Gay Mongolia: discover Mongolia’s only gay bar in UlaanBaatar

During our travels in Mongolia, we spent a lot of time in the capital city, Ulan Bator during the popular Naadam festival, where we discovered a subtle gay scene.

Despite being a very traditionally conservative country, we found Mongolia's only gay bar called Irish House, located East of the German embassy around 500m north of the main square:

Irish House gay bar in Mongolia
Irish House
Irish House gay bar in Ulan Bator location

The owner of Irish House is Zorig Alima who kindly agreed to this interview about what it's like growing up gay in Mongolia and owning a gay bar in Ulan Bator.

Zorig Alima owner of d.d / h.z gay bar
Zorig Alima: d.d / h.z's very charismatic owner

#1 Hello hello Zorig!  Tell us a bit about yourself:

Good morning Nomadic Boys. My name is Zorig Alima.

I am a Mongolian gay guy from Ulan Bator, Mongolia and work full time for the Mongolian Railway in Ulan Bator and run the gay bar Irish House as a hobby.

Zorig owner of gay bar in Ulan Bator
Zorig is the charismatic owner of the popular gay bar in Ulan Bator called d.d/h.z

#2 What is gay Mongolia like and the gay scene in Ulan Bator?

Ulan Bator is a fast changing city with 1.5 million people of a total population of 3 million in the whole country. However, the gay life here is still fairly closed. Things are changing, but very slowly and outside of Ulan Bator there is no gay scene. 

My bar, Irish House is the only official gay bar in Mongolia, but we were not the first. 

The first gay bar opened in 2004 called City Life but only lasted a few months due to lack of attendance from the LGBT community. A bar called 100% then opened after 7 years in November 2011 but only lasted for half a year because the homophobic landlords terminated the lease.

I opened Hanzo in April 2012 and in early 2017 rebranded it to d.d / h.z. Since we moved to Irish House, which opened up recently.

Sebastien admiring the decor at Hanzo gay bar Ulan Bator
Sebastien pondering the gay life of Mongolia at Hanzo gay bar before it rebranded to d.d / h.z

#3 Where is Irish House located exactly in Ulan Bator and what's it like?

We are located west of German Embassy, north of National University of Mongolia, slightly north of the main square and the parliament house.

It's a lot of fun inside. We get a decent mix of locals and foreigners coming. Fridays and Saturdays are our busiest nights, from around 10pm. We're open till around 3/4am and I think for gay travellers in Mongolia, it's the best way to connect and meet with local LGBTQ Mongolians.

#4 Did you have any problems when you first opened Hanzo?

Yes we did. The police were so ignorant about gay bars that they thought we were just promoting adultery and prostitution. As a result there were many police raids initially.

As a result of police raids, the LGBT community wanted to remain firmly hidden in the closet, so getting customers was a big struggle in the early years.

Halloween night at Hanzo
A fun Halloween night at Hanzo club

#5 Has the situation for gay life in Ulan Bator since changed or at least improved?

It has improved a lot because overall attitudes in Mongolia towards gays has improved. The police have started to understand that being gay does not automatically mean sex and now cooperate with us on issues like prostitution.

A few years ago Hanzo was one of only two bars mentioned in a popular Mongolian magazine as the “top 50 places you must visit in Ulan Bator”, which helped the LGBT community start to appreciate us and gain the courage to come out to us! 

The translated quote in this magazine said:

“Although people have a perception of it being a gaybar, we would vote for it as one of the very few underground places in Ulan Bator, where the most open minded people gather.  Organising many unique and interesting events, and giving pleasant surprises of new music makes it the place to visit”.

Mongolian drag act at Hanzo
A Mongolian drag act at Hanzo in Ulan Bator

#6 How did gays in Mongolia and Ulan Bator meet and socialise before Hanzo,  d.d/h.z and Irish House existed?

Many years ago, we would meet at parks and public toilets and there were sometimes monthly gay nights organised at word by mouth venues.

The growth of the internet over the past 10-20 years has changed things massively for the gay community and made it easier then ever to meet.

But in the old days, it used to be pretty hard to find “one of your kind”!

Zorig and friend at Hanzo gay club Ulan Bator
Zorig and one of his many friends

#7 Are you openly gay in Ulan Bator and with your family?

I am openly gay to my family and they fully support me and d.d / h.z. 

I have not formally come out to my colleagues but I wouldn't be surprised if they've worked it out by now. 

Zorig performing Swan Lake at Hanzo gay club Ulan Bator
Zorig performing a magnificent and very dramatic Swan Lake at one of the cabarets at Hanzo gay bar in Ulan Bator

#8 What advice to you have for gay tourists visiting Mongolia?

Mongolians welcome foreigners and I definitely recommend trying to meet a few locals using social media apps like Grindr, Hornet or Jack'd and join our gay Mongolia d.d/h.z's Facebook group.

 

Stefan with puppy at Hanzo gay club Ulan Bator
Stefan making a new local friend at Hanzo gay club in Ulan Bator

#9 Can you recommend any gay-friendly hotels or guesthouses in Ulan Bator ?

Gay-friendly accommodation is not so easy to find in Ulan Bator as this is something Mongolians are still waking up to. However, over the recent years, a few hotels have started being more open-minded and accept all sexual orientations:

KEMPINSKI HOTEL KHAN PALACE   Book online

  • This is a big hotel used to dealing with Westerners.
  • I believe this is where you guys stayed whilst in Ulan Bator. I also had a few friends who stayed there when they came to visit me and they have always felt welcomed and accepted. 

SUNPATH HOTEL   Book online

  • this hostel is run by a lovely open-minded woman called Doljmaa, who will also help you with organising a tour around the country.
  • Foreign gay friends have stayed in this hostel in the past with no problems.

#10 And finally, Stefan found this lovely new hat at Ulan Bator's famous black market. Can he join in at d.d/h.z's next big cabaret evening?

Stefan's beautiful new hat
Stefan's showing off his beautiful new hat

Ha ha!! Of course! In fact finding drag queens in Mongolia is always a struggle because there aren't that many. So in order to have everything in place, you have no other choice than to do it yourself:

 

Watch our travels through the Gobi Desert and the central country in our Mongolia travel video:

 

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18 thoughts on “Gay Mongolia: discover Mongolia’s only gay bar in UlaanBaatar”

  1. Can not wait to visit this summer!! I’ve been in Hanzo once in 2012, it was a cool place! prolly even better now… 😉

  2. Hello Nomadic Boys,
    I used to live in states for a while and i had such a wonderful time there. Special change in my life was to accept and be friends and coworkers with LGBT community. As i have over 25 gay and lesbian friends all over the world this article really moved me. I used to work for mining company for quite a good deal of money but 3 years of work experience i have decided to go traveling. With the best decision i found a company that offered me Manager’s position and i am still working with this company called Hunnu T&T.
    I know Mongolia is not really open to LGBT community as well as individuals but i’m personally against this scenario. I was brain storming this situation over a year now, suddenly i came up with the idea of LGBT TOURISM to Mongolia. Just from today i am working my butt of to prove that this can be done.
    With the attitude towards my new research i looking forward to meet and be part of this community and also looking for possible partnership.
    Please advice any ideas to this niche tourism that i am managing.
    Cheers
    Jonny Mongolia

    • Hey Jonny!

      are you in Ulaan baatar? still doing the tour?? I’m a gay mongolian, living in US. I’ll be visiting this summer ( after naadam) and would like to find a gay friendly tour company or group to go Gobi dessert. plzz lemme know how can i get in touch with you! Thank u

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