I like Chiang Mai. It’s hard to believe, when you are strolling along it’s leafy streets and sleepy sois that this is, in fact, the second largest city in Thailand.
The best time to visit is November through to January when the days are bright and sunny and the air cool and crisp but without ever getting really cold. But it’s quite possible to go any time of the year, it all depends on what you want to get up to during your stay
If your main reason for visiting Chiang Mai is for the nightlife you might want to think twice. There are bars, and there are willing bargirls but the Chiang Mai scene is much smaller and much less in your face than in the other major centres in the south.
However if you are there for more intellectual pleasures, or to satisfy your spirit of adventure, it is nice to know you can still get your leg over in between.
The bulk of the action takes place at the western end of Loi Kroh Road where it meets Kotchasarn Road and the Moat. There are several bars on both sides of Loi Kroh and a few just around the corner along the moat. Bars to look out for are Easy Corner Bar, Ba Ba Bo Bo (which means crazy) and Linda’s bar. There are others.
Around the corner, and heading north towards Thapae gate is Spotlight. The only gogo bar I have found so far.
Directly opposite, on the other side of the moat is another string of bars. Cozy Corner has a kind of Thai classical gogo. The dancers perform rudimentary classical moves to Thai pop music. Despite having none of the poise and grace of true classical dance the girls do exude a gentle eroticism.
Next to Cozy Corner is Johns Place and then Nice Friend Bar.
Right behind Thapae Gate next to the Top North Hotel is a neon sign announcing Beer Bars. There is also a Thai kick-boxing ring. Most of the bars seemed to be open but there were very few customers. Apparently the area only gets going when there is a fight on.
There is a similar place called CM Entertainment Complex on Loi Kroh Road just to the west of the Kampaeng Din Road intersection. This area is considerably livelier than the previous area but again there were no fights scheduled.
Rules in bars
A good many of the bars have pool tables and a good many bar girls are deceptively good pool players. In fact bar girls generally seem to be very good at games. Some of them see it as a way to supplement their income. Remember, they can’t afford to loose. Keep the amounts small and the atmosphere fun.
It is not always obvious which bars allow their girls to go with customers and which don’t. If you are not sure no one will mind if you ask discretely. But don’t leave it too late in the evening because most bars don’t retain a large staff. In one instance I was told to come back the following evening because there were only two girls left to run the bar.
There are a huge number of trekking options available from Chiang Mai. The duration of the treks is usually one, two or three days and can cover a multitude of possibilities. Itineraries vary but will usually include walking, rafting and elephant riding through the jungle. You will stop at a number of hill-tribe villages including the Karen, “long-neck” Karen, Meo, Akha and Shan.
On longer treks nights are usually spent at hill-tribe villages. Food is included in the price and cooking is usually done by the guides.
Obviously the longer the trek the more things you get to see or do but it should be remembered that most of them follow set patterns, that the villages you visit will be familiar with the flow of visitors and will have numerous souvenirs prepared in advance.
Treks can be booked almost everywhere in Chaing Mai. Most restaurants, hotels and guest houses also act as booking agents for the numerous trekking companies.
The Peak Adventure has a climbing wall in the centre of town but I’m sure you wouldn’t go all the way to Chiang Mai just for that. They also offer one, two and three day rock climbing trips with routes that are suitable for beginners and for more experienced climbers. But you now beginners might just enjoy the cliff-face a just little bit more if they spent an afternoon on the climbing wall first.
There is a one day climb of Vachiratharn waterfall at Doi Inthanon.
The three day climbing course includes a Top Rope E1, a Lead Climb E2 and a Multi-Pitch.
The three day trip to the huge Spirit Well Cave starts on that climbing wall where you’ll learn single rope technique. On the second day you travel to the cave to make the 200 metre descent. The only way in and out is by rope.
Chiang Mai Mountain Biking offers a wide variety of rides ranging from technically easy for beginners through to expert level. Some of the rides are only possible during the dry season. Visit their website for full details.
Chiang Mai Adventure offers a one day trip that includes elephant riding, mountain biking and white-water rafting. The trip is suitable for everyone.
Chiang Mai Adventure offers a one day, rafting only, trip along the Mae Tang River. They also have a white-water plus all terrain vehicle option.
The Peak Adventure also has a trip to the Mae Tang plus a range of trips that combine the white-water with elephant riding, mountain biking and all terrain vehicles. There is also and adrenaline pumping half day ride along the Mae Wang River.
Four-wheel drive and all terrain vehicles
The Peak Adventure offer one, two and three day 4WD safaris. The two and three day trips also include white-water rafting and elephant riding. The white knuckle journeys visit tribal villages, waterfalls, snake and orchid farms.
Chiang Mai Adventure has full day and half day All Terrain Vehicle excursions plus a full day ATV/White-water rafting trip.
ATV Thai operates a 45km route that runs three times a day.
X-Centre have two-seat off-road buggies.