly and welcomes all with house and international DJs blasting dance hits well into the wee hours of the morning. To catch flamboyant drag shows and provocative go-go dancers, head to Adam’s Apple Club. For a smaller, more intimate venue, Circle Pub hosts two shows every night of either cabaret or drag. Ram Bar is considered to be one of Chiang Mai’s most gay-friendly clubs and is a popular LGBTQ hangout featuring free cabaret shows six nights a week from 10 p.m. onwards. FreeGuy Club plays host to live kinky shows, or if you’re in the mood to belt out some tunes, Barocco Karaoke Bar is open for sing-alongs in a cozy lounge setting. If you really want to sing, OkeBoy Karaoke is another spot open daily from 10 p.m.
Cafes, bars, and restaurants
Contributing to Chiang Mai’s hip vibe is an overabundance of chic cafes and LGBTQ-friendly restaurants. Ginger & Kafe @ The House is perfect for a morning-after breakfast and coffee, serving Asian fusion food amid quirky decor. Pern’s Bistro and Bar serves varied cuisine with live music during the evenings, and La Frenchie dishes up French cuisine in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. For tasty and reasonably-priced Korean-style BBQ and Japanese buffet, head to APAO Korean BBQ and Shabu.
If you’re in search of afternoon drinks or a laidback evening, there are many bars in Chiang Mai that give visitors a taste of the city’s exciting nightlife in more relaxed settings. C2 is a women-only bar situated just a short tuk-tuk ride out of town. Lotus Garden Bar is an open-air bamboo hut that is sure to be filled with friendly locals and expats down for a good time. Just next door to the rowdy Ram Bar you’ll find Secrets Bar, one of Chiang Mai’s oldest standing gay beer bars with an easy-going atmosphere.
Sightseeing and attractions
Chiang Mai’s lush greenery and pristine rainforests make for excellent sightseeing of northern Thailand’s magnificent rural landscape. With packages and tour guides created for gay travelers in mind, such as Out Adventures or Purple Drag, you can find knowledgeable experts and like-minded individuals to visit elephant sanctuaries, charming villages, waterfalls, and hot springs–all of which dot the region surrounding Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai also has a host of LGBTQ-friendly saunas and spas within the city, allowing travelers to meet and socialize while taking time out to relax and rejuvenate. House of Male is a popular spa among visitors and locals alike, which features a steam room, gym, large pool, and terrace with sun loungers. Club One Seven is another popular spa and hotel located on the banks of the Ping River. Along with spas, massage parlors are also largely popular in Chiang Mai with the likes of HIS Club Bar & Massage or the sensual Apollo Massage near the Night Bazaar.
Have you got any tips for an LGBTQ-friendly trip to Chiang Mai? Share them with us in the comments below!
Header image by Darcey Beau.