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Gay Nepal: Interview with Kathmandu local boy Tilak

Stefan Arestis
Gay Nepal: Interview with Kathmandu local boy Tilak

Nepal ranks as one of our favourite destinations. It has some of the most beautiful scenery we've ever seen, particularly on the Annapurna circuit, and foodies will be excited to taste the many types of dal bhat. The icing on the cake, Nepal is a gay friendly country – by Asian standards of course.

Before arriving in Nepal, we expected it to be another very socially conservative South Asian country like the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is a crime. However, unlike it's more conservative neighbours, the Nepalese government has over the past decade taken extremely positive steps to protect its LGBTQ community instead of criminalising them:

  • in 2007, the Nepalese Government legalised homosexuality
  • in September 2015, the Nepalese government enshrined new anti-discrimination laws into the country's constitution including legal protection for LGBTQ minorities.

As visitors to Nepal, we first noticed this when having to complete our landing card when we arrived at Kathmandu airport; it contained a third “Other” tick box for a person's gender:

Nepal Immigration Arrival Card

The push towards gay tolerance and acceptance by the government can be seen in Nepalese society. We felt extremely welcome travelling as a gay couple in Nepal. We never had problems getting a double bed, and only ever encountered warm friendly people, curious to know more about us.

In Kathmandu, we met local boy Tilak, who showed us the small gay scene in Thamel and told us more about what gay life is like in Nepal. Whilst the country is very progressive on paper, and to foreigners, for the local LGBTQ community, Nepal is still very conservative, and for this reason, Tilak asked that we keep his identity anonymous.

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Hello Tilak, please introduce yourself:

Namaste Stefan and Seby. I am Tilak, 38 years, living and working in Kathmandu.

I've also lived and worked a great deal abroad, especially in the USA and the UK, but have for years now settled back home in Kathmandu where I work as a social worker.

Gay Nepalese: boys in Kathmandu
Nepalese boys are very comfortable and affectionate with each other in public

Are you openly gay?

I am out to my immediate family (parents, siblings), close friends and some colleagues including my boss. I am lucky to have open minded parents They are extremely supportive and have no issues with it, but have asked me to be discrete to avoid ‘society' gossiping.

I haven’t told anyone else, although I'm sure they've figured it out by now. I live in a society, where marriage is the norm: I am now in my 30s and am still not married, which is a big deal here!

Gay Nepal: out on the town in Kathmandu
Gay Nepal: discovering Kathmandu's gay night life with Adheep and friends

What's it like growing up gay in Nepal?

Nepal is a socially conservative country. Boys are expected to eventually marry in Hindu culture, and gayness is not particularly accepted.

But the capital city, Kathmandu, has become more international and touristy over the years, largely due to the trekking industry. So much so that we now even have local tour companies here dedicated to gay travel for example, which I think is amazing for a South Asian country! This has also really helped shift attitudes here, making it easier for the younger generation. 

One other related thing that comes to mind, growing up, we're used to seeing two men holding hands and being very docile with each other in public. This is something you will see a lot of in Nepal, and also in India. This is not a gay thing at all, it's just cultural for us – a sign of friendship amongst men, nothing more.

gay nepal night out in kathmandu
Boys night out in Kathmandu

What's the gay scene in Kathmandu like?

The gay scene of Nepal is largely based in Thamel, central Kathmandu. Outside of the capital, there isn't much of a gay scene anywhere else. We use gay mobile phone apps like Grindr and Scruff to connect with each other.

The main gay bars and clubs in Kathmandu are:

  • PINK Tiffany: this is the main gay bar. It was opened by the famous transgender model and activist: Meghna Lama. By day it's a restaurant, and in the evening it's my favourite place to come for cocktails. It's open every day from 10am to midnight. It's located at Freak Street, Kathmandu 44600.
  • Fire: although this is primarily a straight club, on Friday nights it attracts a lot of local gay boys, and is the best gay club night out in Kathmandu. Best time to come is after 11pm. It is located at: Chaksibari Marga Thamel, Kathmandu. To go there, ask for the Reggae bar, which everybody knows – it is located on the first floor under the Reggae bar.
  • Purple Haze Rock Bar: one of the most popular clubs in Kathmandu and also very gay friendly. It's a rock club and usually has some of Nepal's best bands playing live. It attracts a fun, open minded and very mixed crowd, which is why we love it. It's open everyday from 5pm till midnight. The address is: Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal 977.
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Are there any gay friendly hotels you recommend in Kathmandu?

For Kathmandu, based on the opinions of gay friends from abroad who've visited Nepal, I would recommend these ones:

HYATT REGENCY KATHMANDU   Check prices now

  • A brand, welknown for its strong LGBT focus.
  • Located near Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Prices start from $180 / £120 per night. 

HOTEL HOLY HIMALAYA   Check prices now

  • This is the only hotel in Kathmandu who advertises itself as a gay-friendly hotel.
  • Located in the tourist center of Kathmandu,Thamel, where all the action happens. 
  • Prices start from $30 / £20 for a double room.

STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL

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Are there any popular gay pride events in Nepal?

We have an annual pride parade held in August/September on the day of Gaijatra (a local Nepali festival of cows). The turnout is pretty high and it's a lot of fun.

Another popular event we love is a gay beauty contest called Mr Gay Handsome held every June in Kathmandu. It was started by The Blue Diamond Society, one of our most popular LGBTQ organisations.

Mr Handsome Nepal
Mr Handsome Nepal gay beauty contest held every June in Kathmandu

Are there any particular styles of saris you recommend we wear for Kathmandu gay pride?

Hahaha I agree with you boys. The sarees are beautiful and make for a fabulous outfit, especially during pride.

To be honest, one would do, they're all awesome! My favourite is the black/red saris worn by the Newar women, called haku patasi:

Newar women saris
Saris worn by the Newari women

What are some of the highlights you recommend for gay travelers to Nepal?

Trekking in the Himalayas is the highlight for most, especially to Mount Everest Base Camp. I personally prefer the Annapurna Trek to Thorong La Pass which explores different landscapes and instead of camping, you stay in guesthouses, allowing you to experience local cultures.

Pokhara is also a place I love to visit for a chill weekend. There's nothing more relaxing than renting a boat for the day and just sailing down the Pokhara Lake, particularly with a special someone by your side.

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Sebastien admiring the views from Thorong La Pass
Trekking Thorong La Pass: how difficult is it?
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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

Paul

Sunday 7th of June 2020

How to meet guys in Pokhara. That's the one place where I figured it'd be easy, at least near lakeside. But it's not at all easy...

Stefan Arestis

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Have you tried the gay dating apps?

Achille

Thursday 19th of March 2020

Very well detailed and accurate. No doubt I will surely visit this year.

Stefan Arestis

Thursday 19th of March 2020

We love Nepal :)

Rémi Vachon

Tuesday 17th of December 2019

Good news to learn about gay life in Nepal, even if it is just a start. I visit nepal every year since 2015 but i am very discret about my sexuality... I love this country. Thanks for the interview with Tilak

Stefan Arestis

Friday 20th of December 2019

Our pleasure! Thanks for reading Remi :)

Erol

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

this is a great article ! i have always wondered how it was to travel in Nepal specially for gay people. because as we all know, Nepal is conservatively a Hindu country, and being one that belong to LGBTQ community is a no no.

haha i loved the tick box on the arrival card.

i hope to meet good people in Nepal that can show me around.

best of both worlds !!

kisses and hugs from Philippines

Erol/Michelle

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

Thanks guys! You're in for a treat - incredible country, beautiful people :)

Charles Cox

Friday 11th of May 2018

As a practicing Buddhist, and gay man myself, I am glad to see Nepal is so open and acxwpting of our community. You should never have to hide who u are or who u love!

Nomadic boys

Friday 11th of May 2018

Agreed!

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