by Gaycation Magazine Guest Blogger, Ben Lambert of High Society Hobo
I think the biggest decision to travel anywhere has to be whether or not a destination is gay friendly. This happens to be my story of my visit to Bangkok Thailand. Here’s how it actually started:
I turned around to find a 5” white, very anatomically detailed, dildo in my face. While not something I’m unaccustomed to, I was surprised that it was happening smack in the middle of the brightly lit, crowded sidewalk. I was even more surprised by the fact that behind the dildo was a little Thai grandma asking, “You like? You want, yes?”
When I recovered and politely declined, she paused, assumed a knowing look and replied “Oh. Too small for you!” The next thing I knew, she was brandishing a 10” purple, battery-operated, light up monster. “This, this you like. I know.” Thus ended my first day in Bangkok.
Two weeks later, I’m still in Bangkok and I can honestly say that I’ve felt more comfortable being out and proud here than in many western cities I’ve been to. In fact, Bangkok just might be the world’s most gay-friendly city. I know it sounds a bit crazy but bear with me a few minutes while I tell you all the reasons this should be your next gaycation destination.
First, let’s get the boring but important legal bits out of the way. Homosexual acts are completely legal in Thailand. In fact, they’ve been legal since the government repealed their anti-gay laws in 1956! It also puts them 11 years ahead of England, the 5th country to do so. And as for the United States, well we only fully eliminated anti-gay sex laws in 2003 and it only took years of litigation and a Supreme Court ruling. Let me repeat that for all of you gaybies out there, as of 2003 (a mere 11 years ago), it was still a crime in several states for you to have sex with another guy.
I think I could easily stop here and still more than adequately prove my point. However, as all of us homos know, there’s a big difference between something being legal and something being accepted (or at least tolerated) by social values. So, I shall go on.
Thais are renowned for being super friendly people and Thailand is even touted as the “Land of Smiles”. I must say it is true. The people here are incredibly friendly and that friendliness extends to the LGBT community. In fact, my experience with a local, 70-year-old cab driver pretty much sums it up. When he discovered I was American, he was insanely happy and excitedly informed me, “I work in American GI bar during Vietnam War!! Love America.” He was even more excited when I gave him an address in Silom, near the gay bars. “Ohhhhh. You go bar gay!” he exclaimed, winking and giving me a thumbs up. “YEAH! You have good time!” I wonder if he was married to the dildo lady.
What’s more, the gay locals I met were more than happy to talk about their experiences. All of which were positive. They generally feel accepted by society, all of them were completely out to their families and colleagues. They never felt as if they’d been discriminated against for being gay. While there aren’t any anti-LGBT discrimination laws on the books, it appears that they aren’t needed – there are almost no complaints made on that issue. In fact, the newspapers here reported a recent incident on the metro, involving two young local lesbians who were kissing. Not over the top making out, just a few quick intimate kisses in public. Someone verbally accosted them and it was such a rare occurrence that it made the news and everyone in the media was in favor of the lesbians. You won’t find that happening in the US.
As a foreign observer, Bangkok today feels very open and accepting of the LGBT community. The Thais seem to take a “live and let live” approach to life, which I can totally respect. There is a small, but thriving and always packed gay district in Silom with loads of bars and clubs, mostly dedicated to gay males. Take a stroll through Soi 2 or Soi 4 any night and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven – you won’t find a single non-gay establishment in the place and the streets are overflowing with gay men. Many of them insanely hot and several of them scantily clad.
In Silom especially there are loads of hotels, hostels and B&Bs that really cater to the gay tourist community. You’ll find that the staffs of these places are almost all members of the LGBT community themselves. As the gay male scene is more visible here, you’ll even find some hotels with an exclusively gay/bi male staff. That, of course, means that if you come alone you probably won’t have to go very far to find your gaycation boyfriend. But even outside of the gayborhood, you won’t have to worry about any issues if you want to bring a guy home from the clubs.
Want a warm-oil massage with a happy ending? They’re pretty common here, even in the massage parlors outside of the Silom area. Nearly every place will have at least one male masseur who’d be more than happy to give you a massage. You’ll definitely get felt up a little, because they make sure they get every inch of those thigh muscles. And there’s a better than average chance that if you start rocking a hard on, he’ll help you out with that as well. If you’re a big guy and you get stuck with a female masseuse, don’t worry. Chances are she’ll help you out too.
If you’re looking for more than just a massage and fancy a full-blown spa day in an all-gay environment, then you’re in luck! Bangkok has a decent number of gay saunas/spas. Some are fairly seedy establishments that are basically nothing more than a hot tub, steam room and private rooms for sex. Others are more like an actual spa that just happen to be gay (though they’ve got sex rooms too). One of my favorite gay travel bloggers, That Gay Backpacker, is somewhat of a gay spa authority.
Of course, there’s more for you to do in Bangkok than just have sex. The food scene here is amazing and runs the gamut from traditional Thai to European cuisines. You can find delicious and ridiculously cheap food on every street in Bangkok. If you fancy something a bit more fancy than street food, then you’ve got loads of options for that too, from café’s like Silom Society (a gay coffee bar) to expensive, rooftop places like Zen at the World Center.
There are loads of fun market to visit as well. There’s the Chatachuk Weekend Market, rumored to be the largest market in Asia and possibly the world, which has absolutely everything under the sun. You’ve got Asiatique, which is right on the river. It’s more upscale, but the food options are plentiful and cheap and make for great people watching. If you want something a bit more local, then take the BTS to On Nut and check out the market right by the station stop. There are loads of others of course.
If none of this is quite your cup of tea, just head into any residential area and wander around for a bit. Eventually, you’ll happen upon some great market, shop or restaurant. Or, even better, maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with one of those friendly locals who will turn you onto a place most tourists never see.
If you want to get some beach time in, Bangkok is also a short bus/train ride or flight from several amazing beaches and islands. All of which are just as gay friendly as the capital city. There might not be any gay bars or gay hotels, but I guarantee you, you’ll find some openly gay friendly places with the rainbow flag on their doors. Even if you don’t, trust me when I say, these people are inherently gay friendly. You won’t have a problem.
So the bottom line is this, regardless of what your ideal type of gaycation is, whether cities or beaches, exploration or sexploration, budget or luxury, Bangkok is definitely worth a visit. The people of this city are so incredibly friendly that you’ll feel right at home instantly. And, if you’re like me (or most of the foreign guys I’ve met in Thailand so far), you won’t want to leave.