Many gay people assume that South East Asia isn’t a friendly destination for travellers of their sexuality, but they couldn’t be more wrong. While some countries, such as Malaysia, Brunei and parts of Indonesia are notorious for their lack of tolerance, most other places are entirely relaxed. Here, avid traveller and tour guide Benjamin Johnson presents the top-five gay-friendly destinations in the region:
5 – Bali, Indonesia
Yes, it is part of Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, yes sodomy is illegal, but rules are made to be broken. Especially in this Hindu outpost attitudes towards gays and lesbians are much more relaxed. Combined with the constant flood of tourists (particularly from Australia) you can find a lively gay nightlife along with a deluge of gay tourists from the great southern land who want to be seen in their summer swimwear best.
For great a night out in Bali head to Bali Joe’s and if you’re looking to be seen in the daytime places like Ku De Ta and Potato Head Beach Club are awesome hangout spot (though not gay clubs these places attract people from all walks of life).
4 – Manila, Philippines
With over 20 million people in the Manila Metro area and being the capital, it attracts all the gays from the more conservative parts of the country, which means this place is teaming with liberal-minded fellows that are down to party.
Institutions like O bar in Ortigas is great for your regular type drag show filled festivities and the newly opened Nectar in BGC is also one not to miss. In addition, there are plenty of gay bars throughout the city, especially in Malate, some favourites are Chelu and The Library Malate whether it just be for chilled drinks or something more party heavy these places won’t let you down.
Aside from the Manila bar scene, Manila Pride held every year in June and is attended by thousands of people who come to see the parade and stay for the after parties, which roll well into the night.
3 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This one may seem a strange contender, however Phnom Penh over the past few years has transformed into an amazing place to party for all people.
New gay bars are popping up like crazy such as a the newly opened Valentino’s club which premiered on New Year’s Eve. Other favourites are the well-known Blue Chilli and Hair Space Studio which all have great prices on drinks, amazing atmosphere and attract a mix of foreign and local guys.
Even the main nightclubs such as Pontoon host a regular gay night. This combination of amazing nightlife and prices that don’t put a dent in your wallet like some other gay clubs will be sure to attract more and more visitors, and maybe one day will give Bangkok a run for its money.
Other hidden gems include the Arthur and Paul gay-only hotel, which is a good place to hang out in the day if you prefer a more relaxed style. An amazing pool and extensive cocktail list makes this place an oasis in the organised chaos of Phnom Penh.
2 – Taipei, Taiwan
Technically not “Southeast Asia” however, with its progressive attitudes to gay rights and a flourishing gay scene, Taipei is one of the best gay-friendly cities of Asia.
An abundance of bars and clubs and a massive gay pride parade this is a city of flamboyance that can’t be missed.
Venues such as Aniki, Jump and Funky are all great for nights out to meet local guys. The Red Building gay area in Ximending is also worth checking out, boasting funky bars and gay apparel stores which have something for anyone’s wild fantasy.
Not only are Taiwanese people incredibly helpful and accepting, but Taiwan is also set to be the first nation on the Asian continent to legislate for gay marriage.
1 – Bangkok
Now there is no way Bangkok cannot be considered number one. With some great if not the best gay nightlife in the world, this mecca for gay nightlife is known worldwide and continues to attract thousands of gay travellers every year.
Massive events are held throughout the year on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Songkran, often in the form of circuit parties that host thousands of people at one time, each day with a different theme enabling party goers to show as much skin as possible while they dance the night away.
Soi 4 and Soi 2 are a must for night time drinking with many bars and the notorious DJ station located in within the narrow alleys. These places go well into the night and when all else fails you can hit up GOD club which by 3am is a swarming mass of shirtless men dancing to pop music. It’s intense but amazing.
Next time your considering a holiday adventure look to the East instead of the expensive safe havens of Europe, Australia and North America. With amazing beaches, even better parties, some of the friendliest people in the world and mouth-watering food, Southeast Asia is the best place to be a gay traveller.