What began as a follow up to my dedication to Thai drinks that was to be a taste for taste of beers to be drunk in the Land of Smiles, has changed during my “research phase”—and like they say, if your plans always go as planned you might be doing something wrong; so I’ve decided to postpone the beer tasting and share my love of other things.
While I was reminiscing on the best places to scope out exceptional beers (Thai and international alike) a common theme continued bubbling to the top: rooftop bars. Aside from a great buzz and laughs with pals while dipping with Dionysus, one must think about ambiance and atmosphere: I’ve focused on an aerial view here, and it is the perfect weather for it. While it is pouring buckets on and off during this time of year in Chiang Mai there are two main places I would like to be: first and foremost I would like to be in my comfy cat pajamas with a book or a movie, and the second would be curled up with good company or equal reading material in a cozy bar. After some sabbatical, I bring to you this week bars of Chiang Mai: a step (or a few floors) above the rest! Also to note, if you are looking for a swanky bar to dress up and be the who’s who of CNX, look elsewhere—that’s just not for me. If you like more down to earth places that are still perched on a three story roof, entre vous.
Though easy to find, you might find it more difficult to mount the summit of this Chiang Mai staple—and nearly impossible dismounting after a nice long session. A haven for backpackers, meet and greets, or if you’re like me simply looking for a chill place close to home, THC BAR is the first on my list when it comes to roof top drinking.
After winding your way to the top through sometimes darkly black lit stairwells you are reminded to remove your shoes before ascending this heavenly plateau of Chiang Mai, where you will place your order at the bar. And what a selection they have! Supplying all of the regular spirited cocktails, be sure to check out the beer selection: over 30 beers with regular priced norms like Chang, Leo, and Singh, THC brings it to another level with Belgian Beers (Floris, Tripel, Barista, Duvel, Vedett IPA, and some), Craft Beers (Hitachino, Brewdog, Rogue, Tuatara, Stone IPA, and some more), and more that I’m not all that familiar with but I’m glad I have the options!
Though food is no longer an option at this great location, there is always the house favorite “Sex on the Roof” and other daily specials! Watch the mayhem that the sun sets over Thae Pae Gate, count the numerous Chinese selfies, and if you’re really lucky you might see the hefty migration of birds, insects, and bats swarming from tree to tree—it’s beautiful. The DJ is top notch and not strictly reggae as the colors might have you believe.
19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road
Freedom bar is flying in on the coattails of THC, because even if the roof is only atop a single story (which is roofy enough in my book) she still offers a great time in a prime location with some great views! After slogging it back at the Chiang Mai Gate Market, stop in for a pick-me up of brew before continuing on in the night.
Though there is a for sale sign out front, Freedom Bar is still up and running as a bar, but a few months out until it is a GH again–can’t wait! And if you are still hungry after getting your drink on at Freedom, fear not, because the crew is generally whipping up a BBQ on the corner below! Note: currently this might not be for everyone, she’s still transitioning and that’s cool. It’s still a great place to chill with a brew–I just hope the raised prices are going to remodel the old room, which is completely gone!
4 Rachapakinai Rd
Oasis Rooftop Garden Bar
Though still within the old city walls, you tend to get a more chilled atmosphere at this beautiful reprieve. Aptly named, Oasis sits three stories high above the bustling streets and if you weren’t looking for it, you could easily miss it. A fantastic spot to check out the sunset over Doi Suthep or the clouds rolling in between the valley folds, Oasis is a grand contender when it comes to smorgasbord of menus! An extensive array of classic cocktails, Oasis boasts a special seasonal cocktail menu, shooters and flights, and over 42 Belgian beers that are sure to fit whichever mood you find yourself when the sun goes down.
Though not as spacious as other rooftop bars, the people that make it to the top are as top notch as the menu! And if you get the munchies, they offer an excellent “Make Your Own Appetizer” set. And though the slow season is great at this quiet spot be sure to check it out again during the busier months where you’re sure to find a party setting off as the nights get longer!
13/1 Sripoom Rd Soi 1
Smack dab tourist central, John’s Place is going to be hard to miss for anyone perusing Thae Pae Gate. Unlike the others listed thus far, this bar has a rooftop lounge as well as a prime spot street level for all the people watching you need in your life! There are two main reasons I find myself at John’s: the first and obvious is that John’s is a great sports bar with multiple screens and options to get your fill with international games when you need them, and the second not so obvious is the Mango & Sticky Rice! One of the largest servings of M&SR ever and everything about it melts my heart!
The rest of the menu is pretty cool from what I’ve seen and had, but in my opinion they sure know how to serve the iciest, beer!
95/2 Rachapakinai Road
I’ve had amazing nights at every single place on this mini list, but CNX Bar does something that the others don’t quite achieve. What is that, you ask? It makes me feel at home. Not only figuratively speaking, but I feel like I’ve been transported to a divey rooftop bar in San Francisco (which is no longer a home, but more of where I came from, will never live there again, but that is another story for another time). This bar knows how cool it is but will always humbly recite that they’re not cool but probably cool because of the people that fill it up, or something romantic like that.
But—it is so cool, so cool they play christian music early on (beg to wonder). From ground level to the rooftop setting on the tippity top. CNX Bar will generally also have a less touristy vibe than others, equipped with your cocktail classics, cold brews and a peppy kitchen dishing out food to your heart’s desire like frog, boar, thousand year eggs, ostrich, prawn, squid, the usual chicken and pork, cellophane noodles and even goddamn partridge! Enjoy the views with a tasty meal!
VERY close to Wat Phrasing
Get your ass off the streets, your head in the clouds (even at Freedom Bar), and a drink in your hand. When it comes to great bars, my list is ever compiling from cities throughout Southeast Asia, the Bay Area, and who knows where else, but for now I am more than perfectly content with my options in my favorite city Chiang Mai. I hope you enjoy these treasures as much as I have and remember to holla at me the next time you catch me in one of them!