For its relatively small size, Chiang Mai packs something of a surprising wallop when it comes to after-dark entertainment. Which isn’t to say you should go expecting Bangkok-style clubs or Phuket-style crowds, mind you; just that, with a little know how, your evening out can go from casual to crazy depending more or less on your preference. Ok, that was admittedly a bit vague. Why don’t we just take a more descriptive look at exactly what we’re talking about, hm?
Hip locals will tell you that the city’s coolest nightlife is located in the emerging Nimmanhaemin neighborhood (west of the old city), where galleries and restaurants give way to bars and clubs like Warm Up and Monkey Club once the sun goes down. This is where the university students and trend setters of Chiang Mai come to party, with plenty of selection to suit your particular style. On the opposite side of town, along the banks of the Ping River, a more established pastime takes precedence. Riverside drinking usually consists of live music and chilled atmospheres, though things have been known to get a little wilder on weekends (the operative word being “little”). A good choice for an early mixed drink to kick off the evening.
As you get closer to the old city itself, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from both in and around the Tha Phae Gate and Loi Kroh Road areas. The former, along the eastern wall, is where patrons can find staples like John’s Place and the chill, rooftop THC Bar, while Loi Kroh and Chang Klan take advantage of Night Bazaar traffic to populate a healthy dispersion of lively establishments from pubs to lady-boy joints. Meanwhile, inside the moat, traveler-friendly Ratvithi Road mixes reggae and expat vibes together to bring you a swath of bars and clubs with an atmosphere that may be cliche but is still worth checking out. Sprinkle in a few transient and sometimes seedy late night dance clubs (Lucky, Spicy, etc.) that open up when most other places close down (around 2 am) and you’ve got yourself a party in Chiang Mai. Now have at it.