During the day Thais and foreigners alike wander in and out of Chiang Mai’s numerous Buddhist temples. They pray, leave offerings for the spirits and admire the gold and bejeweled statues and roofs that sparkle in the sunlight. During the night, with the spirits placated, they throw off the shackles, explode into those famous Thai smiles and party.
For this article we asked two people, one long term and short term resident about their perfect night out in Chiang Mai, in terms of the following – their favorite restaurant, their favorite form of entertainment, their favorite late-night club and their favorite late-night snack.
I should probably say that my favorite food in Chiang Mai is something Thai like Massaman curry – which I do actually really like – but in my mind nothing beats Salsa Kitchen’s huge chicken burritos with a side order of black beans. It is not only the tastiest and, for what you get, the most reasonably priced dish in the city, but unlike most Thai food leaves me satisfied for the rest of the night.
Next I would walk the ten minutes to Sangdee gallery – a bar and art space where they always have something interesting happening. On Tuesdays they hold a Motown night with a DJ, on Thursdays they hold a open night mic and at the weekend they welcome anyone with the imagination and gumption to arrange an interesting get together. The other day my friend organized a cocktail party and DJ to play r’nb mixes. By the end of the night – and this is the reason I love the Sangdee bar – everyone, young, old and middle aged was up on the dance floor boogieing away to the tunes.
If we want to go out after that we would head to the Monkey Club, just down the road. Chiang Mai has quite a few clubs, but many of them, particularly those located near the old town are populated by bar girls and ladyboys. The Monkey Club is located in the student area in Nimmanhaemin and attracts, for want of a better word, a classier clientele – that is people with richer parents. The drink prices are far higher than at such backpacker haunts as Zoeys and Spicys but you get what pay for. At the Monkey Club you can enjoy table service, good quality music, and the knowledge that no one is there to steal your wallet.
If I want anything else to eat after my huge burrito I would stop at one of the mobile food carts that stand outside every night spot in the city. Ideally I would go for soup, but to get that I would have to catch a tuk-tuk into the old town. Outside the Monkey Club I would settle for some meatballs or some sausage.
While PP Grill does not offer the best food in Chiang Mai it does offer the quintessential Thai experience. For only 150 baht for as much as you like Thai families, couples, students and groups of friends all pile into this open-walled do it yourself barbecue space at 5 pm to cook soups and meats on small communal stoves for the next 4 to 5 hours. Much more of a social event than your usual restaurant meal, I like to go there with at least three friends.
After dinner I would take a tuk-tuk to the Soho bar on Haey Kaew Road. Like all bars outside the student area and the old town, Soho relies heavily on the tourists and part-time residents that flood into the city between September and Febuary. During that period it is about as lively and friendly as any place in Chiang Mai. At the Halloween party last year for example, the place was not only heaving with people, but mostly people I knew and liked. If I didn’t know them you could be sure I would by the end of the night. I don’t know how or why, but its just one of those places that naturally encourages interaction.
If we want to prolong the night past 12 we head to Zoeys/Yellow Bar (often with a couple of new friends in tow). Located in the middle of the old town, it is a collection of bars and clubs that you can more and less move in and out of all night. My favorite is a reggae bar called Babylon, but the most popular bar is Zoeys where they have a DJ playing dance mixes long after the music in places such as Babylon has stopped. I would say that Zoeys/Yellow Bar is the only club in Chiang Mai where you will find an even split between Thais and foreigners.
After a few drinks I am usually craving western food, so if I bought a late night snack I would have to buy a cheese burger and onion rings from Mike’s Burgers, just at the top of the road from Zoeys. Their food is not as cheap as some of the food the Thai stall owners sell on the side of the roads, but in my opinion it is far tastier.