Introduction: Life in bustling Saigon, a city of eight million people and six million motorbikes, is colorful, ambitious, old and modern. Gay life barely shows its face against conservative traditions. The scene is small, unorganized and subdued (non-existent in the eyes of the government). Outside Saigon and Hanoi there are little pockets of LGBT expression in the smaller cities like Hoi An and Hue. This story is followed by a News Report that further informs about the meager LGBT life in Vietnam. Accidental Meeting My first interview about southern Vietnam accidentally happened along a bustling city center street when I unexpectedly came upon a street vendor selling knock-off copies of the Lonely Planet guide to Vietnam and other southeast Asia countries. “Yes this is a fake but the price is very cheap, 0nly 90,000 dong (about U$6)” declaimed the street vendor eagerly. Earlier that day I had browsed the officialSee the Full Version Here
With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War (called the 'American War' by Vietnamese), ending with a communist victory in 1975. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth had been among the highest in the world in the past decade. These efforts culminated in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007 and its successful bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2008.
Homosexuality is not a crime provided that it involves noncommercial acts between consenting adults in private. In fact many historians believe that homosexuality was never addressed in the nation's criminal code. Male prostitution and public sex are illegal and establishments or people found to be involved in such behavior can be sentenced to long prison terms. The criminal code does prohibit the "undermining public morality". This vague law could be used to harass gay people or gay rights organizations. In both Saigon and Hanoi there are quiet gay communities and venues.
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Capital: Hanoi - Pop. 3300000
Area: 331689 sq. km. / sq. miles.
Status of Homosexuality: Legal
Telephone Country Code: 84
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Before the American War (1965-75) the Ben Hai River divided ‘democratic’ South Viet Nam and communist North Viet Nam. The demilitarized zone spread about 5 km north and south of the river. During the war the DMZ was heavily militarized and became one of the most savaged places on earth. Located here was the huge U.S. Khe Son marine base, Hamburger Hill and other infamous battle sites. All that remains of Khe Son is a musuem, some rusty aircraft and a long weed patch that was once an enormous runway. Nearby are some of the countless underground Viet Cong tunnels. The war exacted a huge human cost: in addition to approximately 58,159 U.S. soldiers killed, 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, and 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians lost their lives The rest is silence. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
A two week drive around the northern third of Vietnam brought us to Hanoi, Halong Bay, the northwest mountains, Dien Bien Phu and Sapa. This abridged gallery does little justice to the beauty of the land and the variety of hill tribes in these areas. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a vast, vibrant, hectic, intense cosmopolitan city yet with room to breath and a pace calm enough to ride a bike. As the country cautiously mutates from communism to capitalism, many ambitious citizens have tasted the delights of profit and drive around in SUV’s. Still, most common folks peddle around to local grocery stores and buy milk in real coconuts from street vendors. Visitors can buy knock-off copies of Lonely Planet guidebooks from 10-year-old street-smart kids. Of course, there are war memories here at the War Remnants Museum but most people have put the American War far into the distant past and welcome tourists as if it had not happened. These are resilient, enduring, hard-driving folks who are bringing their country into the 21st century with all due haste. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
The very fertile Mekong Delta is Viet Nam’s breadbasket: it feeds the nation with rice, vegetables, fish and fruit. (Vietnam is the world’s second largest rice exporter.) It is a densely populated area, including the waterways where hundreds of thousands of people conduct commerce by boat. A day trip around this floating city is a fascinating glimpse into the hardworking commercial heart of Vietnam. On land, a visitor sees endless student faces coming and going to school; the future is strong. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s Viet Nam resistance fighters built these underground tunnels to wage guerilla war first against the French and later American military forces. It’s estimated there were more than 250 km of passages, some of which were directly underneath American bases. Whole populations of Viet Cong fighters and supporters lived–and died–in these tunnels. There were numerous living facilities underground (which sometimes were three or four levels deep) including living quarters, hospitals, weapons manufacturing areas, social rooms, kitchens and command centers. Entrances to these tunnels were camouflaged and protected by trap doors, booby traps (with lethal bamboo spears) or invisible ports. As a result, in the American War (1965-75), this area was extremely heavily bombed and defoliated and tens of thousands of civilians and combatants (on both sides) were killed. Today the tunnels are a tourist attraction for foreign and native visitors; guided tours are conducted soSee the Full Version Here
Dalat is a city of 130,000 in central Vietnam surrounded by mountains with bustling downtown shops as well as parks, lakes, forests, many hotels and a popular flower festival. The area is also home to numerous indigenous hill tribes such as the Lat tribe who grow beans and coffee. Located here is the former summer residence of the last emperor, Bao Dai, where goofy tourists can adorn themselves with replicas of the emperor’s old clothes. The strangest place in town is the fanatasy-esque Hang Nga Tree House Hotel of the architect Dang Niet Nga that twists and turns up and down staircases with no square corners or flat ceilings. Every two years Dalat hosts a big Flower Festival that brings great color and cheer to the city. Outside the city is the scenic cable car ride to Truc Lam Monastery complex. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
Hoi An is a charming coastal city with much traditional architecture and narrow pedestrian streets. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its pagodas, antique houses and museums. Artisans turn out paintings, carvings and lots of clothing, rain or shine, flooding or dry. Outside the city is the My Son ancient kingdom site of the Champa civilization, a cradle of religious, intellectual and politcal life from the 4th to 15th centuries. Unfortunately, during the American War many of the temples and buildings were destroyed. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
Nha Trang has some of the best beaches in Vietnam. The clear turquoise water and endless sand along with countless informal restaurants and hotels make this city of 320,000 a relaxing traveler’s rest stop (except in November and December). About 100 km south of Nah Trang are the ancient Po Klaung Garai Towers (first five photos) dating from the 13th century Hindu Cham dynasty. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
Hue city is another cultural and historic gem of Vietnam. With 290,00 people the city is alive with commerce, tourism, ancient and modern buildings, ambitious citizens and painful war memories (now mostly out of mind). The major attractions now are not religious but historic. The huge Citadel (Imperial City), once the seat of emperors’ mightly power, is now a vast site of temples, mansions and workshops, many of which are under renovation since the devastation of the American War, as it is called in Vietnam. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
From 1802 to 1945 Vietnam was ruled by a series of Nguyen dynasty emperors who lived extravagant lives while most of the population lived as paupers. When these leaders died, monumental tomb sites–some like miniature towns–were built south of Hue along the Perfume River. Guidebooks list seven major tomb sites that have become major tourist attractions but most visitors only see three or four in the course of the usual one-day tour. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here
Hidden in the tightly woven fabric of conservative northern Vietnam culture, gay men seek out love and life using high tech Internet and low tech T-rooms. Among the beauty of the coastline and the rugged high mountains, most lesbigays are married and deny their secret. But romantic truth for younger gays is slowly emerging into light and warmth. Also see: Gay Vietnam Stories Gay Vietnam News & Reports 1997 to present Gay Vietnam Photo Galleries Don’t Be Different Like subtle patterns woven into a rich tapestry, gay life in Hanoi is enfolded within intricate traditions of family, village and country, all framed by the present communist social system. It is nearly impossible to live any sort of gay ‘lifestyle’ as it is known in the west-two same-gender partners cohabitating privately in their own dwelling, separately from their families, socializing with a circle of gay friends and attending meetings. Such aSee the Full Version Here
Danang is a city of about a million people. It is the major commerical hub for central Viet Nam but most tourists pass through on their way north to historic Hue or south to picturesque Hoi An. For many American visitors the name is synonymous with the war. The enormous military base was often in the news. It was ‘liberated’ by the Viet Cong in March 1975. Today the base is an abandoned place with churned up turf, rusting hangars and skeleton walls. Nearby is the famous China Beach which is now a popular vacation spot in the warm months. Also in the area is Marble Mountain from which tons of colored marble was taken for remarkably skilled sculpture pieces and shipped around the world. Because the mountain is not limitless much of the marble is now imported from China. Read the stories about gay VietnamSee the Full Version Here