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Soi 6 – the new home of gay Chiang Mai

Chareon Prathet Soi 6 – Chiang Mai’s new Gay Soi

Over the last few years the foreign gay scene in Chiang Mai has become increasingly divergent with new bars being spread out in different locations, rather than concentrated around the night bazaar or Chang Puek area as was always the case historically. The result has been a lack of homogeneity in Chiang Mai’s gay bar scene which has worked negatively for most of the smaller bars who have been struggling to find customers.

Live music at Soho
Live music at Soho – one of several bars that has been struggling recently

April last year marked the end of the Night Bazaar era as Secrets Bar and CU Bar, the last remaining bars from the old days, were forced to move out, and set up shop in the heart of the main tourist bar zone around the notorious “Spicy” and Zoey in Yellow”. Meanwhile, one of the more successful newer entrants to the market, Ram Bar, was doing good business down on the river.

Fun times at Ram Bar
Busy night at the old Ram Bar on the river

Generally, over the last year, the nucleus of Chiang Mai’s night life has been steadily moving closer to the area around Nimmanahaeminda and the new Maya mall, but the area has yet to inspire any foreigner orientated gay venues.. As the beer bar business were fighting for customers across town, only the go-go bars, in their traditional Chang Puek stronghold have withstood the changing times and continue much as they did a decade ago.

The good news is developments of recent months have seen the bar scene coming full circle with a coming together of several gay business in new venues in a different part of the night bazaar. Yet, they’re still close to the original roots of the gay bar scene in Chiang Mai where The Snake Pit, The Peak and Sleaze alley had previously developed over a twenty year period.

Kalare Night Baar and Chiang Mai gay Soi 6
Kalare Night Bazaar building and the entrance to Soi 6 from Chang Klan Road

Chareon Prathet Soi 6 might at first seem an unlikely location for any kind of bar scene. It is a rather non-descript alley running from the main night bazaar on Chang Klan road (opposite Le Meridien Hotel and old Night Bazaar building) down to Chareon Prathet Road, which basically runs along the river. Along its northern side is the Kalare Night Bazaar complex, home to many tourist shops, restaurants and other tourist businesses, as well as a few bars. It is in here that, last year, Khun Mai took over an existing gay friendly bar and turned it into the much gayer Orion Bar.

Friendly staff at Orion Bar
Friendly staff at Orion Bar

Given the tourist crowd that frequents the Kalare night bazaar, Orion’s clientele has always been somewhat mixed. As a friendly outgoing host, Khun Mai has built on this to develop a successful business; straight friendly with a good mix of both regular gay customers, gay tourists and passing tourists of all genders and ages.

Khun Ice at Mango
Khun Ice the owner of Ice Bar

A second bar, originally named Mango Bar, was opened close to Orion by Khun Ice following similar concepts, but with Ice as the self-appointed main attraction. The bar, now simply called Ice bar, also does well and is another friendly watering hole.

The New Ram Bar

The latest and biggest development on soi 6 was the announcement that Ram Bar would be opening their new venue at the bottom of the soi, some 150 M from Orion Bar. Ram bar had been forced to quit their previous location when their lease was not renewed. The new bar is a custom built outdoor bar, tastefully designed with smart trendy décor and a layout which includes a stage for regular cabaret shows on Friday and Saturday night’s. The new Ram bar opened its doors with a lavish diamond themed party on 5th August.

Busy night at the New Ram Bar
Busy night at the New Ram Bar
Cabaret show at the new Ram Bar
Cabaret show at the new Ram Bar

Secrets is coming

More good news was the announcement from Secrets Bar that they too would be moving to soi 6, also with ambitious plans for a brand new venue literally right next to Ram Bar. To facilitate the move, Secrets sold the business at their old location and are currently closed whilst the development of the new venue proceeds at a frenetic pace. They plan to be open again in just a few weeks. This will be the forth and best yet re-incarnation of Secrets Bar

Construction of the new Secrets Bar - the roof is already on
Construction of the new Secrets Bar – the roof is already on
Layout plan for the New Secrets Bar
Layout plan for the New Secrets Bar

Orion Bar has always been popular and Ram bar has been packed since it re-opened. Soi six will soon have four bars within a short walking distance, and in a popular tourist area with other amenities close by. Other bars are rumored to be moving or setting up shop in the area too. There is also the nearby Ozeed bar in the original night bazaar building which now has a growing community of beer bars, several of which are quite gay friendly too.

Fun at Ozeed Bar
Fun at Ozeed Bar with owner Khun Jeep (white shirt)

With several bars concentrated back in one area there is now hope that, by this year’s high season a new gay vibe will have emerged in Chiang Mai. Given the nature and location of these bars they are also becoming more mixed and straight friendly with a general tourist crowd, something which is becoming essential for any gay bar that wants to survive in the longer term.

Ram bar on Soi 6 - Chiang Mai's new gay soi
Ram bar on Soi 6 – Chiang Mai’s new gay soi

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