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.
With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world. The French were expelled 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. 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. In both Saigon and Hanoi there are quiet gay communities and venues.
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.
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 Vietnam
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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