Vietnam is a relatively hassle-free place for gay, lesbian and transgender travellers. There are no official laws prohibiting same-sex relationships, or same-sex sexual acts in Vietnam. There's very little in the way of harassment. VietPride www. The Hanoi event now takes place over several days in September and includes film screenings, talks, parties and a bike rally.
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Vietnam is a relatively hassle-free place for gay, lesbian and transgender travellers. There are no official laws prohibiting same-sex relationships, or same-sex sexual acts in Vietnam.
There's very little in the way of harassment. VietPride www. The Hanoi event now takes place over several days in September and includes film screenings, talks, parties and a bike rally. Vietnam has more progressive governmental policies than many of its Asian neighbours. In January , a Law on Marriage and Family was passed that officially removes a ban on same-sex marriages though these partnerships have not yet been legally recognised.
Transgender people were granted the right in November to legally undergo sex reassignment surgery and have their gender recognised. Hanoi and especially HCMC both have gay scenes. That said, gay venues still keep a low profile and most gay Vietnamese choose to hide their sexuality from their families. Checking into hotels as a same-sex couple is perfectly acceptable, though be aware that Vietnamese people don't react well to passionate public displays of affection, by heterosexual or nonheterosexual couples.
Interestingly, the former US Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, is openly gay and he often attended official government events with his husband and their children. Utopia www. The gay dating app Grindr is popular in Vietnam. LGBT Travellers Vietnam is a relatively hassle-free place for gay, lesbian and transgender travellers.
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Hoi An Travel Guide - Travels of Adam
Richard Ammon. Introduction: Life in bustling Saigon, a city of eight million people and six million motorbikes, is colorful, ambitious, old and modern.
Gay life barely shows its face against conservative traditions. The scene is small, unorganized and subdued non-existent in the eyes of the government. Updated January Accidental Meeting My first interview about southern Vietnam was not about gay Vietnam but rather accidentally along a bustling city center street when I unexpectedly came upon a street vendor selling knock-off copies of the Lonely Planet guide to Vietnam and other southeast Asia countries.
Earlier that day I had browsed the official Vietnam Tourist Authority bookstore and saw other knock-offs of Lonely Planet that were stripped to bare essentials—missing information, no subjective evaluations and poor quality substitute photos. Lonely Planet claims it is helpless to stop this kind of pirating in Vietnam.
Although I was persuaded by the price I was much more persuaded to buy this fake because of the person offering it. He was ten years old and looked a diminutive seven or eight with a cascading shock of black hair topping a cherubic face—as endearing as any child model in an Abercrombie ad. Further enhancing his heart-warming smile was his excellent fluency in English and beyond-his-years articulateness in explaining that he was helping a friend—sitting on the curb with more books—sell the books.
By now I could hardly refuse the offer from this beautiful, intelligent and persuasive young person. Then in a disarming direct manner he asked if I would buy him some milk. It was not begging, not obsequious, not pleading—just a straight-forward clearly stated request. He would have said OK even if I had declined. But my partner and I were too enchanted to deny him such a modest and healthy request.
The kind that has calcium to make me grow stronger. I want the big can please. The three of us walked half a block along the noisy motorbike-filled street with thousands of early evening shoppers and commuter motorbikes converging at intersections like swarms of locusts.
This is clearly the land of motorbikes and rice paddies. Dodging the swarms there are no pedestrian privileges here to cross the street we passed the restored ornate opera house, a couple of shiny marble and chrome upscale hotels, some boutique fashion shops and then into the huge Parkson department store where on the fifth floor little Ti knew where to find his food.
His hand could have fit three times into mine. On the top shelf was a gallon-sized can of Enfagrow, enriched powdered milk for infants and children with added vitamins and minerals. The can was half the size of his little chest. He beamed at me with dark darling eyes. Yes please, some rice for my mother. He picked out a 5 lb sack of rice and we headed out. He wanted to carry both items but together they were a heavy load for one who weighed barely 70 lbs himself so I carried the rice.
On the way to the store, Ti had asked if Michael was my son Michael has no grey hair at the age of Do you know other gay people? They dress with make-up and ride on bikes to sell massage. That conversation ended as we entered the store and I asked him questions about himself. He had been studying English since he was four years old, which explained his fluency and barely discernable accent.
He lived with his mother and a brother. Before we parted Ti gave me his full name and his e-mail address so we could stay in touch.
An unforgettable street-wise, articulate and literate urchin with a private school education in socialist Vietnam: a touching introduction to this country of bamboo, free enterprise, hip discos and smart kids. His English was polished and confident, and I was immediately on my guard. Why would a boy with such an advantage be wandering the streets and talking to strangers — yet not obviously begging? He produced a fake identity, claiming to be a resident of the orphanage, where he had, he told me, learned his English skills.
All the locals knew the scam, and some even chased the boy away. Next time I was in Bangkok on business I spotted the same scam, and some time later again in Singapore, Korea and Bangladesh — all places I visited for business. Indian friends of mine confirmed the scam; said that the police were in on it, as I later saw in Bombay. The police met the driver of the truck which was taking the children away late in the evening, and money changed hands. If you want to find lady-boys offering massages and more you can cruise the streets in the downtown tourist area, but the reviews are not good.
Scams abound and gay passion is minimal. There used to be a cruise park but it dissolved under police pressure after complaints about thieves and money-boys. If you want to find most gay folks in this vast sprawling metropolis of commerce and restaurants you can search the phone book under Mr. There is no homophobic campaign, no criminal statutes, no sex police or gay bashing from the churches, temples or the government.
Same-sex appeal is unknown for most natives, a mystery for some and a secret for queer ones. Police generally leave gay people alone unless they start to organize or become obvious. Attracting the lady boy crowd is not something a business owner wants so these folks have no neighborhood watering hole and hang out on street corners until they are told to move somewhere else. Sexual orientation in Vietnam is decidedly hetero and virtually every gay man and woman is seriously conditioned not to reveal their truth to family or friends or strangers.
As usual there are exceptions, as Guy pointed out. City communal living in Vietnam is a traditional way of life. But for most others being gay is a burden not a fulfillment. There is virtually no hope for any emotional truth let alone sexual freedom. As usual there are closeted politicians, police and celebrities who have secret boyfriends and who constantly face the specter of blackmail for their passions. Even little ten year-old boys know about these cross-dressers.
As universal as they are, Asian lady-boys are often more brazen and aggressive. Their common evening profession is prostitution rather than gay socializing. But since they are not much welcome there they have migrated to District 8, said Guy. They make trouble and fight over customers right in front of my bar. They have jealous fights and that upsets customers who they complain about this.
The police mostly ignore the assorted gay cruising on De Tham Street. Guy said that sometimes lady-boys are invited to perform singing and dancing at straight funerals after which they join in the feast and the gossip; the problem is that they cruise the straight mourners for further feasting. This occurs more in the southern part of the country than in the more conservative north, according to Guy.
Although Guy is a proud businessman, it is too risky for me to identify him and his work openly. So I will mention the venue selection where gays feel comfortable to hang out. The first is Eden Bar a 5-year-old comfortable hangout, decorated in primary colors and served by friendly bi-lingual staff mostly non-gay to avoid awkward cruising.
Evenings there are tables out front for food and drink but often the ambience is intruded upon by endless street vendors selling guides books, trinkets, postcards or chewing gum to foreigners. Upstairs is a sedate restaurant with a large menu of Asian food. We ate there twice and were well satisfied with the service and flavors. Alcohol service stops at midnight on police orders. On the third floor is a guesthouse with four rooms, three of which are rented out long-term.
Aside from Eden Bar there is Apocalypse Now mixed crowd, lots of female hookers. Also check the Utopia-Asia. A further comment from a GlobalGayz reader about gay Vietnam here: In my recent trips, I have distinctly observed a growing gay presence in Saigon, if only one knows where to find it. There are more young people looking for connection and companionship, both in private and in public places.
On the Internet, many gay Vietnamese websites are found, providing forums for gay expression and contacts. In Saigon, there are many coffee shops, clubs, neighborhoods, where gays can meet. There are also callboys and gay brothels available, if one knows the right contacts. Gay life in Viet Nam is not out in public the way it is in Bangkok, for example.
But my personal experience is that the Vietnamese people, at least in Saigon and in Vung Tau, show no outward hostility toward known gay people, whether because of their politeness or their tolerance, or both, I am not sure. Guy is one of countless business people who have invested in the tourist industry in Vietnam in recent years. The result is a well-established infrastructure all over the country offering a wide range of services and accommodations to visitors, from five-star palaces to backpacker hovels, from sparkling and trendy stores to good trains and buses up and down the thousand-plus miles of its coastal terrain.
It is now a nation of worker bees who mostly till the soil and raise an abundance of food. No one is hungry. Indeed, arriving at the shiny new airport terminal in Saigon a visitor is deluged with neon-lit advertising for Samsung electronics, Sony appliances, software, steel, Eriksson cell phones. On the thirty minute ride into the city the main streets are so busy one could be in Bangkok given all the construction, sidewalk kitchens, discos, twenty-somethings on their motorbikes and cell phones.
Countless restaurants blaze with light and action, including wedding receptions November must be a big month for weddings; we saw many merry and lavish receptions during this trip, one featured a bride dressed in a chartreuse gown! I noticed a construction worker taking a sponge bath half naked from a rain barrel of water, and scruffy kids playing with sticks and tin cans on side streets.
Poverty still prevails in this country of 83 million. As for lesbian love and life, Guy said women have it even worse than gay men. The public and private repression is greater for them and few women would ever risk the fierce rejection they would face if they tried to shirk their family marital duties. It is a very closed sub group. Women do share apartments but not as lovers but as co-workers to save money on rent.
Guy has some women on his staff he suspects are lesbian but even they are not out to him. For many Asian men like Guy who are attracted to western men, life is incomplete.
Access to stable and enduring love is very difficult as most Caucasian men usually come to Vietnam as visitors or for short term business assignments.