China has been cracking down on its LGBTQ+ communities, while its neighbour Thailand has welcomed them with open arms. In recent years, Thailand has gained a reputation as a friendly destination for LGBTQ+ travellers, thanks to its inclusive policies and vibrant culture. Compared to many other countries in the region, Thailand has always been more accepting of sexual diversity. In 2015, the Gender Equality Act was implemented, marking a significant milestone in protecting LGBTQ+ rights. This law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in public and private sectors, creating an environment of greater acceptance and inclusivity.
With such laws and an inclusive atmosphere, Thailand has become a sought-after LGBTQ+ tourism hotspot. Popular destinations like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket boast a lively LGBTQ+ scene, with numerous bars, clubs, and pride events. Furthermore, the country hosts one of Asia's biggest LGBTQ+ pride festivals, Bangkok Pride, which attracts visitors worldwide. With its beautiful landscapes, diverse culture, and LGBTQ+-friendly policies, Thailand remains a top choice for LGBTQ+ travellers seeking both adventure and acceptance.
Xinyu Wen visited Thailand for a two-week vacation centred around Bangkok's Pride parade but stayed for over a month. During her time there, she had meaningful conversations and discoveries within the thriving LGBTQ+ community in the Thai capital.
As she walked the streets of Bangkok during the Parade, Wen felt like she "was in a big party or a huge amusement park, where we could forget all upsetting things." Similarly, LGBTQ+ individuals from China, frequently scorned and ostracised in their home country, are flocking to Thailand to enjoy the freedom to be themselves.
Apichai Chatchalermkit, an official from the Thailand Tourism Authority, has stated that LGBTQ+ tourists are considered "high-potential" visitors since they tend to spend more and travel more frequently than other visitors. From January to mid-August of this year, Thailand had 16 million tourists, of which 2.2 million were Chinese. According to Owen Zhu, a gay real estate agent in Bangkok, many Chinese LGBTQ+ clients travel to Thailand to stay. He estimated that around two-thirds of his clients are LGBTQ+, and many purchase apartments to live in part- or full-time.
Pattaya is a well-known destination for its vibrant nightlife and proudly features two of the most renowned gay beaches in the country: Jomtien Beach and Dongtan Beach. The gay scene in this area is diverse and lively, with a range of options for gay bars, restaurants, massage shops, and hotels, primarily located in the BoyzTown district. Whether you want to make new connections or travel with your partner, Pattaya promises an enjoyable experience for all.
Phuket is a tropical island paradise and the second most popular LGBTQ+ travel destination. It offers a vibrant scene for LGBTQ+ individuals. Patong, the epicentre of Phuket, has numerous clubs and bars where LGBTQ+ visitors can enjoy partying to their heart's content. Moreover, Phuket has the advantage of convenient international flight connections, making it easily accessible for travellers worldwide.
Chiang Mai, known as the "Jewel of the North" in Thailand, offers a range of options for the LGBTQ+ community, including go-go bars, cabaret clubs, gay-friendly saunas, nightclubs, and massage shops. It also provides numerous exciting activities and sightseeing opportunities, inviting visitors to explore and enjoy their stay fully.
DJ Station, Bangkok's renowned gay nightclub with live DJ and drag performances, stands on Silom Soi 2. It's a weekly hotspot featuring three bustling floors, reaching peak weekend crowds. A must-visit in Asia's gay scene, the minimum age for entry is 21. The show includes 30 minutes of classic and contemporary drag ballads, followed by dancing.
Address: 11 Soi Si Lom 2/1, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Trasher Bangkok's parties are famous for their nomadic nature, as they are not associated with any particular bar or club. Instead, this dynamic community announces its events through their Facebook page and relies on word-of-mouth. These gatherings happen every few months and feature diverse themes, from "Romeo & Juliet" to celebrations of 1980s pop stars.
Address: 1104/3 Noble Cube, Phatthanakan Rd, Suan Luang, Bangkok 10250, Thailand
Maggie Choo's is a fun place to visit any day of the week, but it's especially popular among the LGBTQ+ community on weekends. Every Sunday, they throw a big party with snazzy, fabulous costumes and lots of dancing. It's the perfect place to be on a Sunday night. You can start the night with a drink—they have beer, spirits, juices, mocktails, wines, champagne, and more. If you're not in the mood to dance, you can relax on vintage leather sofas or hang out in the excellent 1930s Shanghai-themed décor. Maggie Choo's stays open until 2 am on Sundays.
Address: Fenix Novotel 320, Maha Nakhon 10500 Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
The Stranger Bar & Lounge, also known as the House of Drag Queens, is a unique establishment of the city. This stylish pub theatre is owned by a drag queen named M Stranger Fox and is known for its stunning drag performances and creative cocktails. While it is a popular spot in the LGBTQ+ community, it is also inclusive and welcoming to all visitors. The bar has a cosy and comfortable atmosphere, providing a safe space for strangers to become friends. Every night, guests can enjoy lively performances and a vibrant atmosphere while sipping on delicious cocktails.
Address: 114, 14 Silom 4 Alley, Suriya Wong, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tawan Bar is a popular gay bar well-known for its diverse selection of male hosts and dancers. The bar attracts a regular crowd almost every night, with frequent dance performances and drag comedy acts on its stage. Although the drink prices may be relatively higher, no admission fee is charged. The bar is easily accessible by taking the BTS Skytrain to Sala Daeng Station, less than a 10-minute walk away.
Address: 2/1-2 Si Lom 6, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
(With inputs from PTI)