Gay Luang Prabang: discover the gay scene with local boy Somphorn (RIP)

UPDATE 3rd JUNE 2019: it is with great sadness we report that our dear friend Somphorn passed away!

Somphorn was a stalwart in the LGBTQ community of Laos and his memory will forever live on. We have many fond memories with Somphorn during our travels in Laos and we will always keep his memory alive.

Somphorn was the owner of the popular gay friendly Lao Lao Gardens in Luang Prabang, which is where we met him. He gave us his insight as to what it’s like growing up in gay Laos.

Hi Somphorn! Where are you from and what do you do?

My name is Somphorn Boupha, 28 years old and I am from Luang Prabang in Laos.

I own and manage Lao Lao Garden in Luang Prabang, which is a gay friendly bar and restaurant.

Lao Lao Garden
Lao Lao Garden and bar in Luang Prabang

Are you out to your friends and family?

Yes, all my family and friends know I’m gay. I came out to my family when I was around 20 years old. My mother said she always suspected I was different and was very accepting, as were all my siblings.

I lost my father from a young age so I never really knew him.

Somphorn in white
Somphorn posing in white

What’s it like growing up as a gay in Laos and in Luang Prabang?

I was really lucky to have a very accepting family and group of friends, which made it very easy for me. However, there were no gay places so it was hard to meet other guys. Now the social media apps have made this a lot easier.

It can be problematic though for some to gain employment in government or other high status sectors if they are openly gay as there are no anti discrimination laws. Discretion is therefore important. Everyone around me knows I’m gay, but as long as I don’t shout out loud about it, then everything is fine.

Are there any places in Luang Prabang you recommend going out for gay tourists?

There are quite a few gay owned bars in Luang Prabang but Lao Lao Garden is the most well known because of various reference to it in online gay resources like Utopia. We have gay staff and attract a mixed crowd of both local and western gays each evening.

In Laos it is illegal to market my bar as gay or put a rainbow flag outside. If I did, then this would attract negative attention from the police and Lao Lao Garden would be closed down.

Somphorn being discreet :)
Somphorn posing

Are there any gay friendly hotels you recommend to LGBT tourists?

Friends have stayed in the following places, all welcoming to gay couples: 

BELMOND LA RESIDENCE PHOU VAO   Book online

  • Very romantic residence with friendly staff, a beautiful spa and spectacular infinity pool.
  • Prices start from $600 / £410 a night.

LE SEN BOUTIQUE HOTEL   Book online

  • Very central, walking distance from most attractions.
  • Has a gym and a swimming pool.
  • Prices start from $195 / £133 for a room.

SINGHARAT GUEST HOUSE   Book online

  • Great budget option in central Luang Prabang.
  • Prices start from $23 / £15 for a double bed.

STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL

Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.

Where can LGBT tourists meet gay Laotians?

Grindr and Hornet are a good starting point. In Luang Prabang, we obviously attract a large LGBT crowd here at Lao Lao Garden.

In Vientiane there is a bar called CCC Café, which is also unofficially a ‘gay bar’, but like my bar, not allowed to market it as such.

Somphorn posing
Somphorn posing at home in Luang Prabang

How do you deal with the midnight curfew?

The curfew in Laos technically requires everyone to be home by midnight. But this is not actually enforced. The police are not going to stop you if you are outdoors after midnight! But for businesses, we are required to close by midnight. In Luang Prabang this is more strictly enforced in order to protect and preserve its UNESCO status.

Some business outside the centre of Luang Prabang pay bribes to the police to allow them to stay open beyond the midnight curfew.

The midnight curfew in Laos
The midnight curfew in Laos is more strictly enforced in Luang Prabang

So where’s good to hangout in Luang Prabang after curfew?

There is a popular bowling alley a short tuk tuk ride away from the centre, which has managed to benefit from a loophole in the law and stays open till around 2am.

I also know a few other local bars, which do the same, but it changes all the time.

Are there any gay events in Laos?

Actually we had our first Pride on 25th June 2012 and again on 17 May 2013 called Proud To Be Us. It is hosted by the US Embassy and held on their sports field in Vientiane.

There haven't been any more announced yet, but you can join the Gay In Laos closed Facebook group for more information.

Laos Pride at the US Embassy
Laos Pride at the US Embassy in Vientiane

Watch our video about our travels around Laos as a gay couple:

OUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL TIPS

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⭐️ SAFETY & SECURITY — All travelers (gay or not) can sometimes encounter danger when traveling. CloseCircle is your “virtual body guard” mobile app which provides security alerts and support wherever you are in the world. They have a 24/7 emergency response team monitoring their users who will contact you immediately if the SOS swipe button is activated. Support can include anything from practical advice, to free evacuation from areas with extreme weather or security risks. You can read more about CloseCircle in our article about how to stay safe whilst traveling.

⭐️ ONLINE ANONYMITY — A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must in many countries: it allows you to surf anonymously and maintain your privacy whilst traveling. You'll particularly need it in countries where gay dating apps are blocked by the government. We recommend ExpressVPN, a reliable and cost effective service which we used and loved during our travels.

⭐️ HOTELS or APARTMENTS — When we plan a trip, we always look for the best hotel deals. We love Booking.com because not only do they have a comprehensive listing of accommodation options, they also offer the best prices. Added bonus: they provide 24/7 support and free cancellation for most listings.

⭐️ SIGHTSEEING and ADVENTURES — When we travel somewhere, we like to seek out the best experiences, whether it is cooking with locals in Bangkok, hiking on a glacier in Patagonia, or going on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka. Our favorite place to look is GetYourGuide because they have over 30,000 highly rated activities, a user-friendly booking process with free cancellation and a 24 hour customer support.

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13 thoughts on “Gay Luang Prabang: discover the gay scene with local boy Somphorn (RIP)”

  1. Hope you are doing good guys! Just wanted you to let you know that I booked Singharat Guest House after seeing it on your blog, but yeah, I wouldn´t call it a great option (even on that budget), and if it was up to me, I would remove it as a recommendation. Just to let you know…

    • Thanks Johnny! For us it wasn’t so bad. May we ask what you didn’t like about it please? We welcome all feedback like yours so we can keep our content fully updated 🙂

  2. you are very amaizing for me, am alone here in l.prabang and search whre i can see some gay for dinner …. thank,s so much donald fromquebec , french canadian. I DIDN,T KNOW THE LAW HERE, WITHOUT GAY FLAG ANYWHERE….
    ou j,adore ce coin et espere vivre plus avec mes freres gays, tout en partageant avec les autres…merci enormement pour votre blog informel, tres informel….je ne savaispas que le drapeau gay est interdit ..etc.

  3. Wow, I met somphorn 7 years ago in Bangkok. Great guy. Just stumbled across your blog and recognized him. World is small. Great Blog, – Alexander “Strawberry”

  4. Great post – it’s so interesting to read this series of posts about your travels, to see how each country deals with LGBT travellers and to hear about discrimination both legally and socially. Do you find there there is the same kind of everyday homophobia in SE Asia that there is say in the UK where its routinely ‘OK’ to say someone or something is gay as an insult? Or is the discrimination in SE Asia more in terms of equality of opportunity (e.g. jobs, marriage and running your business like you mention in this post)?

    • Thanks for your comment Caryl. It’s hard to comment as we get a foreigner’s point of view. But the interesting thing is ladyboys/transgender: in the West they are less accepted in the gay communities as more associated with the sex industry. In SE Asia they are accepted more in everyday life – this we found very interesting!

      • Hi Asia is interesting when you are gay, The laws in Asia protecting gays are far less than in Europe yet in most asian countries they are far more laid back and accepting particularly in schools where ladyboys will dress up for school celebrations when allowed to.
        We have all the laws protecting us in Europe. yet homophobia is far more common there and violent! Love Asia!

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