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Vietnam forum

Any issues being Gay in South East Asia?

Posted by AlexBCN on 27/3/2010 at 16:04


We have finally found some time with my partner to travel to South East Asia. Thanks to this website, we have decided the route. However, I was wondering how tolerant is Asia with gays and whether is better to book a two beds room in hostels. We don't normally show that much affection in the street so the main issue would really be when talking to the locals and booking room.

I havent seen any posting about it, so any comments, exerience would be much appreciated.

Many thanks

#1 AlexBCN has been a member since 22/3/2010. Posts: 12

Posted by Gorey on 27/3/2010 at 21:25

I've never experienced any problems in Thailand or Laos, and in general the peoples in South East asia are very tolerant towards gays especially in comparison to many countries. I cant speak for the general attitude in Vietnam though as i have never been there.

When travelling with a partner i've had no problems when checking in or getting a room at a guesthouse, and a more formal hotel should never do anything to make you uncomfortable or feel offended in regards to this.

I only once experiences a problem whilst in Malaysia but that only extended to a more frosty attitude towards us nothing more - i considered this a one off in my experiences.

Few local people would have a problem when talking to them - its very common for people in Thailand and Laos to ask quite personal questions compared to say the UK or Australia and in my experiences one of the first questions i get asked is if im married or have a girlfriend. I either simply answer no or tell them that im with my boyfriend/partner if hes with me - the usual response to that is 'oh okay, are you hungry?' or some othetr such continuation of getting to know each other and when i've been alone virtually everyone has asked to see a picture of my partner.

Also, regarding the public affection im sure you already know its not encouraged in SE Asia (for gay or straight couples) but no one bats an eye at 2 men holding hands or hugging or out for a meal together. the preconceived ideas of what a 'man' can do out here are quite different.

Hope that helps.

#2 Gorey has been a member since 26/3/2007. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 58

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Posted by MADMAC on 28/3/2010 at 11:44

I can only speak for Thailand, but there are a lot of gay men here, that's for sure. Except for gossiping about who's son is gay, I haven't seen anything negative directed against homosexuals in Thailand.

I thought Gorey's post was a good one, but although I have not been to Malaysia, I know that it's a Muslim majority country. While it practices a more tolerant form of Islam as a social compact, nevertheless it has laws against homosexual activity and within the Islamic Ummah extreme violence against gays is common. Were I gay, I would not go there with a "partner".

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by daawgon on 28/3/2010 at 12:33

The positive attitude they have towards all relationships in Thailand is somewhat unique in this world. Certainly I find the rest of the region to be far more conservative, and I suggest you cool it for a few weeks. There is a thriving Gay lifestyle in the Philippines, and to a lesser extent in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but Indochina is another world!

#4 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by roynolan on 28/3/2010 at 21:07

My partner and I have had no problems anywhere and have booked double rooms everywhere we have been, In Vietnam from north to south even in very small places. We have been accepted and treated as everybody else, so I wouldn't worry about anything

#5 roynolan has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 48

Posted by Gorey on 29/3/2010 at 06:37

In regards to Madmac's post: The general attitudes within Malaysia seem to differ between peninsular Malaysia and Sabah & Sarawak. The latter being more conservative/traditional in regards to gays (from personal experience) and i often forget its part of Malaysia. A large part of the populations in Sabah and Sarawak are christian (mainly catholic i believe) and although i never experienced direct offensive behavior, i felt a much higher tension and was several times told about 'gods views on gays' within conversations.

I think a good way of putting it is in Thailand or Laos when people (staff) at a guesthouse knew we were a couple there would be smiles and giggles, and in Malaysia for the most part it was stares and whispering.

I prefer the giggling myself.

Theres an online resource somewhere listing gay friendly hostels/guesthouses/hotels in the region - i steer away from these places though, they often become hives of seedy activity but some people feel much safer being around like minded folks.

#6 Gorey has been a member since 26/3/2007. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 58

Posted by MADMAC on 29/3/2010 at 09:19

I did a little research on the net. In general, the affluent Malays tend to be a bit more tolerant towards homosexuality. However, the bottom line is engaging in homosexual behavior in Malaysia is illegal, and people do get prosecuted for it. While the Christian community may frown upon it, it is the Muslim community I think Gays need to steer clear of. The Islamic Ummah still consistently uses non-judicial violence against homosexuals world wide and while it is probably unlikely that something like that would happen - it is certainly possible. Again, were I gay and traveling in Malaysia I would be discreet about it and not put myself in a position where I could end up in a Malay jail for homosexual offences. I would imagine that is not a pleasant experience.

#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by lexkssnbrg on 29/3/2010 at 15:42

Come on and go ahead with your plan. My wife and I were in Vietnam last year and everyone was fantastic, helpful and open minded. Sorry, I've no idea about the rest countries in the region but would doubt if you've any problem.

#8 lexkssnbrg has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 53

Posted by AlexBCN on 30/3/2010 at 03:18

Thanks for all the answers!

#9 AlexBCN has been a member since 22/3/2010. Posts: 12

Posted by perkypurplepixie on 4/6/2010 at 10:12

I may be way too late with my reply, but it could be useful to others for future reference:

Because opposite-sex contact is frowned upon in many parts in SE Asia (though it seems to be changing with the younger generations), it is quite common to see same-sex affection (hand holding, arms around shoulders etc. The cities tend to be more familiar and tolerant of homosexuality than the villages, which are generally more traditional in every sense.

There is gay-friendly accommodation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and quite a few gay expats there.

In KL - it sometimes feels like all the locals are gay (I am currently living in KL and most of the people I know are gay/lesbian) - it's just a matter of not showing affection in public, but that applies in general. Many travellers tend to be in twos and same-sex - it doesn't necessarily mean they are gay.

#10 perkypurplepixie has been a member since 30/4/2008. Posts: 8

Posted by iheartworld on 31/8/2012 at 15:30

If you're in Phnom Penh, be sure to check out Nova Club, a LGBT friendly club.

#11 iheartworld has been a member since 31/8/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by enigmatic on 1/9/2012 at 01:36

Posted from within Vietnam.

Old thread, but general enough to be relevant.

I think it's probably fair to say that views on homosexuality in SE Asia are as varied as those in the West, except that people are likely to be more discreet about either their relationships or their prejudices. You're probably far more likely to be threatened or verbally abused in your own country, and hotel staff probably won't make any assumptions about men sharing a double room unless you're asking for the honeymoon suite anyway.

I've seen pretty open displays of homosexual affection (stopping short of kissing) in regular bars in Cambodia and Vietnam, and for that matter Asian guys seem to have fewer qualms about hitting on me in "straight environments than their Western counterparts. There's also a lot of intimacy between heterosexual men (less so than India though), which possibly makes it easier for the locals to [pretend to] be completely oblivious of the guys who are actually interested in each other.

Saigon, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and many places in Thailand all have bona fide gay bars, if that's your thing.

#12 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84

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