Gay guide to Phuket by night

By Kirsty Turner

Phuket is very friendly to the gay crowd

Phuket is an ideal destination for gay travellers from all walks of life. The open-minded and care-free nature of Thai people means that gay couples can feel free to express themselves here and relax. There is plenty of nightlife to be found in Phuket, ranging from intimate eateries to vibrant discos where you can dance the night away, and also cabaret bars.

Large numbers of gay tourists visit Phuket from all over the world each year. One of the things that makes this such a great destination is that not only does it have a total of 17 beautiful sandy beaches, great weather and food, there is also an excellent range of nightlife. One of the most famous venues on Phuket is the spectacular Simon Cabaret. Featuring dozens of stunning transsexuals in elaborate costumes dancing and miming to well-known stage songs, this is a lively experience which anyone can enjoy.

The first gay bars and clubs opened about 20 years ago, centring around the Paradise Complex, which is located at Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road near Patong beach. Although open to all, this area features dozens of gay-friendly hotels, clubs, restaurants, go-go bars and discos. For those who want to shake a tail feather until the small hours of the morning, there are plenty of places here to see and be seen.

Those in search of vibrant nightlife will have loads of venues to choose from at the Paradise Complex. Boat Bar, Bingo, Heaven and J&B Bar are among the most popular bars and clubs. However, new spots are opening all the time in this area and perhaps the best way to choose a bar or club is to simply turn up and see what takes your fancy or spend some time hopping between bars.

One of the best things about Phuket at night is that simply anything and everything goes. Stunningly beautiful transvestites (known as katoey) and ladyboys (transsexuals) mingle with backpacking couples, Thai families, businessmen and ‘toms’ (masculine lesbians). The scene in Phuket is generally fun and friendly, although some bars have a seedier side, especially as the evening edges towards dawn.

Although few places cater especially for women, there are a large number of gay venues where all are welcome. A great way to start the evening is with a massage at a gay-friendly massage shop before dining in style at one of the many restaurants, where Thai stalls nestle alongside well known Western food chains such as Cayote, McDonalds and Subway.

Even straights enjoy ladyboy cabarets

Situated in the heart of the Paradise Complex is the fashionable Newspaper Restaurant, which is a great place to enjoy a romantic meal. The restaurant specialises in both Thai and Western food, and there are a few unusual treats on the menu too. Nearby is the cosy Boutique Inn, which offers international standard accommodation and a selection of food.

Those who want to take in a show after dinner can head to My Way Cabaret, where visitors are sure to leave with a song in their heart. Next to My Way Cabaret are two interesting bars; James Dean Bar and Time Bar, which is particularly popular with Westerners as it provides an informal atmosphere and traditional Thai hospitality. This is a good place to start the evening as well as a meeting point.

After fully exploring the numerous entertainment options in Phuket, many visitors end up in Boat Bar, drawn in by the fun and lively atmosphere. More than just a place to drink, there are European style cabaret shows here after midnight and plenty of interesting things to see and do. This is a great spot for dancing, and the music is loud and lively here, lasting late into the night.

Many of Phuket’s gay-friendly clubs, bars and restaurants have Western owners, and each venue is carefully styled to attract visitors from particular countries. The Scandinavian-run Connect Bar is stylish and sophisticated, while the Flying Handbag has European owners and is very popular.

A great time to visit Phuket is during the annual Phuket Gay Pride Festival, which takes place each summer. The festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this July, and over the last decade it has expanded from a small celebration sponsored by a few local businesses to a massive extravaganza. Gay people from all over Thailand and the rest of the world flock to Phuket to express themselves and take part in this large parade through the streets and participate in games on the beach and competitions. The Phuket Gay Pride Festival usually starts in the late afternoon and goes on until dawn the next day.

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