Gay rights in Asia have taken a positive turn with the publication of a guidebook for Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Utopia Guide to Singapore, Malaysia Indonesia reveals for the first time in print the fascinating and varied gay lifestyle of these countries in one hefty volume filled with a wealth of information.

Listed within are contact details for organisations and businesses that are popular with both local and visiting homosexuals, including accommodation, bars, discos, spas, and restaurants.

A special section of the book highlights groups, clubs, and spaces that are especially welcoming for women. Hundreds of tips and warnings from locals and visitors provide first hand insights for both frequent visitors and armchair explorers.

Commenting on the surprising abundance of gay life in a very conservative region, Singaporean gay activist, Alex Au, writes in the book’s preface, “The reason for this contradiction may be because, despite the political or religious rhetoric, at the social level, the people of these countries are tolerant and hospitable.”

Indonesia’s first gay pride celebration took place in Surabaya, on June 25, 1999. Singapore’s first public festival, Indignation, took place during the month of August 2005 and is set to repeat this year with expanded activities and a higher profile.

But despite growing advances in personal freedoms, activists in all three countries continue to encounter official obstacles. In 2006 Singapore government officials awarded a large grant of public money to a homophobic Christian group that attempts to straighten out gays. In March this year Kuala Lumpur police tried to crack down on businesses that cater to gay customers by fining owners for petty license violations, bringing criticism from local AIDS/HIV educators.

The Utopia Guide to Singapore, Malaysia Indonesia provides a remarkable insider’s glimpse at the vibrant, everyday life enjoyed by gays and lesbians in Southeast Asia.