Gay Vietnam: discovering gay Saigon with local boy Quan
Vietnam is one of the most gay friendly countries we visited from our big 2 years trip across Asia. Overall we found the Vietnamese to be very welcoming, particularly to the LGBTQ community.
In terms of gay rights, Vietnam doesn't have any gay marriage laws in place. However, by Asia standards it is very progressive:
- it has never had any anti gay laws (unlike the US and UK)
- on 1st January 2015, the Law on Marriage and Family came into effect, outlawing the ban on gay weddings
- it is extremely open to gay travellers as set out in our article about being gay in Vietnam for Matador
- it held its first (peaceful!) pride parade on 5 August 2012 in Hanoi and has been going strong since
Although we found Vietnam to be a relaxed and tolerant country towards us as gay tourists, Vietnamese society still remains conservative towards homosexuality, and most gay locals we met were still in the closet.
Despite this, we met a very sweet and confident local gay boy called Quan in Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon). Quan gave us his perspective on gay Saigon and what it's like growing up gay in Vietnam.
#1 Xin chào Quan, where are you from and what do you do?
Hi Stefan and Seby. My name is Quan Nguyen and I am 28 years old. I am from Can Tho in the Mekong Delta.
I am a web designer living and working in Saigon.
#2 Are you openly gay to your family and friends?
I am open to all my friends but not yet to my family. I plan to tell them very soon in fact, but I think my older sister knows because she once said to me:
“you better clean up your room if you wanna find a good husband!!”
#3 How do you think your family will react when you come out to them?
I expect a few tears, especially from my mother because homosexuality is still taboo in Vietnamese society. But I think they may already know so hopefully it won’t be too much of a surprise.
#4 What's it like growing up gay in Vietnam?
It was quite hard when I was younger because traditional Catholic Vietnamese society was not always so open and supportive towards gays. It may surprise you I am Catholic not Buddhist – this is one of the many influences in Vietnam from the French colonial days.
But on the positive, a lot has since changed, which has made it easier for gay boys growing up in modern Vietnamese society. The growth of social media apps like Grindr etc have made it a lot easier for gays to connect with each other.
And, seeing more successful LGBT persons in the media helps society see gayness as something normal as oppose to an illness or wrong. For example, the recently appointed (on December 2014) US Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius arrived with his husband and baby in hand:
#5 How did you meet other guys growing up?
I was quite shy and nervous about meeting other guys when I was younger. I’ve only recently started to discover my sexuality, so I’m still a baby gay, coming out and discovering gay Saigon.
#6 What are the best gay bars and clubs in Saigon?
Our main gay bar is called Thi Bar and it has a great gay evening on Fridays and Saturdays, which includes happy hour offers before 9pm. Then after 11pm, most head to our big popular gay club called Republic. We have a drag show at Republic on Fridays and a large dance party with live music on Saturdays.
We also have a few gay friendly places which attract a mixed crowd, like Papa Cafe, which has live music, and Le Pub, which is open every day till midnight.
#7 Are there any good gay friendly or exclusively gay hotels in Saigon you recommend?
There's a couple that various friends of mine recommend:
In District 1 we have an “Pink Tulip Guesthouse” which is gay owned, has really cute staff and do excellent spa treatments. I believe that's where you boys also stayed in Saigon. Prices start from $25 / £16 for a standard double bed with breakfast included.
There's “Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel” which is gay friendly, also in District 1 and more mid range. It's got a really cool swimming pool and staff welcome gay travellers. Prices start from $45 / £30 for a double bed with breakfast.
I also heard about “The Reverie Saigon“, which is popular with gay travellers and also centrally located in District 1. This one's more up market and prices start from $260 / £175 a night.
#8 And finally, has Prince Charming come knocking on your door recently?
Yes he did. In fact there were 2 Prince Charmings if you can believe it!
Sadly for me, they ate all my food, took some pictures, then just abandoned me, hahahaha…
If you want to meet guys like Quan to show you round, drop us a comment below and we'll introduce you to some of the best gay guides in Saigon.
Travel recommendations to Vietnam
Flying in Vietnam: Airfares in Vietnam can be very cheap if you do your research and book in advance. For example, flights from Ho CHi Minh to Hanoi come as low as $30 (£25) one-way. We recommend using Skyscanner to find the best prices for any given month.
Visa in Vietnam: Depending on your nationality and the number of days you plan to stay in the country, entry requirements may be different. We recommend using the services of a reputable agency such as www.vietnam-visa.com to obtain your visa.
Travel insurance: Whether you go diving, hiking or just lay on the beach all day long, you need travel insurance. We use World Nomads because they offer considerable coverage especially for adventurous travellers. They also make it easy to make a claim as it's all done online.
Hotels: Vietnam has a huge diversity of accommodation options. We recommend Tripadvisor to research about the best places to stay and activities to do. Use Booking.com to find the best deals and book your accommodation online.
For more inspiration:
- check out our 10 favourite traditional foods to try in Vietnam
- read more in our 10 interesting facts about Vietnam
- try our recipes for Vietnamese cao lau and Banh Xeo Vietnamese pancakes
- watch our Vietnam travel video as we travelled from Saigon up to Hanoi and back down again: