In Vietnam many people consider homosexuality a taboo because of their ancient traditions and Communist background. A 2001 survey revealed that 82% of Vietnamese would never accept homosexuality, and in 2002 the state run media declared homosexuality a ‘’social evil’’.
However, awareness surrounding LGBT rights has improved in recent years. In 2009 the first transgender woman became legally recognised as a woman by Vietnamese authorities. Pham Le Quynh Tram officially redefined her sex from male to female, and changed her name.
In November 2010 the first foreign gay wedding was held in Hanoi between a Japanese and an Irish national, causing much attention for the LGBT community in Vietnam. That same year a letter was published in an online newspaper Tuoi Tre Online, from an 18 year old reader about the hard time he had with his family after they discovered he was gay. This sparked a huge debate, and resulted in the major state run media saying for the first time that ‘’homosexuality is normal’’, and that ‘’people are born gay, just as people are born left-handed.’’
Vietnam’s first gay pride parade took place in Hanoi in 2012, and was a huge success. The government began a consultation about whether to legalise same-sex marriage that same year.
On 1st January 2015 the Law on Marriage and Family officially went into effect. It says that while Vietnam allows gay weddings, it will not offer legal recognition or protections to same-sex unions. The Vietnamese LGBT community see this as an important stepping stone, as it contrasts with Vietnam’s more traditional neighbours.
In August 2015 several hundred supporters of LQBT rights took to the streets of Ho Chi Minh City for a huge gay pride parade. People feared a crackdown, but it soon became clear that the parade would go off without a hitch. ‘The Rainbow Walk’ was like an LGBT Disneyland!
It is believed that Vietnam’s relaxed policies will attract more and more tourists into the country, as Vietnam is now seen as tolerant and friendly. Despite this, some people in northern Vietnam can still be very conservative so it’s best to be a little careful in public. Prostitution is illegal and gay people can set a good example by abiding by local laws and customs.
Vietnam is a country of overwhelming beauty, friendly people and bustling cities. Tourism infrastructure has improved in recent years, and Vietnam has grown into a world-class destination. Visitors will enjoy an authentic cultural experience along with top service and comfort, in an environment less tainted by long-term mass tourism.
The country can be divided into three different regions, each with a different history, culture and climate. However, if it’s gay nightlife you are looking for do not waste your time: there are no exclusively gay or lesbian venues in Vietnam. The gay scene seems to move around every night, so find yourself a local who will receive the all-important SMS (or Jack’d and Growlr message) as to where the next party is. There are no obvious signs of a lesbian scene, but women are welcome anywhere men can go.
Best places to go
Ho Chi Minh is a stylish, fun-loving city and the country’s economic capital. Ho Chi Minh is located in the heart of the Mekong Delta, a beautiful area of countryside. The city has a multitude of museums, theatres and cultural houses, and showcases beautiful architecture, parks and incredible food. There are several mixed bars and clubs, and a restaurant that attracts local gays on Sunday mornings: where they go to see and be seen. Be sure to visit the sleepy French hill station town of Dalat nearby.
Mekong Delta is a region where the Mekong River empties into the sea. It is a lush, rich area of rice fields producing about half of Vietnam’s agricultural produce. Local life revolves around the river, so a trip here comes guaranteed with a boat journey.
The Cu Chi Tunnels just north of Ho Chi Minh, are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by Viet Cong guerrillas during the Vietnam War. They were used as hide-outs and the base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. Visitors can crawl around the safer parts of the tunnel system.
The South Coast
Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam, located near the Cambodia border. The island has pristine tropical rainforests, undamaged coral reefs and great beaches. Bai Dai (Long Beach) was voted one of the most clean and beautiful beaches.
Mui Ne used to be a little beach near a fishing village, but is now a popular destination for kite- and wind-surfing due to good weather and strong breezes. Take a trip to the sand dunes just north of the town for panoramic views and an incredible sight at sunset.
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s popular seaside resort town, featuring beautiful beaches, fine clean sand and clear, warm water. The city is more urban and lively than other beach destinations, and is the scuba diving centre of Vietnam.
Hoi An is a charming, unspoiled village with long narrow lanes, canals, and 400 year old buildings. Originally a fishing village, the international port grew up around the 16th century. It is known as ‘’the Venice of Vietnam’’ for its canals winding between the Chinese-style houses. Located on the South China Sea, it also sports one of the best beaches in Asia.
Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam, overlooking the Perfume River. It is part of a temple built in 1601 during the rule of the Nguyen Lords.
Ninh Binh province has the culture heritage of an ancient thousand-year-old capital. There are over 1000 monuments creating an integrated landscape of wetlands, coastal delta, hills and mountains. There is a huge cultural and spiritual feel to the area, shown by the convergence of many religions, including Buddhism and Christianity. Visitors may experience ecotourism and homestays, integrating with local life and communities.
Hanoi is ancient, and its architecture goes back to the time when it was part of China. Highly recommended is a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake located in the city centre. The shopping and dining in this city is incomparable. Hanoi has several mixed bars and clubs that attract local LGBT people, but no exclusively gay venues.
Halong Bay World Heritage Site is a few hours from Hanoi, and is a spectacular must-see of Asia. The ‘’Bay of Descending Dragons’’ features thousands of islands topped with thick jungle vegetation. The seascape of limestone pillars is spectacular.
Sa Pa Terraces are on the Northern border with China, and is an incredible chance to visit rustic ethnic minority tribal villages, experience colourful country markers, and trek through lush, green landscapes. The rice terraces are a wonder to behold, with bamboo woodlands behind. Local people grow rice, corn and vegetables on these paddy terraces.
The tour company Purple Dragon offers excellent advice for LGBT travellers. They are the oldest, largest and most respected tour operator in Vietnam for gay and lesbian visitors. The tours are private, not group tours, and so are tailor-made to your needs. This is a fantastic way to see Vietnam. Visit
Vietnam Gay Guy Tours provides 1 to 4 day tours of the major cities and sights in Vietnam including Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Hoi An.
Happy Gay Travel gives delux gay group tours of Vietnam and Cambodia.
Gay Hanoi Tours provide private tours of Hanoi by an expert guide.
Out Adventures do a 12 day tour of Vietnam exclusively for LQBT travellers, and a longer tour that includes Cambodia.
Zoom Vacations offer high quality gay group tours of Vietnam and Cambodia.
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