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Chiang Mai Nightlife

A few of the more popular and established bars

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The Riverside Pub and Restaurant, 9-11 Charoenrat Road- A Chiang Mai institution, this is excellent live music venue should be on the itinerary for any visitor to Chiang Mai. The menu has an excellent selection of Thai and western food and the drink prices are fairly reasonable. The real attraction here, however, is the music. The show starts at 19:00 and the place is packed by 19:30.

The U.N. Irish Pub, 24/1 Ratvithi Road- This two storey establishment is known by locals simply as ‘The Irish’ and is the unofficial clubhouse of the expatriate crowd. This is the place to have a nice pint and watch (or talk) rugby, football or cricket. Other highlights are the great food and occasional spoken word and open-mic nights.

Tiny Corner, Moon Muang Soi 2- This charming hole in the wall lives up to its name and is possibly the smallest bar in Chiang Mai. This little hideaway is perfect for those who want to escape from the noise and pressure of the more touristy bars.

Brasserie, 37 Charoenrat Road- This classy place is possibly the best venue for live music in all of Chiang Mai. Local blues and rock legend Tuk is a fixture here as well as numerous other guest artists performing western covers and Thai rock.

THC Bar, 19/4-5 Katchasarn Road- Located opposite Tha Pae Gate, this rooftop bar provides excellent views, particularly on Sundays, when the night market lights up Tha Pae Square. The seating area is made up of cushions surrounding low tables, most of which are occupied by young bohemians from all over the world.

Warm Up, Nimminhemin road near CMU Convention Centre- This is the quintessential Thai college bar. Live music on Fridays and Saturdays keeps the place packed. In true Thai style spirits are only sold by the bottle. This is a great place to meet locals and see how real modern Thais party.

Bars and Pubs

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Chiang Mai bars run the gamut from holes-in-the-wall that are little more than chairs and a cooler to theme bars to traditional British Pubs. There is a large concentration of bars along Moon Muang Road, inside the moat near Tha Pae Gate, and a number of great live music venues along the Ping River. Also, the sois (alleyways) near the night bazaar are home to a large number of pubs, many of which cater to specific nationalities. Near Chiang Mai University you will find a number of bars geared towards the young Thai student crowd. These places are usually quite packed on the weekend and are great for meeting locals. Bars in Chiang Mai come and go as quickly as a Thai rain squall so it’s hard to keep an accurate list.

Chiang Mai Saloon, 80/1 Loi Kroh Road- Catering to the American crowd, this is an old-west themed beer and burger joint. The food is good and the portions are American sized. 55 baht margaritas are among the many drink specials.

The Pub, Huay Kaew Road, West of the Amari Rincome Hotel- This is a very reputable English-style pub with a great selection of imported beers and good food.

Drunken Flower, Nimminhemin Road near the Amari Rincome Hotel- This is a hip joint popular with Thais and foreigners alike. The live music is excellent but not too loud to have a conversation and the drink prices are very reasonable.

Chiang Mai Cool, Huay Kaew Road, next to the Hilltop Condotel- This is a relatively new place but is already becoming a magnet for upscale Thais and well-to-foreigners. The glass and steel façade and postmodern décor are a very distinctive and stylish and the music is either live bands or DJs.

Cabarets

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Cabaret shows are becoming increasingly popular with visitors to Thailand. The Las Vegas-style song, dance and comedy extravaganzas are performed by ladyboys (transvestites) who are sometimes so convincing that you’re not quite sure.

Themes range from the glamorous to the hilarious but the shows are always entertaining. Check out Blue Moon Cabaret at 5/3 Moon Muang Road.

Discotheques

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While the club scene in Chiang Mai is nowhere near the level of Bangkok, there are still a few places to shake it like a dry martini. Unlike most of the bars and pubs in Chiang Mai, which labor under the restrictions of a twelve o’clock closing time, most of the large nightclubs have dispensation to stay open until two a.m. The music is loud and thumping and the dance floors are usually packed with a mixture of Thais and foreigners. If you want to party like the Thais, pick up a bottle at a local shop and bring it to the club with you. Most places don’t charge corkage fees, as long as you buy your ice and mixers from them (at suitably increased prices).

Bubble, Porn Ping Tower- This is the usual place for resident foreigners to cut loose. The three level dance floor and up-to-date music make it popular with locals and visitors, as well.

Spicy, Chaiyapun Road- Formerly known as Nice Illusions, this club was annexed by the venerable late night bar/restaurant next door. If you catch the right night this club has some of the best music going.

Crystal Cave, Empress Hotel 199 Chang Khlan Road- This disco has a nice upscale feel to it but rarely gets very packed. Nicely located near the night bazaar.

Spotlight, Chaiyapun Road, near Loi Kroh- This quintessential Thai go-go bar has a large stage and a deliciously seedy vibe.

Loi Kroh Road

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Just opposite the moat, towards the night bazaar you’ll find this stretch of bars. Loi Kroh Road is Chiang Mai’s answer to Bangkok’s Nana Plaza. Each of the dozen or so bars on either side of the road has their prettiest staff members outside beckoning patrons like sirens. If you’d like some easy ‘company’ this is the place to go. Otherwise it’s an inconvenient gauntlet to run.

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Reggae Bars

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Just off of Ratvithi road behind you’ll find a short road lined with various reggae bars. Although the convergence of sound systems can make the area sound like a battle of the bands, this area has a great Bourbon Street atmosphere, with patrons carousing from bar to bar. On the corner is a more sedate beer garden with live acoustic music and good specials. Try a tower of draft Chang if you and your party are feeling adventurous (and don’t have much planned for the next day).

Van Bars

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One of those quirky phenomena that make Chiang Mai so popular, van bars are exactly what they sound like. Full size vans are converted into mobile pubs, complete with full bar, sound system and even stools. Some even have extendable roofs and light shows. The most common place to find one is opposite Tha Pae Gate near the THC Bar. Not much of a dance floor, but a great photo opportunity.

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