The capital of Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and fascinating cities. With a blend of traditional, colonial, and modern architecture, an unbeatable nightlife, some of the most delicious food on the continent, and a chaotic approach to traffic that tends to terrify most newcomers, Hanoi is simply unforgettable.
The picturesque Old Quarter is a mix of old temples, modern backpacker hotels, timeless cafes, and little alleys packed with bars and rickety food stalls. As you explore the rest of the city, you’ll find peaceful parks and great museums. Hanoi is also an excellent base from which to explore Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s most famously beautiful natural wonders.
One thing Hanoi doesn’t have is a particularly large gay scene. There is only one gay bar in town, with a few regular gay or gay-friendly parties to keep things interesting. Locals meet up in a handful of gay saunas, but these tend to sit outside the touristy parts of town. Don’t let the lack of a gay scene discourage you, however – there are few places as vibrant and exciting come nighttime than Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Hanoi is a sprawling city, but the vast majority of visitors mostly stay within the Old Quarter of the city. This area spreads west and north of Hoan Kiem Lake and contains most of the major tourist sights in town. Bustling yet charming by day, it turns into the city’s main nightlife hub when the sun sets, packed with street food stalls and bar terraces. This is also where the only gay bar in town, the Golden Cock, is located, so it goes without saying that most of our recommended gay-friendly hotels are in this area.
Like most countries, Vietnam’s attitudes to homosexuality are changing and evolving. Young people and those in cities are more likely to be accepting, while older generations and rural communities maintain more conservative values.
Same-sex relationships were never illegal in the country, and gay marriage has been decriminalized (although not outright legalized). An increase in LGBT representation in Vietnamese media is both reflecting and leading an overall change in attitudes.
Many Vietnamese men still feel pressure to remain in the closet or to be discreet, but these pressures generally don’t apply to tourists. As a visitor, it is highly unlikely you will be anything but welcome, and you should have no trouble booking rooms as a gay couple.
It is worth noting that overt public displays of affection are frowned upon in Vietnamese society, even between opposite-sex couples. Holding hands is fine, but anything more than that might be considered rude.
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