Chiang Mai is known as the cultural capital of Northern Thailand. Famed for its temples, nature, elephant sanctuaries and an exciting local gay scene. We followed Kelvin and Mark of Instagram’s kelv_teoh and tommymark60 who spent a long weekend exploring the best gay things to do in Chiang Mai.
The Chiang Mai is the largest in Northern Thailand, with nearly one million people in the greater area and is a popular destination. During Thailand’s high season Nov-Feb Chiang Mai has cooler, less humid temperatures than Bangkok. You still need short sand t-shirt during the day but you might be able to walk more than 10 minutes without needing a shower, like you do in Bangkok.
THINGS TO DO
Chiang Mai is one the best places in Thailand to get up close with these local giants. Elephant sanctuaries are a hot topic in Thailand. At many parks, riding elephants has rightly fallen out of favor. Across Chiang Mai, there are many elephant sanctuaries that offer different levels of interactions with the elephants. Whichever you choose, make sure to check the online reviews and images online before visiting these camps.
For more advice and background on choosing the most ethical options read this interview with Maria Mossman, founder of non-profit group Action for Elephants UK.
If there is one thing Chiang Mai is not short of it’s temples. There are over 300 across the city and local area. No trip to Thailand is complete without visiting at least a few temples but it’s also very easy to get temples out. Unless you are super into your temples here are the top three to visit in Northern Thailand.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – the most-visited and most famous temple in Chiang Mai. You can see the temple from all over the city, as it sits on top of Doi Suthep mountain. The steep road up the mountain is part of the fun. If you’re confident on a scooter is a great drive or you can get a local taxi (shared public songtaew for 80 baht for each way).
White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) – this is one of the most popular places to visit in Northern Thailand and one of the most famous temples in the whole country but let’s be clear, it is not near the city. The White Temple is a 3-hour drive, each way, from Chiang Mai and is located in the province of Chiang Rai. The temple is unlike anything else in Thailand, it’s unconventional combining ideas from the artist’s own imagination with traditional Buddhist teachings.
Black House (Baan Dam Museum) – referred to as Black Temple or Black House, is another famous and popular temple located in Chiang Rai. Many day trips tours from Chiang Mai to the White Temple also allow you to visit the Black House. The temple is actually about 40 Northern Thai buildings, each one decorated with animal remains. Expect skins, skulls, horns, bones.
Gay Bars and Drag Shows
Unlike Bangkok, there are no late-night gay clubs in Chiang Mai, most of the action closes down shortly after midnight. After midnight the options are:
SangDee – hip gallery/nightclub, the most LGBT popular option
Spicy and Las Vegas – which are packed with backpackers
Warm Up Café – popular with the locals and students
Traditional Chiang Mai Food
The classic Thai dishes are famous worldwide but there is so much more to Thai food than Pad Thai. Within Thailand, Chiang Mai is famous for its own northern cuisine. Be sure not to leave without trying these northern specialties:
Khao Soi – Egg Noodle Curry normally served with chicken or pork
Sai Oua – grilled herb sausage with ground pork, dried chilies, garlic, shallots
Khan Toke – is a range of northern-style side dishes with sticky rice
Try a local street food tour to try all the signature dishes in one evening or if you are feeling fancy check out the award-winning Oxygen Restaurant at X2 Chiang Mai Riverside Hotel, which offers a contemporary tasting menu based on the classic Thai dishes.
Flowers and Gardens
Instagrammers flock to the city’s botanical gardens and parks to take photos in the fields of flowers. Northern Thailand’s cooler climate allows for a wide variety of plants and flowers to be grown. One of the most popular Instagram locations is the Ban Khun Chang Khian.
WHERE TO STAY
Having established itself as Thailand’s trendiest city, Chiang Mai has more than its share of stylish luxury hotels. Kelvin and Mark visited two luxurious gay-friendly hotels along the city’s riverside.
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What did you think about the hotel:
Overall the hotel vibes are really stylish. The location is very quiet, perfect for relaxing but the hotel is still near to the gay nightlife, it’s like a 10 minutes taxi ride.
The bed huge super comfy and the bathroom is also huge. The breakfast was really delicious. One the best parts is the General Manager, Mr Ewan, he was so friendly and recommended the best places to visit. Really glad to meet him.
What did you think about the hotel:
Well, we have visited a few sala hotels before and sala always has a great sense when it comes to deco and ambiance. You moment you arrived you can tell this is the taste of sala haha. The design is raw and natural. Spa vibes fill the hotel, so its impossible not to feel relaxed. I love how the corridor was filled with the aromatic diffuser.
The bed is also extremely comfy I must say that! The room is so light and airy but if you wanted, great design means you can get it pitch black, perfect for afternoon naps. The design of separation in the room is brilliant.
For the location it’s also close to the city, you can walk or a short taxi. And a huge plus are the two swimming pool. Overall, the staff are extremely helpful and we had a really good stay here.