It’s not quite Bangkok. But the gay scene of Chiang Mai is definitely no Vatican City…
It’s wild without being rabid. It’s historical without being stuffy. It’s a wonderful blend of adventure and culture. You can admire ancient temples on the same street where you’d also stumble upon a fun bar with delicious cocktails. There are street bars, food carts, and shirtless bar hosts outside their respective clubs dragging in customers from the street – and we were here for all of it!
Thailand is one of the most-gay friendly countries in Asia. The Thai people are welcoming of all travelers, regardless of background, race, or who you love. The locals are happy to see people immersing themselves in their culture and chat with tourists about their own backgrounds.
There is a visible, albeit subdued gay scene in Chiang Mai with lots of bars and clubs to hit up. It isn’t as magical as the gay scene of Bangkok but there are still plenty of drag cabarets, hot exotic dancers, and dance halls to check out. Chiang Mai is also a must-visit for foodies as this northern region of Thailand has its own unique cuisine to try out. We found new dishes that we’d never heard of before and it truly opened our eyes (and taste buds) to a whole new palate.
Here is our ultimate gay guide to Chiang Mai with all the best things to do, where to stay, eat, party, and more!
Gay tour of Thailand
Discover how Thailand earned its moniker ‘The Land of Smiles' on this awesome gay tour with Out Adventures. The boys over at OA run four annual departures through the country with stops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, and Phuket. It's a fantastic way for first-timers to Thailand to get a thorough flavor of this incredible country with a fabulous bunch of squirrel friends to hand.
Is Chiang Mai safe for gay travelers?
Chiang Mai was super receptive to us as a gay couple. Like the rest of Thailand, Chiang Mai is one of the safest places in all of Asia to vist. The locals are very welcoming of tourists, including those who are LGBTQ. We walked hand in hand down one of the busiest streets in the city and didn’t experience so much as a raised eyebrow.
There was no issue with us getting a double bed in any of the hotels we stayed in. We were always treated with the same respect as any straight couple would be.
Locals we met told us that while LGBTQ tourists can express themselves harassment-free, it sometimes doesn’t extend to local gays. There are still degrees of intolerance that LGBTQ youth in Thailand face. For instance, Chiang Mai didn’t have a Pride parade between 2009-2018 due to threats from right-wing protestors. Luckily, it returned in 2019 in all its glory!
In addition, if you're exploring more rural areas, it would be best to steer clear of PDA as intolerance is more prevalent. Read more in our interview with local Thai boy Saroj from Bangkok about what gay life in Thailand is really like.
The gay area of Chiang Mai
The gay area of Chiang Mai is largely based around the Night Market area, in particular by Charoenprathet Alley 6, Charoenprathet Road, and the Kalare shopping plaza…now try saying all that after a few Margaritas!
It’s quite a vibrant and colorful area, always with something going on! You’ll know exactly when you’ve arrived at the right place when you spot the exotic dancers, drag queens, and loudmouthed hosts standing outside their bars vying to get your custom.
Gay hotels in Chiang Mai
We found the hotels in Chiang Mai to be more inexpensive than the gay hotels of Bangkok allowing you to get more bang for your buck here. When it comes to gay hotels in Chiang Mai there is a handful to check out along with many gay-friendly options. We've set out below some of our favorite gay hotels in Chiang Mai:
Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort
In a nutshell
- Ultra-glamorous design
- Luxurious restaurant
- Swimming pool with a poolside bar
- Excellent pampering spa
Nestled in the heart of Chiang Mai, snug beneath a giant 100-year-old rain tree is the elegant Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort.
It contains six different types of residences, each one featuring Lanna-Colonial style design to take you back to the end of the 19th century. We loved looking at the gay friendly resort’s exterior, which is utterly breathtaking! It features intricately designed wood carvings and stucco elephants perched above the archways.
We recommend the Romantic Lanna Deluxe room. It contains stunning artworks and colonial-style tiles, giving the room a vintage aesthetic. The furniture is handcrafted and gives the place a very homely feel. The spa is also a delight, offering luxury massages and premium treatments – trust us, these are unmissable!
The outdoor pool was probably our favorite part of Na Nirand. Its long rectangular shape feels like the kind of pool you’d find in a millionaire’s mansion, surrounded by sky-scraping palmetto-like trees. For a bite to eat or glass of wine, the TIME Riverfront Cuisine & Bar overlooking the river is simply exquisite! Na Nirand Resort is so romantic and beautiful that it’s a popular spot for hosting parties, meetings… or even a gay wedding reception… just sayin'!
Prices at Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort start from $90 per night:
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
The Rim Resort
In a nutshell
- Spacious rooms with TV and coffeemaker
- Lovely on-site restaurant
- Swimming pool with a lounge bar
- Central location in Chiang Mai's Old Town area
Surrounded by ancient ramparts and moats in the Old City square, the Rim Resort boasts a classic Lanna design that instantly catches the eye of all those who pass by.
Rooms are spacious and modestly decorated. We loved the Dahla Junior Suite, as it's on the third (and highest) floor of the resort with its own private Jacuzzi. The views from that balcony are something else!
If you manage to pull yourself out of the bedroom, be sure to explore the rest of the resort's grounds. The swimming pool is gorg, complete with daybeds and chairs to soak up the cool Thai breeze. There is also a lounge where you can play board games and grab a snack or drink. Though be warned: this closes at 7pm each evening.
The on-site restaurant is handy for a first night in Chiang Mai, serving up a mix of Thai and western cuisine. This also closes at 7 pm though, so it’s only an option for when you are wanting an early meal. Luckily, the Rim is ideally situated in the heart of Chiang Mai's Old Town, so you can easily head out to explore the bustling night markets.
Prices at The Rim Resort start from $60 per night:
Club One Seven Guesthouse & Gym
In a nutshell
- Super private, exclusively gay-men only resort
- On-site restaurant, sauna, spa, and gym
- Joystick-shaped pool!
It’s all gay. It’s all-male. And as for wearing clothes? Well, that’s completely up to you!
Club One Seven is pretty famous across the gay scene of Chiang Mai. When we stayed here, we noticed a lot of locals coming to use the facilities on a day pass. It has a sauna, gym, massage salon, and an iconic joystick-shaped pool! Pretty unique right? We loved the convivial atmosphere here.
They have 11 uniquely designed rooms spaced out in a 2-story teak-wood guesthouse ensuring that it never feels too crowded. Room types include the newer hostel-style rooms with bunk beds and the more luxurious ones with romantic four-poster beds. We recommend one of their deluxe rooms with a river view, so you can enjoy looking directly onto the water from your private balcony.
In terms of location, Club One Seven is around half a mile away from the main city area. It's perfect for really relaxing and winding down after days spent exploring. Be sure to look out for their fantastic, super popular gay parties that take place throughout the year.
Prices at Club One Seven start from $12 per night:
Chiang Mai gay bars
There are quite a lot of gay bars in Chiang Mai! To help, we've split this into two – first, the gay bars you'd go to for drinks with friends or a romantic cocktail with your loved one, and second, the gay bars that feature cabaret, drag shows, and exotic dancing. Here are a few of our favorite gay bars for drinks to check out.
Note that the iconic Secrets, Pandee, and Jacky gay bars have closed down.
Anything that calls itself “straight-friendly” has won us over. Ram is the most popular bar in the main gay area of Chiang Mai, with delicious drinks, great drag shows, fun dance music, and super cute staff. The famous Cabaret Nights became so highly attended that they started putting on a show every night of the week. Yet it still manages to draw in tons of tourists and locals, both gay and straight, all vying for the prime viewing spot. Expect to see giant feathers, tons of glitter, and disco lights. We recommend getting here early as the place tends to get filled up pretty fast!
Open: Ram Bar is open every evening until around 1am.
Location: You can find it at 48 Chareonprathet Lane 6 Alley.
This gay bar is a blink and you’ll miss it kind of place. It’s tucked away in the far corner of the Night Bazaar area. It’s a street bar, so it’s mostly outdoor seating only. The best time to go would be if there was a particularly nice evening during your trip, as you can sit outside and take in the evening scenery. The staff are very friendly and know how to make good cocktails. We’d recommend only stopping by here as a place to warm up before moving on elsewhere though.
Open: Orion Bar is open daily from 5 pm until midnight
Location: You can find it on Soi Chareonprathet Lane 6 Alley
Circle Put is one of the few gay bars we’ve been to that felt like a complete theatrical experience! From the stage that is framed by an extravagant proscenium arch to the swinging chandeliers to the over-the-top, sensual performances, the Circle Club marries theatrics with nightly fun. The audience is mostly gay men, who all show up for the hot exotic dancers and witty drag sets. The drinks are pricey, but with fun music, dancing, and hot wait staff, we consider it all totally worth it.
Open: Circle Pub is open daily from 8 pm until 1 am
Location: It can be found at 161, 7-8 Soi Arawan, Tambon Si Phum
Drag shows and dancing shows in Chiang Mai
Liza once said, “life is a cabaret” – and Chiang Mai has truly taken that sentiment to heart! With theatrical lip-syncing, vigorous pelvic thrusting, and drinks to go around, Chiang Mai’s drag show bars are pumping with energy and adventure.
If you ask us, it’s worth checking out the following as these kinds of performances aren’t like anything we’ve seen in any other gay place we’ve visited! Note that the popular New My Way bar closed after its beloved owner, Khun Gong passed away in April 2021. Also, the Sixcret Show also closed down during Covid.
Named after the ‘Original Sinner' (we know that’s technically Eve but why should the girl get all the blame?), Adam’s Apple is the place to go for the ultimate lavish affair. The drinks are pricey, but the experience is unforgettable. With gorgeous boy dancers, drag queens, and cabaret performances, it is one of the hottest spots in the city for LGBTQ expression. When we went there, the boys were dancing as if their lives depended on it! Then, the drag queens took to the stage at about 10:30pm and had the audience in stitches until after midnight.
Open: Adam’s Apple is open daily from 9pm until midnight (on weekdays) and until 1am on weekends
Location: It is located at 1-21/22 Soi Viangbua Amphoe Muang Chiang Mai
Hot gay guys and loud music are just two of the things you can expect at Route 181. They regularly have quirky themes like shirtless nights, pajama parties, and neon raves, plus plenty of karaoke. Some people get super creative with their costumes – seeing what everyone else is wearing is half as fun as the night itself. Let’s just say it’s never a dull experience. Drinks are reasonably priced and the bar staff we spoke to were both lovely and gorgeous!
Open: Route 181 is open daily from 8pm until around 1am
Location: It is located at Changpurk Road 181/46, A. Sripoom
Chiang Mai gay clubs
It’s time to cut loose and go for a dance. While Chiang Mai isn’t as wild as the likes of gay Bangkok or super gay Berlin, it has many spots that are perfect for partying and losing yourself to some heavy musical beats. Sadly, there aren’t any exclusively gay clubs in Chiang Mai but there are a handful of gay-friendly clubs. We've noted our favorites below:
Take one massive dance hall, a world-class DJ, and tons of free-spirited party animals, and you've got yourself a night at Sound Up! On the night that we went, the music was heavily focused on techno and EDM. The use of strobe lights and massive LED screens gave us very 90s rave vibes, so if you're a bit of a techno head, this place is perfect for you! Sound Up typically attracts a mixed group of people with a noticeable LGBTQ clientele.
Open: Sound Up is open on Saturdays from 9pm until around 2am
Location: You can find it at 5/3 Moon Muang Road Lane 2, Tambon Phra Sing
While this is a straight club, it attracts a decent amount of LGBTQ crowds and is particularly popular with backpackers. Serving food, plenty of beers and some yummy cocktails (try the Lost in Chiang Mai cocktail!) this is a fun spot to come for dancing late at night. The atmosphere is usually pretty exciting so you're sure to make new friends with other travelers from around the world while dancing to the DJ beats. They also host pretty epic parties on special dates like Songkran, New Year and Halloween!
Open: Zoe in Yellow is open every day from 5pm until midnight
Location: It's located at 40/12 Ratvithi Road
Chiang Mai Gay Pride
Chiang Mai Pride is the only LGBTQ event in the city, usually held in February. It makes the streets burst with an explosion of color, drag queens and kings, hot shirtless men, plus loud queer anthems. After 10-years of a Pride-less city, due to threats of violence, it finally got its comeback in 2019. And boy did people come out to celebrate! It now holds a special place in the hearts of queer Thai people across the country, who see it as a way to acknowledge the history of intolerance that the community has overcome whilst rejoicing in the beauty of the present day.
The Chiang Mai Pride parade typically starts at the Chiang Mai Religion Practice Center (also known as Budhastan) and finishes at Le DTa'wan Plaza where speakers reflect on LGBTQ history and issues. Afterward attendees can enjoy performances and parties. The pride parade features indigenous and disabled support advocates, activists of all kinds, LGBTQ youth, and plenty of queer allies.
Where to eat in Chiang Mai
We’ve walked you through where you’ll sleep, where you’ll drink, and where you’ll party. But let's not skip out our favorite part – where to eat! Here are a few of our favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai that we loved and still rave about:
We heard from everyone that the Jacky Show restaurant was the best in all of Chiang Mai, so of course, we had to put it to the test. Inside, we found the place to be super charming and romantic. The food was delicious and so well prepared. We recommend getting the six-course surprise meal from the Chef. Our surprises included a rich flavorsome onion soup, salmon with caviar, and duck burgers.
Mix by name, mix by nature – this was easily our favorite restaurant in all of Chiang Mai. Anyone wanting to taste the best example of a Thai dish needs to hit this place up! The menu is extensive (250 items to choose from!) covering a wide base of cuisines and cultures – all delicious. There are also over 80 choices of cocktails… did we mention how much we love this place?! We also loved the decor design here, with unique eclectic furniture, a greenery wall and indoor or outdoor seating areas.
Goodsouls is a plant-based restaurant that aims to bring exquisite vegan options to the local community. These guys are passionate about all things animal welfare, environmentalism, and healthy eating. They serve huge portions, so you never feel hungry leaving, plus you feel as if all the toxins have been washed from your body! The wait staff is really lovely and really enthusiastic about explaining the health benefits of each dish.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
Planning out an itinerary of things to do is arguably the most stressful part of traveling. We know that we’ve had our fair share of rows mapping out a strategy… but in this section, we’ve put together quite an eclectic mix of activities to do in Chiang Mai for gay travelers. Whether you’re a shopaholic, adventure seeker, foodie, or history buff, Chiang Mai is bursting with escapades for you to get into.
Discover the old city
Known for its collection of temples, the Old City is the place to go to uncover the fascinating history of Chiang Mai. There are various ancient buildings in the area, as well as meandering streets to lose yourself in. We popped into the Chiang Mai National Museum, which we recommend you check out to learn about the city’s hidden histories, as well as Lanna culture. Other places we loved in the Old City include Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Inthakhin Saduemuang.
This tour is our top pick if you'd like to be guided to the most important of Chiang Mai's temples. When visiting a temple anywhere in Thailand, don’t forget to dress modestly, with covered shoulders and knees.
Look after an elephant!
A little fun fact about us… we love elephants (alongside dolphins and penguins)! So, taking a trip to the Elephant Rescue Park wasn’t just a highlight of Chiang Mai, but one of our all-time favorite travel memories. The sanctuary is full of elephants that were rescued from unethical riding tourism and circuses. We got to experience the elephants up close and personal, find out about their stories and personalities, and wash/brush them! You also get the chance to sponsor an elephant to ensure their continued wellbeing.
Take a cooking class
Another highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai was going to a local cooking class. We’re pretty big foodies and love learning about the cultural cuisine of the places we visit. So, it was high on our list to enroll in a cooking class once we landed in Chiang Mai to learn about Thai food. We started our day in a local market, where we selected our ingredients with our teacher. Then at the school, we cooked all the ingredients to create some delicious authentic Thai dishes including Pad Thai, Som Tam, and spicy Red Curry.
Have a chat with a monk
There’s no better place in the world to do it than Chiang Mai! You might be thinking “Seby? Stef? Are you crazy? Leave those poor monks alone!” But they are seriously approachable, friendly, and genuinely interested in people – especially tourists as they get to practice English and learn about different backgrounds. Wat Chedi Luang has a table under a shady tree where monks gather to chat with members of the public from 9am to 6pm daily.
Shop at the Sunday Walking Street
One of the busiest weekly events in Chiang Mai. Sunday Walking Street is a thriving hub of artists, dancers, musicians, and craftsmen. It takes place on a Sunday (no plot twist there), from 4pm until midnight. The market stalls stretch from ThaPae Gate all the way to Ratchadamnoen Road. There is always a hive of activity buzzing around the area. We visited as many stalls as we could to check out the handcrafted arts being sold. There are food stalls too, where you can get all sorts of delicacies and treats. We even came across a stall that provided us with a cheeky massage for just $3!
The Night Bazaar
Every evening, the intersection of Tha Pae and Chang Klan Road comes alive with music, lights, and laughter. There are plenty of food stalls, so if you missed dinner and need a quick bite, it’s a handy place to visit. You can even join a special tour to help you learn the best foods to order, and how to order them in Thai! There are also tons of stalls selling handcrafted items, knick-knacks, and typical touristy items.
The Night Bazaar is right by several gay bars we mentioned on this list, which you can head into when you’ve had a good look around. Word of warning though: pickpockets are rife around here, so keep an eye on your stuff!
Plan your trip
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Chiang Mai. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
Travel insurance: Even with all the planning in the world, sometimes things go wrong when you're traveling, which is why you should always ensure you have travel insurance! We never go anywhere without a Travel Insurance and would definitely recommend you do the same if you go to Chiang Mai.
How to get there: You can fly to Chiang Mai International Airport from Bangkok or outside of Thailand (from China, Vietnam, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong). If you're heading to Thailand from further away then you will need to transit in one of these airports.
It's also possible to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok via bus or train, which can be quite fun but also takes a lot longer (14-16 hours as opposed to about 1 hour). We always pre-book a private airport transfer so we know a driver will be waiting for us, even it's late, and we don't need to haggle or try to figure out public transport when all we want to do is fall into bed!
Visa requirements: Residents of most countries can visit Thailand visa-free for stays of up to 30 days, but you need to get an e-visa on arrival, although this is pretty straight forward. Make sure you check your personal visa requirements before you book your trip to Chiang Mai though, and ensure you have at least six months' validity left on your passport.
Getting around: The main Old Town area of Chiang Mai can be explored easily on foot, but if you're heading any further out then you might want to rent a bike, flag down a tuk-tuk or songthaew, or use the Grab app.
Vaccinations: All travelers to Thailand should be up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps, chickenpox and Covid-19. Most travelers should also be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Some travelers may also need vaccinations for hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, yellow fever and rabies, depending on what you'll be doing/where you'll be going. Check the CDC website for the most up to date info and also consult your doctor or travel nurse before making plans to visit Chiang Mai.
Currency: The currency used in Chiang Mai (and the rest of Thailand) is called the Thai Baht. The currency code is THB and the symbol is written as ฿. Currently, $1 is worth around ฿31.87, €1 converts to around ฿34.66 and £1 to around ฿41.18.
Tipping culture: Thailand is not a country with a strong tipping culture so you won't ever be expected to tip at hotels and restaurants in Chiang Mai. If you feel like your service was exceptional, you can always round up to the nearest note as a tip. Highend Western-style restaurants will likely include a 10-12% service charge. Check out this guide for more detailed information on when you should or shouldn't tip in Thailand.
Internet access: While you will be able to access free WiFi at many hotels, hostels, cafes and restaurants in Chiang Mai, it may not be readily available in other parts of the country. If you want to make sure you have reliable Internet access then you can rent a portable WiFi device while you're traveling through Thailand, that you can pick up from Bangkok airport. This way you won't ever need to rely on finding WiFi and can connect more than one device at a time – perfect if you're traveling in a group!
When to visit: Chiang Mai experiences three main seasons: cool/dry (October – February), hot (February – June) and wet (June – October). The cool/dry season is still very warm so that's the most popular time to visit the area, although the rain during the wet season helps to cool things down as well. The only time we would say to completely avoid is late February – April, when lots of vegetation and rubbish is burned in Thailand's northern region. You don't want your holiday ruined by all the smoke, trust us!
Gay map of Chiang Mai
Here's a map that includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own fabulous trip to Chiang Mai!
For more inspiration:
- Use our ultimate guide to renting pocket WiFi in Thailand to stay connected during your trip
- Don't miss our gay country guide to Thailand
- As well as our gay guide to Phuket
- Check out the best gay islands in Thailand
- Here's our gay guide to idyllic Koh Lipe, one of our favorite Thai islands
- Make sure you also read our gay guide to Koh Adang, Koh Lipe's secret sister!
- As well as our gay guide to Koh Tarutao, a hidden gem