Recent legislative leaps have seen Vietnamese society move forward in accepting the LGBTI community and placed the country at the forefront of gay rights in Southeast Asia. In January, 2015, the ban on same-sex marriage was abolished. This effectively decriminalised it so same-sex couples won’t face prosecution for marrying in Vietnam, although further legislation would be needed to give them the rights and protections of straight couples.
Adding to this acceptance is the significance of having an openly gay US Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius. Being a successful person who is gay with a husband, he is reportedly credited with promoting “a very good image” as well as attracting support from Vietnam society.
As much of Vietnam’s population is under 30, the cities are filled with vibrant, attractive young people, who are also friendly and helpful in the genuine Asian way.
Aside from gay-popular bars and clubs there are cruising parks, fitness centres and public pools where people meet, as well as openly gay spas and saunas.In addition, for many years, blind people have found work as masseurs as it’s believed their heightened sense of touch makes them better therapists. Some of these blind massage parlours also reportedly double as gay cruise spaces.However, for the most part, much of gay life remains discreet and underground.
One of the largest celebrations is Viet Pride.Since 2014, Viet Pride celebrations have taken place in 17 cities and provinces across Vietnam, with the most prominent ones being in Hanoi and Saigon.
In 2016, Viet Pride took place in Hanoi in late August. Its promotion highlighted the fact that at least three per cent of the population is part of the LGBT community – equivalent to 2-3 million people.
The 5th Vietnam LGBT Pride, this well-orchestrated event included pre-opening and main events such as workshops speed dating, films, a Queer Talkshow and History Exhibition, music nights, community fair as well as an Opening Ceremony and the Viet Pride Bike Rally – the official Pride parade.
The main events were held over three days while the pre-opening ones extended the timeline to around a fortnight. If you
plan to participate or view the celebrations, it is recommended you book well in advance.
Activities, bars & spas
In HCMC, on Sundays at 7:30 pm, an English and French casual conversation club are held for gay men at the Intercontinental Club.
For those into sports, there is an array of outdoor as well as indoor facilities at the Workers’ Club(Nha Van Hoa Lao Dong) such as a gym, pool and saunas –which can be ‘cruisy’– as well as tennis, volleyball, table tennis, basketball and ballroom dancing classes.
For those who want to take their fitness to the next level, California Fitness & Yoga is gay-friendly with six branches around the country and growing: Hanoi, HCMC, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Binh Duong, and Bien Hoa.
Popular HCMC bars either owned and run by local gays orgay-popular include: Whiskey & Wares; THI Bar; and the Republic Lounge – which on Fridays features popular drag shows.
A number of Hanoi spas cater exclusively for males such as Spa Adam, T-House, Polar Spa and Zspa. Pink Beach Spa, near the Hanoi airport, and HCMC’s Nadam are two of the most spacious gay saunas in Vietnam.
Also in Ho Chi Minh, Guyspa House features a large variety of facilities including an outdoor pool. While you’re in HCMC, for a non-alcoholic brew and/or a delicious cake, drop by the No Stress Café. An openly gay coffee shop, the friendly lesbian owner is a strong supporter of the local LGBT community.