Singapore seems to be another one of many very homophobic Asian countries. We could theoretically get 2 years imprisonment for any gayness, even after the anti gay legislation set out in Section 377A of the Penal Code (a hangover from the colonial days) was vigorously reviewed in 2007.
An attempt was made in 2014 to challenge Section 377A, but like in India, the Supreme Court of Singapore unfortunately upheld them. This was not the only scary law still in place. On arrival, our immigration card warned us in big bold capital red letters of the death penalty for drug traffickers.
Yet, travelling through Southeast Asia this past year, we noticed Singapore seemed to be one of the popular gay destinations.
Singapore is often presented as a serious, business city. But as a bustling commercial port, and major airport hub, it has soaked up cultures from east and west. And while its skyscrapers are growing at record pace to deal with its demand as a business center, they also show Singapore’s sense of humor – like the triple tower block, topped with a ship, topped with a garden, at Marina Bay Sands.
Here are the neighborhoods every visitor should check out:
It’s quaint that Singapore has a Chinatown even though it is essentially a Chinese town. At first the narrow streets with their colorful shuttered houses strung with Chinese lanterns and emanating cooking smells are like walking into the past. But this is Singapore so Chinatown has its own free wifi.
The food market is a great place to go for an affordable meal, day or night; choose from one or more of the stalls and share a table with locals and travelers. The night market sells a lot of tat, but there are a few gems and it’s great fun. The Chinatown Heritage Center gives you an insight into what makes the place tick beyond just retail.
One of the classics when you visit Asia, is to find the most amazing rooftops bars. Like KU DE TA at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, or Sky Bar and Vertigo Moon Bar in Bangkok, Thailand. Well this time, hosted by the team at AUDI Fashion Festival, we visited 1-Altitude Bar, where we had our own table and were afterward escorted to the VIP lounge.
Occupying the three topmost floors of the 282 metre One Raffles Place Building. 1-Altitude isn’t just the highest rooftop bar in Singapore –it’s the highest multi-experience lifestyle joint in the world.
Able to host up to 250 guests on the rooftop alone, the Bar calls out for guests to recline and chill out over an extensive wine and cocktails menu against the mesmerising and catchy sounds of a live band and guests DJs.
Other than being the tallest, I still prefer KU DE TA over them, being more chic and allowing a better view complimented by the infinity pool, which created a better and more relaxing lounging experience.
I would say, one of my favorite casual restaurants in Singapore, and one of the best tapas restaurants I have tried in a long time, not to mentioned the fantastic creamy Sangrias yummy. ESQUINA, provides visitors to the culturally-rich Chinatown with an added choice of European cuisine to the ethnic enclave.
Open from Mondays to Saturdays, Esquina serves mainly modern Spanish tapas in a unique location that is surrounded by post-war colonial buildings, hip coffee joints and ‘old school’ home style restaurants. Leading the culinary direction for Esquina is Michelin star Chef Jason Atherton, the protege of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Taking after its namesake (translated from Spanish as “the corner”), Esquina is tucked away at the corner of Jiak Chuan Road and is approximately sized at 500sqf. Exuding an underground charm, ESQUINA is designed by Singapore-based Columbian architect Antonio Eraso and boasts a design concept of an old yet modern charm that is strongly reflected through Esquina’s interior.
Featuring a long open communal bar and kitchen, ESQUINA aims to recreate chic European urban canteens that will be the go-to for social gatherings. Unique to Esquina as well, are specially designed stools created by a group of artists from the UK that are composed with many different parts from machines and door knobs.
Some of our options of the night were: Marinated olives, sherry, rosemary, citrus, paprika (SG 9). Salt-baked beetroot, whipped burrata, truffle honey, raspberry & pine nut crumble (SG 20). White asparagus, citrus butter sauce, samphire (SG 21). Raw hamachi, house-cured duck, shaved walnuts, soya caramel (SG 24). Scallop Vietnamese, avocado wasabi, red radish, sesame (SG 22).
Following my posts on Singapore and my favorites from my recent trip there, here I present the recently inaugurated Manhattan Bar at the Regent Hotel Singapore. Manhattan is a grand hotel bar inspired by the 19th century’s Golden Age of cocktails and fine drinking.
Delivering on its name with a glamorous yet modern space reminiscent of old New York, craft bartending meets artisanal spirits to pay homage to classic and forgotten cocktails that leap from the pages of history. Savor classic and forgotten cocktails crafted from the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse and a remarkable collection of house-made ingredients.
Gourmet bar bites that reflect New York’s myriad of cultures complement the inspired beverages. We had a lovely evening with local friends. If I would live in Singapore, I would be a regular of this great bar. By celebrated American Head Bartender Ricky Paiva. Featuring a Whiskies Room with over 100 American oak barrels from a small cooperage in Minnesota. Also a one-of-a-kind Ingridients Room housing a remarkable collection of unusual ingredients from around the world.
The beverage menu will feature 25 seasonally rotating cocktails to take you on a journey through the rich history, cultures and flavors of Manhattan’s countless neighborhoods. One of the must-tries include Negroni and a first-of-its-kind trolley service. My choice was The Gibson – Death’s Door Gin, La Quintinye dry vermouth and celery bitters.
Chef Nicholas Trosien reinvents iconic New York gastronomy, serving gourmet bites, my favorites where the Vegetarian Burgers and the Shrimp Ceviche Tacos. Two stunning private rooms compliment the sophisticated 19th century New York decor.
Contemporary feel with luxuriously upholstered leather chairs and sofas and walls lined with patterned woven linen. Manhattan’s tireless attention to detail also extends to its custom cocktail glasses, handcrafted by one of the world’s oldest glass factories.
Legally, Singapore is not friendly to the LGBT community; in practice, however, it’s a different story.
The country is known for its extremely strict laws, with mandatory sentences for offenses such as vandalism, for which offenders are caned.
Its Penal Code states, “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years,” according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Intersex Association.
In an interview with the BBC, the Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, Lionel Yeo, was asked by Fast Track host Rajan Datar if they welcome gay visitors to Singapore; he responded without hesitation, “We do. We do not discriminate against any type of visitors.”
A couple articles on Singapore came through this week. The first, from Sherman’s Travel. looks at some of the great things to do in this city-state:
It was voted one of the top places to travel in 2013 by the New York Times, and on August 9, Singapore will go into overdrive during National Day, the country’s equivalent to July 4th. Tourist-driven spots like Marina Bay Sands, Clarke Quay and Orchard Road will be their usual pedestrian-clogged selves, but for travelers seeking a subtler, more engaging experience, you won’t have to look far. On a recent trip, I bypassed all the spectacle and cheap thrills that the city is usually known for, and found another side to Singapore that contradicted everything I’d previously read: elegant concert halls, artsy boutique hotels, a nature reserve accessible only by ferry. I left with a greater appreciation for the city, its unique history, and the bright future that seems to be unfolding for it.
Over at Passport Magazine, they’re reviewing Singapore’s biggest gay event – the annual Pink Dot festival.
It was a sea of cotton-candy pink in Singapore’s business district as over 21,000 gays and lesbians filled the area with their bright attire on June 30. This gathering is an annual celebration called “Freedom to Love,” or better known as “Pink Dot.” In its fifth year, this has been Pink Dot’s largest gathering, and it has received support from companies such as Google and Barclays bank. While the Singapore government continues to keep anti-gay law on the books with Section 377A criminalizing sexual acts between men, in private or public, the population has begun to accept and even embrace the LGBT community.
Got a new batch of Pride updates for you today spanning the globe.
BOSTON READY TO CELEBRATE FOR GAY PRIDE
Boston is ready to put the marathon bombing behind and to move on to celebrate gay pride. Passport Magazine reports:
It’s time for Boston to come together and show what an amazingly diverse, strong, and welcoming city Boston truly is. So, grab your favorite rainbow piece, a pair of booty shorts, and bring along your pride because Boston Pride is back. From May 31-June 9, Bean Town hosts myriad events under the umbrella theme of “Moving forward… Proud, Strong, United.” Don’t miss the annual kickoff flag-raising ceremony, the Royal Pageant, the Boston Pride Festival, and the return of the Boston Pride Block Party June 9.
DC TO CELEBRATE BLACK PRIDE OVER THE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
A little to the south, the nation’s capital is ready to celebrate black pride this weekend. The Washington Blade has the schedule:
So much to do this weekend during D.C.’s annual Black Pride festival. There are several events occurring this Memorial Day. D.C. Black Pride is the official planning organizing agency but several other groups also have parties and activities planned for black LGBT people and allies.
SAN DIEGO PRIDE RETAINS GENERAL MANAGER
Across the country in San Diego, the Pride board of directors decided to keep its managing director. LGBT Weekly reports:
The board of directors of San Diego LGBT Pride announced today that Stephen Whitburn will continue to head the organization as its general manager. Whitburn had held the position in an interim capacity since January. San Diego Pride’s previous director, Dwayne Crenshaw, departed the organization amid his recent run for a seat on the San Diego City Council. The board moved quickly following the news that Labor coordinator and former police lieutenant Myrtle Cole had defeated Crenshaw in the race for the District 4 seat.
Over in Asia, Joe.My.God hilights a promo video for the Pink Dot festival, coming June 29th.
UKRAINE COURT BANS KIEV PRIDE MARCH
In a move that is not at all surprising, if disappointing, a court in Ukraine just blocked a gay pride march. Edge Boston reports:
Kiev’s district court on Thursday upheld a suit by city authorities, who argued that the rally would disturb annual Kiev Day celebrations and spark violence. Last year, organizers canceled the event at the last minute when skinheads gathered at its planned location, intent on beating up the participants. Members of radical groups attacked two leading gay activists in subsequent weeks.
MOSCOW GAY PRIDE TO GO ON DESPITE BAN
And over in nearby Russia, a Moscow Gay pride parade is set to go on tomorrow despite a ban there. Gay Star News reports:
A Moscow suburb court upheld the decision of the city authorities not to permit a gay pride parade this Saturday (25 May). Despite the ban, activists say Moscow Pride will go ahead as planned. Nikolai Alekseev, co-founder of Moscow Pride and GayRussia, stated: ‘Khimki City Court upheld the ban on the planned Gay Pride rally and march.’ He added he would appeal on Monday to the Moscow Regional Court.
Singapore’s fabulous gay festival, Pink Dot, has announced the date for the 2013 event. Gay Star News reports:
Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park in Singapore will once again turn a rosy hue for Pink Dot, which will be on Saturday 29 June this year. Like last year, those who believe that everyone should have the ‘freedom to love’ with gather at dusk with pink lights to form a dot showing there is support for LGBT rights in socially conservative Singapore.
Rainbow Tourism reports on a new Atlantis gay cruise in Asia setting out from Singapore on March 31st:
This March 31 – April 11, set sail on the high seas for a fantastic voyage from Singapore to Hong Kong with Atlantis. The premiere agency when it comes to gay cruises, expect to feel the warm breeze of South-East Asia across your skin as you sail through some of the most memorable and pristine waters that the Earth has to offer. Cruising along with a ship full of like-minded individuals as you explore 4 unique countries is an experience like no other. Atlantis specialises in ensuring that each and every participant has the experience of a life-time and this trip will be no different. So whether you are exploring the amazing beaches of Koh Samui or wandering the streets of Ho Chi Minh, Atlantis has got you covered.
Over at Passport Magazine, Matthew Wexler reports on a gay cruise up the Danube River:
The sun has begun to set. It is the “golden hour” when everything (and everyone) looks warm and inviting. The skeptic in me wants to believe that I am seeing the world through Campari glasses, but my inner wide-eyed traveler reminds me that I have just set sail down the Danube River. Flickering tiny villages give way to vineyards built into steep hills that rise out of the riverbed. Cities appear beyond smokestacks and water locks. On board as the temperature begins to cool, men walk hand in hand along the deck and women snuggle under cozy blankets. I am aboard Brand g Vacations’ inaugural itinerary—a privately chartered cruise from AmaWaterways, one of Europe’s leading riverboat operators. The current carries us down river as a piano player’s tuneful musings rise from the lounge below. How I wish this golden hour would never end.
I remember our RSVP Caribbean cruise fondly – there’s something great about being surrounded by other LGBT travelers – a what-if-the-whole-world-were-gay vibe.