10 Best Gay Districts in Asia
To chronicle LGBT travel as a scribe in the medium is a tricky enterprise, at best. On the one hand, one wonders if the term “gay travel” will ever dovetail with “travel”. On the other, it seems quite natural for every subculture in the strata of human society to bond together in very specific ways and, indeed, in very specific places.
The abysmal record of LGBT enfranchisement in many parts of the world suggests, however, that the genesis of these “very specific places” is, too often, akin to a de facto ghettoization. Unlike pride-swollen ‘hoods like San Francisco’s Castro or Sydney’s Darlinghurst, in other words, antediluvian criminal codes in parts of Asia frequently beget illicit gay nightlife shtetls. To put it another way, the concept of a Big Gay Ice Cream truck is still anathema. All in good time, I suppose.
But until a country like Indonesia, for example, adopts the Yogyakarta Principles (on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity), LGBT tourists can openly find solace and compatible company on the continent.
Shinjuku Ni-chÅme, Tokyo, Japan
In a first in conservative Japan, openly gay candidate Taiga Ishikawa recently won a seat in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward Assembly. In feverish Shinjuku Ni-chÅme – the most prominent yaoi zone in the metropolis – the news barely reverberated above the disco din.
Where to stay: Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Tokyo
Doyama, Osaka, Japan
The place where Osaka’s faceless, legion salarymen traditionally trudge to blow off workaday steam in an orgy of okonomiyaki and Kirin is now the city’s patent hub of gay culture.
Where to stay: The Westin Osaka Hotel
Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea
Rigid, steely social mores in South Korea censor homosexuality from public life but pockets of resistance prevail in Seoul’s Shinchon and Jongno districts. Still, tourists and expats may find Itaewon’s “Homo Hill” more hospitable.
Where to stay: PJ Hotel Seoul
Si Lom, Bang Rak, Bangkok, Thailand
Southeast Asia is brazenly paradoxical in matters of sexual identity and expression and nowhere is this more manifest than in Bangkok, where Si Lom’s Soi 2 and Soi 4 emerge as the city’s flamboyant, chaotic chieftains of gay nightlife.
Where to stay: Banyan Tree Hotel Bangkok
Patong, Phuket, Thailand
Patong’s breezy acceptance of the most libertine vices is platitude by now but a fact nonetheless. With that, the Paradise Complex is strictly for the queers.
Where to stay: Mercure Patong Phuket
Dong Da, Hanoi, Vietnam
Dong (yes, Dong) Da is the heart of the LGBT scene in Hanoi and area of choice for a massage and sauna fix.
Where to stay: Hanoi Horison Hotel
Central, Hong Kong, China
To classify Central as a gaybourhood per se is a little ambitious. Still, Hong Kong’s CBD has the gay boÃ®te buzz, from Propaganda to Volume.
Where to stay: Metropark Hotel Wanchai Hong Kong
Ximending, Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan Pride is big, by any measure, and proves that rainbow power is alive and well in Taipei every September/October. The rest of the year, the city’s 228 Peace Memorial Park and Ximending pedestrian zone have a discernible queer inflection.
Where to stay: Taipei Garden Hotel
Malate, Manila, Philippines
The fetishisation of effete, pretty Pinoys borders on bloodsport, which makes the intersection of Maria Orosa and Julio Nakpil in Metro Manila a mecca of global gay subculture.
Where to stay: The Heritage Hotel Manila
Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Singapore is far from a model of LGBT tolerance but improvement is on the horizon. For now, Tanjong Pagar in the CBD is the city-state’s salient LGBT enclave.
Where to stay: Amara Hotel Singapore