We are gay couple – Richard and Alex and we have spent 5 years in Siem Reap Cambodia. During that time we owned and operated our guest-house and had quite many gay guests. We also traveled through the region (South East Asia) and we strongly suggest to any gay travelers, single or couples, to consider visiting one or more destinations in this region.
1. What makes South East Asia?
South East Asia or is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia.
Maritime Southeast Asia, comprising Indonesia, East Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Christmas Island.
Mainland Southeast Asia, also known historically as Indochina, comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and West Malaysia.
Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia (particularly Bali) are destinations worth visiting for many reasons from natural beauties to cultural and historical richness they can offer to visitors.
2. Is it safe for gay travelers?
There are very gay friendly and very gay hostile parts of pretty much any city in any country on this planet. Can you walk hand in hand with your partner in every part of Amsterdam, LA, Sydney or London? Certainly not. The same applies to cities in South East Asia. Rule number one for any traveler (gay or straight) is to show respect to local culture and tradition and to follow some basic common sense of being street wise.
Being gay was a criminal offense in places like Malaysia, Singapore and unfortunately a lot more. But in reality, as a foreigner, no one wants to kick up a fuss with you. At no stage during our travels did we feel threatened or in danger for being gay. Tourism is big business and one of the most important industries in these countries and foreigners have no reason to be worried about being gay or gay couple even if it is officially banned as in Malaysia and Singapore. It is extremely rare that these laws are applied even against locals and almost unthinkable applying them against foreign visitors.
Thailand is conservative society but very gay friendly and tolerant toward LGBT population be it locals or tourists. Bangkok is incredible city that offers a lots of places worth seeing and great night-life and entertainment for gay traveler. Although many parts of Indonesia are not gay friendly, Bali is one of most popular destinations for gay travelers from Australia and from other wester countries. Vietnam is opening very fast and is very friendly gay destination with government even considering recognition of the same sex marriages (could you ever expect that from a communist country?) The same or similar could be said about Cambodia and Philippines.
So, the answer is – YES, it is safe for gay travelers to visit most of South East Asia.
2. Is there enough stuff to see
Absolutely yes. I am not going to go into details but one should know that we are talking about countries with long history that could easily compare to European countries. I will mention only one example – Angkor Empire in Cambodia.
Start some research and you will find amazing information about these countries and cultures that span long before colonial era.
Yeah, do some research, make your plans and remember – you already have hundreds (if not thousands) photos of all landmarks in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, New York in your photo library and there are some stunning places in Asia that can offer just as much if not more.
3. Accessibility and cost
Do I have to say that Singapore is one of world major travel hubs? Bangkok is second to Singapore in this region and all major travel destinations in the region are well connected to these two hubs. Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon and Jakarta have regular connections with all major European and American cities operated by local and all major international airlines. Asian travel industry is growing faster than in the rest of the world and strong competition is resulting in better afford-ability and quality of services.
LGBT communities and organizations in this region are thriving and very open and friendly with travelers. Go and visit them – they will appreciate it greatly and it will be best support you can offer. Meet gay population of South East Asia, make friends, learn about their daily lives and share your experience with them. From my experience making friends in this part of the world is easier than in Europe – I am not talking about picking up in a bar only here.
There are hotels and guest-houses for every budget – information about some of them is available on this site and we are planning to post much more in the future. Just one word on “gay friendly” hotels – we have not come across one single hotel in Asia that was not “gay friendly”. You are encouraged to make bookings in hotels that are reviewed or advertise on gay-travel sites and forums as a good way to help local gay businesses but do some research before doing it as many hotels stating to be gay friendly have nothing to do with local gay community – half of those advertising as such in Siem Reap certainly fall into that group. There are also exclusively gay hotels (mainly gay resorts) and they offer some services exclusive to gay travelers. Choice is certainly yours but one thing is for sure – you will be welcome.
We hope this post has been helpful in deciding where are you going to travel next. We are also happy to hear your experiences, questions and suggestions. If you want to contact us send us an email and we guarantee to respond to it