Asian Gay Culture and Western Influences – Part 8

Malaysia and Indonesia (2) – Homosexual Villages and Passionate Love

Having established a settlement in Goa on India’s west coast, the Portuguese with their missionaries set sail eastwards again. With China and Japan as their goals, they first had to get around the Malay Peninsula and ensure their ships future safe passage. In 1511 they captured Malacca by force from the local Sultan, established a settlement and fully intended to stay. They reckoned without the determination of the Malays.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Malaysian Guy with National Flag

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Malaysian Guy with National Flag

For a century the Portuguese had to repulse a continuing series of attacks from the local peoples frequently joined by other Muslims from Sumatra. After a century, though, a far more formidable foe appeared. By 1600 the government in protestant Holland decided it wanted greater control over its traders. Two years later it formed the Dutch East India Company and thousands set sail for the east. Soon it had set up trading posts in what is now Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Indonesia's ninth century Hindu Religious Site at Borobudur

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Indonesia’s ninth century Hindu Religious Site at Borobudur

Britain was also becoming a major player in trade with the orient through the establishment of its of its own East India Company. This led to frequent clashes with the Dutch, not helped by the fact that in Europe the two countries were constantly at each other’s throats. Eventually, after the Dutch executed some British traders in Batavia on the north coast of Java, Britain finally left Indonesia to seek other Asian outposts to the north. The Dutch also took on the Portuguese at Malacca and in 1641 managed to drive them out. But it was in Java and later Sumatra that the Dutch changed from being mere traders to colonial masters.

Over the next 300 years, the abominable treatment of the local Indonesians by their Dutch masters included forcing them to change the crops they grew, fulfil artificially high quotas on pain of heavy penalties including torture, and crippling taxes resulting in extensive famines. When met with resistance, a group would be denied the right to plant rice for themselves. Servants employed by Dutch masters were effectively slaves. Ultimately the Dutch began the deportation of Indonesians as slaves for their South American colony in Suriname, even after most countries had already banned slavery.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Portrait of Indonesian Dutch Colonist Pieter Cnoll with his Family - Rijksmuseum

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Portrait of Indonesian Dutch Colonist Pieter Cnoll with his Family – Rijksmuseum

As has happened throughout history, when one nation is brutally dominated by another, the oppressed peoples band together more tightly. An Indonesian nationalist movement was started in 1909 under the banner of Islam. As communism reared its head in Europe, so an Indonesian Communist party was formed. The repression of both merely solidified the desire to rid themselves of the Dutch. The Japanese were to achieve that for them as their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity movement with all its horrors moved into Indonesia to gain access to its oil.

As all this was taking place in Indonesia, further north in the now Islamic Malay Peninsula a series of wars and skirmishes was breaking out with local Sultans competing to expand their territories. In 1796 the British arrived and established themselves on the island of Penang. Over the next 100 years they were to colonize the Peninsula and take over the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Kuala Lumpur's British Colonial Style Train Station – www.kuala-lumpur.ws

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Kuala Lumpur’s British Colonial Style Train Station – www.kuala-lumpur.ws

Their interests were only partly spices and the protection of their routes to and from China. The industrial revolution in Europe was now in full swing and raw materials became a vital requirement for Britain’s increasing empire. Malaya was discovered to be a major source of tin and then rubber. Complicating cultural issues, British plantations owners needed more labour and so started importing workers from British-controlled India. Throughout the 19th century, waves of Chinese also started to arrive, a result of wars and starvation as the Qing Empire disintegrated.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Malaysian Lim Khim Wah and Badminton Partner Goh V. Shem

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Malaysian Lim Khim Wah and Badminton Partner Goh V. Shem

Latin Boyz

So when it finally departed the Malayan Peninsula, Britain left it with a mix of several nationalities and a variety of cultures. Despite many of its plantation owners having part-time Malay boyfriends, it also left behind its Victorian law banning homosexuality. There is certainly evidence that this law had not had a major effect in at least parts of the country.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Hazim Ismail faces Public Backlash in Malaysia because He's Gay - www.cbc.ca

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Hazim Ismail faces Public Backlash in Malaysia because He’s Gay – www.cbc.ca

As late as the 1960s in the coastal state of Kelantan bordering Thailand. historian Douglas Raybeck found that the Sultan enjoyed the performing arts and maintained several troupes in villages in or around the capital, Kota Bharu. Often called homosexual villages, they comprised almost exclusively gay couples. One or both of the partners would make their living as transvestite performers of the originally Thai dramatic genre known as mak yong. These men were no outcasts, there is no evidence they were harassed in any way, and they were able to earn substantially more than the breadwinners in other villages.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Malaysia play China at Sepak Takraw

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Malaysia play China at Sepak Takraw

Generally speaking, transvestites were far more accepted in many Asian cultures than they ever were in the west. Nowadays, thanks to politics and religion these Kelantan villages have disappeared. Indeed, the state became one of the first to try and impose much stricter Islamic laws for the 90% of its population who are Muslims. One it has succeeded in introducing is the banning of many traditional art forms. Performances of mak yong can now no longer be seen. Another was to change the name of a popular beach. The “Beach of Passionate Love” was a major tourist attraction. It is now named “Moonlight” Beach.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Kelantan Beach - www.superadrianme.com

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Kelantan Beach – www.superadrianme.com

Throughout the country, sadly, there is increasing evidence of disapproval of homosexuality – and Islam is the primary reason. Whilst retaining the hated British sodomy law, Malaysia has two sets of laws, the stricter for the majority Muslim population. First visiting in 1980 I was struck at the beauty and friendliness of the Malays, the women wearing their colourful hijab headscarves and long patterned dresses, the mix of Chinese and Malay boys offering tempting enjoyment in a few gay bars or just as eye candy when cruising down Bukit Bintang and other central streets. I reckon I have had almost as many lovely encounters in Kuala Lumpur as anywhere in the region.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - DivineBliss KL Saturday Gay Night Party - www.thegaypassport.com

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – DivineBliss KL Saturday Gay Night Party – www.thegaypassport.com

A change, though, was in the works for both Malaysia and Indonesia, and it seems to have been sparked by the fundamentalist Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. This raised concern in both governments about several issues, a key one being the possibility of fundamentalism spreading to their own countries. Each felt it had to control the political role of Islamic movements seen as detrimental to the state’s own policies.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Iranian Crowds Cheer the Return of Ayatollah Khomeini at the start of the Islamic Revolution

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Iranian Crowds Cheer the Return of Ayatollah Khomeini at the start of the Islamic Revolution

Some groups certainly did begin to express a desire for a stricter Islamic form of government, especially in Malaysia. Change was essentially slow at the outset, only to hasten towards the end of the century as the 1997 Asian Economic crisis threw the entire region into chaos. Added to the fear of economic collapse was s deep concern in the populations about the cronyism, nepotism and corruption in politics resulting from what were effectively one-party states despite their being democratic – at least in name. It was time to erect the stockades.

Now in 2016, in both countries political developments and yet more calls for implementation of religious fundamentalism, some quite shocking especially as they concern the LGBT community.

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10

What’s your observations about Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Penn Regis who is an academic who regularly visits Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Preparing for a Gay Asia Holiday

Where to Go? How to Go? What to Miss Out? Damn Decisions!

A few months ago on a cold, wet and windy day down under, I had the winter blues. As the temperature had plummeted, swimming pools, amusement parks and other attractions were shut down until spring. The mood was bleak and there was nothing I could do about it.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Winter Blues in Sydney - Vivid Sydney

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Winter Blues in Sydney – Vivid Sydney

Soon I got talking to my mate Ben and he quickly suggested we organise a gay holiday to brighten my spirits. Being Australians, Asia was the obvious destination – but where? The sun drenched beaches of Bali and those gorgeous brown-skinned bodies? Perhaps China and all the gay guys we’ve read about who’d welcome us with more than open arms?

Tempting though these destinations were, the more we thought, the more we realised Thailand had to take up the main part of the holiday. I lived there for 10 years and Ben had been there many times before and loved it – and it is after all very much the centre of the region. So we promptly started the planning process. Immediately I perked up (naughty!) and we got down to the detailed business of planning our holiday to gay Asia.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Welcome to Gay Asia – tumblr.com

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Welcome to Gay Asia – tumblr.com

Gay Asian Network

After mentioning the idea to fiends, we soon decided we’d make up a party of four: Ben and his Taiwanese boyfriend, Devon, plus me and my Hong Kong ex-boyfriend Bradley with whom I was still on extremely friendly terms. I had obviously hoped my current boyfriend Ajay could join us, but unfortunately he has exams and then has to travel home overseas for a few months. I’ll do a holiday with Ajay another time.

Although we had not yet finalized where we would go, we started by checking the usual flight websites like Web Jet, Skyscanner, Expedia and Zuji. Ben also contacted a lady at Flight Centre whom he had used a few times previously. As is often the case, travel agents can still get better deals than the web search engines.

In less than a day his friend had come back with a basic package using Malaysia Airlines. The clincher was this included options for several side trips and, as is often the case with multi-sector itineraries, was indeed cheaper than the prices we could find anywhere else. So having anchored Bangkok as the core of the itinerary, our first decision was a quick stopover in Kuala Lumpur.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Gay Asia has Plenty to See – tumblr.com

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Gay Asia has Plenty to See – tumblr.com

By now a stop in Taipei had become important so that Ben could finally meet Devon’s family and, if everything went well, ask his parents for their blessing on their gay marriage. Finally, although I had been to the Cambodian border many times, I had never ventured further into the country. So a side trip from Bangkok was inserted to give us the opportunity of experiencing the wonders of the temples at Angkor Wat and, of course, sampling Siem Reap’s nightlife. To help achieve both objectives we organised a gay tour guide with invaluable help from Siam Roads.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Bayon Temple at Siem Reap

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Bayon Temple at Siem Reap

So this is how our trip eventually turned out

  • Australia/Kuala Lumpur – 1 night stopover in KL
  • KL/Bangkok – 2 nights in Bangkok followed by 4 nights in Pattaya and Jomtien
  • Bangkok/Siem Reap – where we’ll spend 4 nights
  • Siem Reap/Bangkok – another 5 nights back in gay civilization
  • Bangkok/Taipei - 4 nights in Taiwan’s capital city
  • Taipei/KL/Australia  – hopefully exhilarated and exhausted!

A 21-day gay adventure with plenty of gay time to be enjoyed.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Cool Off in the Heat – tumblr.com

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Cool Off in the Heat – tumblr.com

Are you ready to go?

Most of us travel from time to time and the more we do, the more blasé we tend to become. It’s therefore so easy to forget some of the must-check items until we arrive at the airport or our destination and only then discover we’ve left them back at home! I don’t travel as much as I’d like but I do draw up a list, not only of must-dos but also of the basic clothes and other personal items I’ll need. A list also ensures I have a quick check in my hand every time I pack up at the end of each stop and leave nothing behind. With tropical climates it’s never necessary to take too much clothing because you can always buy items like T-shirts, sandals, floppy hats and suntan lotion after you arrive. First, though, run a double-check as your plans are being made, on this basic must-do list –

  • Your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your return to your home country
  • The names on your flight bookings must conform to the names on your passports (including middle names)
  • You check on any visas you’ll need and obtain them in plenty of time before departure
  • You have organized travel insurance. Don’t be tempted to skip this. Medical treatment in Asia can be expensive
  • Your frequent flyer numbers, seating and meal requests have been submitted to the airline
  • If you will be withdrawing from your home bank and/or using a credit card, make sure they know your detailed itinerary. It can save a lot of hassle!
  • Will you be organizing international roaming for your mobile phone? If so, check on charges beforehand. If you plan to pick up local SIM cards at each destination, find out approximate costs and where is easiest to purchase them
  • Check sites like Smart Traveller and your own government’s website to find out about any government warnings about the countries on your itinerary. If you will be in one country for a long time, should you register your details after arrival?
Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Enjoy the Local Flavours – tumblr.com

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Enjoy the Local Flavours – tumblr.com

For our first short overnight stop, we will hit KL’s vibrant but somewhat discreet gay scene. On our list are the longest running but recently renovated gay Blue Boy Disco, iBlue Bar, Elysium Bar and more recently opened Geytherin Pub. Hopefully KL’s notorious traffic will not hold us up too much and allow us to check out some of the hot tanned Malaysian guys who, we’ve been told, are talented in more ways than one!

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Tropical Gay Asia – tumblr.com

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Tropical Gay Asia – tumblr.com

In Bangkok we’ll hit the usual gay haunts – Silom Soi 4 with its many gay bars and restaurants, further up in Soi 2 with its late night bars and famous disco DJ Station, and of course Suriwong’s Soi Twilight with its go-go bars and many street level beer bars. We are considering a trip to Saphan Khwai to see what’s changed there, although from what we hear it’s a shadow of its former self. For fun, a visit to the Penis Shrine is a must. And we are sure our visit to the sex mecca of the Land of Smiles, Pattaya and the new gay Jomtien venues, will be unforgettable.

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation - Bangkok Wat Hua Lamphong near Suriwong

Gay Asia Holiday Preparation – Bangkok Wat Hua Lamphong near Suriwong

Last stop will be Taiwan. Taipei is said to be one of gay Asia’s best-kept secrets with some of its best looking guys. Plenty of gay bars to visit and I’m sure the gay apps will get a good working out as I certainly plan to hook up with a few fabulous Taiwanese guys. The only disappointment is that we must leave before the annual Gay Pride Parade held this year on Saturday 29 October. Well, you can’t have everything, I suppose!

What Gay Asia Destinations have you been to? Please post your comments below

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Asian Gay Culture and Western Influences – Part 7

Malaysia and Indonesia – Beautiful Brown Bodies and Boys in Bed

South of the Thai border, changes also occurred in gay life and customs as a result of conquest and the advent of new religions, but far more slowly. Trying to work it all out is rather like peeling layers from an onion. As far as the former British Colony of Malaya is concerned, the initial temptation is to blame it all on the sledgehammer of dreaded British 1861 law.

Long before the British, though, there were waves of other foreign visitors who, whilst not invaders, had a tendency to stay on for many hundreds of years. Much of South East Asia had come under Hindu influence as early as the first century AD. Trade was the primary motive. Inevitably religion followed suit and in much of this part of the continent Buddhist/Hindu beliefs were to bring a lasting unity to the region.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Welcome to Gay Bali - www.gaymenonholiday.com

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Welcome to Gay Bali – www.gaymenonholiday.com

Latin Boyz

For centuries Arabs were also forging trade routes between South East Asia and the Middle East. Yet even after the founding of Islam in the early seventh century there was no immediate conversion of local rulers. Indeed, by 1200 AD most of the region was still part of the Buddhist Srivijaya state based in Sumatra. It was only as Srivijaya started to decline that Islam was adopted, first in Aceh in present day Indonesia. Trade routes carried the religion westwards to Java and beyond, and north to much of present-day Malaysia and Borneo.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Bali Kejak Dance

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Bali Kejak Dance

Only Bali remained as a small enclave with its own brand of Hinduism. And only there did it remain perfectly natural to appear naked in public without too much concern about who might be watching. I have very happy memories of visits in the early 1980s. I always stayed in a small hotel with no electricity on a hillside outside a very undeveloped Ubud. Late every afternoon it was common to see boys and men of all ages make their way to the streams and water spigots, undress and proceed to shower. The sight of those slim, glistening, naked brown bodies was a perfect highlight of each day.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Antonio Blanco's Portrait of a Balinese Girl - www.junglekey.in

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Antonio Blanco’s Portrait of a Balinese Girl – www.junglekey.in

Once about to fly to Jakarta in a Garuda DC10, I even saw a young worker strip naked and bathe himself in a small stream as we taxied for take-off. When I visited the artist Antonio Blanco whose studio was close by my hotel, all the girls working for him were unashamedly topless. A degree of public nudity was therefore still relatively common.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Khajuraho Temple Carvings

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Khajuraho Temple Carvings

I have little understanding of Hinduism and so cannot comment much on its beliefs as far as homosexuality is concerned. We know from the sexually explicit carvings on the temples in Khajuraho (once described as a “catalogue of desire” that includes men and women contorting their bodies in all but impossible sexual positions) and in other parts of the sub-continent, that eroticism played a major part in Hindu sexual life.

Prior to the 13th century, sex was taught as a subject in formal education and nudity is prominent in painting and sculpture. Reference to homosexual behaviour is found in some sacred literature. We also know that when Sir Charles Napier annexed Sindh Province, the region around Karachi in present day Pakistan, he was quite horrified to discover male brothels with boys and eunochs.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Plain Tales from the Raj Book Cover

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Plain Tales from the Raj Book Cover

As for Islam, in the early 1970s writer Charles Allen interviewed a group of Britons who had worked in India in the early 20th century. “Plain Tales from the Raj” offers an often amusing if somewhat racist glimpse into colonial life. One episode recounts the visit of a British Tax Inspector to check the accounts of the fabulously wealthy Nizam of Hyderabad, the largest and richest of India’s Princely states.

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Bali Joe Bar - www.balijoebar.com

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Bali Joe Bar – www.balijoebar.com

It was also one of the most sexually liberal and it so happened this particular Nizam was very gay. As the Inspector arrived, he was met by an honour guard of exceptionally handsome young men. Greeted by the Nizam, he was invited to rest after his long journey in a lavishly decorated suite. After a bath and about to take a nap, he was horrified to find a young boy under the sheets. “Get out of here this instant,” the civil servant shouted. The poor boy was unsure what to do. “But I am here for you,” he said. “I’m your present!” Even more outraged, the Inspector was about to call for a guard when the boy slowly pulled a long silk scarf out of his derrière. “See, I’m clean!”

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture - Babur the Founder of the Indian Mughal Empire

Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture – Babur the Founder of the Indian Mughal Empire

The title “Nizam” comes from Arabic and was introduced to India by Babar, the first of the Muslim Mughal Emperors who led his forces into North India in 1526. So just as dicks were disappearing from male nude statues in Europe, an Islamic reign was being established through force and diplomacy on parts of the Indian subcontinent. By then, Islam had also spread throughout Sumatra and the Malay States, but in a far more peaceful manner. Conversion was voluntary and the local Islamic leaders were keen to exhibit a tolerance for coexistence with local Hindu/Buddhist customs and rituals. Thus within a few centuries the majority of peoples in the region came to worship Islam.

But then, ominously, larger sailing ships appeared on the horizon. They soon made it clear they were not friendly, as we shall see in the next episode of our tale.

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10

What’s your observations about Gay Malaysia and Indonesia History and Culture? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Penn Regis who is an academic who regularly visits Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Despite Putin, Moscow Remains a Fascinating Destination

There are some cities around the world immediately identified by a structure of such iconic status it personifies the country as much as its location. The Taj Mahal represents India as much as Agra. The Forbidden City, albeit a complex of structures, is Beijing and can only be China. Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, arguably the most popular single identifiable piece of architecture of the last century, is equally a symbol of Australia.

St Basil's Cathedral

St Basil’s Cathedral

I will never forget the first time I saw another city icon, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. This compact Orthodox church with its multi-coloured onion-domed roof whose construction was funded by Ivan the Terrible sits at the south end of Red Square. As I entered the Square from the north on a frigid February morning with snow gently falling, the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum on my right and the huge GUM department store on the left – I gasped! The sense of history permeating this huge space was quite breathtaking.

St Basil's Cathedral Onion Domes

St Basil’s Cathedral Onion Domes

Because this was early 1987 with the Cold War still in progress, few visited Moscow other than for business. Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power and the old Soviet Union was tottering. On arrival, I was whisked in an old limousine to the Ukraine Hotel (now the Radisson Royal Hotel), one of the seven huge identical structures dotting the city built during Stalin’s era. After registering, I took the lift to my floor where the registration card was exchanged for an old-style key by the babushka who manned the floor 24-hours a day. Clearly no chance of nighttime visitors, alas. As advised by colleagues, I also assumed that I was being watched and any phone calls I tried to make would be recorded.

Stalin era Residential Building "Kotelnicheskaya Embankment" seen from near the Kremlin. One of Stalin's Seven Similar Buildings

Stalin era Residential Building “Kotelnicheskaya Embankment” seen from near the Kremlin. One of Stalin’s Seven Similar Buildings

Apart from the impact of Red Square, my lasting memory of that two-day visit was of lunching in the hotel’s vast dining room. The buffet had little food, another sign the Soviet Empire was crumbling, but I was determined to start with caviar and vodka, both wonderfully inexpensive. When the caviar arrived, I asked about the vodka. The unsmiling waiter grumbled something to my guide. “There’s no vodka until 4:00pm. Gorbachev’s orders!” This was a futile attempt to control alcoholism. As in present-day Thailand, when alcohol was prohibited, it applied to everyone – even hotel guests!

Welcome to Moscow

Welcome to Moscow

Gay Asian Network

With a minder always in tow, I had no freedom on that visit and it was nearly 25 years before I’d return. This time I attended a Conference in the tall, modern Swissotel south of the Moskva river. On my first evening, I went with some fellow delegates to the circular hip City Space Skybar on the 34th floor with stunning views of the city. It also boasted strikingly handsome bartenders. Pavel who served us was a stunner. Although the Gay Propaganda Law was not passed until two years later, three of us were gay and we knew enough about the growing anti-gay movement not to do anything that might be construed as indicating an interest in another guy. Fortunately, but equally unfortunately, all the barmen and waiters were incredibly attractive!

Hot Russian Guy

Hot Russian Guy

After my three days at the superb Swissotel, the 50% discount delegates enjoyed ended. So I moved across the river where I used hotel points to spend three more nights at the perfectly acceptable Holiday Inn Simonovsky. Few restaurants or coffee shops are nearby, but a large, well-stocked supermarket and the metro station were only minutes walk away.

Komsomolskaya Metro Station Ceiling

Komsomolskaya Metro Station Ceiling

Moscow’s metro is one of the wonders of the city. The first thing you notice is that travel is cheap. After buying your ticket, you then descend on what seem like the longest escalators in the world. Plan a morning to see the most decorated platforms, as at Komsomolskaya station with its yellow ceiling, chandeliers and 35 amazing mosaics. In others you will see chandeliers, paintings, statues, busts, inlaid marble floors and large backlit stained glass panels. You can purchase either single or even cheaper multiple-ride tickets, or a troika card for a metro ride coupled with surface forms of transport.

Typical Moscow Church

Typical Moscow Church

Red Square has to be at the start of your sightseeing. I did not enter St. Basil’s Cathedral and don’t think I missed much as there are many others in or near the city centre that are more fascinating. Russians have really taken to religion since the end of communism. Services tend to last several hours and are often packed.

Moscow Kremlin

Moscow Kremlin

Exit Red Square from the north, veer a little right and north and you will see the famous and recently renovated Bolshoi Theatre, one of the world’s most famous for opera and ballet. But your destination is on your left, the entrance to the Kremlin. The State Palace, Presidential and Administrative buildings are off-limits, but there is plenty to see as you walk into the main square. Bordering it is a feast of golden onion domes. Here is the important Assumption Cathedral where Tsars were crowned until the capital was moved to St. Petersburg in 1713, two more cathedrals and two churches. Here, too, is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.

Inside Kremlin Square

Inside Kremlin Square

The most important building within the Kremlin Walls is the large Armoury Museum. This houses one of the world’s truly great displays of royal treasures. Amongst all the royal regalia, carriages, coronation robes, gold and silver artifacts, the Museum houses the largest collection of the glorious Imperial Fabergé Eggs anywhere. Check in advance for opening times and which buildings you can enter.

Novodevichy Convent and Bell Tower

Novodevichy Convent and Bell Tower

Only a short subway ride from the centre is the must-see Novodevichy Convent. Its grounds are surrounded by an impressive red wall incorporating a church, a six-tiered bell tower and Guardhouse Museum. The small interior of the Convent itself is brilliantly painted with an impressive iconostasis. In the huge attached cemetery you will see the graves of many famous Russians including the tombstones of Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, and Nikita Kruschev, General Secretary of the Communist Party for 11 years after Stalin’s death.

Novodevichy Convent Interior

Novodevichy Convent Interior

Moscow has so many sights that you can spend your entire time within the city. But I highly recommend a day trip to the old city of Vladimir 180 kms to the east. Founded more than a millennium ago, today it boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most tours will add in a side trip to the charming nearby old town of Suzdall that seems permanently preserved in the 19th century. The Lonely Planet Guide suggests that if you visit only one place near Moscow, it has to be Suzdall.

Bulging Russian at the Pool

Bulging Russian at the Pool

For gay men, Moscow is certainly not Bangkok or Tokyo. But it offers so much to see and experience, it should be on every traveller’s list especially on a stopover to or from Asia. Both Cathay Pacific and THAI are now restarting their suspended Moscow routes.

Contribution by Callum McLeod who is a Gay Travel Writer and Photographer who has traveled throughout and lives in Asia.

Additional Information about Gay Moscow

Although homosexuality is not illegal, the promotion of a gay lifestyle is. Add that to the natural conservatism of Muscovites and being open and gay in Moscow is not easy. But there are still lots of gay men in the city. Although there are few gay venues as such, many bars and clubs often host gay evenings. The main problem many experience is that bouncers at the door will decide who gets entry and who doesn’t. To find out which are the best venues for gay nights, visit Travel Gay Europe before you leave for your trip.

Been to Russia or have a Russian boyfriend? Please post your comments below

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Asian Gay Culture and Western Influences – Part 6

Taiwan and the Philippines – Calmer Gay Waters

To the west of Hong Kong lies the island of Taiwan. AsiaGuys.NET has already explored the rapidly emerging gay life in its capital Taipei in two earlier articles… and made reference to the Philippines in another… So I will not go over the same ground here.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Taiwan Buddha Memorial Center

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Taiwan Buddha Memorial Center

With a Christian population of less than 4% and Muslims making up way under half of one percent, the island of Taiwan has been a haven relatively free from religious tensions. Perhaps this may be because Soong Mei-ling, the Christian wife of dictator, gangster and murderer Chiang Kai-shek, was more concerned about influencing American public opinion on the need to stick with Taiwan and its hopes to re-conquer the communist mainland. She failed, and Taiwan was slowly left to get on with carving out its own niche in the world.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Taiwan Temple

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Taiwan Temple

Many of the colonial powers had dipped their toes in Taiwanese waters. The Portuguese arrived here in 1544 and gave the island the name Formosa (Beautiful Island). The Dutch and Spanish from the nearby Philippines established settlements, constantly fought each other until the Dutch won. Eventually though it was the Qing Dynasty in China that annexed Taiwan in 1683. Following China’s disastrous defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the island was ceded to Japan, only becoming a country in its own right following Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat to the communists in 1949.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Funky Gay Club in Taipei

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Funky Gay Club in Taipei

Gay life on the island was totally inhibited by a long period of martial law when Taiwan was a political pawn during the Cold War. Even today it amazes me that this was only abolished by Chiang’s son less than 30 years ago. Now a democratic state, although China still regards it as Chinese territory, gay life has mushroomed mostly unencumbered by religious and political interference. A few right-wing Christian Churches occasionally rant and rave, but individual freedoms for the LGBT community are growing at a rapid pace, to the extent that many observers believe Taiwan will become the first country in Asia to recognize gay marriage.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Manila's FAB Gay Bar

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Manila’s FAB Gay Bar

To its south, the former Spanish colony of The Philippines is a hotbed of Catholicism. More than 80% of the population is Catholic whereas many in the southernmost provinces closer to Borneo remain Muslim. The Christian Filipinos are by and large a free-spirited fun-loving people who are sincere in their worship and certainly pay attention to the Church’s teachings on birth control, as evidenced by a population which has soared from 87 million in 2006 to 102 million last year. Even so many also enjoy sexual freedoms that the Catholic Church surely frowns upon, including a considerable gay community. Yet although the Philippines in general is very much a pro-gay country and same sex activity is not a criminal offense, there are no laws in place to protect gays. Hate crimes do occur, but to a far lesser extent than even in western countries which now accept gay marriage.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Mr Philippines 2013 Winners - Dennis Natividad

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Mr Philippines 2013 Winners – Dennis Natividad

The second key influence here was the Americans who kicked the Spanish out and then colonized the islands in 1896. America departed after the Second World War basically leaving the country with two near disasters – a passion for circumcision as some sort of deranged rite of passage to manhood which has not only resulted in close to 90% of all men being circumcised, but many of the operations being carried out in the countryside by non-qualified medical personnel. The result? Botched operations leaving the poor boys with quite ugly appendages.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Philippines Muscle Contestant

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Philippines Muscle Contestant

For some time it has even been routine for non-circumcised boys to be ridiculed by their peers! Some put the practice down to the influence of Islam which was common in the country centuries earlier prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Its continuing ‘popularity’, though, is surely due to the American practice of the times. The second legacy – a disastrous economy, power still concentrated in a handful of enormously wealthy families, and arguably Asia’s worst functioning democracy!

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Taiwan Guys Having Fun - photoblue0.blogspot.tw

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Taiwan Guys Having Fun – photoblue0.blogspot.tw

Boykakke

In this series, I am not going to touch on French Indo-China where its rule in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam was barbarous and where its missionary efforts had largely met with widespread aversion, nor the aftermath of the disastrous American follies in the Vietnam War and the resultant genocide in Cambodia. These must be topics for a future series perhaps focusing on gay life today in those countries. In the meantime, I look south and west to Malaysia and Indonesia where all the evidence points to life for gay men becoming considerably more difficult.

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture - Taiwan Guys Cooking up Something Dicklicious – photoblue0.blogspot.tw

Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture – Taiwan Guys Cooking up Something Dicklicious – photoblue0.blogspot.tw

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10

What’s your observations about Gay Taiwan and the Philippines History and Culture? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Penn Regis who is an academic who regularly visits Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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