Known as the cultural capital of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai offers many historic cultural attractions and an exciting local gay scene. Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, with nearly one million people in the greater area. The city has a large student population, which helps to keep the vibrant nightlife growing alongside Chiang Mai’s rise as a popular tourist destination.
The city was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, which translates as “the land of a million rice fields”. Chiang Mai’s city center is still within the historical walls and moat. The city became an important trading hub due to its riverside position along the Mae Ping River, a major tributary to the Chao Phraya River.
This trading city developed a mix of cultural identities which can be seen in the local Buddhist temples showcasing a mix of Burmese, Sri Lankan, and Lanna Thai style Buddhism and architecture.
Gay Chiang Mai offers a more relaxed alternative to some of Thailand’s other main destinations like Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Phangan, leaving behind booze buckets and sleazy nightclubs in favor of a refreshing blend of Thai tradition and cool youth culture.
Chiang Mai, like most of Thailand, is very gay-friendly with a laid-back gay scene. The city is home to a few gay bars, gay saunas, and massage parlors. Most of the gay scene in Chiang Mai is targeted towards the local population, especially students.
In terms of public tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality, Thailand is one of the most welcoming countries across Asia. Chiang Mai is a cosmopolitan city with an established gay population, so you should have no trouble with things like checking into hotels and hanging out with other gay men.
As a whole, Thai people value discretion and non-confrontation, so no one should give you any hassle for being seen together. That said, public displays of affection – both straight and gay – are frowned upon.
Male and female same-sex activity is legal in Thailand however gay marriage is not legal yet. Bangkok Post reports that “…while Thailand is viewed as a tourist haven for same-sex couples, the reality for locals is that the law, and often public sentiment, is not so liberal.” LGBT residents of Thailand and Bangkok are not offered the equal legal protections offered to non-LGBT (straight) people.
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