A favorite destination and home to expats, digital nomads, LGBTQs, and Thai Buddhists seeking enlightenment, Chiang Mai straddles the Ping River, juxtaposed against North Thailand’s mountains. While chilled out in vibe and heavily peppered with temples, monks, and a Lanna heritage, the city also boasts a buzzing modern hipster district, Nimman (aka Nimmanhemin). Add to this the walled-in Old City, universities, outstanding craft coffee shops, and small galleries, plus street food galore (Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker has a home and wife here, and the late Anthony Bourdain was a fan). The city was also named one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities in 2017.
One of Chiang Mai’s most enchanting, upscale, and LGBT-friendly properties to soak in the Zen is 137 Pillars House (2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Rd. Tel: +66 053 247 788. 137pillarschiangmai.com), a 30-suite gorgeously landscaped, sustainability-forward, peaceful, colonial-style enclave just ten minutes’ walk from the bustling market and night bazaar. Its name is taken from its centerpiece, an 1800s teak homestead: originally supported by 137 pillars, it served as headquarters of the Borneo Trading Company and was opened by Louis Leonowens, son of the real-life Anna from Anna and The King. Boasting a luxurious, intimate spa, pool with living wall, restaurants, and a bar, 137 Pillars House also has a prime asset in its openly gay Head Butler, Khun Toto, who first joined the property as a guest services agent in 2012. Here he shares his Chiang Mai musts.
Where are the coolest places in Chiang Mai to go for cocktails?
One of the best places to have some drinks is at our Jack Bain’s Bar, proudly located in the original teak house at 137 Pillars House. This bar is named after the last owner of the house, who, in his day, was quite the lady’s man, a talker, and drinker. The cocktail menu is inspired by classic colonial cocktails, like The Garden, a perfect combination of Hendrick’s gin, honey, tonic, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs that make you feel like walking in your own garden. The rooftop bar Myst (55 Huaykaew Rd. Tel: +66 061 512 6768. www.facebook.com/MystMAYA), on the sixth floor of MAYA lifestyle mall, is a lovely place to watch the sunset. Nimman’s Akyra Manor Hotel also has a rooftop bar, Rise (22/2 Nimmana Haeminda Road Soi 9. Tel: +66 (0) 5 321 6219. www.theakyra.com/chiang-mai), with great Chiang Mai views and a clear-walled pool so you can watch people swim while you sip. Drinksmith & Co. (107 Mahidol Rd, Tambon Hai Ya. Tel: +66 64 648 6020. m.facebook.com/drinksmithcnx), near Central Airport Plaza, is quite the destination for a serious cocktail. Very classy, with a British motif and twenty-three signature cocktails to choose from. Also, rustic colonial themed restaurant, bar, and craft shop The House Lounge (199 Moonmuang Rd. Tel: +66 53 287 681. www.thehousebygingercm.com) is a great spot on the east side of old city. Enjoy your drinks with live jazz every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.
Where can someone go experience real, authentic Northern Thailand cuisine?
One of the most famous traditional northern Thai foods is Khao Soi, egg noodles in soupy yellow curry with beef, chicken, or pork. I’ve been to Khao Soi Lam Duan (352/22 ThCharoenrat/Th Faham. Tel: +66 53 243 519.) since I was young and their food still has the same great taste. Ruen Tamarind (Tamarind Village Hotel, 50/1 Rajdamnoen Road. Tel: +66 53 418 896. www.tamarindvillage.com) is located in the center of the old city and offers Thai and Northern Thai food in very beautiful Lanna style decoration. Also Lanna style, Baan Suan’s (Ruen Cham Mai – Maejo Rd, Tel: (+66 53 854 169.) setting on the Ping river makes this place a bit of paradise. At 137 Pillars’ The Dining Room, there’s a fantastic, upscale Khao Soi and another Northern Thai specialty, Hunlae Gae, a lamb shank stewed in curry. Our chef can also create a special gluten-free, lactose-free or other allergy-sensitive meal. And don’t forget street food by the Saturday and Sunday walking street, Wualai Rd. and Rachadamnoen Rd, but I always mention to guests that street food should only be eaten hot and not cold to avoid the possibility of getting sick.
Speaking of street food, where can someone go for something to eat at 3 A.M.?
Open inside from 2 A.M. to 10 A.M., Chiang Mai Gate Market (Bumring Bur Rd.) offers very local Thai food as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Midnight Fried Chicken (139 Kompangdin Rd. Tel: +66 89 433 0813) serves Northern Thai food such as deep-fried chicken with green chili paste, spicy Chiangmai sausage, and is open from 11 P.M. until 5 A.M.
Who serves the best weekend brunch?
Located in the middle of the Night Bazaar area, Favola (108 Chang Klan Rd. Tel: +66 053 253 299. www.facebook.com/FavolaChiangMai) at the Le Meridien Hotel provides a Sunday brunch buffet and includes seafood, lobster, a glass of champagne, and Italian and international dishes. About 15-20 minutes away from our hotel to the city’s east, Akaligo (Dhara Dhevi Hotel, 51/4 Chiang Mai Sankampaeng Rd. Moo 1. Tel: +66 53 888 888. www.dharadhevi.com) is stunning and beautiful, decorated in Burmese temple style. The Sunday brunch buffet includes seafood, king crab, international food and soft drinks.