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Gay Chiang Mai High Season Update

Mid December and a delayed cool season has finally arrived in Chiang Mai  ushering in the high season, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to provide an update on the gay scene here.  Although the gay venues themselves haven’t changed so much, we’ve noticed quite a change in where people go and the entertainment favoured by gay ex-pats over the last couple of years.

Suan Dok gate Chiang Mai
Beautiful cool seasons skies over Suan Dok Gate

Chiang Mai’s traditional “gay bars” seem much less popular than they were, whilst new mixed modern venues are very much in the ascendency.  Much of Chiang Mai’s gay social scene has now shifted away from the traditional tourist enclaves around the night bazaar and Thapae gate to the up and coming cosmopolitan areas of Santitham and Nimmanheminda to the north west of the old city.

The big success story of 2012 has been the opening of Chiang Mai’s first specifically gay club – See Man Pub in the Nimmanheminda area.   Whilst attracting primarily a Thai clientele this, mega venue has built up a modest farang following too.  This large Thai style club is in a modern, air-conditioned pavilion.  Nightly shows include ladyboy acts and many attractive coyote boys.  It’s open until very late and is often packed to capacity, especially at weekends.  In the few months it has been open See Man Pub has established itself as the standard bearer of gay entertainment in Chiang Mai.

See Man Pub

The Nimmanheminda area is home to several other large clubs too, although not specifically gay these places are all quite popular with gay Thais and in the know farangs.  Best known is Warm Up Cafe, whilst others include Monkey Club, Tawaeng Deang and Infinity (just around the corner from See Man Pub).  The small sois off Nimmanheminda road have seen explosive growth in wine bars, coffee shops and boutique restaurant’s making this the fashionable part of town.  Although none are specifically gay, these venues, by their nature are ultra-gay friendly and attract many gay customers.

Gay Chiang mai Boys at Freeguy ClubAnother noticeable change has been the deepening divide between the Commercial bars, or houses of prostitution, and the general social scene.  Perhaps it’s a sign of modernisation in Thailand’s social structure, moral values and the improved economic fortunes that many now enjoy.   Not only are there very few money boys to be found in the non-commercial bars, but young Thai’s are now far less likely to go to places where prostitutes hang out for fear of being labelled as prostitutes themselves.

Of Gay Chiang Mai’s five male Go-Go bars, or more accurately host bars with sexy shows and nudity, Adam’s Apple Club is the only one with real go-go.  Adam’s and Free Guy Club are the two host bars most popular with Farangs whilst New My Way and Circle Pub are more orientated towards a Thai market, and increasingly attract women customers. 

The much vaunted opening of Chiang Mai 19 (boy) in the grounds of the old Coffee Boy was a disappointment.   Expectations of a return to the opulent Teak Wood antique house that defined Chiang Mai’s legendary gay venue of two or three decades ago were dashed by the discovery that the new bar was a shoddy tin roofed shack with more mama-sans than boys.

More than ever the guys working in the host bars are almost exclusively straight Tai Yai from the Shan State, many have been there for years and continue to work despite being well past retirement age.  Many of our friends are Tai Yai, and very nice people, not to mention often extremely handsome with quite macho looks.  They suffer the adversities of their lives in Thailand without complaint, yet one must understand how things are.  Gay is not accepted in Shan culture in the way it is by Thai’s and most Shan bar boys are super straight; often married with children.  Although they work in the bars to make a living don’t expect too much gayness from them if you take one to your room.

Sexy Shan Boys
Sexy Guys from The Shan State

The bigger sector of Chiang Mai’s male prostitution business remains the massage shops, there are sixteen in our listings spread all over town but the area around Chiang Mai Land, a few kilometres south of the city centre has a cluster with two new places, Heaven and Club Sixty Nine opening this year to join the existing Blues Club, One 2 Come, His Club, and Victory Massage.

Probably the biggest impact on gay social scene demographics has been the smart phone and applications like grindr Jackd and Hornet  After Gaydar and Gay Romeo have already put a large dent in the role of the traditional gay bar as somewhere to meet people for sex, these mobile apps may well be the final nail in the coffin.  Just as many old-fashioned gay bars in western cities are headed the way of the Dodo, so it seems are many gay bars in Chiang Mai.  As more and more of the younger Thai generation become netizens and can now afford smart phones they can go anywhere to enjoy a night out whilst meeting new sexdates on-line, often identifying  those close by or even in the same bar using this technology.

Gay Bar in Gay Chiang MaiSo what of Chiang Mai’s traditional gay bars?  Increasingly they are becoming like the communal lounge of an old folks home, the place where Chiang Mai’s twilight generation of gay ex-pats meet up for a glass of wine whilst reminiscing about the old days when boys were everywhere.  When 200Bt bought a quick blow job from a hill tribe boy in the bar’s toilets and 500Bt would buy whatever take home sexual gratification you cared to imagine. 

Gone are the friendly young Thai gay guys of yesteryear, all that you’ll find these days in the more traditional (non prostitute) bars is a few old carpet bagger money boys acting like matron to the bars geriatric occupants.   No easy 500Bt sex here, these are guys who’re only interested in hooking their tricks for the house and car inheritance. Of course, the prophecy of demise for the traditional gay bar is self-fulfilling.  Once these places become nothing more than social meeting places the gay requirement evaporates.   After all, gay people can enjoy social intercourse in so many of Chiang Mai’s hundreds of bars, restaurants and cafes which are quite gay friendly; who needs gay bars?

Indeed, this is what is happening.  With new trendy venues opening almost weekly around Nimmanheminda and Santitham gay expats are increasingly choosing such places to meet and socialise.  Those gay businesses that will survive are those that adapt to the changing market and offer more than just a place to sit and talk with the cute bar staff or engage prostitutes.  More and more smart mixed venues which offer food are becoming the replacement for the traditional Chiang Mai bar.  Some successful examples of such venues run by gay entrepreneurs include Sabbai Dee Santitham, Spirit House, West Restaurant, The Wine Shoppe and Radchada Garden Café.

Gay boys at Radchada Cafe
Friendly gay guys at Radchada Garden Cafe

If you are visiting Chiang Mai this high season come with an open mind and a smart phone.  If you come expecting the traditional Thai gay scene of old you’ll likely be disappointed.  Instead, make an effort to explore the modern Chiang Mai and discover what it has to offer.  I’m sure you’ll be back.

  1. […] Our thanks to the guys at Bontong and Radchada for this super article on High Season in Chiang Mai. You can read the full piece with all the pictures here – […]

  2. […] Now for all the news and to see why they’ve included this enticing picture – go on – click over to them …. […]

  3. ben says:

    Yes i am in chiang mai for commercial sex because i like thai yai men. But had really terrible experiences both at circle pub and new my way, all i need to say is be away from these 2 bars, rude guys, they even dont let them to be kissed and touched, 3 nights ago i send the boy from my room and said bye bye, cause he says no touch no kiss and i said ok bye bye, then he said give me 500 baht ( for what even not touched? ) i said no go away , and he was very angry to me and about to kick me, just gave him 100baht for tuk tuk and he went. Then i called the mamasan (new my way )and told the event and the answer was the boy is not gay ………beleive it or not he said me he is not gay so this is normal. Then he left the phone open and i waited him on the phone 10minutes then closed. Rude, rude, Do never go there.
    Be away from these 2 bars. Yes apple is fine but just call a massage in your room for only 1500baht , why to pay money for a beer 250 baht and 300baht for the bar and 1500 for the boy , no way. Massage parlors is my fav. from now on.

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