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Every year Spartacus Travel releases its Gay Travel Index ranking countries across the world based on local laws, policies, and behaviours towards LGBT citizens and visitors. Asia is systemically ranked quite low as a region on this index, but Thailand is a bright spot, routinely scoring as the standout for its acceptance and equality.
Thailand’s ranking is partly in thanks to its Buddhist mentality of tolerance. Even though there is no legal protection for gay rights, in 2017 the kingdom ranked just behind Australia and placed leagues above the next-ranked Asian contender, Taiwan.
So it stands to reason that Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, is a focal point of the gay scene in the country, and that assumption reigns true. As vibrant as the likes of San Francisco and Berlin, LGBT locals and travellers alike can encounter a wealth of gay-friendly hotels, bars, clubs, and many more attractions.
One of the most stylish hotels in the city, SO Sofitel Bangkok touts luxury Thai and French styles to draw a lavish LGBT following. Guests are tended to graciously, and LGBT locals flock to the roof for its monthly rooftop pool party. The hotel also has hosted a number of famous gay events, like gCircuit and Sundance.
Babylon Bangkok is a legendary gay resort boasting fusion-style gardens and more than 70 rooms, right in the heart of Silom. For those on a budget but still eager to be near the best gay nightlife, try D Varee Xpress Pula Silom or Glitz Bangkok Hotel.
Dorm-hopping on your trip? Try Posh Hostel in Pathumwan. Gay-friendly and conveniently located to some of Bangkok’s best shopping, this hostel offers dormitory, twin, family, and private room options and is particularly rated highly among couples.
Dirt-cheap massages and spa packages are on most tourists’ bucket lists during their kingdom holiday. While gay travellers will have no problem being tended to into one of Bangkok’s most luxurious spas, or any number of walk-in parlours citywide, there are several that cater specifically to the LGBT community. Arena Massage & Spa offers exclusively male massages and treatments in private rooms – and Chakran Massage and Sauna packs in a lounge, gym, and sauna – and is a very popular gay hangout. Babylon is the iconic all-male hotel and spa, offering services until midnight in an incredibly refurbished area featuring a maze-like “Garden of Earthly Delights.” For the ladies, La Nature Bangkok is a unisex spa popular with LGBT relaxation-seekers.
A 25-year-old Bangkok institution, Calypso Cabaret showcases locally famous showgirls, drag queens, and kathoey – the Thai word for transgender women or effeminate gay men. Located in the ultra-chic Asiatique Riverfront venue, a part-night bazaar, part-dining experience, and part-entertainment centre, Calyspo promises glitz and glam to its dedicated following of spectators. While certainly less family-friendly, the Soi Twilight strip in Sukhumvit– a few minutes from Silom – is Bangkok’s definitive red light district, popular among tourists for its gay go-go bars like Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.
Bangkok famously has no shortage of excellent eateries for every palate and budget. While most are gay-friendly, there are plenty of standouts that cater specifically to LGBT patrons. Fork & Cork in Silom is a popular gay-owned restaurant and bar known for its chill-out vibe and mix of live jazz music. For cheap pub grub, the 30-year-old Telephone Pub and Restaurant is a haunt for many gay locals, serving up great conversation over people-watching as clubs on Soi 4 begin to come alive for the night. Cabbages and Condoms is a popular, contraceptive-themed Thai food restaurant that must be explored.
The Stranger Bar in Bang Rak is a popular local haunt for LGBT locals. It attracts a young crowd and busy bar, and is famous for its drag queen shows that feature incredibly popular local talent. The 1950s Hollywood-themed Balcony Bar is popular for aerial views of the bustle outside, and features karaoke and a cabaret as well. Gay entertainment organiser G-Spot Entertainment also runs regular pool parties at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, attracting many of the city’s best and beautiful to enjoy drinks and party games each month.
Chackran Sauna and R3 Sauna also host regular themed parties like Foam nights, with updates available on their Facebook pages. For the lesbian community, there are no official lesbian-focused bars, but several parties, like LESLA and GO GRRRLS, rotate monthly from bar to bar and attract a cult-like following.
The late-night scene is where the Bangkok LGBT community truly shines. Silom, Bangkok’s legendary nightlife area, is home to a growing number of internationally-renowned gay clubs, like the iconic staple DJ Station, or dance haven G Club (formerly G.O.D.) While Silom delivers in full, the gay party scene is gradually expanding into other neighbourhoods, like Ratchada’s lavish and glittery FakeClub.