Chiang Mai is a popular city in Thailand, and is translated to mean the ‘New City’ in the native language of Thai. This city is as old as the hills and was founded way back in 1296 having taken advantage of its location on the Ping River which was used as a major trading route when it first began and has significant historical importance to date.
Not only is this region subdivided into four parts, namely Nakhon Ping, Mengrai, Srivijaya, and Kawila. But it also has a vast population of 160,000 residents and growing.
If you are visiting this extraordinary city, you should book your flights at an appropriate time to make the best out of it, keeping in mind its tropical savannah climates temperament. Although it can be tempting to travel during any time of the year, it is advisable to go to the city during the mild to hot months between November and March when temperatures hover between 32 degrees and can get up to 36 degrees on some days.
Rainy season in Thailand is usually between the end of March and beginning of October, so you would probably want to avoid those months, however for some people going during the off-peak seasons is the way to go, and that is perfectly fine too.
Where to Next?
If you have already booked your trip and are excited to get going and dive in the deep end of this magnificent city, rich in its culture and nightlife, we have just the thing for you. This article will touch on all the places that we think you should be visiting to get the best out of it. From the nightlife in Chiang Mai to its famous flower festival and getting a glimpse of the colonial architecture of the hotels in Nakhorn Ping to venturing towards the south-west corner of Mengrai and its well-kept tradition of handmade pottery and ceramics.
All four corners are covered in our articles so feel free to take a page out of any of these and enjoy everything that the ‘New City’ has to offer.
But first, the nightlife of Chiang Mai…there is such an array of things to do that there is definitely something for everyone’s taste and one would never run out of options to choose from. However, we have chosen ten of the places that we think are a definite go-to when visiting Chiang Mai.
What is there to do at night in Chiang Mai?
Just like a picture from a postcard, the long endless boulevards of hanging fairy lights, bicycle bells and car horns fill the atmosphere of the streets, a crisp cool breeze blows down your spine, almost pushing you – alluring you towards all the different sights and sounds never been heard before in such harmony, drum beats from the north, laughter from the east, a guitar strumming in the west and the smell of mu ping (pork skewers) calling you in the south, all at once summoning you to visit everything in one night of bliss. But alas, it cannot be done.
This old town, inside a moat, is truly something to experience, for your soul, if not anything else. Where else would you find barefoot monks trotting along peaceful temple spires in their robes collecting alms at the break of dawn enjoying the serenity of a new day, while bars and clubs open their doors as soon as the sun decides to go to bed?
Vintage Chiang Mai
A quaint bar – that is popular amongst the young locals. As the name suggests, it is built around a vintage décor emotive, similar to Barcelona’s Tapas and Paellas bars. But here they focus not only on the food and drinks but also on the ambience, to make sure you really get the most out of it.
With its vintage Television sets to its old-school coke bottles, age-old posters and retro drapes, the atmosphere in one to admire. Thai pop music playing in the background and sometimes even a lucky international pop artist gets a chance to show off their lyrics to the crowd. If you’re looking for a place that’s away from the crowds, this is the place to be.
Chiang Mai is positioned conveniently next to the Ping River, which flows past the city and as a result a lot of the attractions have been built in and around this as a means of an attractive feature that enhances the brilliance of the hanging lights in the night time.
Bus Bar is one of these places that has taken advantage of it – built right next to the Nawarat Bridge, where the Yi Peng Lantern Festival is often held during the months of October and November.
If you’re wondering why it is called the Bus Bar, this is because of the concept of buses, being used as serving spots to purchase your alcohol from. It is quite a unique concept and the juxtaposition of a traditional atmosphere with a cheeky concept like this definitely bring the crowds here for a cold beer under a starry night sky with the reflections in the water.
They offer live bands and DJs depending on the time of the night you visit. It is a well-built idea that has lots of regulars returning to enjoy the outside atmosphere of the city and the friendships its offers.
Warm Up Café
If you into popular, big and overcrowded clubs, our choice of the Warm Up café would be it. The crowd that surfaces here are usually a mix between the young local university students and tourists that are wandering the town and looking for some fun. It has been around for almost 15 years, so they must be doing something right.
The other reason we chose this venue is that it is everything under one roof – a club, a restaurant, a pub and a multi-arena venue. They have a restaurant in the club that offers an alfresco dining experience and the back of the venue holds the dancing and music stages and standing tables too.
Every couple of weekends the local bands strut their stuff there showcasing their talents of both musical instruments and singing, mostly of the pop genre. And on other times and nights, there is always a famous or well-known DJ that rocks the socks off everyone.
A word of caution though, would be to arrive early, by this we mean the crowd start to appear around 22:00 pm on the weekend and it may be difficult to get a table or room on the dance floor after that, let alone a drink at the bar. Booking a table is possible with a deposit.
The choice of drinks is never disappointing, from Johnnie Walker to 100 pipers and flavoured liquors, it can be slightly on the expensive side if you keep drinking the whole night, but to tickle your fancy they have added the option of bringing your own bottle of something to the venue and charge corkage for it.
If it is your first time, you may be a little overwhelmed with all the different sights and sounds, so depending on your taste, it could be the difference between turning around and walking right back out again or going inside and having a blast!
Zoe in Yellow
We keep hearing about this place from most travellers that frequent the nightlife of Chiang Mai and so we had to include this option in our list too. Might be because a lot of Chiang Mai’s inexpensive tourist attractions and accommodations are a stone’s throw away, thus hanging out here would make perfect sense.
If you’re into the whole Koh Phangan vibe of music festivals and drinking cheap alcohol in bucket-loads while raving to loud electronic music, then this is THE bar for you!
Zoe’s is part of the famous Boon Yoo market area that houses multitudes of bars that cater to different preferential groups. We will throw in a few of those for good measure.
For all the Reggae lovers we recommend the Roots Rock Reggae Bar. With drinks ranging from 70b per bottle and mixes like rum and coke for as little as 120b, plus the entertainment of live bands, it has been known to be one of the best places to enjoy a ‘chilled-night’ out.
Although, don’t be dismayed if chilled vibes aren’t your thing because there is also a slightly heavier option for fans of head-banging, at the Pentatonic Rock Bar where Rock music is their choice of rhythms.
Havana Salon, is also another joint worth a mention. Definitely one to visit for a couple of warm-up drinks before a night out. All of these are less busy than Zoe in Yellow.
If you think enjoying the nightlife in Chiang Mai means you will only be doing traditional and cultural activities, think again. The venue called Infinity Club is bursting out of its seams with a European modernist demeanour all around! It could be one of the only post-modern clubs around by a long shot. Both local and international DJs grace its turntables.
Its frequent entertainers usually fall under the Thai four-piece band, however the surprisingly modern décor, laser lights and absurd sound systems that could blow the roof off of the place.
Again, same tip from us – book in advance and pitch up nice and early.
How Much Are Bar Girls in Chiang Mai?
Depending on whether you get along with the girl you met at the bar well or not, you would end up paying her bar fine to spend more time with her and perhaps take it ‘further’.
This payment is referred to as a ‘bar fine’, which can be from as little as 500 baht in Chiang Mai. This is often escalated to either 1,000 Baht if you just want to spend a short time with her or up to 2,500 Baht, if you want to be with her for a longer time i.e. take her back to your hotel. The price does depend on which venue you are at, not all of them charge the same price.
There are also some options of adult bars which are the go-go bars, which also follow the same routine as the girlie bars. Although they are strip places with women in skimpy clothes dancing on poles, they often discuss a drink first, if accepted by the other party i.e. the visitor, then the conversation goes into how much they charge for spending time for a short period or a long period.
Does Chiang Mai Have A Red-Light District?
Just over a kilometre long between the Old City moat and the Ping River, you will find a popular tourist (and local) destination which is the equivalent of its red-light district. We’re talking about the infamous Loi Kroh, also known as one of the two ‘girlie bars’ it has to offer.
You can even pop into one of its soapy or ‘happy ending’ massage parlours. There are also a few yoga centres if you’re looking for some peace and calm instead.
Bonus Tip: Night Bazaar
Before you head back to your home or hotel room, don’t forget to stop at the famous Night Bazaar, which is Chiang Mai’s famous shopping region, and also of Thailand. Spaces out between two roads, namely Loi Kroh and Chang Khlan Rd. The stalls are set up as the sun goes down at 18:00 pm and run throughout the night until just before 23:00 pm.
If you start your ‘bazaar journey at the Tha Phae Road side, and work your way towards Loi Kroh – you will manage to cover from one end of the market to the other within good time.
It may not seem that long, but it has dozens of alleyways and small detours along the way where you can get lost in its splendour and array of different foods and products on sale.
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