Vietnam has become one of Southeast Asia’s most popular travel destinations. And certainly many gays are among those who visit this country. Most gay visitors, however, see Vietnam as only another Thailand. But I have to go directly to the point here: Vietnam is not Thailand. If you are in search of hot party locations – then Vietnam might be a little of disappointment for you. This does not mean that there aren’t hot parties here, but outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, they are rare.
The first thing is that the Vietnamese in general tend to go to bed early. Even in tourist centers like Hoi An, the shops close about 8-9 p.m. and the owners go to bed. Only tourist cafés and restaurants are open at night. You will see that the streets are empty after 8 p.m. – and not only in Hoi An, but also in parts of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
Discos are not frequently found. The new, young generation of Vietnamese imitate Western lifestyle, but officials still are reluctant to give them what they crave. Vietnam’s political elite still orients their politics on the basis of traditional, mostly Confucian values. In other parts of Vietnam, mostly in the countryside, people go to bed at about 8 p.m.
Okay, this does not really sound like a fashionable up-to-date, totally “in” location. Parties exist, but most travelers won’t find them. The tourist infrastructure is quite homogenous: tourists stay in their quarters, Vietnamese in theirs. But what can you do, as a gay traveler, in Vietnam? Here are some places to go:
1. Gay cafés
In some of your travel guides, you will find some gay cafés. Forget them, or at least forget that they are “gay.” Because they aren’t. There are no such things as “gay cafés” in Vietnam. If you go there, you will find a totally normal café with the owner being gay. Guests will include all genders, age groups and social groups. If the owner is openly gay – yes! This exists here; some gays out themselves – you will find some fashionable gays, but not the “boy next door.” The latter will not voluntarily visit such cafés. Anyhow, the only gay thing in “gay cafés” in Vietnam is the entry in some gay travel guides.
Surprisingly, some bars have existed for years. The people are mostly mixed. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have some famous gay bars, where you can have a beer and listen to music, although there is no dancing. You will find a lot of bars and clubs on the internet, but most are not only-gay, but mixed places. This makes getting in touch with locals quite difficult. The most famous bar in Ha Noi is certainly GC Bar, near the Hoan Kiem Lake.
Bars open and close fast, so a list never can be up-to-date. Try to get the latest information from some locals, when you come to town. Ho Chi Minh City is, in my opinion, more conservative than Hanoi, although most travel guides say the contrary. But there are not many bars in Ho Chi Minh City that can be named gay. Centro is said to be the “in” club, but you have to discover it for yourself.
3. Gay groups
There exist some gay groups. They have appeared in the last few years. I once met some guys from “Anhsaodem” in Da Nang City. Later I was involved with G-Link in Can Tho. G-Link is by far the biggest group in the south. Gays and lesbians meet regularly for going out, going on picnics, travelling together, playing games and organizing projects. Those groups organize the Vietnamese Gay Pride. A visit with these groups may be worth it. Foreigners are always welcome. However, most guys won’t speak English, so a visit might only be fruitful if you speak Vietnamese or have someone who can translate for you.
Find a Hotel in Vietnam today!
Saunas are relaxing places – in several modes. Truly, only few people come to gay saunas to have a refreshing heat session, although heat may be also involved by cruising through the rooms. Hanoi has several saunas, but most places do not exist for long. The local authorities make the life of saunas short. Saunas, however, may be the best place to get in touch with locals. Ho Chi Minh City has only a few saunas, lying far outside the usual tourist areas. The sauna in Da Nang was ridiculous – a 10 square meter room without anyone. It is not a loss that it has closed. But I am sure there will be some alternatives in the future.
In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly named Saigon), there is a big monthly gay party. BITCH party is the only real and regular gay event in Vietnam, although there are others. The party usually takes place at different locations and dates. You can find the latest information on their Facebook page Bitch Saigon. The party is the “in” event of Vietnam’s growing gay scene and if you have the opportunity, you should try it. The best place and time to get in touch with the hottest and most fashionable gays in town.
Most massage places and spas have a happy ending. Actually, it depends on what you pay for your massage. Even at the barber shops, where you get a head massage, are opportunities for relaxation. Real guy-to-guy massage is not common, but you need not look for it. In Ho Chi Minh City, it will find you. Every evening guys go around in Pham Ngu Lao area and offer their services. You should try to find popular massage places and not go to obscure places advertised in the internet.
For sure, there are certain places to find gays. They are not much different than those in the West: public toilets, parks, certain uncrowded spots. Ho Chi Minh City is famous for its cruising area in 23-9-park, near the Pham Ngu Lao. In Hanoi many gays meet around Hoan Kiem in the early evening. Certain toilets in the shopping centres are used for a quick meeting. All those places are under control of security, however. I do not know what happens if you are caught by them. If you are caught by the police, it will be an expensive adventure for sure. I also want to remind you that all kinds of prostitution are forbidden in Vietnam and most hustlers are or are near a highly criminal environment. Theft and blackmailing is quite common. If you are not acquainted with Vietnamese customs, you should try to find someone online via chat or personal ad.
8. Get in touch with locals
Local gays will find you. This actually depends on your own appearance. The more gay you look like, the less likely you will find someone. Please do not try to be convinced that particular Vietnamese boys are gay, even if they look like it. The problem is that looking “gay” is now a fashion. Not all gay-looking guys are gay! Try to flirt with some guys and see where it leads. If someone is actually not gay, you always can use the excuse of being a foreigner. Foreigners always do strange things in Vietnam. Where to find locals? Everywhere. However, I cannot promise they are not money guys or hustlers.
As far as I know, at the moment, there aren’t any “gay” discos. In most areas of Vietnam, it will be hard to find any discos…
10. Gay Travel
I have found some ads on the Internet during the years, offering gay travel. However, the gayest thing of those gay travels is that the tour guide may be gay and is in hope of getting a higher tip to serve you not only during the day, but also at night. Anyhow, you save an extra hotel room by doing so. However, it is not clear to me what a gay tour guide could present you during a gay tour, since there are (see above) not many places to go. He may have the best contacts for local hustlers and can get you the top callboys of each area, though you can find them by yourself anyway.
Okay, this does not sound very entertaining, right? I must admit that Vietnamese daily life is not very entertaining. As I told you before, Vietnam is not another Thailand, as I always point out. To make the best of Vietnam, enjoy the scenery of its different regions and have some intense looks at the local guys. There is no gay travelling as such.
Everyone must find his own, unique way of discovering the country by himself. In some later posts I will introduce you to some more locations and have some more insights into the daily gay life in Vietnam.