Gay Cambodia

Author: , April 14th, 2017

Phnom Penh - Gay Cambodia

The notion of exploring a long-lost city is a thrilling prospect. Deep in the Cambodian jungle, the historical ruins of Angkor are unique and astonishing. Set foot here and you’ll feel part of an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

Once the thriving capital of the Khmer Empire, these relics of an ancient civilization were cloaked by dense forest, forgotten by the world until they were rediscovered in the late 19th century. Considering what Cambodia has endured since, you might wonder if this rediscovery unleashed a mighty curse on the country. Bombed by the US during the Vietnam War, then destabilized by a military coup and a communist insurgency, then ravaged by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime, then occupied by Vietnamese troops, then jolted by a coup d’état, Cambodia has been repeatedly brutalized throughout its recent history.

It’s unsurprising that few tourists ventured here during all that turmoil. While other ancient wonders such as the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and the ruins of Machu Picchu attained must-see status, the Angkor temples remained a long way off the tourist trail for a century after their rediscovery.

By the time Lara Croft herself came to raid the temples of Angkor in 2000 (in the shape of Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie), things were starting to change, and the fact that key scenes from the film Tomb Raider were shot here helped to reinforce confidence in Cambodia as a tourist destination.

As visitor numbers increased, the nearby town of Siem Reap blossomed into a lively resort. In the past few years, it’s grown exponentially with stylish new hotels, gourmet dining, and fabulous shopping.

Siem Reap’s leading hotels echo the past. Open since 1932, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is full of romance and drama. Built in an elegant French colonial style, this iconic landmark boasts the largest swimming pool in Cambodia. Surrounded by frangipani trees, its grand design was inspired by the ancient Royal bathing pools of Angkor.

By Stuart Haggas – Full Story at Passport

Cambodia Gay Travel Resources

A Different Side of Cambodia

Author: , November 14th, 2010

by Douglas Thompson, Purple Dragon Tours

Email Douglas | Visit the Purple Dragon Tours Website

Visit the Purple Roofs Cambodia Page

Gay Cambodia

CambodiaFor most visitors, Cambodia is merely a two night visit to Angkor Wat. They arrive in groups and are transported on buses to see the principal monuments that are essential to any visit. For those who have more time to scratch below the surface, however, Cambodia offers enough to make long single-country adventure rewarding.

Gay CambodiaThe Angkor archaeological zone is nearly 1,000 square km, and most of it escapes being seen by bus tourists. Some distance from Angkor temple, a winding mountain road takes you to the top of Phnom Kulen, the only mountain that can be seen in the distance from Angkor Wat.

Gay CambodiaWater played an important role in the spiritual live of the people of Angkor, and most of it came from Phnom Kulen. This was the personal spiritual retreat of King Jayavarman II, who built the Angkor temple. He had almost two kilometers of stone stream bed carved with more than 1000 lingas (stone phalluses significant as symbols of fertility) and many other Hindu religious images to bless the water as it cascaded to the cities below. This ancient hilltop retreat is still a mystical and holy place for Cambodians, and among the favorite places for people living in Siem Reap to hang out on their days off.

Gay CambodiaNot far away is Banteay Srei, which has come to be called the “Temple of Women.” Rediscovered in 1914, it is unique in many respects. While most of Angkor’s temples are of massive proportions, Banteay Srei was built on an intimate, human scale. Its profuse and gloriously ornate architectural details decortions are exceptionally well preserved.

Deeper in the countryside beyond Phnom Kulen lie the ruins of Beng Melea. The sprawling fortified temple comples covers over one square kilometer and has been partially devoured by the surrounding forest, which makes it seem like a Hollywood set. While many of the buildings are in total ruin, others are almost intact and many who see Beng Melea consider it to be Angkor’s most spectacular site.

Gay Cambodia - Koh KherFarther along the same new road is the awesome Koh Ker complex. Nearly one hundred temples (nobody knows what is still buried and undiscovered) were constructed within a very small area and some of them are still in remarkable condition. They are largely untouched, except by teams removing the last of the land mines left by the Khmer Rouge. You will have a chance to visit and explore as many of the smaller temples as you like. Wear sturdy shoes since this may involve climbing over large toppled stones.

Gay CambodiaKoh Ker Temple is the only pyramid-shaped temple yet to be discovered in the Khmer Empire. Built to worship Treypuvanesvara, the god of happiness, Koh Ker is simply breathtaking. Its seven tiers are taller than Angkor Wat. There is a massive garuda carving and many Sanskrit inscriptions near the top. Equally impressive is a compound of smaller libraries and sanctuaries connected by a causeway with immense, undulating nagas on either side. You will probably notice that you have the entire place practically to yourself.

Gay CambodiaThose who are truly adventurous and long to see Cambodia’s “back roads,” small villages, and yet-to-be-discovered cultural treasures can tour by motorbike from Siem Reap.

In five days you can journey to shores of the Mekong to see rare fresh-water dolphins, remnants of the Cham Empire, and the remains of a pre-Angkorean city with a stop for a snack of fried tarantulas along the way.

Gay CambodiaMost visitors fly over Phnom Penh, the country’s capital on their way to Angkor Wat. It’s a great pity because Phnom Penh is one of the most interesting and charming towns in Indochina. Beautiful French Colonial architecture abounds. Restaurants and shopping are terrific, and hotels are world-class.

For all the tragedy and turmoil that Cambodia’s capital has witnessed in the past, Phnom Penh is a lively, cosmopolitan gateway bursting with energy, commerce, culture and attractive people and even some gay nightlife.

Gay CambodiaVisit a magnificent palace, cruise the Mekong River, or shop for striking silks and glittering jewelry in the Russian Market. Phnom Penh has maintained the grace of old Asia while retooling for 21st century changes. The National Museum is one of the best in the world, although they could use a supply of Winex and professional lighting.

In Southern Cambodia Kep and Bokor National Park are astonishing remnants of a glorious era when Kampuchea was a French colony, ending with a notorious war and the tyrannical rule by the Khmer Rouge.
Bokor Hill Station is perhaps the most ghostly souvenir of France’s brief rule.

The road to the top of a high plateau in what is now Bokor National Park barely exists in some places but is being replaced. As French hill stations went, Bokor was the most glorious of them all. From the very top of this rugged hilltop a lavish casino looked down upon a Catholic church, scores of hotels and villas, and the dwellings of the thousands who worked here to support Bokor’s extravagant style. Even the young King Sihanouk kept a home here, although discretely distant from the hubbub that surrounded the casino.
Gay CambodiaWhen the war in Viet Nam swept across this part of Indochina Bokor Hill Station was suddenly and completely abandoned. Because of its commanding, strategic position near the border of Vietnam and overlooking most of southern Cambodia, Bokor became a battleground.

You will pass through three distinct climates before reaching what remains of Bokor Hill Station. As you reach the top the skeleton of the great casino appears in the distance. You will probably notice as you climb the grand stairway at the main entrance that there is no one else in sight. You may be awestruck by the ornate walls and ceilings and a once-grand fireplace.

Close your eyes and you can almost smell the smoke of gauloises and the perfume, and hear laughter, music, and the ball skipping about the roulette wheel.

Gay Cambodia

None of the rooms in the casino have been closed to visitors. Aside from most of the floor tiles, everything was striped away three decades ago, including the plumbing and electric wiring. Graffiti is everywhere. Practically every visitor chooses a sharp piece of the crumbling concrete that litters the floor to memorialize their visit by scratching deeply into the thick colonies of lichens that have turned the walls dramatic shades of orange, yellow and brown. Somehow the graffiti seems oddly appropriate here. These brilliantly colored plants, an inch thick in some places, will eventually spell the end of the casino, the church and everything else here unless some creative way is found to stop them from eating away slowly and deliberately at the concrete.

As many as twelve hundred private villas lined Kep-sur-Mer’s six kilometer corniche and dotted the hills overlooking the sea. Most of them have disappeared, destroyed in the war and eaten by tropical vegetation.

Cambodia National MuseumEnough remain, however, to remind us how grand Kep must have been in those days. They are merely shells now, mostly of a distinctively fifties style, painstakingly destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Today they are temporarily home to local squatters.

Nowadays, a busy public market sprawls across the once-lovely beach. Hundreds of small boats dock here each morning with their catches of fish, crabs and shrimp.

While Kep was practically a ghost town only a few years ago, most of the ruined villas have been snapped up in a frenzy of speculation. Even the local farmers are selling off their land. Kep is an idyllic little place with a sparkling sea and a tropical breeze, and every bit as attractive as it was when the French began to holiday there in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the road to Bokor is being rebuilt and there are plans for a large hotel and casino at the top. Soon you will hear the roar of tour buses ascending the mountain. These two fragile places are worth seeing now before humans destroy them once again.

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.

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.