How Gay Friendly is India?

Author: , October 31st, 2010

by Douglas Thompson, Purple Dragon Tours

Email Douglas | Visit the Purple Dragon Tours Website

Visit the Purple Roofs India Page
Jaisalmer, India

Gay IndiaIndia has long had a reputation as unfriendly towards openly gay visitors. However, the world’s largest democracy is slowly coming out of the closet. If India follows the same evolutionary path that China did, there will faint signs of a gay community evolving there, followed by profound social changes.

One of those faint signs was Delhi’s first annual Pride Parade in 2009. Amazingly, there were scores of smaller such events throughout India, even in small towns.

Not long afterwards the New Delhi High Court ruled that laws that criminalized homosexuality were discriminatory and a violation of fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution. The British colonial-era law had called for a ten year jail sentence for guys caught doing naughty things with each other. Police in some cities have used such laws to harass local gays and close gay gathering places. The cour”s ruling is effective only in Delhi. However, provincial high courts across the country have followed suit.

Khajuraho, IndiaGay activists were predictably jubilant following the court’s ruling, and Indian Christians and Moslems are predictably outraged. Discussing homosexuality has long been taboo in India. Even though these antediluvian laws have rarely resulted in prosecutions over the last two decades, striking them down has brought the “G” word into dinner table conversations across India. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

One full year has passed since the High Court’s decision, and we have been almost inundated with journalists asking practically the same questions: Will this bring a stampede of gay visitors? Will the Commonwealth Games be very, very gay? Do you expect a huge rise in gay sex tourism?

Richard & Gary at Agra Fort, IndiaOur answers are always the same. Changes in the law may make some of gay travelers more comfortable about traveling to India, but it has not signaled the opening of the gay tourism floodgates. Most gay men and lesbians do not travel primarily to have sex, although meeting people for cultural exchanges is often high on their lists. Delhi will never be Bangkok.

There are no real gay entertainment venues in India, although that is sure to change. Ultimately gay bars will not make much difference to our guests anyway. Our customers go to India because they really want to see (and shop and hear and smell and taste and photograph) India.

A high-profile gay tour company in India has announced that it will soon publish a list of the ten most gay-friendly hotels in India. Despite their announcement, no such list has materialized and we doubt that it will. Why?

First of all, hotels do not care about the sexuality of their guests, however practically none will want to appear openly on a list. Two guys in one bed? No problem. Unless you skinny dip in the hotel’s pool and behave inappropriately there with your companion, or rape the room service waiter, nobody will think twice about you, even if you appear to have a lot of fun local friends. As long as you are spending money, nobody in India cares.

India RowerAlthough India is conservative and is shedding its legacy of Victorian British laws and social concepts, Indians are probably not as harsh about homosexuals as you might think. One friend who traveled with us extensively in India recently wrote us about one of his favorite experiences:

“On my last night in Delhi I went to a big market (it was probably Chandni Chawk) to buy a sari. I found a lovely shop that sold ‘sets’ of luscious, highly-embroidered silk fabric that could be transformed into what I wanted. However, it took a few minutes for the staff to understand that I wanted the sari for myself. When the idea finally came across to them they were very good-humored about it, with smiles all around.

I was the only male customer in a very busy shop and all of the other customers somehow got involved in helping me choose the right color and recommending jewelry and accessories to go with it. It was very funny and quite a bit of fun for all. Although I ended up choosing the most extravagant fabric, the experience was priceless.

“It is common for many people to form negative opinions about others who are different in one way or another. I have found, however, that when most strangers find themselves in the company of a good-humored gay man who is not ashamed of himself their thinking changes and they accept me on my own terms readily. After all, we are much the same, despite our languages, religions and cultural traditions – most of which do not really teach homophobia (unless you are a fundamentalist Christian). In the end, the shopkeepers and their customers ended up with a fun story of their own, plus a big attitude change.”

Jaipur, IndiaEssential to any first-time visit to India is the “Golden Triangle;” Delhi, Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur, one of the most splendid feudal city states in Rajasthan. This circuit can be completed by road in five to seven days, which leaves time for most holiday-makers to see more. We encourage our guests to spend an extra day in Jaipur, if possible.

The monumental Ambur Fort, a sprawling hill-top fortified palace on the edge of the city, is worth an entire day. Shopping here is terrific if you are interested in handicrafts, carpets, textiles and art. Jaipur is also India’s greatest center for the gem trade, where savvy shoppers can pick up a little bling at bargain prices.

Rajasthan is full of other attractions, particularly the cities that sprang up around the richly-ornamented palaces and forts of the rulers of old. In their day these independent realms ruled by the Rajput before Indian colonial rule. Among closest to the Golden Triangle are Udaipur, India’s “City of Lakes,” and Johdpur and Jaisalmer, caravan towns on the edge of the Tar desert.

Varanasi, IndiaA visit to Ranthambore National Park also fits neatly into a Golden Triangle itinerary. Open October through May, Ranthambore is home to rhinos, elephants the last remaining protected population of Bengal tigers in India, as well as thousands of species of other wildlife, birds and flora. Ranthambore is a two night stop if you want to see the minimum. Seeing tigers is not guaranteed, but many visitors experience two or three sightings.

While it is impossible to see everything in India, filling a three- or four-week time span is not difficult. Kerala, on the tip of India, offers wonderful beaches, plenty of history and houseboat adventures. Nearby Madurai is India’s second oldest city that still attracts countless Hindu pilgrims to its ancient temples. The oldest city, Varanasi, is best known for its cremations and ritual bathing on the shores of the Ganges.

Gay venues do not exist yet in India, although bars in Delhi and Mumbai have a gay night once a week. There are infrequent circuit parties in other Indian cities. For most visitors, gay life is elusive. For those who want to meet the locals, the best method is to find new friends through social networking websites before you go.

Sidebar: Douglas Thompson is Managing Director of Purple Dragon Ltd., Asia’s oldest gay tour company. He has been traveling through India since 1973. Purple Dragon offers culturally-focused modular packages through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, China, India, Bhutan and soon Nepal using private local guides and gay-friendly hotels.

Today’s Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Rockmere Lodge B&B, Ogunquit, Maine

Author: , October 31st, 2010

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Ogunquit Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Rockmere Lodge - Ogunquit, MaineA turn of the nineteenth century shingle style cottage built in 1899 by the Stearns family of Cincinnati, this Ogunquit ME Bed & Breakfast sits on a slight knoll with commanding views of the Atlantic, midway along the Marginal Way, a mile-long beautiful ocean-side footpath from Ogunquit Village to Perkins Cove, but in a quiet highly residential area. You can hear the surf crashing against the rocks from almost every room in Rockmere Lodge.

The spacious grounds around this Ogunquit Bed & Breakfast Inn boast extensive flower gardens with fountains, a goldfish pond and statuary that reflect the way your hosts imagine Rockmere Lodge, an Ogunquit ME B&B, would have looked at the turn of the nineteenth century. You are invited to stroll the grounds, bask in the sun, enjoy the cool sea breeze in our screen enclosed Gazebo overlooking the water or just sit in the shade on an Adirondack chair or relax on our Pagoda swing.

The sweeping veranda that wraps around the entire front of the house is graciously appointed with comfortable wicker furniture, making it an inviting place to sit and enjoy the ocean view, nap, read or meet new friends.

See the Rockmere Lodge Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

From Westmount to the Gay Village, Montreal Has Something for Everyone

Author: , October 31st, 2010

Gay MontrealMontreal is a marvelously multicultural city. Our Berber taxi driver is thrilled that we had visited his native Morocco earlier this year. The Spanish-born shoe salesman tells us how he loves the city while our Bangladeshi waiters (college graduates) are busily studying French to increase their employment opportunities. Greeks, Poles, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Haitians, Africans – all are contributing to creating a French and English-speaking city of great charm.

The concierge at Hotel le St-James arranges a superb, personal, guided tour for us. David Menard provides fascinating commentary as he drives for more than three hours, introducing us to the highlights of Canada’s second-largest city. He begins with the influence of the Iroquois, now known as the First Nation people, explaining that ‘Canada’ and ‘Quebec’ derive from the Iroquois language.

We pass a tower 23 stories high, once making it the tallest building in the entire British Empire. Today, no building may be higher than 234 metres, the height of Mount Royal, which is why Montreal is not crowded with skyscrapers the way Manhattan is, though both are islands. Montreal, a 30-mile long island, founded at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, is actually linked to the mainland by at least 15 bridges and a tunnel.

Full Story from the Jamaica Gleaner

Click here for gay travel resources in Montreal.

Hawaii: America’s Gay Travel Destination

Author: , October 31st, 2010

Gay HawaiiHawaiians boast a proud history, a line of mighty monarchs (some of whom openly had aikane or same-sex favorites), and an unshakable belief in the heartwarming concept of aloha, which signifies hello or goodbye but which also connotes love, peace, and compassion (among many other meanings).

The United States illegally overthrew and annexed the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii by the early 1900s. By 1959, Hawaii became our 50th state. Despite the historically tumultuous relationship between the islands and the mainland, Hawaii offers unconditional aloha to residents of the other 49 states, welcoming visitors year-round, according an especially warm special welcome to LGBT travelers who’ll find gay and gay-friendly accommodations, restaurants, attractions and events dotting the eight primary islands of the group.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy Hawaii from the urbane (Honolulu has almost a million inhabitants) with a wide range of lodging options, a restaurant scene finally embracing the farm-to-table movement, and shopping rivaling Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive; to the adventurous and sporty (stand-up paddleboard, anyone?); to the remote, with off-the-grid slices of paradise just begging to be explored.

Full Story from SDGLN

Click here for gay travel resources in Hawaii.

Win Five Nights in Kehena Beach, Hawaii

Author: , October 29th, 2010

Hale LalalaPurple Roofs is giving away five nights on Hawaii’s Big Island at Hawaii Lalala:

Come to Hawaii’s Big Island and experience Hale Lalala – with comfortably luxurious rooms – a delightfully affordable Hawaiian vacation

Hale Lalala is perfectly located within walking distance of Kalapana Cafe, Kaimu Store, Kava Bar, Lava viewing sites, Kalapana & Kaimu Black Sand Beaches. We’re also just 15 minutes by car from the cute plantation town of Pahoa, and less than 30 minutes from Hilo with its famous Farmer’s Market.

We’re also just minutes from Kahena Beach, Steam Caves, Ahalanui Hot Springs, and Kapoho snorkeling tide pools.

There are also Botanical Gardens, Waterfalls, and Volcano National Park just 45 minutes away.

There’s private beach access, a warm pool, king & queen beds, a private outdoor shower, and a large deck for sunbathing.

Sign Up for the Sweepstakes Here

Today’s Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Black Walnut Point Inn, Tilghman Island, Maryland

Author: , October 29th, 2010

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Maryland Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Black Walnut Point Inn - Tilghman Island, MarylandBy any measure Black Walnut Point is unique. A gate secures the half-mile drive through 57 acres of bird sanctuary before entering our six-acre island of lawn. With sunrise over the broad mouth of the Choptank River and sunset over the length of Chesapeake Bay – wind, waves and endless water views are the hallmark. We have a pair of nesting eagles, resident osprey and black ducks, not to mention migrating butterflies, waterfowl and songbirds. Bay dolphin, skates and schools of bluefish are a common sight, and the back dock overlooking the cove is a perfect place to watch herons fish. At night the stars are uninterrupted, another surprise of nature, making Black Walnut Point a quiet, secret place of peace – all just an hour’s drive from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Black Walnut Point Inn consists of the main house built in the 1840’s, and three luxury cabins. We are open year-round, and each guest has a key to the sanctuary gate. Each accommodation has expansive water views and has a separate bath. All guests have access to the main house, including the dining room, living room, sun porch, front and back porches, grounds, pool, hot tub and dock. A full breakfast is served from 8 to 10am and lemonade, iced tea, hot tea and snacks are available throughout the day.

See the Black Walnut Point Inn Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Russia – An Unlikely Gay Travel Destination

Author: , October 29th, 2010

Gay RussiaThe Cold War has been over for 20 years, but for many Americans, Russia remains a mystery. From movies, we imagine a skyline of gray, Stalin-inspired buildings and murky green waters of the river that runs through the city. Wrong.

Much of this misperception results from our failure to understand the country’s history. And a chance to explore that history can lead to some of the most awe-inspiring travel one can find.

Russia’s history reveals a deeper partnership with the West than many might expect. It’s actually two countries at odds with each other. The people show great fortitude and graciousness, and are among the most welcoming of cultures. Russians are a proud people, defined by an undercurrent of their Orthodox faith and the monuments to that faith that have survived the Communist state.

Full Story from the Dallas Voice

Click here for gay marriage resources in Russia.

To subscribe to this blog, use the rss feed on the right, or use the form at right to join our email list. You can also email us at info@purpleunions.com. Or find us on Facebook – just search for Gay Marriage Watch (you’ll see our b/w wedding pic overlooking the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge in SF). We’re also tweeting daily at http://www.twitter.com/gaymarriagewatc.

Gays Are Crazy About Madrid

Author: , October 29th, 2010

It was after 1 a.m. on a Wednesday night in Madrid’s gay Chueca district but it didn’t look like a weeknight. Despite cool weather and an intermittent light rain, the streets, bars, and cafes were jammed with people. Locals tell me that that is not unusual. Spain’s economy may be on the skids, but the Spanish are showing no signs of giving up their cherished nightlife any time soon.

Although Spain has long enjoyed a robust nightlife, not that long ago, that nightlife did not have much to offer gays.

Madrid resident Mili Hernandez, 50, recalled how far ahead the U.S. was on gay rights when she first visited New York City 25 years ago. “When I arrived in the states in 1985, I thought it was a paradise for gays and lesbians. Now I think that Spain is a paradise for gays and lesbians,” Hernandez told the Bay Area Reporter.

Full Story from The Bay Area Reporter

Click here for gay marriage resources in Spain.

To subscribe to this blog, use the rss feed on the right, or use the form at right to join our email list. You can also email us at info@purpleunions.com. Or find us on Facebook – just search for Gay Marriage Watch (you’ll see our b/w wedding pic overlooking the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge in SF). We’re also tweeting daily at http://www.twitter.com/gaymarriagewatc.

Today’s Featured Property: Volcano Village Lodge B&B, Volcano, Big Island Hawaii

Author: , October 28th, 2010

Today’s Featured Property: Volcano Village Lodge B&B, Volcano, Big Island Hawaii

We’re featuring one of our properties here every day, to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Volcano, Hawaii Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Volcano Village Lodge - Volcano, Big Island, HawaiiWe created the lodges for people who want more out of life than a whirlwind tour of the island. You may stroll through our lush garden trails, brushing against the giant fern leaves, look up at the native ohia trees, and be delighted by the wild and delicate orchids on the trees.

Your stay at Volcano Village Lodge offers a unique blend of Hawaiian history. Volcano Village is part of the sacred lands of Ola’a, first settled by the Kahuna (priests) of the Volcano Goddess Pele. The area was then kapu (forbidden) except to royalty. Now, you are our royalty. The village is a “World Heritage Site,” protected habitats for rare and endangered species as well as unique biological and geological evolutions having universal significance to all humanity. You will be our privileged guests to witness these wonders.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution — processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with complex and unique ecosystems and a distinct human culture. The park encompasses diverse environments that range from sea level to the summit of the earth’s most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet. Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, offers scientists and visitors alike insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.

See the Volcano Village Lodge Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

A Week As Indiana Jones in Belize

Author: , October 28th, 2010
by Sharyn Brinker, Mariposa Jungle Lodge Ltd., San Ignacio, Belize
Email Valeria | Visit The Mariposa Jungle Lodge Website

Visit the Purple Roofs Belize page

Want to Get Married in Belize? | Looking for a Gay Belize Realtor?

Like Indiana Jones in Belize

Belize ZiplineOkay. You think you’ve done it all. You’ve traveled Belize. You’ve seen the Maya archaeological sites. You’ve snorkeled or dived at the fabulous reef. You’ve heard the howler monkeys and spotted iguanas along the Macal River. You’ve even survived the drives along off-roads that would be worthy of a ticket at Disneyland. What’s left?

BelizeAway from the cayes and Placencia, Belize is a young, scarcely developed country, fertile with new exploration opportunities. Tour operators and licensed tour guides are always looking for yet another unique destination for their guests. And they continue to find them.

A daring Purple Roofs subscriber asked the proprietor of Mariposa Jungle Lodge for suggestions for a week of “borderline risky” experiences so he could escape his professional world and transform his persona into Indiana Jones. He was physically fit, adventuresome and looking for challenge. As they say in the Cayo region of Belize, “No problema.”

BelizeInasmuch as this was his first trip to Belize, he spent a few days on Caye Caulker. From there, he snorkeled with the nurse sharks at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, and went scuba diving at the Blue Hole. Then, off to the jungle in Cayo, where he experienced the basics, i.e., a day at the great Maya site at Caracol, a hike through the awesome Rio Frio Cave, a horseback ride and cave descent in the jungle, a day at Tikal in Guatemala. At Caracol and Tikal, he climbed every temple and soaked up the historical, cultural and aesthetic offerings. At Big Rock, he climbed the rocks and dove into the natural pool.

Belize CavesWith the basic cultural and tourist destination visits under his belt, Indiana moved on to mountain biking. Mountain biking in the Cayo jungle is not for the novice or feint of heart. The paths are rugged and the environment often untouched by human development. At times, it’s easier to push the bike than ride it. At other times, the mud might make pushing the only option. A stop to tour the temple at Xunantunich is a welcome relief and Indiana climb 130feet of tall steps to enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view of Cayo and nearby Guatemala. Undaunted, he climbs and descends before continue his mountain biking.

Having ascended to the heights of Caracol and Xunantunich, Indiana is assured he won’t get the bends from descending to Xibalba at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM). But lots of adventuresome travelers have survived ATM. Indiana wants more. He’s taken to Crystal Cow Cave, where only the serious spelunker and physically fit adventurer can venture. He thrived on climbing, crawling and rappelling.

So he’s taken to Elijio Panti Park for a day-long hike along less than well-trimmed trails. Most visitors opt for horses, but not Indiana. It was strictly his own two feet, along with those of his intrepid guide, as they sloshed through the mud and ignored the rain, in their quest to visit a great Maya Ceremonial Cave. This cave is known to locals but not often visited because of its inaccessibility.

Belize CaveBut, another special treat was in store for our Intrepid Indiana. He was guided to another cave that was “being considered” for tourist access by the relevant government officials. He and his guide entered the cave, crawled, climbed and explored, and exited as satisfied spelunkers who’d “beaten the system” until they met the local Forest Ranger near the exit. Fortunately, the Ranger was “visitor friendly” and congratulated Indiana on his exploit. Perhaps it was helpful that the gentlemen had met during dinner at Mariposa Jungle Lodge.

Most nights were spent dining and relaxing at the Lodge, but one night found Indiana night canoeing on the Belize River in search of crocodiles and jungle wildlife. It was a quiet night. Peace reigned. A few kinkajou were spotted by an especially alert guide.

Indiana’s 13-day trip was long by average standards but cut short for him by limited airline availability. Among the adventures he left behind are a day at Calico Jack’s Village, for ziplining, hiking and exploration of two recently open caves, each with outstanding formations.

Mariposa Jungle Lodge, BelizeFor the discerning and experienced traveler who is seeking a great jungle experience, Mariposa Jungle Lodge is a boutique resort, centrally situated for visits to all the sites in the Heart of Cayo. Its licensed tour operation offers both popular and unusual excursion options, including a “Let’s Get Physical” package for the Indiana Jones adventurer. Located on an unexcavated Mayan mound, beneath the jungle canopy, each Mariposa luxury cabana is beautifully furnished with king size bed, sitting area, screened-in porch and private hammock.

Mariposa lives by the motto, “Adventure by Day and Comfort by Night.” Sumptuous full breakfasts and theme-based 3 or 4 course meals are offered in the main lodge building, where guests also enjoy a fully-licensed bar, a reasonable wine selection, a good sound system, a cozy library with eclectic book collection, complimentary wireless Internet, and a separate screened-in room with jungle view to reserve for that special, romantic, private candelightdinner. Guests can also reserve the 23-foot jungle birdwatch tower for private sunbathing, evening stargazing, or overnight in sleeping bags, or join the staff in a jungle gourmet BBQ dinner under the stars. Management, staff, and all tour guides employed, are gay and lesbian-friendly. Guests are promised personalized service, excellent food, peace and privacy, and an immaculate, comfortable, romantic, friendly environment.