Gay Cruise Docks in Thailand

Author: , March 29th, 2010

Taiwan on Sunday welcomed the first gay cruise ship to visit the island with a lion dance and a gay guidebook for each tourist. The Azamara Quest sailed into Keelung Harbour near Taipei on Sunday morning from Japan carrying 378 gay men, mostly couples from the United States and Europe.

The welcome ceremony included students beatings drums and dancers performing a lion dance – in which performers dress as lions and mimic the animal’s movements. Each passenger also received a gay guidebook for Taipei. On Monday, the ship will depart for Hong Kong, the last leg of the 11-day voyage which began March 20 in Shanghai, with stops at Busan in South Korea and Hiroshima in Japan.

Chou Yi-hua, head of the Keelung Harbour’s passenger reception centre, said the Keelung Harbour welcomes all kinds of cruise ships, including gay cruise ships. “We have received all kinds of cruise ships – chartered by enterprises, by religious groups, by cultural groups. Here we have a gay cruise ship visiting Taiwan and it is not discriminated against. This helps promote Taiwan’s image,” he told reporters.

Full Story from Sun2Surf

Click here for gay travel resources.

Honolulu a Very Gay Friendly Destination

Author: , March 28th, 2010

Racially mixed and socially tolerant, mellow Hawaii has always been a soft spot for gays and lesbians. Honolulu, also affectionately called “Homolulu,” may have a smaller and more low-key gay scene compared to other U.S. cities its size, but what it lacks in heft it makes up for in friendliness.

Compared to other more closeted Asia/Pacific destinations, it’s pretty openly gay. Although Hawaii has taken a somewhat politically conservative bent in recent years, it’s still a live-and-let-live “hang loose”‘ kind of place. Honolulu acted as ground zero for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States, when in 1990 three gay and lesbian couples applied for marriage licenses at Honolulu City Hall – years before liberal Vermont or Massachusetts got in on the act. Gay marriage ultimately did not pass in the Aloha State, but the islands still appear regularly at the top of the list of favorite gay destinations worldwide.

Hawaii’s ancient history is rife with kings who proudly kept gay lovers and cross-dressing “mahu”‘ who can still be frequently spotted in the islands today. In fact, drag queens are so accepted in local society that the glitzy Universal Show Queen pageant every September has been held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

Full Story from the Miami Herald

Click here for gay travel resources in Honolulu and Oahu.

British Bed & Breakfast Turns Away Gay Couple

Author: , March 22nd, 2010

A gay couple were turned away from a Berkshire guest house by the owner who said it was “against her convictions” for two men to share a bed. Michael Black and John Morgan, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, had booked a double room at the Swiss B&B, Terry’s Lane, in Cookham, for Friday night. But when they arrived owner Susanne Wilkinson refused to let them stay.

She admitted she did turn the couple away because it was against her policy to accommodate same sex couples. The couple have now reported the matter to Thames Valley Police. Under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Ms Wilkinson told the BBC: “They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked. I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the government should force it on me. I am not a hotel, I am a guest house and this is a private house.”

Full Story from BBC News

Click here for gay travel resources in the UK.

Puerto Rico Welcomes Gay/Lesbian Travelers

Author: , March 20th, 2010

We stroll off our Olivia lesbian cruise ship and a few steps later we’re in the middle of the Old City. We climb up the hill toward the residential streets and I’m surprised at how quiet it is on the narrow cobblestone lanes between the pastel-coloured 16th-century houses. Locals walk past and compact cars squeeze through. A rainbow flag the size of a beach towel hangs from an upstairs balcony. More flags appear on storefronts as we descend – I’m told shopkeepers put them out to attract customers when Olivia is in port.

One is in front of a restaurant that’s packed with lesbians from our ship. Each time one enters, Luisa Texidor Pujols, co=owner of Airenumo, says, “Welcome, we are family.”

Puerto Rico is one of the most gay-friendly Caribbean islands, with plenty of nightlife, Pride celebrations and community organizations, yet there are still barriers to full equality.

Full Story from The Star

Click here for gay marriage resources.

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North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains – Weaverville & Asheville

Author: , March 20th, 2010
by Dan Ward, Inn on Main, Asheville, North Carolina
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WEAVERVILLE

Weaverville, North CarolinaWeaverville shares Asheville’s reputation as a cosmopolitan hub of the arts, fine dining, spa services and exceptional hospitality. Locals and visitors mix at Blue Mountain Pizza, which features some of the area’s best singer-songwriter and folk acts, plus a fine selection of craft beers, as well as gourmet pizza topped with everything from walnuts to gorgonzola.

Visitors can stay at one of the town’s signature bed and breakfasts and walk or take a short drive to an eclectic assortment of dining, live music, galleries, massage therapists, unique shopping and some of the prettiest scenery in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Weaverville, North CarolinaThe Weaverville Art Safari is the last weekend of April and first weekend of November each year. The self-guided free studio tour features dozens of the best artists and craftspeople in the Southern Highlands.

Art in Autumn is a new Arts & Crafts Festival which debuted in 2007. The festival fills Main Street with art, food, and music each September.

The Christmas Candlelight Stroll features carolers, buggy rides, free snacks and drinks at local shops and a multitude of “Merry Christmas” greetings from those you meet.

Mark your calendar to take time off, to ease your pace, and to savor the kindness and beauty of our community.

ASHEVILLE

Asheville at NightIf you can imagine our valley as a pendant, then Asheville, NC, would be an Art Deco gem held by a setting of blue-green mountains. It’s easy to think of Asheville and Western North Carolina in artistic terms. Arts and crafts have been a way of life here since woodcarvers and quilters used their creativity to supplement farm income.

Asheville and surrounding villages are artwork themselves. Fine craftsmen and architects outdid each other in the days of opulence and speculation at the dawn of the last century. The Great Depression ended the boom, but the buildings lived on, escaping the urban renewal that brought a sameness to America’s other cities. In Asheville, you can walk the 30 stations of the Urban Trail and learn more about the rich history of our city, from drover crossroad to the era of the grand hotels to today’s colorful cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Rafting in the Blue Ridge MountainsThese mountain downtowns offer unique opportunities for shoppers. Fine arts and crafts, antiques and a delicious assortment of restaurants are all clustered in central business districts of Asheville, Biltmore Village and Weaverville.

Indulge your tastebuds. The Asheville area has some gourmet specialties, including mountain trout cooked 47 ways, Southern barbecue and some of the finest microbrew beers in the Southeast. But the gastronomic attraction here is the diversity of dishes to be found, ranging from curry and couscous to Caribbean to aged steaks. Only Italy offers more varieties of Italian cuisine. As in Europe, dining in Asheville is an event where one lingers to enjoy the flavor and texture of life as well as dinner.

Savor the contrasts. Snack on sushi before giving clogging a try at Shindig on the Green. Try on the latest hiking boots before enjoying a performance by any of a dozen excellent theatre or dance companies. Dine at a cool sidewalk table, then burn the calories off dancing at a steamy nightclub. There’s a good reason that both Modern Maturity and Rolling Stone called this the place to be.

Biltmore Estate, AshevilleNo trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate. George Vanderbilt’s 250-room home is a monument to America’s Gilded Age. When it was completed in 1895, the French chateau-styled mansion was an escape for Vanderbilt family and friends.

Today, everyone can enjoy the collection of fine art and antiques, and stroll through gardens designed by America’s father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. Other attractions on the estate include a winery with complimentary wine tasting, a newly renovated conservatory and three restaurants serving dishes prepared from food grown on the estate. Biltmore Estate is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and offers candlelight Christmas tours in November and December by reservation only.

Your innkeeper offers Biltmore daytime tickets at the gate price. Some B&Bs offer packages that include Biltmore tickets, and can help you arrange candlelight Christmas tours.

Western North Carolina is a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts. As the novelist and Asheville native Thomas Wolfe wrote, around us are the “soaring and lordly ranges that melt away in purple mist.”

Thousands of miles of trophy trout streams wet the wrinkles of the Smokies, the Balsams, the Blacks and the Blue Ridge, joining into rivers where whitewater rafters and kayakers can take in the mountain beauty up close. Where highland valleys meet climbing hills, some of the most beautiful golf courses in the nation challenge all levels.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America’s most stunning highways, carries travelers more than 400 miles along ridgelines unmarred by billboards, trucks or any buildings other than the occasional information center. Take a drive north to Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Rockies, and maybe Grandfather Mountain, a tourist attraction featuring a mile-high swinging bridge and small zoo.

Trailheads along the parkway and other mountain roads beckon hikers to waterfalls, balds and escarpments where rock climbers test themselves against the mountain. Steep trails at two county parks challenge mountain bicyclists.

Chimney RockAn hour or so to the west of Asheville by Blue Ridge Parkway or U.S. 74, Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains more plant and animal species than any other park in America, and offers visitors a chance to see bears, elk and other animals in the wild, as well as see how pioneers lived in a re-created mountain community.

DuPont State Forest, North Carolina’s newest, features easy trails to several magnificent waterfalls. Whitewater and calmwater enthusiasts alike find their own degree of thrill and scenery on the French Broad, Nantahala, Pigeon, and other rivers. Other outfitters offer fly-fishing trips, rock-climbing classes, guided nature hikes and even llama treks.

Your bed and breakfast hosts will be glad to put you in touch with just the adventure you seek.

Inn on Main, AshevilleInn on Main Street is a romantic Victorian getaway near Asheville and the Biltmore Estate in quaint, quiet Weaverville, which is an arts mecca in its own right. The inn offers seven rooms, all with private baths, wireless internet and cable TV with DVD or VCR. Some rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs.

The inn is 10 minutes from Asheville by car, but only a two-block stroll to cafes, galleries, spa services and live entertainment. Owners Dan and Nancy Ward have hosted thousands of happy travelers since 1998, and love to share their knowlege of their home in the mountains.

Exploring Gay Cambodia

Author: , March 19th, 2010

IT was 10 p.m. in Siem Reap, and while most tourists were tucked in after a long, hot day exploring the temples of Angkor, things were just getting going at a bar called Linga. Pairs of European men in their 30s and 40s wearing unbuttoned collared shirts and checkered krama scarves sipped fruity cocktails and jostled for space with the young Khmer crowd, who huddled around small tables in anticipation of the main event: the Saturday night drag show.

A statuesque Khmer performer who went by the name Beyoncé took to the stage draped in a black, body-skimming floor-length gown and wearing a blond Afro wig. Soon, everyone was on his feet, belting out a song from “Dreamgirls.” The traffic outside literally stopped. Curious travelers, Khmer families and little girls peddling red roses craned their necks to get a better view as the song’s syrupy melody wafted into the jasmine-scented evening air.

Homosexual acts are not outlawed in Cambodia, as they are in a few Southeast Asian countries, but outward displays of affection and untraditional lifestyles are rare. Yet in Siem Reap, a small town that gets about a million tourists a year, gay visitors and locals are carving out a little haven. In the last few years, a small flurry of gay-friendly bars, restaurants and hotels has opened up in the city’s center and beyond, with wink-wink names like the Golden Banana and Cockatoo.

Full Story from the New York Times

Click here for gay travel resources in Cambodia.

RSVP Plans First Gay Cruise to Hawaiian Islands

Author: , March 18th, 2010

Celebrating a special anniversary with a special trip is not that unusual, but it might come as a surprise that the original gay/lesbian cruise company is just now making its first foray into historically rainbow-friendly Hawai’i.

RSVP Vacations, established in 1985 as a charter cruise operator, is marking its 25th anniversary with an inaugural Hawai’i itinerary. The company is offering a one-week interisland cruise on NCL’s appropriately named Pride of America, departing Honolulu Oct. 30 and calling in Kahului, Hilo, Kona and Nāwiliwili (Kaua’i) before returning to Honolulu the morning of Nov. 6.

The RSVP vacation is apparently the first such fully chartered cruise (versus gay-themed “group travel”) in the Hawaiian islands, although they’ve been commonplace in the Caribbean for years. In addition to the typical excursions to Hawai’i’s breathtaking sights, the RSVP cruise will feature gay-themed entertainment at pool parties, “T-dances,” cabaret piano bars and shows in the ship’s two-story theater. We suspect a certain amount of action will be taking place in Pride of America’s six Jacuzzis as well. (For a description of the 2,138-passenger ship’s other amenities, see Chronicle Travel Editor Spud Hilton’s writeup of his inspection in 2005.)

Full Story from SFGate

Click here for gay travel resources.

From Athens to Singapore Part 2 of 12: Turkey

Author: , March 17th, 2010
by Mike Shaughnessy, Traveler
Email Mike
Visit the Purple Roofs Turkey Page

Purple Roofs is happy to welcome back an old friend. Last time, Mike regaled us with tales of his trip through South America. This time, he brings us details from his two month trip from Greece to Singapore. Enjoy!

Gay Turkey

Gay Turkey

ISTANBUL: Ankara, located in the center of the country, is the capital city of Turkey but Istanbul is its largest city with some 15 to 16 million people. (Mexico City I believe is still the largest city with 20 plus million, Cairo is maybe the third largest with around 17 million plus people so that leaves either Mumbai or Istanbul as the world’s second largest city with around 18 million… as far as I know.

Gay Turkey

Istanbul is also unique in that it straddles the Bosphorus Strait with a portion of the city on the European continent and the other portion on the Asian continent, the only such city on two different continents. Connecting the two halves of the city is a suspension bridge.

The Black Sea is on the North and the Mamara Sea on the South with the Bosphorus Strait running between. Istanbul is the only place where you can go from one continent to another in a few moments by crossing a bridge.

Gay TurkeyTurkey is a Muslim country and Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantine as a city has a 6,000 or more year history with many old mosques alongside newer tall buildings. Only about 20% of the populace today practice their Muslim religion answering the call to prayer five times a day, another 20% try to go about five times a year and the rest are secular.

Gay TurkeyIn the historical center is the Topkapi Palace, the former residence of Ottoman sultans which ruled the Ottoman Empire from this city. Also in the center is the St. Sophia originally a Greek Orthodox Christian church, later it was converted to a Mosque with the addition or turrets, and today it is simply a huge museum.

The other must-see historical sites are the centuries old Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. The Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest shopping mall dating from 1461 and containing over 4,000 indoor shops, you can get lost in here.

This city was known as Byzantine when the Greeks were in control; it took the name of Constantinople after the Romans conquered it and finally after the Turks conquered the same city became known as Istanbul.

Gay TurkeyKUSADASI: This port city in Turkey is a favorite holiday spot for many Europeans looking for a bargain sunny vacation spot with turquoise waters. Only ten miles from Kusadasi lies the major attraction; the archaeological site of ancient Ephesus.

Gay TurkeyI was told only one seventh of the old city site has been uncovered and excavations continue today (hint Gretchen). The city of Ephesus dates back to the 10th century BC with white marble roads grooved by chariot wheels, temples, hill houses and the imposing remains of the two-story Library of Celsus (see my photos).

Gay TurkeyThis library housed numerous papyrus rolls and was built with two exterior walls with airspace in between the two exterior walls in order to keep the outside moisture away from the papyrus documents stored within.

There is also the well preserved remains of a large Greek Theater carved into the hillside which seats 25,000 people.

On another hill near here is a stone house where it is believed to be the last home where the Virgin Mary lived toward the end of her life. I am not very familiar with this corner of our world so if I get any of this wrong please feel free to correct me.

Gay TurkeyGay Turkey

Gay TurkeyGay Turkey

Gay Turkey

Gay Turkey

Gay Cruising the Caribbean

Author: , March 13th, 2010

I’ve been on a dozen cruises, including six Atlantis sailings, two on RSVP, a pair with R Family, and a couple of straight voyages. I really enjoy Atlantis trips for a variety of reasons. I love the ships they charter, including the gorgeous Solstice, the vessel I’m now on and the Royal Caribbean ships, like the Freedom of the Seas with all their innovative features (ice skating, anyone?). I also enjoy the parties, events and other programming. Though also incredibly friendly with lots of great activities, RSVP cruises are usually a little smaller than Atlantis charters and there are fewer of them per year.

R Family, a tour and cruise company catering to gay families, is perhaps best known for its topnotch entertainment, luring Broadway belters through the owners’ many entertainment-industry connections. With children running around and the presence of doting grandparents, you may forget that those triplets over there have two dads. Still, beyond the shows and straight presence, the vibe, humor and atmosphere is unmistakably, unapologetically and proudly gay.

The second you step foot on a gay cruise you are on holiday, starting with a hug by one of the many attractive, engaging Atlantis team members at the ship’s gangway. Then, a glass of champagne and endless smiles and greetings from crew, Atlantis staff, and fellow passengers.

Full Story from SDGLN

Click here for gay travel resources in the Caribbean.

Nepal Appealing to Gay Tourists

Author: , March 12th, 2010

Nepal wants to paint Mount Everest pink. It wants gay honeymooners trekking through the Himalayas. It wants to host the world’s highest same-sex wedding at Everest base camp. But mainly, the conservative Hindu nation wants a chunk of the multibillion dollar gay tourist market to help pull it out of poverty.

That quest – brushing aside historical biases in pursuit of economic opportunity – is symbolic of one of the gay rights movement’s most stunning successes. Just five years ago, police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets. Now, the issue of gay rights is almost passe here.

Nepal has an openly gay parliamentarian, it is issuing “third gender” identity cards and it appears set to enshrine gay rights – and possibly even same-sex marriage – in a new constitution. “(It) is not an issue anymore, for anybody,” said Vishnu Adhikari, a 21-year-old lesbian. “Society has basically accepted us.”

Full Story from Bartlesville Live

Click here for gay travel resources.