A Queer as Sh*t Guide to Bangkok

Drag queens, queer cruises, and other musts!

While Taiwan beat Thailand to the punch for same-sex marriage laws, the balmy, beautiful, and predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian country is easily one of Asia’s most LGBTQ-friendly vacation destinations. Bangkok in particular represents a mecca for foodies, spa pampering, queer nightlife, and a spicy-sweet blend of both chaos and tranquility.

Genderfluidity and trans identity has been a part of Thai culture’s fabric for quite some time, and nobody bats an eye at a “Tom”—masculine-identified lesbian—holding their girlfriend’s hand at the shopping mall, the male pharmacy cashier whose lips glow with Dragonfruit-colored lipstick, the trans female waitress working at a Michelin-starred restaurant (Bo.Lan, for one), or a trans pop music star like Gene Kasidit.

There’s a fierce drag scene and an official spin-off of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Drag Race Thailand, and a trans contestant, Angele Anang, won the second season. Thailand’s New Year festival, Songkran, is without doubt the gayest—and wettest—time you can have. Every April for several days, people playfully squirt and douse each other with water at LGBTQ pool parties, circuit parties, and drag extravaganzas. Oh, and as for marriage equality, a civil partnership bill offering some of the legal benefits was approved in 2018 and is making its way through the government.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched a stunningly designed content-rich LGBTQ website, “Go Thai, Be Free,” which is worth checking out, and now NewNowNext has some sweet Thai tea for you about visiting Bangkok. Did we mention the U.S. dollar is super strong?

Bangkok Basics

Yes, Bangkok traffic is cray-cray, but you can beat it by taking the BTS Skytrain system and underground MRT, both of which are being expanded. When you do need to get from A to B via taxi or car, use the Grab app. It’s the Uber of Southeast Asia: Your driver is guaranteed to be GPS-savvy and agrees to an estimated price in advance so you won’t have to worry about a language barrier.

Of course, no Bangkok visit is complete without a crossing or cruise along the Chao Phraya river to take in iconic riverside sights like the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Prayoon.

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The gay-owned Supanniga Cruise, aboard a largely open-air, comfy 40-seat vessel, offers a late-afternoon sunset cocktail, tea, and Taittinger champagne jaunt, or an evening six-course dinner cruise. It’s the most upscale, delicious, sublime offering on Chao Phraya—and the gayest!

Sawasdee, You Stay!

Ken Kreangsak Lieng’s G-Spot Entertainment is behind Bangkok’s best weekly gay parties and drag nights, including queer Sundays at sleek speakeasy/club Maggie Choo’s, hosted by Drag Race Thailand’s English-fluent co-host Pangina Heals with performances by the show’s fiercest queens. Come dragged up and a free drink is yours!
Also check out Drag Race Thailand squirrel friends in action nightly at Silom’s Stranger Bar and DJ Station.

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House of Drag Queens ยึดในในความเสมอภาค เรายินดีต้อนรับให้บริการทุกท่านไม่ว่าจะสาว1 สาว2 สาวหล่อทอมบอยหรือเพื่อนสาวชาวสีรุ้ง LGBTQ+ รวมทั้งหนุ่มสาวชาวStr8ชายหญิงชะนวลนี ในทุกค่ำคืนพบกับเหล่าDrag Queensตัวแม่แถวหน้าของเมืองไทย โดยดูไปก็ดื่มไปอย่างน้อยคนละแค่2ดื่มส่วนค่าเข้า ”ไม่เก็บ ไม่ต้องควัก”…โดนใจและมอบความสุขให้ทุกท่านที่สีลมซอย4 บริหารงานโดย M Stranger Fox เพิ่มเติมที่….follow us on Twitter: TheStrangerBar | IG : TheStrangerBarBKK | FB : TheStrangerBar #thestrangerbar

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Of course, there’s a lot more than drag going on at night. Also on Silom, HUGs is a second-floor karaoke bar for bears, while the spacious Brother’s Bar boasts a stage, live performances, full food and drink menu, and beary happy vibes.

Be sure to also check out parties thrown by eclectic LGBTQ collective Trasher and, if visiting for Songkran, the multi-day series of gay parties from G Circuit.

Spice Is Nice

Bangkok is a foodie heaven. With a location close to Silom’s bars, casual gay-owned Somtum Der serves up Isan (Northeast Thailand) dishes like a wide variety of freshly pounded spicy papaya salads, while sister venue Supanniga Eating Room—which also runs the Chao Phraya cruise—recreates grandma’s homemade Thai recipes.

Thai cuisine gets unlikely yet yummy fusion twists—e.g. fermented pork rigatoni—and loads of LGBTQ customers at chain Greyhound Cafe, which has locations throughout Bangkok.

For technique-forward new-school takes on Thai flavors and ingredients, book fine dining spots 80/20, Michelin-starred Saawaan, Sra Bua, and, with 25th floor views, Taan. Be sure to check out the latter’s “hyper-local” cocktails as well.

Indoors Is the New Black

While December and January can be dry and even a bit cool, Bangkok is either tropically hot or rainy the rest of the year, but that’s not a problem given all the incredible indoor shopping centers packed with awesome local brands and restaurants. Start with Central Embassy’s Instagram-ready top floor, a sprawling, incredibly designed bookstore with excellent restaurants, coffee, and dessert vendors.

Opened in late 2018 to much fanfare across the Chao Phraya, Iconsiam is a large upscale shopping center featuring Bangkok’s first Apple store. Sure, getting there can really suck—waits for the Sathorn Pier free shuttle boat can be long and frustrating, and a direct BTS Skytrain stop won’t be finished for a couple of years—but it houses outlets for almost every cool Bangkok brand. Check out Eureka craft coffee (seriously, we dare you to try the salted egg yolk cold brew latte!), Thai aromatherapy skincare shop Thann, and the bizarre Las Vegas-y food court “SookSiam,” emulating Thailand’s different regions with a faux floating market and epic selfie spots both indoors and out.

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สองอาทิตย์สุดท้ายของงาน Bangkok Art Biennale // Last 2 weeks to enjoy Bangkok Art Biennale. … มาสัมผัสอุโมงค์เทปขนาดใหญ่ของกลุ่มนูเมนฟอร์ยูส มาค้นหาแรงบันดาลใจ Basket Tower 2018 จากวัตถุในชีวิตประจำวันและวัสดุรีไซเคิล หรือ ผลงาน The Settlement, 2016-2017 ห้องเล็กๆ ที่ภายนอกถูกหุ้มด้วยไม้และแผ่นสังกะสี ในขณะที่ภายในโอ่โถงด้วยการใช้กระจกเงาจนเกิดภาพลวงตา ฉากภายในนิ้อิงการสร้างจากประวัติศาสตร์ของฟิลิปปินส์… ใครยังไม่มา … อย่ารอช้านะคะ จัดแสดงถึงวันที่ 3 กุมภาพันธ์ 2562 หอศิลปกรุงเทพฯ และ 19 จุดอื่นๆ ทั่วกรุงเทพมหานคร รายละเอียดเพิ่มเติม @bkkartbiennale // Last 2 weeks to enjoy Bangkok Art Biennale. The show runs until Sunday February 3, 2019 at #BACC and 19 venues around Bangkok. BACC is looking forward to seeing you. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00-21:00 hrs. Free admission. More info @bkkartbiennale … CR. BACC (JukkritH.) #yourbacc #saveyourbacc #baccbangkok #bangkokartandculturecentre #bkkartbiennale2018 #beyondbliss #bab2018

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Another cool, underrated indoor spot is the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre, aka BACC, a Guggenheim-like art museum with several floors of Thai and arts-centric shops and cafes. Between November 23 and March 2020 it will host Asia’s biggest LGBTQ contemporary art exhibition ever, with work from more than 50 Asian artists, including China’s late Ren Hang and Thai installation artist Arin Rungjang.

Sleep Pray Love

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time around Silom and its raucous Soi 2 and 4, SO Sofitel is a short stroll and overlooks Lumphini Park from its elements-themed rooms, outdoor pool, and rooftop bar. In nearby Sathorn, bling-y W Hotel has the added bonus of being a few minutes’ walk from reasonably priced massage mecca Health Land and Bangkok’s best craft coffee spot, Roots, which has a supercute crowd to boot.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.