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Chiang Mai Gay Scene Overview

The Chiang Mai Gay scene

What is the gay scene like?

A question often asked by prospective LGBT 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 LGBT people from the surrounding towns and provinces come to the city to study and work, making it seem that LGBT 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 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?

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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 few years with stricter enforcement of closing times. Some big clubs such as Sound Up CMI (Formerly Mandalay Bar), Warm Up and Tawan Deang are still frequented, and often a gay corner emerges as customers of similar persuasion coalesce together.

Chiang Mai Gay Scene - Mandalay Bar CMI Chiang Mai
Sound Up CMI – big nightclub in Chiang Mai popular with Thai gays

Over recent years Chiang Mai has seen several specifically gay night clubs open and close, most notably See Man Pub and G-Star. April 2019 saw the opening of a new venue, Cher Club which is now Chiang Mai’s main gay club catering predominantly to Thai customers.

Cher Club - Gay Night Club in Chiang Mai crowded night
Cher Club – Gay Club popular with Gay Thai patrons

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 selection ofgay 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 a 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 several “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 few years, the night bazaar area, traditional home of Chiang Mai’s gay scene for foreigners, has re-established 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 less venues here now. 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. With an increase in the number of foreigners staying long term in apartments in Santitham, a couple of local gay bars have also opened up there.

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 new 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 once again with the development of Gay Soi 6, 2020 seeing eight gay bars located in the area.

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 here, 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 convenient 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.

Chiang Mai Gay Map of Night Bazaar and Gay Soi 6 Bars - feb 2020
Gay Map – Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and Gay Soi 6

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 a few gay accommodation options: 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. However, the legendary Lotus Hotel, across the road from Adam’s Apple Club is now under new management and no longer specifically gay.

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 gay sauna House of Male is just behind the mall in the the adjacent Nimmanahaeminda area which also offers plenty more entertainment options.

Chiang Mai Gay Map - Chang Puek and Santitham Feb 2020
Gay Map – Chang Puek And Santitham

Santitham and the neighbouring Jet Yod areas are a popular location for long stay tourists with an abundance of serviced apartments available at modest rates. Check out our articles on serviced apartments. 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 has proved 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. Across the intersection, the U Nimman Hotel and the One Nimman Mall complex opened in 2018 making this area the definitive centre of trendy Chiang Mai.

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 any gay venues here, it is the archetypal metro-sexual area where gay people can feel comfortable. There are several mixed night clubs here too, some mentioned earlier.

The last couple of years has seen many new hotel opening in the Nimman area so this is increasingly a good place to stay.

Chang Klan Area

This area is home to the beautiful Club One Seven gay guest house and sauna, located in an antique 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

Chang Klan Area is home to several gay massage shops.

handsome sexy massage men at apollo chiang mai
Handsome Masseurs from Apollo Massage in Chang Klan

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