By Bill Hansen
When I was first presented the opportunity to visit Thailand, I was somewhat reluctant to go. I’m not a big fan of seafood and if I’m being totally honest, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to trying new things.
As a gay male, I wasn’t really sure there would be all that much for me to do. I’ve visited several other Asian countries prior to Thailand and while I had a great time, generally speaking, they were not as gay friendly as I would have liked; luckily, I decided to put my reservations aside, open my mind, and go.
My journey in Thailand started with a four-day stay in Bangkok. From Bangkok, I traveled north to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and eventually back to Bangkok.
Culturally, Thailand’s history and deeply rooted Buddhist beliefs provide amazing temples and monuments to visit. The people of Thailand are warm, polite, and overly nice. The food is amazing. It doesn’t really matter what you like or dislike, Thailand offers something for everyone. I guarantee that despite your efforts, you’ll leave Thailand heavier than when you entered.
Physically, Thailand has some of the most amazing beaches, rivers, and mountainous terrain in the world. While I didn’t have time to visit the coastal regions, I did manage to see the large cities and mountainous areas of the country.
Each city has plenty of things to do and see, with a number of temples, outdoor activities, markets, and restaurants to occupy your time.
One of the things that makes Thailand great is its culture and deep ties to Buddhism.
The majority of Thailand has adopted a form of Buddhism called “Theravada Buddhism,” which focuses on two main ways of life: the life of the monk and the life of the layperson.
The life of the monk has several key components, one of which is celibacy. There are no rules prohibiting gay monks, but again, sex of any kind is forebidden.
The life of the layperson is viewed much differently. The layperson is guided by five principles, all of which have a common theme: be nice. Generally speaking, public displays of affection (PDA) are frowned upon, gay or straight. When it comes to relationships and sexuality, Buddhist’s are generally open and tolerant but at the same time believe there is a time and a place for everything.
If you get nothing else from reading this article, please take the following. Yes, Thailand is easily one of the most beautiful and luxurious places in the world to visit. More importantly, Thailand is easily the most gay-friendly and tolerant country in all of Asia and I strongly believe Asia (and the rest of the world) has something to learn from their way of life.
A quick run down of the notable places I stayed and visited.
The Muse Hotel: Located centrally, it’s a newer hotel which offers a boutique feeling, while providing all the luxury you would expect from a larger hotel.
The Siam Hotel: I had the opportunity to tour this hotel prior to its opening. Hotel Manger Jason Freidman has out done himself with this place. Amazing hotel, amazing finishes, and easily the hotel to stay at.
Le Méridien: A Starwood property, Le Méridien is located centrally, steps away from the “gay area” of town. It’s everything you would expect from a Starwood property. If you’re looking to be close to the gay bars/area of town, this is the place to stay.
Sirocco Sky Bar: Located on the 63rd floor of The Dome at Lebua, Sirocco is the world’s highest al fresco restaurant and one of Thailand’s most popular places to eat or grab a drink.
The Four Seasons: Everything you would expect from a Four Seasons including a working rice patty, pool, gym, and more.
The Mandarin Oriental: Wow. That’s all I have to say about his property. Exquisite architecture and amazing accommodations sprawling over 60 acres of land.
The Four Seasons Tented Camps: I think this the only reason one would come to Chiang Rai. The Four Seasons has outdone themselves with this property. Located mountainside, the property has sixteen luxury “tents” which are perfect for a honeymoon or a romantic get-away. Did I mention the hotel is accessible only by boat? Included in your stay is a half-day “elephant trek” which is something I was lucky enough to experience and will cherish for life.