Historically known by outsiders prior to 1949 as Siam and officially the Kingdom of Thailand with continuous human habitation from 20,000 years ago, it’s a reasonably short direct flight from Shanghai. “Thai” means ‘free man’. This buddhist, monarch-loving culture is steeped in cultural tradition and friendly smiles. After multiple get-a-ways a year over the past decades, Thailand has now evolved to be a place just to relax in the sun on the beach.
Bangkok | Kanchanaburi | Pattaya | Koh Samui | Krabi
Bangkok: And The World’s Your Oyster
The days are now gone as the epicenter of Thailand’s gay life, Bangkok’s night life is today a mere shadow of what it was. Bangkok has become just another city that has a myriad of traditional gay bars amidst an overly touristy focus on selling Thai knickknacks and Chinese knock offs. In this shift of cleaning up its nightlife, Bangkok has become more of a transit city to other locations in Thailand and still maintain a little bit of the old style of fun.
After the obligatory tours of the golden Royal Palace and the long boats in the rivers, I kept Jones happy and busy with ringside seats at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium or with Muay Thai Boxing. I kept DJ busy with a lot of shopping including what must be the worlds largest outdoor shopping market, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar very near my favorite and regular hotel that I stay — the Tarntawan Place Hotel, right in the center of the primary gay areas and close walking distance to my favorite restaurant/coffee shop of Dicks Café smack dab in the centre of what used to be Soi Twilight.
There were also many fabulous surprise birthday events for DJ, but one of my favorite moments was in 2006 when DJ and I were drinking after a birthday dinner in Soi Twilight (packed with gay go-go bars and drinking establishments), at around 4:00am, we are sitting outside enjoying our umpteenth beer, when we looked up and see a baby elephant hovering over our table. Presumably wanting our peanuts. DJ’s facial expression says it all.
These days, in layover, Bangkok is better for shopping for foreign supplies such as headache medicine, deodorant, and other basics which we simply cannot buy in China. One Night in Bangkok is better.
Ayutthaya, Damnoen & Kanchanaburi: Trippy day-tripping towards the Myanmar border
Day tripping away from Bangkok with a private car and driver was a good option for a brief escape from the craziness.
Ayutthaya is Thailand‘s archaeological centre of monumental dimensions. Dating back to 1350, the city experienced a turbulent history, now a Unesco World Heritage site. Wat Lokaya Sutha (Temple of the Reclining Buddha, also called Wat Pra Norn) is another important temple in Ayuttaya, the biggest reclining Buddha is a big white Buddha (42 meters long). Even though it is very old, it is still in a perfect condition with glowing face beaming with happiness and the head is supported by a lotus base platform. Wat Phra Mahthat is famed for a large stone Buddha head trapped in the exposed roots of a colossal banyan tree.
One that we tend to go is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market which just has its name implies, is hundreds of shop stalls setup in very small floating canoe like boats that just go up and down the river selling their wares.
Further afield, and appealing to my military family war history, is Kanchanaburi with its war cemetery and bridge over the Kwai river which is made famous by the Oscar winning film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.
Basically, the bridge was built during World War II when the Japanese occupied Siam (now Thailand) and neighboring Burma (now Myanmar), using over 65,000 P.O.W.s and hundreds of thousands of civilian laborer’s from Malaysia, Siam and Burma. These workers battled torture, starvation, and disease to hack the 255-mile railway out of harsh jungle for the Japanese yet resulted in a very well-built steel/concrete railway bridge linking Burma to Thailand for the Japanese supply lines. During its construction, approximately 13,000 P.O.W.s and 100,000 civilians laborers died and were buried along the railway.
Unlike the dramatized film, the real bridge on the River Kwai was never destroyed, not even damaged, and was in active use for a couple of years, before being bombed by Allied forces. The bridge was repaired and is still in use today.
Pattaya: Trippy boyz, booze and booby’s
A short drive south of Bangkok, Pattaya has been, and continues to be, a Russian sex holiday location filled with seedy straight bars servicing overweight, middle-aged, white Russians along with their hourly companions of local young Thai girls displaying their booby’s. Outside these bars, and on the beaches, hawkers sell anything and everything tacky that is manufactured in China.
The gay scene that used to be wild as “Boyz Town” within its own district, is getting smaller by the day where these days, it’s mainly a smattering of gay bars in a shadow of its former self.
As a gay family, over a decade ago, we had fun experiences staying at the Ambiance Hotel in the centre of Boyz Town. The active gay life surrounded the hotel in a variety of bars and restaurants, where most would be sitting outside people watching.
In 2019, I spent 10 days or so at the very gay, and gay owned, Baan Souy Resort on the outskirts of Pattaya. Stunning swimming pool and surrounding landscaping, but that was about it.
Koh Samui: Pooey Samui
The beaches of Koh Samui are shrouded in sharp rocks nestled in the sand. Jones and I learnt this the hard way, where within the first hour on arrival at our adjacent beach front villas in June of 2016, we each had ripped open our feet on the sharp rocks and needed first aid.
It is so bad, and so common, the resort gift shop of our “Secret Garden” gay resort sells first aid kits designed for this purpose including antibiotic, vitamin E, skin sealant, bandages, and antiseptic wipes.
For the rest of our stay, after spending day having our feet wounds healed, we spent much of our holiday in the swimming pool and restaurant.
I regret not renting a private villa up in the mountains with a swimming pool and a view in Koh Samui, since I had thought having a couple of beach front villas would be better to enjoy ocean swimming. Lesson learned.
The villas were great in their design, directly on the “Big Buddha” beach, with an ensuite indoor/outdoor bathroom, very comfy king-sized bed, peaked ceiling with AC and celling fans, and 30 feet from the bar, restaurant, and pool.
My bedroom’s private beach terrace had the most fabulous, and typically gorgeous ocean view.
For Christmas in 2013, we popped down to stay in Krabi. I had booked a couple off adjoining suites at the Holiday Inn Resort on Krabi’s Ao Nang Beach. These each had direct pool access from the bedrooms.
The hotel was a very short tuk-tuk ride into Ao Nang village, and a variety of local restaurants were within walking distance.
During this trip, the younger half our gay family decided they wanted to learn and get certified for scuba diving. I engaged Stingray Divers to handle this, who invariably challenged my group to push the boundaries at their own pace, and within their own comfort zones. Jones and Lee left Krabi both SSI certified, and very proud.
DJ and I joined Jones and Lee on the boat for the day, and it was a treat to see Krabi from the ocean and pass the famous hidden island beach where The Beach was filmed.