Chiang Mai is certainly known for its cultural highlights, the close proximity to plenty of natural spots and the laid back atmosphere during the day. But the city comes really alive after sunset, when countless bars and beer gardens open, live music venues pulling people from the street with their hot tunes and adult-only shows surprising with a great mix or music and comedy. We listed the five best nightlife activities for you:
Watch a Muay Thai fight at Thapae Stadium
Muay Thai not only a huge and important part of the Thai culture, but also considered the national sport of Thailand. Also called the ‘’art of the eight limbs”, Muay Thai – sometimes referred to as ‘Thai Boxing’ – fascinates everyone whether young or old. The fighters at Thapae Stadium come from all over northern Thailand plus you have even foreign guest fighters who are living and training in Chiang Mai, you can therefore expect a high level of fighting here. Do note that some small stadiums (especially around Loi Kroh Road) have low quality staged fights, only made for tourists.
Highlight: the part when the contestants perform blind boxing by putting blindfolds on!
Location: Thapae Gate, Mun Mueang Road, next to Top North Hotel Admission: 400-600 THB, depending on where you prefer to sit. Open: 21:00-midnight.
Traditional Khantoke Dinner & Cultural Show at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center
Khantoke is the way of consuming your meal typical northern Thai style: the different dishes are served on pedestal trays which can hold several bowls filled with rice, meat and various side dishes, whereat the range of food can be unlimited. People in Chiang Mai and other parts of northern Thailand usually sit on mats on the ground when eating Khantoke, as you will experience when visiting the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. Throughout the evening, you’ll be entertained by live music and cultural performances.
Cabaret shows throughout Thailand becoming more and more popular among visitors. The shows are performed by ladyboys (transvestites) and featuring a mix of singing, dancing and comedy. You’ll be surprised by the high show quality, the costumes and performers. The themes can range from extravagant over hilarious to drama, but rest assured they are always entertaining and consist of a big portion comedy. And if you decide to sit in the front row, be prepared for some touchy-feely ladyboys – remember, this is all just fun!
Location: Anusarn market, close to the Night Bazaar. Show start: daily, 21:30 Cost: 200 THB
Loi Kroh Road
One of Chiang Mai’s most popular streets, Loi Kroh Road is located just south of Thapae Gate and home to dozens of hostels, pubs, massage parlours, cafés and go-go bars. Although some people may consider Loi Kroh Road sleazy, it’s actually only a fraction of the area – the rest offers a diverse variety of excellent restaurants from French cuisine over local to Tex-Mex, a number of great sport bars, cabaret shows and un-dodgy spas. You can also conveniently walk from Thapae Gate past Loi Kroh Road to the Night Bazaar for some shopping or food.
Location: south of Thapae Gate, easily reached by walking.
Mae Ping Dinner Cruise
What is possibly more romantic than driving in a wooden style boat along the Ping River and to watch Chiang Mai’s lights lit up? Leave the city behind, relax and explore the riverside during the magical twilight. And on top, you’ll be served a delicious Thai dinner while cruising around the river.
Starting point/time: daily 20:00 at The Riverside Bar & Restaurant Duration: 1.5 hours Cost: 600 THB, set menu.
North Gate Jazz Co-Op
The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is one of Chiang Mai’s leading venues when it comes to great live music. This place is full of soul and history – especially the Tuesday Jam Night gained an immense popularity throughout the last years.
The founders Russell and Opor initially did not aim to open a successful bar, but a place where musicians meet and learn from each other. Both are also involved in a music rehabilitation program in Mae Rim. Come around for some great tunes, an awesome atmosphere, dancing and a bunch of cool people. On busy nights people will be even standing on the road to listen.
Location: 91/1-2 Sri Phum Road Open: nightly from 21:00 Cost: no entry fees.
Chilling at the riverside
If the earlier mentioned cruise is not your thing or you simply want to have a bigger choice then try one (or more) of the various bars and restaurants along the riverside of the Mae Ping. The promenade invites for a leisure stroll in the late afternoon, followed by a sunset cocktail while overlooking the shimmering Ping River. Popular venues include the sophisticated Bar and Cigar Lounge at Anantara Chiang Mai, the elegant Deck 1 which specializes in modern Thai fusion cuisine or the trendy Bus Bar, a converted double decker bus which serves fantastic cocktails.