Mai Chiang Mai nightlife is great fun; it’s a tourist town and the locals like enjoying themselves any day of the week. It’s hardly the bright lights of Bangkok but there’s fun to be had and you can stumble from one pub to the next and safely make your way back to your guesthouse blind-drunk. Chiang Mai also has plenty of great value restaurants.
For partying, you can choose from plenty of relaxing bars, a couple of banging discos, one street full of go-go bars, and a smattering of karaoke lounges. Many bars in Chiang Mai feature live music and the Thais are wicked singers. There are also a couple of discos which have DJs spinning dance floor anthems, cutting edge trance and house, and retro classics.
After midnight, all the bars here in Chiang Mai have to close – bit of a bummer, but authorities are determined to tame down the Chiang Mai nightlife. Despite all the complaining from tourists and bar owners, only a few places are allowed to remain open until 2am.
Beer is cheap here (50 baht a pint) as long as you avoid the tourist spots, and the best value are the VW combi cocktail bars on the street-sides. Bars are found all over Chiang Mai, but are mostly congregated on either side of the Moat’s eastern flank (in the Tapae Gate area), along the Ping River near Nawarat Bridge or in the vicinity of the Night Bazaar.
Eating is another big winner in Thailand, with food everywhere. Thais love their spicy food and you can find restaurants in Chiang Mai open at any hour, serving anything from 20 baht noodle bowls to big steaks; you’re really spoilt for choice and 100 baht will get you a really decent meal.
Like the rest of Thailand, the nightlife in Chiang Mai is well known for its go-go bars. These are located mostly along the western end of Loi Kroh rd, including a walk-in arcade near the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, and a stretch of Moon Muang rd south of Tapae Gate.
Julie Hut: Our own rafters’ base, where we meet and chill after a day on the river with good food from Julie’s Guesthouse, cheap beer and cool vibes. Cnr soi 5, Phra Pokklao rd (053) 274 355
The Riverside, Chiang Mai: Lively and popular with live bands, broad mixed menu and indoor/outdoor seating. 9 Charoenrat rd (053) 243 239
The Good View Restaurant, Chiang Mai: Cavernous, noisy and popular with locals, romantic band, abundant and tasty food. 13 Charoenrat rd (053) 241 866
Jerusalem Falafel: Tasty Middle Eastern food and delicacies, in a small centrally located shop. Moon Muang rd, opposite Tapae Gate (053) 270 208
Zest Restaurant: Convenient location, nice outdoor seating area and healthy menu with good service. Moon Muang rd (near Tapae Gate) (053) 418 090
JJ Bakery: Handy sandwich place, with quick service, tasty food, good coffee and shakes. Air-conditioned. 388 Tapae rd (053) 234 007
Ratana’s Kitchen: Popular place with air-con and tasty Thai and foreign food, conveniently located. 320 Tapae rd (053) 320 322
Aroon Rai: Simple but famous with buffet and basic menu, 35 years experience, central location. 45 Kotchasarn rd (near Tapae Gate) (053) 276 947
Aum Vegetarian: All-veggie place, with nice ambience seated on the floor, centrally located. Moon Muang rd (opposite Tapae Gate) (053) 278 315
Whole Earth Restaurant: Good Indian food with wide veggie selection, located in antique house and lovely garden. 88 Sri Doncai rd (053) 282 463
Blue Diamond: Health food gem with fresh bakes and health herbs, popular brunch place. Tricky to find. Moonmuang, soi 9 (near Sriphum Moat corner)
The Brasserie: Serious music venue featuring legendary blues and rock local, Tuk. 37 Charoenrat rd, across Nawarat Bridge and turn left.
The Cottage: Rocking restaurant and bar popular with Thais, great atmosphere, plenty of room. 27 Chiang Mai – Lampoon rd, across Nawarat Bridge turn right.
The (UN) Irish Pub: Magnet for local ex-pat crowd, serves food, sports on a big TV, hardly Irish but hosts quiz and Spoken Word evenings. 24/1 Ratvithi rd.
The Saloon: American-styled burger and beer place, good food and music videos with good location. Loi Kroh rd, near Night Bazaar.
Rasta Bar: Popular, laid-back outdoor place among a cluster of underground bars, with live music and cheap drinks. Off Ratvithi rd, behind Irish Pub.
THC Rooftop Bar: A bohemian place above the Hemp Shop, with good views of Tapae Gate and floor-level seating. 19/4-5 Kotchasarn rd (opposite Tapae Gate).
Bubbles: Usually full with a mixed crowd of Thais and foreigners, up-to-date music, easy atmosphere, reasonable drink prices. Below Porn Ping Hotel.
Spicy: Sometimes busy, live music, full of friendly girls, open late. Chaiyaphun rd, alongside the Moat, can’t miss it.
Club G: An all-Thai affair with ear-splitting music, dance floor full of bar tables. 68/2 Chiang Mai – Lampoon rd, over Nawarat Bridge, turn right, drive 1km.