Gay Vietnam may seem like an oxymoron given the violent, fractured nature of the country's history. But the opening up of the nation to the outside world in 1986 (and the lifting of the US economic embargo in 1994) has seen it adopt free market principles similar to Communist comrade China, sparking unprecedented economic growth, increased affluence and desire for change, writes OutUK correspondent Robin Newbold.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in Vietnam may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal and is believed to never have been criminalized in Vietnamese history. However, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Although homosexuality is generally considered a taboo because of the Vietnamese tradition, awareness surrounding LGBT rights has risen during the last few years. Vietnam's first gay pride parade peacefully took place in Hanoi on August 5, 2012 and has been annually taken place in dozens of provinces.

While there are no out and out gay bars, it's impossible to feel uncomfortable on the frenetic streets of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City as it's officially known), where smiles from passers by are not uncommon, hinting at a certain gentility and innocence.
Saigon is undoubtedly one of the engines of growth of the "new" Vietnam and there's such a vibrancy and energy about the place. In this world of perpetual motion, amid the streams of motorbikes, street hawkers and businessmen with mobile phones clamped to their ears, there's a new-found confidence and a feeling that people can be who they want to be, without fear of the government interference of old.

Though the state-run media denounced homosexuality as a "social evil" in May 2002, there have never been any laws against homosexual activity and in a sign that things are actually moving in the right direction, the delightfully titled Communist Youth Newspaper recently carried a story about homosexuality that opined: "Some people are born gay, just as some people are born left-handed." Quite!

In Saigon, it's not unusual to see youths of the same sex draped over each other on the seemingly only mode of transport, the suitably named Honda Dream motorbike. And, on a Saturday night, when the roads are even more teeming with bright young things than usual, don't be surprised if you catch someone's eye while at the wheel.
Foreigners are still a bit of a rarity in these parts and being on the street is the traditional Vietnamese place to flirt. In fact, it's a bit like the 1950s, because at the weekend especially, the parks are full of courting couples, which creates a wonderfully romantic throwback to more genteel times against the backdrop of the stunning architecture from the French colonial era.


Flirting aside, you can't come to Vietnam and avoid the history of the place since almost around ever corner there seems to be something of significance. And even though the American war (1965-73) may be seared into the Western consciousness, being here, surrounded by Vietnamese, makes exhibits like the War Remnants Museum all the more resonant.

There's a harrowing section called Requiem, which is a photographic journey through the war, with accompanying and unbiased commentary by the international journalists of the day.

There's also a fair amount of American military hardware scattered about the museum's grounds, trophies taken by the Viet Cong and a startling reminder of what the North Vietnamese were up against.
The Reunification Palace is a wonderful piece of 1960s kitsch smack bang in the middle of District One but again, it has a bloody history. It was here in 1975 that Communist tanks smashed through the gates to herald the country's "liberation" and the start of more than 30 years of autocratic rule.
Now tourists stream through those gates to marvel at the creation of Paris-trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu, whose grandiose vision won him the coveted Grand Prix de Rome for design. There's a bust of Uncle Ho (the "father" of Vietnam's Communist movement) in one of the grand halls and various other "Red" paraphernalia.
Other sights include such French-built gems as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office (no, really!), Hotel de Ville (now a grand Communist bolthole renamed the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee), Ben Thanh Market and the Municipal Theatre, which was restored at the behest of the makers of the 2002 movie, The Quiet American.
A no doubt linen-suited Graham Greene penned the 1955 novel on which the film is based in The Continental Hotel opposite the theatre.



search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk shop | home | outgoing | more



  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.