Thursday, 19 June 2014

Rainbow retreats: LGBT-friendly destinations in Myanmar

While in many ways a conservative society, Myanmar on the whole is tolerant and a pleasant, safe place to travel. Kings N Queens activist Ko Tin Ko Ko provides some of his favourite destinations.

Travel is a time to relax, or at least it should be. We travel to rejuvenate ourselves after long periods of work, and that includes the LGBT community, said Ko Tin Ko Ko, a member of LGBT rights group Kings N Queens.

Ko Tin Ko Ko officially married Ko Myo Min Htet a few months ago in Yangon, but the couple hasn’t taken their honeymoon yet. The public outcry that their marriage ceremony attracted made a romantic trip difficult to prepare at the time, and since then they’ve been busy with work.

So where does a gay couple in Myanmar go to get away from it all and enjoy good service and social acceptance, too?

“We’re planning to go to Taunggyi in August,” Tin Ko Ko said, referring to one of the country’s famous tourist sites in Shan State. The Inle Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival in September and the Taunggyi Hot-Air Balloon Festival in November are popular with travellers from around the world.

He doesn’t expect much trouble, although discrimination against LGBT people tends to be greater in the provinces rather than the big city, even though the issue is more out in the open all over Myanmar than in the past.

“People won’t disturb us directly or physically, for example by throwing stones. But they might make mocking comments behind our backs,” he said.

For a honeymoon trip or relaxation, Ko Pho Thit Lu of the Colour Rainbow LGBT group, said that Myeik Archipelago and Dawei’s beaches in Tanintharyi Region offer more comfort and freedom for gay couples relative to other places in the country.

“The local people are mostly non-discriminating and cool,” he said, in part because LGBT groups there are organising fundraisers and festivals with youth and women’s organisations, and Dawei authorities don’t impose strict anti-LGBT rules.

Myeik Archipelago has about 800 islands said to be more beautiful than Thailand’s Phuket. Visitors can enjoy diving, fishing and more, and the best time to go is between October and March. Access is by flight or car. There are also five-night cruises operated by Elegant Myanmar from Yangon to Myeik starting at US$500 for Myanmar nationals and $1000 for tourists.

For LGBT couples travelling to other parts of the country, Ko Pho Thit Lu had a few other suggestions: Hotel United in Myitkyina and Chindwin Hotel in Monywa are very comfortable for LGBT. Also, couples can expect good service at Golden Beach Hotel in Chaungtha.

Meanwhile, in Yangon, LGBT couples have a few safe choices for entertainment. YG bar hosts an LGBT-friendly night every second and last Saturday of the month. There’s also Heaven Bar, in Thukha Street near the Asia Royal Hospital, a place that always welcomes the gay and lesbian community. Tin Ko Ko expects more specifically LGBT-oriented establishments will open in the city soon.

Hotel United

38 Thit Sa Street, Myitkyina

Phone 074-22085

Chindwin Hotel

Bogyoke Street, Yonegyi quarter, Monywa

Phone 071-21938, 071-26150, 071-26151-52

Golden Beach Hotel


Phone 09-5200565, 042-42128, 042-42129

source: The Myanmar Times
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