Negotiating the Travel Jungle – Part 1

Why Has It Become So Dense?

You are excited. You’re planning your annual holiday trip to Asia anticipating all the fun you will find in the bars and from the apps. Your only decision? Where to go and how to get there.

Well, not quite, unfortunately for there are a lot of pitfalls long before you get to your exotic destinations! The most obvious one is your travel arrangements.

Lovely Thai Hotel

Lovely Thai Hotel

Let’s assume that you want to fly first (no dears, not first class – first sectors!) from Edinburgh to Singapore at the back of the plane in steerage. After a few days shopping, lying by a pool to get over jet-lag, cruising the often great eye candy along Orchard Road or even spending some more energetic time in a gay sauna and elbow-bending in a gay bar, it’s time to move on.

You decide on the regular bus service up to Kuala Lumpur, far easier and only a fraction longer than taking a flight. Those hot Malay and Chinese guys are all over the apps these days. So you won’t even need to wander far from your hotel!

Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers

Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers

You then continue on to Thailand for the main part of your trip – much more (!) rest, recreation and your fill of nightlife. Nearly exhausted, you move to Taipei. Perhaps, if it’s the end of October, you want to take in the annual Gay Pride Parade which last year attracted around 125,000 marchers, mostly from around Taiwan and other parts of Asia, and almost all slim-fit and wonderfully cute!

Taipei’s Gay Pride Parade 2017

Taipei’s Gay Pride Parade 2017

Not a complicated itinerary by any means. And in theory it should not be difficult to plan, but you want to ensure every penny is well spent. You will find plenty of competition on the long international flights, although for your routing you have to factor in at least one plane change. This is a good time to take a look at Qatar Airlines. For many months this tiny Gulf state has been the target of economic and political sanctions by several neighbouring countries, including Saudi Arabia with whom it shares its land borders. These countries have banned Qatar from their air space. Flying east, that’s not a problem for the airline, as it will fly over the Gulf. Fly in any other direction, though, and detours become essential. The airline’s costs and load factors have clearly been affected. For travellers this has been a boon as there have been special fare sales at least once a month. The biggest discounts have been in their excellent business class. In one recent sale, the cost of that Edinburgh to Singapore ticket dropped by around 40%!

Buildings in Qatar's Business District

Buildings in Qatar’s Business District

In the bad old days, finding one-way tickets was a real pain. They tended to be far more expensive than half the cost of a return. Now many carriers happily offer one-way tickets. So that “open-jaw” as it’s called in the business (arriving at one destination and departing from a different one) is now much easier.

Once you have locked in the intercontinental flights, you know there are budget carriers from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and Bangkok to Taipei. So that only leaves hotels. If you have no friends who can give advice, you probably know roughly where you’ll want to stay. Definitely near a subway, probably close to one of the gays areas, and certainly within the budget you can afford. If you are still not confident, you’ve heard about TripAdvisor where travellers give their own impressions of the hotels they stay in (for more information on TripAdvisor, please check back to our earlier article here). That will give you some sort of guide. An evening searching the Internet should then have provided you with most of the information you need. Right?

Will you have time for one of Thailand’s Southern Beaches?

Will you have time for one of Thailand’s Southern Beaches?

Well, that again is the theory. Sadly, in practice, unless you are pretty well clued-in on the intricacies of the search engines you consult, you will definitely end up wasting a great deal of your precious time and perhaps even some of your hard-earned cash.

In the dim and distant past, a meeting with your High Street travel consultant would be the extent of your worries. You would eventually be given a suggested itinerary with flights and hotels, along with an option or two. As the travel business has increasingly migrated to the internet, though, your options have multiplied manyfold. It’s not just the number and routing of flights or the cost of rooms in different hotels. You quickly realise that if you postpone your trip by just a day or two, that long outward flight can be significantly cheaper. Great! Well, not so great! Because you then find the return intercontinental flight now is a bit more expensive, and you’ll have to search more hotels in Taipei as the one you had set your heart on is full for the new dates!

In other words, the world of intercontinental travel on the internet has become a minefield.

Taiwanese Guy Waiting for You - Photo Blue

Taiwanese Guy Waiting for You – Photo Blue

Helix Studios

Hotels

Let’s start with hotels. We’ve all heard about Expedia. Should we start there? Maybe since you’re in the UK you can look at what you know is a newish biggie search engine – trivago – or even the smaller venere. Checking each of those sites you are surprised that there is little difference in the prices being offered. So you try Orbitz. Shit! A bit cheaper but it doesn’t offer breakfast in the quoted rate! How about hotels.com? Now this is more interesting because it offers one free night for every ten nights you book. Can you make this work? Well, only if you pay a higher basic nightly rate. After all, someone has to pay for those free rooms you might end up with. The end result is that after a couple of hours, you are so frustrated because you have absolutely no idea which site to use – or if there might be cheaper ones you have missed.

All this is perfectly understandable. Yet there is another more pertinent reason behind your frustration. Unless you are a regular traveller, you are probably unaware that every search engine I have listed so far is part of one giant company, Expedia. The one not part of Expedia is TripAdvisor, but only because Expedia hived it off as a separate company in 2011.

There are of course other ways to book hotels. One is to call direct and find out if they can offer a cheaper rate. Not the ideal solution as you will have to make several international calls, perhaps being passed from department to department.

If you happen to be a more regular traveller and a member of the loyalty groups of one of the large International chains, almost certainly you will find the cheapest rate for the hotels on the group’s own sites, and you might even get a freebie or two, including complimentary internet or guaranteed upgrades.

Come Swim with Me – tumblr.com

Come Swim with Me – tumblr.com

Advice

If your travel is more or less limited to one long annual vacation, then you’ll have to find another way. My first piece of advice is: take what you read on TripAdvisor with a hefty dose of salt. It is well known throughout the travel business that some hotels get better star ratings as a result of fake reviews. And it’s not just an occasional review. Some get their staff, the staff in their PR companies and their suppliers to contribute 2- or 3-line reviews that are total nonsense. I’m not saying TripAdvisor is a dead loss. It can provide interesting information. Best, though, to leave aside the best and the worst reviews and concentrate on those by reviewers who have contributed at least 30 to 40 other reviews and which provide much more detail than “Fantastic hotel!”

Sorry! You will Miss Out on these Taiwan Guys! – Photo Blue

Sorry! You will Miss Out on these Taiwan Guys! – Photo Blue

Some travellers give much more credence to the reviews on each individual search engine, if only because these can only be provided by those who actually stayed in the hotels. Even so, I don’t agree. The real problem is that all travellers have different backgrounds, different travel experiences and different expectations. A young hitchhiker splashing out on a decent hotel for the last night of a trip will almost certainly provide a much more favourable review than a seasoned business traveller forced by his company to downgrade his accommodations. That salt comes in handy again!

Some years ago, I gave up using individual search engines in favour of an independent site, Hotels Combined. The beauty of this is that it gets rid of the need to check each search engine individually. Throughout Asia it will offer a dozen or more search engine prices, most for all the types of room each hotel has available. Occasionally it offers a hotel’s own prices where these are lower than those offered by the search engines. Try it! At the very least it saves you a ton of time.

Can I Afford to Stay in this Lovely Thai Hotel?

Can I Afford to Stay in this Lovely Thai Hotel?

Part 2 of this article will appear in a few weeks.

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Gay Asia Adventure Series

Its taken a year to complete but I’ve finally finished publishing all the articles for the Gay Asia Adventure Series. 10 articles in total… Enjoy!

Welcome to Gay Asia

Welcome to Gay Asia

Preparing for a Gay Asia Holiday

Gay Asia Adventure – A Gay Resort, Gay Love and a Pokemon Accident

Bangkok Gay Bang – A Bar Scam, Hot Threesome and King Kong

Gay Pattaya – Relaxation, Gay Jomtien Alive and Korean Chicken that’s out of this World!

Gay Siem Reap – Magical Temples, Rockin’ Nightlife and Tanned Guys

Terrific Taipei – Gay Friendly, a Luxurious Hotel and an Anxious HIV Test

Gay Kuala Lumpur – Hot Dark Guys, Tropical Oasia and a Gay Massage Den

MENs Gay Resort Siem Reap

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 1

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 2

Hot Malay Guy

Hot Malay Guy

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Gay Asia Adventure – A Gay Resort, Gay Love and a Pokemon Accident

Late last year I came back from a Gay Asia Adventure across four countries with three gay friends. We had been planning the trip since early 2016. Some things went to plan and others didn’t. I was really looking forward to visiting Thailand again but it was not quite the same anymore. The new places that I had never visited before were the highlight of the trip for me.

Gay Asia Here We Cum

Gay Asia Here We Cum

First Stop was Kuala Lumpur. It was only an overnighter. I wasn’t expecting much. I was a little cautious not to make it obvious that I’m gay in an Islamic country. But as it turned out we we had a wonderful night there, had a huge Malaysian style dinner and then hit Blue Boy Disco. We tried to find some of the other gay bars without any success. Google maps just wasn’t doing it for us.

Malaysian Style Sweet and Sour Fish

Malaysian Style Sweet and Sour Fish

I enjoyed it so much there and wanted to see more of the gay life, so on the way back to Australia I stopped over there for an unscheduled five extra nights and flew in a nice guy whom I met in Cambodia to spend some time together. We had a fantastic time and did lots of gay activities together. I had to also contact work and tell them that I was going to be two days late back for work. They were not happy when I told them I was meeting up with a hot guy from Cambodia in Kuala Lumpur for some relaxation 🙂

Malaysian Guy Takes a Selfie

Malaysian Guy Takes a Selfie

Gay Asian Network

Bangkok and Pattaya were a bit of a disappointment for me. I lived in Thailand previously for ten years. I hadn’t been back for quite a few years and was looking forward to the old life style and friendly people that I was used too. But it had changed dramatically. To me it’s just become too commercialised and everything revolves around money especially in the tourist and city areas. Passing by bars we were almost dragged inside them by groups of guys standing at the doors. Even after saying “sorry… no”, they still kept hassling us. But I’m sure in the country it hasn’t changed much and the people are as welcoming and friendly as they always have been. Just wish that I had time to head up to Isarn and see my old Thai friends there.

Pattaya Street Seller

Pattaya Street Seller

It was fate I guess that I wasn’t going to have an awesome time in Thailand as on the first day I left my Sony Xperia z5 on the seat of a taxi and it drove off. After contacting the police and making numerous phone calls to the taxi company over a few weeks it wasn’t returned, even after offering a reward.

Interesting T-shirt at the Chatuchak Market

Interesting T-shirt at the Chatuchak Market

Also, Bradley my gay friend from Hong Kong was playing Pokeman in Pattaya, was racing to catch one in the middle of the road, he fell over and grazed his knee badly which became quite infected after two weeks and had to visit BNH Hospital Sathorn. It really put a dampener on our visit to Thailand. The good news is that we both submitted insurance claims online with Cover More Insurance and they promptly settled both claims.

More Like a Hotel than a Hospital - Click to see full sized image - BNH Hospital Sathorn

More Like a Hotel than a Hospital – Click to see full sized image – BNH Hospital Sathorn

I’ve been to Cambodia before but never to Siem Reap so we used the services of Siam Roads a gay tour company. Our gay tour guide was Sareth who was extremely helpful, friendly and entertaining. We did a wonderful boat trip, visited the markets and a military museum and of course spent a full day discovering Angkor Wat Temples which were magical.

Sareth - Siam Roads Cambodia Tour Guide

Sareth – Siam Roads Cambodia Tour Guide

The gay resort in Siem Reap was superb (details revealed in a future article) and the night life in the Pub Street area was awesome. It was hard to find the gay bars but eventually we found Bar Code which rocks and has live shows every hour. I fell in love with a nice Cambodian guy whom I met on Hornet and we spent a number of nights together fucking each other at the gay resort. Siem Reap was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Boat Tour Captain

Boat Tour Captain

Last stop was Taipei. I’ve never been there before and immediately found it a little similar to Singapore and loved every minute there. The city is very organised and it’s easy to get around using underground and overhead trains. There is a train that runs up to the Zoo which is fully automatic and driver-less. We did lots of sightseeing, all the usual stuff like Taipei 101, Taipei Zoo and Maokong Gondola.  The hotel was luxurious (details revealed in a future article), the food delicious and services in general are very professional. The people are always in a hurry but very polite.

Taiwanese Guy Praying at the Shrine

Taiwanese Guy Praying at the Shrine

Red House the gay area is very quaint and relaxed with a stack of gay bars. It was a little quiet early but picks up as the night goes on. There were plenty of hot Taiwanese guys around to keep us happy and entertained. We had an interesting visit to Bear Junkies where government officials had set up an AIDs booth and were doing free HIV testing, so I took advantage of it and took the test.

My friend from Australia Ben and his Taiwanese boyfriend, Devon left the tour group at this point and traveled down south so that Ben could finally meet Devon’s family and, if everything went well, ask his parents for their blessing on their gay marriage. Did it go to plan or not? All will be revealed in a future article 🙂

Taipei Central

Taipei Central

In hindsight we probably visited too many countries. Seven flights all up was a bit of a drainer. We were travelling, on the go, doing and seeing things non-stop which was enjoyable and interesting but quite tiring. We didn’t really get much time to relax apart from when we were in Pattaya.

Two things that I learnt from this trip. Bars in general are on the decline and apps are huge. If you wanna meet up with a guy and have gay sex then gay apps are the way to go. In Kuala Lumpur and Taipei especially I noticed that people there generally mind their own business and are not in your face pushing things on you. If you want something there… you go to them. A little different to Thailand where sales people in the cities have become quite annoying and persistent.

Welcome to Gay Asia

Welcome to Gay Asia

More detailed trip reports including info about gay bars, gay hotels and things to do for Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Pattaya, Siem Reap and Taipei will be revealed over the next month. Stay tuned!

Read More: Related Gay Asia Adventure Articles

Preparing for a Gay Asia Holiday

Gay Asia Adventure – A Gay Resort, Gay Love and a Pokemon Accident

Bangkok Gay Bang – A Bar Scam, Hot Threesome and King Kong

Gay Pattaya – Relaxation, Gay Jomtien Alive and Korean Chicken that’s out of this World!

Gay Siem Reap – Magical Temples, Rockin’ Nightlife and Tanned Guys

Terrific Taipei – Gay Friendly, a Luxurious Hotel and an Anxious HIV Test

Gay Kuala Lumpur – Hot Dark Guys, Tropical Oasia and a Gay Massage Den

MENs Gay Resort Siem Reap

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 1

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Adventures in the Arctic

An Ideal Trip when your Special Guy can keep you Warm at Night

Helsinki Pride - visitfinland.com

Helsinki Pride – visitfinland.com

Latin Boyz

It was the most unlikely place to find an Asian gay couple. Entering the simple wood-panelled dining room, I could tell they were Chinese. When I asked the lady serving breakfast, she told me they came from Hong Kong. I could hardly believe it! Here was I in the frozen north beyond the Arctic Circle. For my first evening I had been all on my own in the cosy Nellim Wilderness Lodge just a stone’s throw from the Russian border and not much further from the Arctic Sea.

Nellim Wilderness Lodge Dining Room

Nellim Wilderness Lodge Dining Room

This was early November as the snows had started and before a host of holidaymakers would descend on the Lodge. Even so, at night the temperature dropped to anywhere between –10 to –20 degrees.

After a quick cup of coffee to shake off the chill from the short walk from my room, mine with a lovely log fire in the evenings, I went over to chat to the Chinese. Like me, they were on a self-organised trip – me by air and they quite daringly, given the conditions of the roads, by car. Their itinerary was confined to the northern parts of Norway and Finland, whereas mine had taken me four days in a ferry up the coast of Norway from Bergen to the quaint little town of Tromsø, four flights with two days in Stockholm, an overnight in Helsinki and then to Ivalo, the furthest north you can fly in Finland.

Bergen

Bergen

My objective was simple. I wanted to witness the famed Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights that colour the night sky in the far north. Taking photographs from a moving ship would be impossible, but regular sightings were common in Tromsø and even more so in Nellim north of Ivalo where the lack of any glow from a nearby town resulted in much darker skies. Like many plans, though, it almost failed to materialize.

Photography, I realised, would pose a big problem. I am just an amateur photographer. For me pointing and pressing the shutter in daylight is about as far as I get, the resultant photographs improving after a bit of tarting up on the computer. Photography of lights shining against black in the dead of night would be a totally different matter. As I read about increasing the ISO number, altering white balance and time exposures, I became somewhat concerned that I might end up with dozens of photographs all but completely black.

The ferry journey up the Norwegian coast was indeed spectacular if disappointing. As my flight arrived in Bergen, it was pissing with rain. Apart from a few hours, this was to continue virtually throughout the four days and nights. Low cloud prevented any Aurora sightings but there was still plenty to see as we navigated our way though endless fascinating fjords.

Norwegian Fjord Landscape

Norwegian Fjord Landscape

For Norwegians living at this latitude, the ferry is virtually the only means of transport. Thankfully in my tiny cabin I slept through the various night stops.

Picturesque Buildings at Trondheim

Picturesque Buildings at Trondheim

Tromso was utterly charming. It was again pouring when I arrived and I only had 24 hours there. But I had planned to cross the inlet in the morning and take a cable car up the nearby hill for what should have been glorious shots of the town and surrounding islands. Alas, heavy snow started overnight and did not stop even as I was boarding my afternoon flight.

Tromsø after Snowfall

Tromsø after Snowfall

Worry not, I told myself. Still four nights in Nellim to come and plenty of time for night photography!

On that first evening, with the Lodge locked down and both the staff gone home, I ventured out at 10:00pm. I plonked my tripod on the driveway and gazed at the sky waiting for the waves of green I was sure I would see. In some parts of the world, the phenomenon comes in a variety of colours. Here in Finland it lights up the sky only in various shades of green.

Having to stand for any length of time in such freezing conditions, mountaineering underwear and warm boots are essential. Thankfully I had come well prepared.

Around midnight I first saw the slightest suggestion of green in the distance. This soon became more prominent, but it was a wash of weak colour, not the striking images I had expected.

Aurora Borealis First Sighting – Click to see full sized image

Aurora Borealis First Sighting – Click to see full sized image

The next day there was bad news. Low cloud and snow were forecast for the coming two days meaning there would almost certainly be no Aurora sightings. By now the Chinese had departed and I was joined by a young Irish couple – straight! That night, one of the staff drove us to a nearby river where sightings were said to be extremely good. Not that night! We stood and froze for the better part of two hours seeing absolutely nothing. Now I just had one night left. Would this not-inexpensive trip end up being a damp squib?

At breakfast the following day there was better news. The sky was clearing and the forecast was for only light cloud by the evening. So at 10:00pm the Irish couple and I parked ourselves in the middle of a nearby frozen lake, tripods in place and spare batteries warming close to our bodies (battery life dies quickly when exposed to cold). For an hour, just a moonlit sky. Then one of my companions shouted, “Over there!” Sure enough, between thin clouds we could see a large band of green developing. We were elated. Definitely the Aurora. Now, if only the camera will work!

Aurora Borealis – Click to see full sized image

Aurora Borealis – Click to see full sized image

For the next two hours, we were treated to the most stunning light show – far more extensive and spectacular than I could ever have imagined. As I snapped away, I became concerned that the images on the camera’s LED screen were not what I was seeing with my eyes. The Aurora was too bright and the sky too light. What the heck, I thought. I’m just going to play around with different settings and trust to luck that at least some photos will come out. From then, as the images in the sky constantly changed, I just busked it.

Aurora Borealis Collage – Click to see full sized image

Aurora Borealis Collage – Click to see full sized image

When I got back home and saw them on the computer, I was more than happy. Some had too much camera ‘noise’, some were too dark, others could not be adjusted to create a decent picture. But I had enough good ones. Oddly, I found the Aurora did appear brighter in the photos than it had seemed in real life. But they were and remain a wonderful reminder of one of life’s amazing evenings.

The sunset as I was boarding the plane on the following afternoon was equally spectacular.

Arctic Sunset – Click to see full sized image

Arctic Sunset – Click to see full sized image

As I flew to Helsinki and home, I just hoped those cute Hong Kong guys had also had a chance to witness the display, wherever they were.

Contribution by Callum McLeod who is a Gay Travel Writer.

Pori Pride - visitfinland.com

Pori Pride – visitfinland.com

Additional Information about Gay Norway and Finland

What is it like to be Gay in Norway?

Travel Gay Europe, Oslo, Norway

LGBT rights in Norway

Even the Stamps are Gay in Finland

Travel Gay Europe, Helsinki, Finland

LGBT rights in Finland

Been to Norway or Finland or seen the Aurora Borealis? Please post your comments below

(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!

Read More: Related Gay Asia Adventure Articles

Preparing for a Gay Asia Holiday

Gay Asia Adventure – A Gay Resort, Gay Love and a Pokemon Accident

Bangkok Gay Bang – A Bar Scam, Hot Threesome and King Kong

Gay Pattaya – Relaxation, Gay Jomtien Alive and Korean Chicken that’s out of this World!

Gay Siem Reap – Magical Temples, Rockin’ Nightlife and Tanned Guys

Terrific Taipei – Gay Friendly, a Luxurious Hotel and an Anxious HIV Test

Gay Kuala Lumpur – Hot Dark Guys, Tropical Oasia and a Gay Massage Den

MENs Gay Resort Siem Reap

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 1

Hornet Hookup with a Jet Setting Khmer Guy – Part 2

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

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Do You Trust Travel Reviews on Sites Like TripAdvisor?

You’re excited! You’re planning a trip to Asia. Maybe it’s one of many you’ve made. Perhaps it’s your first. You’ve saved up for months and your mind continually wanders thinking of all those beautiful Asian guys, the beaches, cocktails at sunset, the bars and the fun times you will have. But you need a place to stay. Old hands will have their own favourites. If you’re new to the continent, how do you make a decision?

Welcome to Gay Asia – tumblr.com

Welcome to Gay Asia – tumblr.com

One is to check accommodation review sites. The lingering question then, though, is: how genuine are these reviews? Well, booking engine sites like agoda.com or hotels.com have a clear policy. They only permit reviews if you booked through their sites. Still, different strokes for different folks. You really have to take reviews with a liberal pinch of salt.

TripAdviser Logo

The most regularly visited site is probably TripAdvisor with extensive reviews for a huge selection of accommodations and restaurants in Asia and it doles out hosts of awards each year. If you are not used to TripAdviser, you may think it sounds great. Think again!

Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool

Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool

Personally, I hate being conned. In my view TripAdvisor is close to becoming one of the biggest travel cons of all. I first noticed it some years ago when taking part in a Conference in Singapore. I had a free room at the stunning-looking 5-star Marina Bay Sands with its rooftop infinity pool. I’ll not relate the experience in detail here, other than to say if you think a 40-minute queue on arrival, multiple cigarette burns in a non-smoking room and a 30-minute queue for breakfast acceptable, then you’ll love it. I will never stay there again. And I wrote a Tripadvisor review accordingly.

There are Plenty of Speedo Guys to See in Asia – tumblr.com

There are Plenty of Speedo Guys to See in Asia – tumblr.com

Gay Asian Network

As it was posted I noticed the hotel was #63 in the rankings for Singapore – by far the worst of the city’s 5-star hotels, the next highest being in the mid-30s. This clearly posed a problem for both the hotel and the Singapore government, because the Marina Bay Sands is a flagship project with at least some government backing. It must have been galling for those behind the hotel to see it languishing so low in the rankings.

Singapore Merlion

Singapore Merlion

Around the time of my bad review, a flood of 2-line 5-star reviews by one-time posters had started to appear. So I made a list of 17. I wrote to each requesting one simple piece of advice as, I claimed, I was thinking of staying at the hotel. I received not one reply. And I have not the slightest doubt that every single review was fake, written by people connected in some way or other to the hotel and the Sands Empire – and therefore dependent on the hotel. I also wrote to TripAdvisor with my findings, only to receive a standard reply. “We have systems in place to weed out… blah, blah, blah.” Yet miraculously, about half of these fake reviews suddenly disappeared! So much for TripAdvisor’s “systems”!

Come Into My Chendu Restaurant

Come Into My Chendu Restaurant

Visiting Bangkok a few months back, a friend invited me to a buffet dinner at the Coffee Shop in a 5-star hotel. Our dining experience was close to the worst I have experienced at almost any major hotel – anywhere. So my friend wrote an extensive 1-star review on TripAdvisor. We noticed this café had a very high ranking at #95 out of 9,132 dining establishments in the city. Then we noticed once again a large number of 2-line 5-star raves from first-time reviewers, this being one –

“High quality of tasty food, excellent atmosphere and great service. We would definitely come back here again and again!”

Sometimes Adjustments are Needed when Reading Reviews – tumblr.com

Sometimes Adjustments are Needed when Reading Reviews – tumblr.com

Skytrax Verified Review – Click to see

Skytrax Verified Review – Click to see

Remarkably, this review that says virtually nothing useful had gained two “Helpful” votes! Can someone explain to me how this is in any way “helpful”? So again I wrote to a dozen reviewers. And yet again I received not one response. So once more I wrote to Tripadviser, this time giving them what I considered good advice: take a leaf out of the Skytrax airline/airport review site. To prove that travellers are genuine, Skytrax has introduced a new “Verified Review” status. This requires a copy of your boarding pass. It is not published, but it proves you really took the flight you reviewed. Three months later, total silence from TripAdvisor.

JW Marriott Hotel at Khao Lak

JW Marriott Hotel at Khao Lak

There is, though, another reason for being suspicious of TripAdvisor reviews. Look closely at reviews for some establishments. At the end there is a little line item – “Review collected in partnership with this restaurant” followed by a little “i” logo. Click that “i” and the real reason for the reviews being all but useless becomes perfectly clear – “This business uses tools provided by TripAdvisor (or one of its official Review Collection Partners) to encourage and collect guest reviews, including this one.”

Tropical Asia Sunset

Tropical Asia Sunset

In other words, most of these reviewers had a comments form thrust in front of them with a request they complete it and leave it on payment of their bill. In such circumstances how many diners have any desire to complete forms but do so merely to be helpful. Knowing that hotel staff will read them, will most people give anything less than a 3- or 4-star review even if they had found the experience disappointing?

Tokyo Shinjuku Gracery Hotel with Godzilla Theme

Tokyo Shinjuku Gracery Hotel with Godzilla Theme

So, is TripAdvisor really just one big con? Despite what I have written, the answer can only be “well, not quite”. The site does include a lot of genuine reviews. It’s just that too many are highly suspect or obviously fake as was confirmed in a major article in Business Traveller magazine about a year ago. Thus the rankings for each establishment are especially suspect. The only way to get a reasonable idea of quality is to wade through a stack of recent reviews and pick out those from people who have made at least a couple of dozen other reviews, each with a decent amount of detail.

TripAdviser Marina Bay Sands Reviews – Click to see

TripAdviser Marina Bay Sands Reviews – Click to see

In a future article AsiaGuys.NET will give suggestions for finding the best price for your preferred accommodation. In the meantime, where does the disappointing Marina Bay Sands now rank? Guess what? Within a year of my stay its ranking had reached the low 50s! And amazingly it has kept soaring up. As I write it stands at #31. Clearly this hotel achieved its TripAdvisor objective. Ironically, though, one recent review from a first-time reviewer gives it only 1-star. The review starts, “This hotel is a total joke!!!!”

Come On In! Relax and Enjoy! – photoblue0.blogspot.tw

Come On In! Relax and Enjoy! – photoblue0.blogspot.tw

What’s your experience been like with Travel Review Sites? Please post your comments below

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

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Highs and Lows! Are you Hooked?

OK! I admit it! I was a junkie! For more than 25 years, I just haven’t been able to get enough. I have spent years blaming others for my cravings, even though I willingly let myself get hooked on the latest version as soon as it hit the market. I tried so many different types before deciding just to stick to four. Now, though, I’m weaning myself off these cravings. I have finally decided there is more to life than being hooked – and it will end up being a darn sight cheaper.

Travel Gay Asia - www.travelgayasia.com

Travel Gay Asia – www.travelgayasia.com

Fooled you! You thought I meant stimulants and depressants, didn’t you? Ha! Well, I suppose in a way they are. You get high and then when you realise you need more, you get depressed. But rehab is not for me. No, sir! For I am just one of many tens of millions around the world who was hooked on points – the ones you convert into airline miles and hotel nights.

American Airlines - By Daniel Bentley

American Airlines – By Daniel Bentley

Latin Boyz

Blame it on American Airlines! They’re the ones who started it all, a way to encourage loyalty and repeat business. Other airlines had been trying for years with different types of goodies for frequent flyers. But the mileage programmes trumped everything. Suddenly, every airline – soon to be joined by every major hotel group – started getting clients hooked. I still recall my first redemption ticket – on Singapore Airlines to the Maldives. My first hotel programme was the one run by Westin. Since I was then spending a lot of time at one of the Westins in Singapore, in a couple of years I had enough points for a free week’s stay in their 5-star property in Acapulco. With miles also being earned on Northwest through trans-Pacific flights to head office in the USA, I planned a Round the World business class trip to include that Acapulco week – all free! Sadly, a hurricane devastated Acapulco just as I was about to make bookings. How I “spent” those points is lost in the mists of time.

Prague Castle - By Daniel Bentley

Prague Castle – By Daniel Bentley

My points at Hyatt rocketed when I was in charge of small parties of clients. Hyatt used to permit up to four guests to go on to one bill. With the head of our team always in a Presidential Suite, I was in la-la land! My points balance rocketed. And I was typical of the gay fraternity, for I loved to travel. I’d fly off just for a couple of days to sample the gay delights of this or that city if I felt I’d have fun. I would interrupt a transcontinental business trip with a short freebie in Europe to spend a few days in Prague or on a Greek Island. If New York was my destination, Hawaii or San Francisco were favourite stops. When I had enough miles, I’d pop down to Sydney – just as long as the points paid for the additional cost!

Honolulu - By Daniel Bentley

Honolulu – By Daniel Bentley

The advent of the Airline Alliances started the change. For a while it got better. When
One World opened for business in competition to Star Alliance, it offered a special promotion in Asia. Fly any three of the initial seven carriers over a 3-month period and you’d earned an extra 25,000 points. Four carriers earned 50.000 points, and five a whopping 100,000! Thanks to work for clients, I got those 100,0000 with four days to spare! For a true junkie, this sure was one amazing high.

San Francisco - By Daniel Bentley

San Francisco – By Daniel Bentley

Now, after years of oil price increases and falling margins, the whole game is changing. Almost without exception the points givers now base those points not on distance or the number of nights stayed. The new model is based on revenue. Did you know that economy class in the old-style legacy carriers is now subdivided into 15 or more different categories? Want the full mileage quota? Sorry guys! You’ll have to pay the full Y class fare – and almost no one does that anymore. If your fare code is S, V or W you either get a fraction of the Y miles or none at all.

Flying Over North America - By Daniel Bentley

Flying Over North America – By Daniel Bentley

And when it comes to “paying” for your freebies, now you have to “spend” a good deal more of your points than ever was the case before. That, of course, is if you can actually find a reward ticket or hotel room on the dates you want. A hotel I regularly visit in the Marriott programme never offers award nights – ever! Want to fly from Atlanta to Hawaii? You might just be lucky and get a nonstop flight. More likely you will have to change planes in Charlotte and San Jose en route! With a good percentage of gays not only travelling but being very regular travelers, these changes affect us as much if not more than many.

Sydney - By Daniel Bentley

Sydney – By Daniel Bentley

Using credit cards was traditionally a good way of racking up points, especially when many awarded double points for spending overseas. Our gay fraternity in the USA have a big advantage here because many credit cards give them a whopping sign-up bonus of 50,000 or so miles provided a relatively small amount is charged to the card in the first few months. And as long as they keep the card for about a year, they can then ditch it and sign on to another programme. But they give with one hand and then take with the other. Have you checked your card’s extra charges recently? Since the 2008 financial crisis, generally the exchange rate is less favorable and the surcharge is now 2% – or even more. I’ve done my sums. Where my cards are based, it’s now cheaper for me just to buy the ticket or the hotel room at the best rate I can find from the dozens of options available in the Internet. And I really am sick of keeping track of all those cards and how much each programme is worth. So my junkie habits are now a thing of the past. To hell with points! I’m free at last!

Bangkok Airways - By Dusit Bee

Bangkok Airways – By Dusit Bee

Or… shit, I thought I was! Now that I am checking airline and hotel sites, they know where I am and they know that I travel. So my inbox gets filled with this week’s special offers (which of course are rarely special, as every site has more or less the same underneath the window dressing) and every site I look at has pesky little boxes that just somehow have the rates at a hotel I was checking only hours earlier! There are even search engines offering one free night for every 10 booked. Fuck the lot of them! You just can’t win!

Where will you Travel with your Boyfriend? - By Dusit Bee

Where will you Travel with your Boyfriend? – By Dusit Bee

Read more about some of the travel destinations that we have featured on AsiaGuys.NET such as Chengdu, Nepal, Petra, Taipei, Tokyo and Xian or visit Travel Gay Asia.

What’s your favourite Travel Destination in Asia? Please post your comments below

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

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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