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4 Bars You Should Visit if You Want to Drink Like a Local in Chiang Mai

There are a lot of bars in Chiang Mai. In fact one would need to spend all of his life to visit them all. In the city centre all of them are targeted at tourists, where backpackers mix with the expat crowd. There you will also encounter sex-pats with their ladyboys and young Thai wives. But, Chiang Mai has also places, which are frequented mostly by Thais. Some of them are hidden in small streets, away from the tourists areas, and are hard to find if you are here only for a few days. However, there are a couple of places that are easily accessible, have wonderful atmosphere, and yet are omitted by those visiting the city. Here are 4 of them.

1.  Sudsanan

Location: Sukhaphiban 9, off Hauy Kaw Road

You would never think that the dirt road, full of holes, can lead to one of the nicest bars in Chiang Mai. It is hidden away, but once you get there you will come back again and again.

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This wooden hut has a chilled out atmosphere and is popular among locals of all ages. They have a live band playing almost every night, but the music is very acoustic and not loud, so you can easily have a conversation without shouting over each other.

They also serve Thai food, which is tasty and not pricey at all – around 60-90 Baht per dish. During the weekend they have an outside barbecue.

2.  Seven Pounds

Location: Te Wan Road

This is one of my favourite bars. It is a tiny place, with a garden at the back, all decorated with random objects. There is a bath tub in the corner, where they used to grow flowers, and now it is left with growing weeds and empty bottles of wine sticking out of it. There is a dentist chair, old telephones and TVs, and really cool ancient chandeliers. This is a place, which a hipster would love.

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The bar is very quiet during the week. They have a live band during the weekend, which starts playing at around 9pm. The music here is mostly rock and it is much louder than in Sudsanan. Come here if you enjoy a glass of beer and some noisy music .

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3.  Kamrai Shop

Location: Nimmenhamida Road, it is on your right if you come from Maya Shopping Centre

It is not really a bar, but an alcohol shop, where people come to meet with friends over a drink. The great thing about this place is that it is not only in a great location, but also offers alcohol at retail prices.

I would say that the owners try to attract the ‘middle class’ customers, so they do not sell cheap Thai whiskey. All you can get here is beer, wine, vodka and a good selection of rum and imported whiskeys.

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You can buy the alcohol to take away with you, or you can ask for a glass and drink it at one of the tables outside.

The shop doesn’t have a kitchen, but you can order food here and they will deliver it to you from the nearby restaurant.

The bar is noisy and lively, but there is no music playing. It is ideal for a drink before a night out.

 4.  The Bus Bar

Location: 11 Kampagdin Road, Across from Imperial Mae Ping Hotel

Looking for a place for a romantic date? Or maybe you would like to have a nice, quiet drink in a place, overlooking the Ping River? Look no further! Bus Bar is a place you are looking for!

It is a cool spot for many reasons. First of all, it really IS a bus bar. They sell drinks out of a double dekker bus, which you can also climb and spend the evening there, if you like. Second reason is the location – it is just by the river and next to an iron bridge (during the night you will see some young Thai couples making out, away from their relatives’ prying eyes) and the views and the atmosphere are quite romantic.

They sometimes have a singer, who usually sings some rock ballads, and if he is not there then they play all the classic rock and pop songs.

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On Wednesdays you can come here for the Couchsurfing meet up. It starts around 7pm.

Learn more about Chiang Mai >>


Article & images contributed by Joanna Szreder, theblondtravels.com

Still looking for things to do in Chiang Mai? Check out this article onThe Ultimate Guide to 24 Hours in Chiang Mai : Backpacker’s Edition.

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The Ultimate Guide to 24 Hours in Chiang Mai : Backpackers’ Edition

If you’re on the backpacker trail and have got 24 hours to kill in Chiang Mai, make sure you use our ultimate hour-by-hour guide to a day best spent in Thailand’s largest and most significant northern city.

by Amy, MyChiangMaiEverything

 8:30: get ready

Wake up, dress in comfortable clothes and pack a map, water and a top that covers your shoulders. Head down to the common room to enjoy coffee with your fellow travellers and smile – you’re about to have an awesome day!

9:00: eat breakfast

Wander outside till you smell something delectable. Eat a cheap Thai-style breakfast with students and tuk tuk drivers at the roadside. You’ll probably find rice porridge (jok), barbequed pork skewers with sticky rice (moo ping khao niao) or freshly fried Thai-style churros dipped in thick green pandan and coconut sweet custard (pa thong ko sangkaya). Afterwards, head to one of Chiang Mai’s many coffee shops for a strong brew. An excellent choice is Akha Ama, which serves coffee grown by hill tribe smallholders in the nearby mountains.

If you don’t have your own transport, hail one of the red trucks that act as taxis in Chiang Mai. They’re called songthaews and the price to anywhere inside the moat or just outside it is 20 baht per person for one journey. State your destination and simply get in the back if they agree to take you – don’t ask how much or you’ll be charged the tourist price. When you get out, pay your 20 baht and say thank you – girls say “kob khun khaa” and guys say “kob khun khrab!”

10:00: visit a temple

Hop on your motorbike or hail a songthaew and head up the mountain to Doi Suthep temple (this journey will cost more than 20 baht – don’t forget to haggle the price down!). The air up there is gorgeously fresh and on a clear day you can see all of Chiang Mai below you. Before you enter the temple make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered and remove your shoes. Wander around and take in the splendour of golden stupas, opulent Buddha statues and sonorous chanting. Light incense and candles, hear the tinkling bells and kneel in front of a saffron-robed monk to receive a traditional Buddhist blessing.

12:30: paddle in a waterfall and mini-hike

On the way back down the mountain, stop off at the lower falls of the gorgeous Huay Kaew waterfall (Huay Kaew nam tok) to paddle in the stream. The lower falls are behind a popular shrine and small food market that can be seen from the road. If you’re lucky a Thai family on a day out might offer you some fruit or tasty home cooked treats and ask you to join their picnic. There’s a lovely forty minute hike through the forest that starts at the bottom set of falls and climbs to the upper falls, following the stream. Drink lots of water! When you reach the upper falls, hail a songthaew down the rest of the mountain to go get lunch.

13:45: eat lunch

For a healthy meal in a relaxed atmosphere, head to Bird’s Nest on Singharat Soi 3, a popular café amongst the backpacker and digital-nomad crowds. Bird’s Nest chefs try to use only organic food, depending on availability. A delicious avocado and home-made pesto wrap will fill you up and a cold mint, lime and honey shake will refresh you – divine.

Eat street food if you’re on a strict budget. There are a lot of tasty choices on the way back to the Old City along Suthep Road. If the menu is in Thai, point at what you want and say “ow nee, kha / khrab”, which means ‘I’d like this, please!”

If you haven’t tried the big flat rice noodles, kale and egg cooked in soy sauce (pad see ew) yet, try it. It’s the ultimate Thai comfort food. When you’ve finished, order a cha yen – traditional Thai sweet iced tea with tamarind juice, lime and optional milk.

15:00: chat with a monk

Ever chatted with a monk? Go to Wat Chedi Luang in the centre of the Old City. After looking around the magnificent temple grounds and reading the spiritual advice tacked on to the trees, head over to the ‘Monk Chat’ sign and… chat with a monk! You can talk (in English!) about pretty much any aspect of life with him and get a personal insight into Buddhist beliefs.

16:00: re-engergise in two blissful hours

Thai massage is energetic, like doing assisted yoga. It’s definitely worth investing in a two hour massage – you’ll feel amazing afterwards. It can be hard or soft depending on your preference. A polite “raeng raeng” means ‘harder, harder!’ and “bow bow” means ‘gently, gently!’

You can be massaged by a convict! For a unique massage experience, head over to the Women’s Correctional Institution Training Centre. These women are being trained in a sustainable vocation so that they can be masseuses when they’re released, rather than returning to a life of crime. Their massages are really, really good. It’s popular, so it’s a good idea to go early on in the day and book an appointment. Unfortunately you can’t make a phone booking.

Other great budget options are Green Bamboo Massage, and Lila Thai Massage.

18:30: eat dinner

For delicious cheap Thai food, head to North Gate and order food from one of the many stalls. Street Pizza is a seriously cool pizza place, popular with Thais and travellers alike. Vegetarians will want to check out Anchan in Nimmanhaemin, Imm Aim in Santitham or Pun Pun. Alternatively, head to the market early and pick something up as you wander around – there’s plenty to eat.

19:30: shop

There are two main night markets to choose from: the Night Bazaar is open every night and the Sunday Walking Street market is on, you guessed it, Sundays. Both are big and colourful with plenty of beautiful, strange, impressive and unique things to buy: handicrafts, furniture, clothes, accessories, fairy lights in a hundred different designs and art work. Prices are almost always negotiable so barter! Personally I prefer the Sunday market because you don’t have to dodge traffic. Even if you’re not all that into shopping the markets are still worth a visit for the great social vibe and all the different Thai food available.

Look out for the ‘ancient ice cream’ stalls for a tasty and cheap way to cool down. A fresh coconut, chopped open with a machete in front of you and served with a straw is ultra-hydrating and deliciously tropical.

21:30: watch Muay Thai boxing

Spend an hour or two cheering on the boxers at a muay Thai boxing stadium for around 400 baht. There are four places to choose from: Kalare Stadium, Thapae Stadium, Kawila Stadium and Loi Kroh Stadium. Kalare is more authentic and best for real fights, followed by Kawila. Thapae and Loi Kroh have more ‘show fights’ – like guys beating each other up in blindfolds. Have a beer, make a few bets and get loud! Ask your guesthouse for exact fight dates and times.

If you don’t want to buy roses or bracelets from the ladies and kids that walk around between fights, say “mai ow” firmly. It means ‘I don’t want it’.

23:00: drink

Get a songthaew to Ratchawithi Road and pick a bar. This is a great place to make friends before the partying starts. Be warned: Chang beer is cheap but gives you one hell of a hangover – the notorious Changover! Try Singha, Leo or Beer Lao instead.

23:30 – 00:00: party

Head to the infamous Zoe area on Ratchawithi Road, fondly known as The Square of Despair. The bars play music to suit many tastes, like pop, dance, ska, reggae and metal. Some of the bars have live music, others have DJs. There are often special nights with guest bands playing a set. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights.

God knows what time

When all the Zoe bars have kicked out, spill out into the row of food stalls. Tacos Bell is a firm favourite for drunken eats. Ask around to see where everyone’s headed next!

Still looking for ideas of things to do Chiang Mai?

Check out Travelog  for more useful, up-to-date information on things to do and places to visit when traveling in Thailand.

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Image courtesy of Four Seasons Chiang Mai.

 

Article contributed by Amy – MyChiangMaiEverything.