What's it really like?
Travel Update: As of 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military declared a state of emergency and assumed control. Following the coup, the security situation in the country has worsened, most governments are advising their citizens to leave Myanmar and to avoid all travel to the country. Check your government travel advice before planning a trip to Myanmar.
“It’s with great sadness, we bring this update. Across the team at The Gay Passport, we’ve enjoyed many incredible trips to Myanmar and all we want to do is wish the country a speedy recovery to stability and prosperity.” Pakornsak, Asia Editor for The Gay Passport.
Stunning Buddhist temples, exceptionally preserved traditional ways of life, and untouched nature all combine to make this one of Asia’s most exciting travel destinations. If you want to see what traditional Southeast Asia is all about, without the mass development to be found in surrounding countries like Thailand and Cambodia, Myanmar is a must-see.
When you think “Asian gay Mecca”, you don’t usually think of Myanmar, we leave that to Bangkok or Tokyo. However, this formerly closed-off conservative country has spent the past few years opening itself up to the world and to tourism. This has brought with it the beginnings of LGBT progress, with a small but welcoming gay scene forming in Yangon.
Gay Yangon is mostly made up of a monthly gay party, a lively cocktail bar and dance club, and a laid-back gay-owned brasserie that hosts weekly LGBT meet-ups. It may not be the mega-parties of Bangkok, but you’ll find a fun, friendly community of gay locals, expats, and tourists in these spots around town.
Yangon is a fairly cheap city, so you can book a very luxe stay for an affordable price, or you could go for a more low-key boutique stay. We have mostly selected hotels by the river or near Yangon Central station, which are two of the most popular areas for tourists to stay in.
Homosexuality is still illegal in Myanmar, an antiquated holdover from the country’s British colonial past. This is very rarely enforced, but that doesn’t mean the country welcomes homosexuality with open arms. The vast majority of Burmese are conservative Buddhists and prefer to think of homosexuality as something external to their own culture.
That said, Yangon is the heart of Myanmar’s budding gay scene, so if there’s one place in the country where you’ll feel welcome, it’s here. Yangon held its first Pride in 2012, and is home to a gay film festival every year. Meanwhile, LGBT rights have slowly started to creep into public discourse.
Public displays of affection, both hetero- and homosexual, are frowned upon, but you shouldn’t have trouble booking a hotel room as a couple. This is partly because hotels might assume you are friends – make sure you double-check your arrangements if you are booking a double room. While any issues are highly unlikely, you may feel more comfortable booking a hotel that is part of an international chain.
Yangon may be the gay capital of Myanmar, but the local scene is still pretty small. This makes gay Yangon a friendly, intimate, and relaxed alternative to some of Southeast Asia’s more raucous and hedonistic gay scenes. There are three main gay spots in town, which tend to attract a young LGBT crowd of locals.
Yangon Pride is held every year in January and February. During this time, you may find special parties and events throughout the city. You can check out the calendar here.
FAB is probably the biggest gay name in town. These monthly parties are held in various locations around town, usually MAZE Club, and attract a good mix of locals and tourists. Enjoy resident DJ sets in a friendly atmosphere, with all the proceeds contributing to local LGBT causes. You can find information on upcoming FAB nights on their Facebook page.
Freedom Bar is the latest addition to gay Yangon. It’s a fun and casual cocktail bar, located in the bustling nightlife district of Sanchaung. The lineup includes live music, DJ sets, and shows, and there is also good food on offer. Its location makes it a perfect pit-stop when exploring other bars and clubs in town. Find their location and upcoming events on their Facebook Page here.
OThentic Brasserie is a gay-owned French creperie and brasserie, serving a good selection of wines. It’s a great casual, laid-back spot for some dinner and drinks, and the staff will make you feel right at home. It holds a weekly event on Tuesdays for local gays and lesbians to socialize, which includes a drag and cabaret performance twice a month. More info here.
HIV charity AHF has several clinics in Yangon where you can have an HIV test, free of charge. You get your results on the spot and the test takes 15 minutes. You can find more information about AHF testing centers here.
Myanmar has the second-highest incidence of HIV in Southeast Asia, after Thailand. Approximately 26.6% of men who have sex with men in Yangon are estimated to have HIV. As always, be sure to practice safe sex in all of your encounters. Condoms may not be easy to find, so you might want to bring your own.
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