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Why Thailand makes for a dream lesbian holiday: A queer guide to Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi

Amy Ashenden January 10, 2020
Why Thailand is the perfect lesbian holiday destination

BANGKOK, CENTRAL THAILAND, THAILAND - 2018/01/01: Aerial view across the Chao Phraya River on the CAT Tower and the high-rise buildings of downtown Bangkok after sunset. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Looking for a LGBT and lesbian-friendly destination to escape the cold winter in London, my girlfriend and I decided to take two weeks out in Thailand – and we were met with some great gay surprises.

Aside from delicious food – albeit mostly containing meat and seafood, which is less than gay-friendly if we’re honest – I knew Thailand had some amazing landscapes to explore. So we planned a trip to experience its megacity Bangkok, Ayutthaya’s ancient ruins, the historical river Kwai in Kanchanaburi.

First up, Bangkok. Now, I hadn’t left London to be slap bang in the middle of a noisy city but with the help of a gorgeous hotel to relax in (more on that later) I was in for a serious surprise – lesbians. Lesbians everywhere. We couldn’t believe it. 

I’m used to getting the occasional lesbian nod while doing my weekly shop in Sainsbury’s but Bangkok is on another level.

In terms of the LGBT+ community in Thailand, lesbian culture mostly evolves around Tom’s and Dee’s, the latter translating to high femme and coming from the word ladies. Tom’s are, unsurprisingly, the butches. It’s supposedly quite unusual to date outside of this dynamic and, although they’re probably easier to recognise, these were the only lesbian couples we saw. But we saw plenty. In fact, I was getting the lesbian nod left, right and centre.

I don’t think I’ve seen this many lesbians since I binge watched all ten seasons of The L Word in one summer as a closet baby gay. I look for many things in a holiday, but I never knew a cross-cultural lesbian nod would rise to the top of my list. Box officially ticked – within five minutes – on day one. 

We even met a Thai elder who told us about her lesbian daughter’s coming out story, how she identities as a Tom, and has a Dee girlfriend that she loves to impress with her DIY skills (some stereotypes have to be celebrated).

An LGBT+ beginner’s guide to Thailand capital Bangkok.

For a taste of Bangkok’s history, the Grand Palace is worth a visit. Go early as there’s a never a quiet day here. You’ll find Hindu gods among Buddhist relics and the 14th century Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), whose clothes are changed depending on the season.

Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok (Grand Palace)
Royal Grand Palace, Bangkok (Grand Palace)

Then jump on a tuk tuk down the road to Wat Pho to see the 46-metre-long reclining Buddha, followed by a well-earned lunch at Supattra River House restaurant. Take the popular river ferry across to get there, and enjoy a quiet and calm Chinese-inspired set menu overlooking the water.

If you’re looking for a gay night out in Bangkok, you’ll want to head to Si Lom where there’s a strip of gay bars. The main street is very busy with Thai people and tourists alike, albeit mostly gay men. When you’ve drunk enough Chang, head over to the night food market over the road for some mango sticky rice. 

If you’re looking for something more romantic, check out the 360 degree views of the megacity from CRU Champagne Bar while sipping on their signature champagne cocktails at sunset. 

Where to stay?

Not far from CRU, is [email protected] – a truly incredible boutique hotel. In fact, you might find you struggle to leave the stunning views to explore the city. 

The decor is beautiful, the food is delicious and the staff are incredibly gay-friendly. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience to celebrate an anniversary or honeymoon, you need to check out [email protected] 

The view at breakfast: Overlooking Bangkok at Siam@Siam (PinkNews)
LGBT Thailand, the view at breakfast: Overlooking Bangkok at [email protected] (PinkNews)

Just minutes from Siam station, with a rooftop infinity pool and private floors reserved for a select few guests who can enjoy breakfast overlooking the city, [email protected] is super romantic and true luxury. Where else could you find a room that has its own private jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and outdoor shower on the balcony overlooking Bangkok’s football stadium? It was at that point we wished we were more football-savvy lesbians.

Ayutthaya: Ancient ruins, romantic boat rides and dreamy Thailand sunsets.

If Bangkok is just too busy for you, take some time out with a couple of nights in Thailand’s ancient capital, Ayutthaya.

Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom and its many ancient ruins now make it a worthy UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, there’s so many sites to choose from, it’s well worth booking a Destination Asia guide to help you explore.

On day one, wake up early to beat the crowds to see the famous Buddha head floating in tree roots at Wat Mahathat. Then head to Pranang Cherng to see the 16-metre high Buddha inside a temple popular with locals. 

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya (PinkNews)
LGBT Thailand, the floating Buddha’s head at Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya (PinkNews)

For lunch in true Thai style, try hor moke nue-pla – spicy fish served inside a coconut – on floating restaurant Pea Tevaray. Then hop onto a rune mai – the low wooden boats you’ll see often in Ayutthaya – around 4pm to catch the perfect light for a romantic ride. You’ll get an understanding of how local life is built around the river and see a remarkable view of the ruins at sunset. Seeing Wat Phra Sri Sanphet temple with the sun going down behind it is not to be missed.

Spicy Thai lunch on the river (PinkNews)
Spicy Thai lunch on the river (PinkNews)

Along our ride spotting a water monitor lizard and huge boats delivering cargo all the way to Bangkok, we happened to see a river snake pass just in front of our boat. We then learnt from our incredibly helpful Destination Asia guide that Thai custom dictates that if the snake sneaks past right to left it means you’re about to get some important news. But ours moved left to right, so what did that mean? That you’ve found your life partner, our guide explained excitedly. Pretty cute, to be honest.

Ayutthaya at sunset (PinkNews)
Ayutthaya at sunset (PinkNews)

Where to stay?

Ayutthaya is just 80km away from Bangkok but after trudging through the city’s growing traffic problems, you’ll want to spend a night or two to really make the most of the ancient sites.

IuDia's pool, Ayutthaya (IuDia)
LGBT Thailand, IuDia’s pool, Ayutthaya (IuDia)

Boutique hotel iuDia has a swimming pool with a view of Wat Phutthaisawan, which makes for the perfect evening dip. Then pop next door for a romantic dinner overlooking the Chao Praya river at Sala Ayutthaya, which has fantastic vegetarian options including a spicy green pumpkin curry and cooling coconut soup with incredible mushrooms.

Kanchanaburi: A magical experience steeped in rich Thailand history.

If you’re keen on some history but want a bit more nature to explore than Ayutthaya or Bangkok, then Kanchanaburi is an ideal day trip – although there’s easily enough to do for a two-night stay. 

And if you’re travelling from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi, be sure to stop off at Erawan Waterfall for a magical experience trekking up to level seven for a relaxing dip. The waterfall here is also home to a type of fish that eats dead skin from your feet – if you can brave it, a free natural spa awaits.

Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand (PinkNews)
Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand (PinkNews)

The river Kwai (ironically named as Kwai also means river in Thai) is famous for having its bridge bombed during WW2. It’s worth heading to the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre, and walking round the cemetery opposite, at the beginning of your visit to really put everything into context. 

Then you can actually ride the old school train to the centre of the small town and walk over the bridge that’s now very popular with tourists. On our journey we happened to be sat opposite an Australian woman retracing the steps of her father who was one of the PoW’s that built the bridge. 

Bridge over the Kwai river, Kanchanaburi, Central Thailand, Thailand. (Getty Images/DEA / G. COZZI)
LGBT Thailand, the famous bridge over the Kwai in Kanchanaburi (Getty Images/DEA / G. COZZI)

Where to stay?

Escape the usual tourist traps at X2 River Kwai where you can stay in a floating cabin on the river complete with its own set of kayaks, and your own private bed for sunbathing on the roof.

 

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There’s also a hotel infinity pool, free champagne at breakfast, bikes if you fancying cycling to the local village, and their Thai green curry is spot on.

Kayaking down the Kwai is really peaceful and, again, we saw a river snake pass in front of our boat from left to right. That’s got to be the Thai symbol for u-hauling, right?

More: Al Bangura, bangkok, lesbian, LGBT travel, Thailand

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