Northern Thailand travel guide

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Northern Thailand travel guide:
         The mountainous Northern region of Thailand draws plenty of visitors who invariable leave with enchanted
memories of its wonderful natural environment, impressive legacy of history and culture, and undeniable value for
money. Much of the area remains unspoilt wilderness with a lazy pace and humble, friendly people.
         The kingdom of Lanna, which encompassed much of Northern Thailand, was one of the first established
states in this region and predates the rise of the powerful Siamese kingdoms of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai by several
hundred years. The manifold mountains helped defend the area, while a flourishing society occupied the Ping,
Wang and other broad fertile valleys which today are widely populated.
         From Chiang Mai, the chief city in Northern Thailand and former Lanna capital, visitors launch trips into
the mountains; trekking to remote mountain villages, riding elephants, relaxing in plush, isolated resorts and
seeking out the wonderful waterfalls and breathtaking views of the many national parks nearby. One particularly
distinctive character of Northern Thailand is the presence of the colorful and unique minority hill tribes whose
simple subsistence way of life adds fascination to the tourist appeal of Northern Thailand.
         This section is a travel guide that covers each of the main attractions beyond Chiang Mai, all of which are
popular day trip or excursion destinations among tourists to the North. Read further down the page for a summary
description of the highlights.

A guide to Northern Thailand travel highlights:

        Chiang Mai itself is an historic city with a 700-year-old town surrounded by a pretty moat, preserved gates
and ramparts, and dotted with beautiful and ancient temples and chedis (pagodas). The atmosphere is decidedly
laid-back, the shopping at the famous Night Bazaar and handicraft villages nearby presents excellent value, and the
enormous spread of entertainment and great-value hospitality options make this city one of Asia’s most appealing
tourist destinations
        A popular multi-day trip from Chiang Mai is to the isolated frontier town of Mae Hong Son - nestled
among mountains on the Myanmar border. The five-hour journey follows a spectacular rollercoaster ride over
rugged mountains and through the delightful bohemian town of Pai - a popular backpacker hang-out astride a pretty
river. The return journey via the southern route passes through the lovely Doi Inthanon National Park, which
boasts Thailand’s highest peak and some fantastic waterfalls.
        Heading north from Chiang Mai is a rewarding drive as you come upon the unmistakable peak of Chiang
Dao - another lofty mountain with a remarkable complex of caves buried beneath it. Continuing north, you can turn
off the main route and meander through mountain passes to seek out Doi Angkhang - one of the last wildernesses
in Thailand before the Shan State hills of Myanmar roll out before you. However, a popular option is to continue on
to Tha Ton and catch an overnight raft trip to the older and quieter Northern Thailand city of Chiang Rai. Others
prefer to seek out the intriguing tea-growing Chinese immigrant communities clustered on the hilltops around Mae
Salong. From here, it’s not far to the touristy Golden Triangle, where the mighty Mekong demarcates the border of
Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Nearby is the ancient port city of Chiang Saen.
        South of Chiang Mai is sleepy Lamphun, also boasting a moat and historic temples, and once the centre of
the ancient Haripunchai kingdom which predates Chiang Mai. Farther south is Lampang, another town that attracts
some tourists to its important temples. To truly escape the tourist path of Northern Thailand, you may wish to
venture farther to the unspoilt provinces of Nan in the east. Hiring an Enduro bike is one popular way of doing this.
Chiang Mai bars, pubs and nightlife:

         The Chiang Mai nightlife is much tamer and quieter than Bangkok, but enjoyable all the same. People in
this city like to enjoy themselves and are happy to party with the many foreigners visiting their town. In Chiang
Mai there are plenty of relaxing bars, a couple of banging discos, one street full of go-go bars, and a smattering of
karaoke lounges. Thailand is also very accepting of the gay and lesbian scene.
         The city is a great place for a pub crawl because it's easy to walk (or stumble) from bar to bar (crossing the
city centre on foot takes about 20 minutes). Many bars in Chiang Mai feature live music and the Thais are fabulous
singers, with repertoires that include lovely Thai ballads, MOR, soul, blues and pop favorites. There are also a
number of discos which have talented DJs spinning dance floor anthems, cutting edge trance and house, and retro
classics. Most bars now stay open to 1am, some as late as 2am when they are obliged to close. There are however a
few after hours places to move on to. More details on Chiang Mai bars and nightlife scene.
         One really happening new precinct for evening entertainment is JJs Market, an area 2kms north of the
Northeast corner of the moat that has plenty of bars, and is generally busy especially on the weekends. Congregated
together in this arcade, the bars form one big outdoor party. It’s very trendy Thai and youthful.
         Bars are found all over the city, 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. Some are lively,
friendly affairs, others are quiet and more mature. The Night Bazaar keeps Chiang Mai's centre busy after hours,
and there is plenty of late shopping and eating. At the Galare Centre adjacent, you can enjoy some quick food while
watching a free display of Thai cultural dancing and music. There is also a cluster of bars, coffee houses and
restaurants at the intersection of Chang Klan and Loi Kroh road. A little further down Chan Klan road (heading
north) there is a small arcade, known for its 'Peak Climbing wall' where you'll find several informal bars, some with
plenty of 'company'.

        Karaoke is a national obsession and these lounges can be found all over the city. Many of them attract a
male clientele by including a bevy of young hostesses who will sit and sing with you for a small hourly fee. Many
of these are found at Chiang Mai Land, a purpose-built street off Changklan rd, south of the city.

       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. Popular with some, these areas are well contained, more discreet
than Bangkok and relatively tame. Read more about bar girls in Chiang Mai
        There is also plenty of good clean fun to be had. Multiplex cinemas are found in the Kad Suan Kaew mall
(also known as Central) and Airport Plaza, both showing movies with English soundtrack. Many restaurants double
as drinking venues and there is a particularly lively scene in the Nimminhemin area west of the Old Town, which is
popular with Thai students. Here you’ll find plenty of outdoor beer garden places with live bands and busy
atmosphere; it’s certainly a fun experience hanging out with the locals.

Chiang Mai gay guide:

        Chiang Mai and Thailand in general is such a comfortable place for the gay community that foreigners feel
welcome and safe here. The Thai are seldom prejudiced, openly accepting all around them, which is why lady boys
are prominent. For this reason Chiang Mai is a popular place for gay couples to meet and settle. It supports the
lively and large community with plenty of gay bars or gay friendly restaurants and guesthouses. For gay visitors it’s
a memorable experience.
        Many have found their special partner here while others prefer to simply have a bit of fun! The Chiang Mai
gay culture is centered on bars, bistros, private massage clubs and even go-go clubs; but many also prefer a quieter
        For the first time visitor looking to meet boys, there are a number of thriving bars in an area behind the
Night Bazaar Centre, as well as other bars, clubs and saunas spread out throughout the city (see listings below)
Additionally, there are many gay-friendly hotels and guesthouses. The lesbian scene is somewhat more subdued,
with the first official lesbian bar opening up in January 2004.
        Chiang Mai is a popular destination for many gay men, especially those aged 35 and older. Thai culture
does not place a premium on youth in the way that Western societies do, and older men can still be quite desirable
in Thailand. Chiang Mai is also a popular place to retire, for straights and gays. Thai boys are gorgeous, with toned
bodies, lovely features and a soft nature. It’s no wonder some have become lady boys, they have a very feminine
side to them and the lady boys themselves can be great fun. Everyone is friendly here.
        In the past, the most visible, public gay establishments in the country consisted of bars, go-go clubs, saunas
and massage parlors. Although these still account for the majority of gay venues, tamer discos, bars and
coffeehouses are sprouting up around Thailand.

Gay bars and restaurants in Chiang Mai:

Glass Onion: is a sophisticated and classy wine bar popular gay owned and run, attracting gay and stylish people
later in the evening. Located across town on Nimminhemin Avenue. Rooms, the Boutique Mall, 61/2 Soi 17,
Nimmanhaemin Road, (053) 218 479.

Soho Bar: this gay friendly bar has a relaxed but classy atmosphere with a garden bar and trendy interior.
Convenietly located near Kad Suan Kaew mall. 20/3 Huay Kaew Road. Tel. (053) 404175, 0 85 8645407

Power Boys Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai’s latest greatest show bar, with three cabaret performances a night, a male
revue in the Boyz Room and whole hotel of facilities, Boonruangrit Rd besides Chiang Mai Ram Hospital,
Northwest moat corner, tel: (053) 211 100.

Lotus Garden Bar: next to Lotus Hotel, is an open-air bamboo hut bar filled with friendly people. Located
opposite Adam's Apple Bar. 2/25 Soi Viengbua, Chotana Rd, Chang Phuak (053) 21 - 5376
Bubbles Disco: both in Pornping Hotel are lively places for gays and straights, featuring live bands. Beneath Porn
Ping Tower hotel near Night Bazaar (053) 270099 Ext. 5222

Caesar Club and Discothéque: is geared towards gays but is open to everyone. The late night disco plays tribal,
house, trance, dance, pop, and disco music. Kaew Nawarat rd, opposite Arcade Inn at the Arcade Bus Depot.

The Long Yang Club: LYC Chiang Mai is a Social Club promoting friendship between Asian and Western Gay
men and Lesbians. The LYC holds regular social events, including dining out, sports, charitable activities and
entertainment, details of which are on their webpage.,

DD Club: is a great place to meet ladyboys 161 Chang Phuek Road soi 4.

Garden Bar: 2/25 soi Viengbua Chotana rd. Tel: (053) 215 376

Chez Nous: Tapae Soi 1, Night Bazaar right besides "The Peak"

Circle Club: 161/7-8 soi Erawan, Chang Puak Rd., Chang Puak, Chiang Mai, Tel: (053) 214-996.

New My Way: 3/5-6 Hatsadee Sewee Rd., Soi 3, Chiang Mai, Tel: (053) 404 361.

        There has, for some time, been a cluster of ‘rent boy’ type gay bars behind the Night Market (near D2 Hotel
rear) and further down beyond the renovated Plaza Mall, but the atmosphere is drying up as big developers push
this scruffy corner out.

Gay massage and spas in Chiang Mai

House of Male: is a sauna and gym, with swimming pool, bar and friendly single people. Large complex, popular
enjoyment place for some. 19 Soi 3 of Sirimankalajarn rd. Tel: (053) 89 4133,

Blue’s Club: is located among the karaoke bars of Chiang Mai Land, south of the Night Market. It offers massage
and body scrubs by male therapists at affordable prices, open until midnight. 422/18 Chiang Mai Land, Changklan
Rd. (053) 204 968.

Sparoma Sauna and Fitness: has a pool, gym, sauna, restaurant, Jacuzzi, video theatre, karaoke and massage. It is
located on 10/1 Moo3, Paded Rd., (053) 812 900.

All Seasons Spa: Nice luxurious place with great views, located in the Nimminhemin area popular with locals.
Free transportation and private rooms. 7th floor, Doi View Mansion, 9 Soi 9 Nimmanhaemin Rd, Tel: (053) 895
571, (086) 587 1906.

B-Beez: Quiet place in a nice converted shophouse in the Nimminhemin area, offers Thai or oil, cream and
aromatherapy massage with a good selection of masseurs. 1/8 Soi Lanna Villa, Chiang Mai-Lumphun Rd., open
until midnight, (053) 406 270,

Classic House Massage: Centrally located off Thapae gate for the visitor to Chiang Mai, decorated in nice Lanna
traditional style, service includes body scrub treatment, aromatherapy, facial and 4 hands massage, 27/2 Thapae
Road, Soi4, tel: (053) 904 582.

His Club: Advertises itself with ‘More than 20 male therapists to choose from’ offering various treatments, and
includes a spa and sauna, open until 1am. Chiang Mai land area, among the Karaoke bars. 21/43 Soi Moo Baan Unn
Reun, Paa Prao Nok Rd., Paded, Tel: (053) 204 148, (084) 170 5507,

One-2-Come: A social place that includes a beer garden and host of extra facilities, all in a nice large converted
house, with private rooms, large beds, a jacuzzi. 360/1 Changklan Road, tel: (053) 204 385.
Gay accommodation and guesthouses in Chiang Mai

The following are specifically gay friendly.

Lanna Lavender: Chiang Mai’s largest gay accommodation, this newly opened hotel is exclusively gay with five
floors of re-decorated rooms, and a host of facilities including a pool, restaurants, massage/spa and caberet/revue
bar in the basement which is popular among locals as a meeting place. Centrally located across from the historic
moat. Bunruengrit road (besides Ram I hospital), (053) 211 100,

Santitham Guesthouse: A nicely appointed, upmarket guesthouse and restaurant, Northwest of the moat in a nice
quiet suburb, but within walking distance of Kad Suan Kaew mall. 61 Santitham Road, Chang Phuak, (053) 406
449, email:

Seven Suns: is a popular and lively place at 155 Ratchamanka Rd., (053) 814 325, 814 430,,

Ricefield House: is a private rural residence that offers unique accommodation in superb setting with lovely
owners. Tel: (053) 865605, (089) 853 9030,,

Lotus Hotel: 2/25 Soi Viangbua Rd., Chang-Phuak, is gay-owned and very popular with visiting gays. (053) 215
376, 215 462,

Baan Sammi: offers gay homestay accommodation near Doi Saket. 79 Moo 6, Ban PaYangPoi, PaLan, Doi Saket,
Chiang Mai 50220, (053) 868 815,,

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