Thapae Gate is a major area of Chiang Mai even to this day despite its former use as an entrance to the old walled city is diminished. It did use to be a gate for traders and diplomats that came to Chiang Mai for business, their main route being from the Mae Ping River, along Thapae Road and through the Thapae Gate where they could trade freely in the walled confines of early Chiang Mai. Over the years as Chiang Mai expanded outside of the walls, the Thapae Gate become essentially useless in it’s original function though to this day it still remains the major site for festivals and events in the city.
The annual Loy Kratong Festival has parades along the Thapae road and through Thapae Gate to this day, and it is the major site for the Songkran Festival and the place to avoid if you do not want to be soaked to the bone from a thousand water pistols! Thapae Gate in Chiang Mai is in fact known as the best place to visit during the Songkran Thai New Year period, though it’s advisable to book accommodation in advance as it becomes very busy at this time of year.
Thapae Gate Accommodation
Thapae Gate is the first destination for most backpackers in Chiang Mai and offers some excellent budget accommodation. Prices for rooms in the Thapae Gate area start at around 150 baht, and if you look hard enough you can find some real bargain guesthouses with air con, hot shower and television for a modest 300 baht. There are some hotels in the area that start at around 500 baht a night, for this you should expect a good quality room, air conditioning, television and the services and facilities you would expect from a mid range Thailand hotel.
Thapae Gate Dining Out
Thapae Gate offers some good and cheap dining out options, with many bar/restaurants offering both Thai and Western food at a good standard. The Jerusalem Falafel is an excellent restaurant run by a friendly couple (Israeli food obviously) and highly recommended, as is Mike’s Burgers which closes around 3am each morning and is the perfect place to visit for late night party goers with the munchies. There is also a large selection of street stalls to choose from whether you have a taste for fried chicken or a bowl of noodles, a great option if you are on a tight budget as street food meals start at around 20-30 baht in Chiang Mai.
Thapae Gate Nightlife
On either side of the moat alongside Thapae Gate there are plenty of bars that offer cheap beer and a friendly atmosphere. Most of these bars are aimed more for the budget traveler and those in need of the company of Thai girls, and generally the format for bars in this area is a pool table, a good stock of Sang Som and bottles of Chang and of course, top off with the smiling Thai girls, all available to be bar fined for around 300 baht a night. There is also a couple of Go Go bars in this area, the most noticeable being the Spotlight Go Go which seems to draw a regular crowd every night and is a favorite among long term visitors in the area.
There are of course some bars that are a little less inclined to providing you with a girl and cater for those who prefer a quieter drink; the Chiang Mai Saloon is an excellent example of this, as despite it being located in the main red light area of Thapae Gate, manages to keep itself a good place for a relaxing drink, and offers a fine selection of international food as well. For more variety of bars in the Chiang Mai nightlife scene, it’s worth travelling to the other areas of the city but Thapae Gate definitely serves its purpose as a fun and cheap night out on the tiles.