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Gay Hanoi


Hanoi, Vietnam.
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Hanoi, Vietnam has fast become a major gay and lesbian tourist destination in Southeast Asia. The city sprawls along the Red River (Song Hong), and spanned by three bridges. It is a city of lakes, shaded boulevards, ocher colored building, verdant public parks and stunning French-colonial architecture. It is a city of historic temples, monuments and pockets of ancient culture. The narrow streets of the Old Quarter, once home to shopkeepers and traders, now buzzes with the chatter of Hanoian yuppies sipping cappucinos in roadside cafés. Hoan Kiem Lake sits in the centre of the old city, its jade colored water reflects the French colonial facades and Chinese ornamentation that surround it. The Opera House and classic Metropole Hotel are at one end and the old quarter and markets are at the other. Vietnam is a place to have fun, but also a place to use your common sense since the gay world here is still largely in the shadows and, as a result, some prey on the vulnerability of gay and lesbian travelers.

Hanoi has virtually no gay specific hotels, guesthouses or bed and breakfast accommodations. It does have a few gay-friendly hotels, smaller inns and guesthouses. Prices and amenities range from budget to luxurious so there are good options for gay and lesbian travelers to meet individual budgets and tastes. Most accommodations are located in the Old Quarter of the city, rich with over 1,000 years of history and this makes sightseeing quite easy.

There is no bad time to visit Hanoi. The city offers countless year-round attractions for the gay and lesbian traveler to enjoy but the main tourist season runs from late June through August and October through Tet, the New Year's celebration that takes place in late January or early February. Although hotels and transportation are quickly booked around Tet, a New Year's celebration involving fragrant-flower blossoms, delicate kumquat trees, delectable cakes of pork, bean curd and sticky rice called banh chung and fireworks that aren’t for the faint hearted, it's worth making the effort to see Hanoi when it is at its most festive.

Sophisticated restaurants serving Vietnamese and international cuisine, beautiful bars and chic cafes are popping up all around Hanoi. But no gay and lesbian traveler should leave Hanoi without tasting some traditional Vietnamese delicious street food such as a steaming bowl of pho or other freshly cooked dishes.

Hanoi is a great place to shop. Silk items top the list, and there’s no end to the number of shops and designer boutiques selling quality clothing and accessories. In the local handicraft shops, lacquer-ware, ceramics and mother-of-pearl inlaid items fill the shelves and many art galleries offer unique quality presents or souvenirs. When shopping, you might want to bring a calculator with you: Vietnam's instant millionaire Monopoly money is fun to play with but exhausting to manage.

A few tips for gay and lesbian travelers about Hanoi - the locals are early risers, think 5.00am! Head to Hoan Kiem Lake as early as possible, the traffic in the Old Quarter is quiet, a ghostly blue-grey mist hovers above the lake and elderly Hanoians practice their distinctive floppy t'ai chi in slow rotation around its perimeter. Try the local beer called bia hoi and rice wine. Have breakfast in a tree lined street café of pho and a fresh crusty baguette. Take a xe om (motorbike taxi) and head out to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum before the crowds arrive. Do some afternoon shopping in Pho Nha Tho, and visit St Joseph's Cathedral. Most of Hanoi's streets are prefixed with pho , while larger roads and boulevards are called duong . Rent a motorbike but be prepared for drive around water buffalo, chickens, pot-holes, crazy truck drivers, and packs of hormone-crazed teenage boys in vehicles of every shape, size and color.

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Hanoi Gay and Lesbian Hotels, Inns, and Guest Houses

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