Monday, 25 November 2013

Gay London gets a boost by Tube: 24 hour weekends

London Underground has announced that in 2015 parts of the tube network will run 24-hours at the weekends. This will give nightlife in the capital a huge boost making it much easier for gay clubbers to enjoy much more of what the City has to offer.

The 24-hour running will cover the Picadilly, Victoria, Jubilee, Central and Northern Lines, which will no doubt make life so much easier for Londoners and tourists. It will also make selecting hotels much easier as travelers can now look beyond the centre city and towards upandcoming areas including Greenwich, Shoreditch, Brixton and Shepherds Bush.

The underground celebrates 150 years and while behind some of the other leading global cities London has taken a while to prepare for 24 hours. And while we all complain about the services, during peak hours it is one of the best underground networks in the world and pretty good for its size and age. This now moves the city in the right direction, if only it could handle 24 hours 7 days a week and cover an ever greater expanse of the city...

The Underground really has been built typically on the lifestyle culture of Britain's. Pub shuts at 11.30am - get the last tube home. It ignores middle-length nights out (you know, until 1/2am, and complete ignores the later hours of 3/4am.) the number of times I've waited an hour for a Night bus and then it's taken me another hour to get home.

This news is really exciting, and will make weekends much much more fun in the city. The tube has been less fun since they banned drinking (alcohol) on the network...so maybe this will add a bit more drunken British Spark! 


Monday, 11 November 2013

WIN YOUR GAY-WEDDING AT THE ICEHOTEL

WIN YOUR GAY-WEDDING AT THE ICEHOTEL

VisitSweden UK launches LGBT specific pages on Facebook and Twitter


To celebrate the UK’s Marriage (Same-sex) Act finally coming into law in 2014, ICEHOTEL in partnership with Discover-the-World and VisitSweden UK are offering same-sex couples a once in a lifetime, truly intimate, personalised wedding at the ICEHOTEL in Sweden.

This fantastic giveaway coincides with the launch of VisitSweden’s LGBT tourism presence on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. The pages aim to provide fans and followers with up to date information on what’s hot for LGBT tourists to Stockholm, Gothenburg, West Sweden, Malmo, Skane and Swedish Lapland.

The prize, sponsored by Swedish Lapland specialists Discover-the-World and ICEHOTEL includes charter-flights for 2, 3 complimentary nights at ICEHOTEL (including one night’s stay in a unique ice room), a personalised wedding consultation with ICEHOTEL’s wedding concierge and some amazing added extras to make your celebration truly special. Discover-the-World will arrange your flight on their special charter and can also help book in any guests that you want to share your special day with at preferential rates.

Couples from all over the world come to Jukkasjärvi to pledge their love for each other. Already married or civil-partnered couples come to ICEHOTEL to have their union blessed in the celestially beautiful ‘ice church’ rebuilt each year (as is the hotel itself) by a different artist in the icy landscape. The serenity, purity and on-off design beauty of this setting make wedding vows and memories all the more lasting.

The wedding night can also be something truly special. Couples can spend the night surrounded by artwork made of ice and snow, by artists from all over the world who are not professional ice sculptors, but architects, graphic designers and film-directors. In the morning you will be awakened with a cup of hot lingonberry juice.

At the ICEHOTEL it never gets colder than –5 to -8ºC, regardless of the fact that the outdoor temperature sometimes drops down to -30º. You sleep in a thermal sleeping bag on a bed built by ice blocks, a wooden frame, mattress and it is topped with reindeer skins. It is rebuilt each winter from scratch, reincarnated into a new design by a different creator.

To enter, link to www.visitswedenlgbt.com

Friday, 8 November 2013

Gay Guide Lisbon – discovering the gay scene

Arrive in Lisbon during daylight and the city is discrete, there’s very little to suggest it is gay welcoming, but there’s nothing to say that there will be a problem for gay travellers. In fact I felt incredibly welcome wherever I went and look closely – people watch – and you will begin to see quite a large gay population.

Lisbon actually has an incredibly vibrant gay scene and there’s plenty of places to visit, just don’t attempt – like I did – to try to do it during the day. There’s nothing to see and you will find it hard pushed to find the gay venues listed. I walked both the Rato and Bairro Alto, gay map in hand, and struggled to find the bars and nightclubs for the following nights’ escapades. Yet, by night, the shutters were flung open, the lights on full glare and the music popping onto the streets.



By night, the city comes alive. Bairro Alto is full of party atmosphere and it is now hard to distinguish revellers from the gay and straight bars. You shouldn’t think of going out before 9pm, but 10.30pm is a better start to your evening. Grab some food around 8.30pm and you can casually enter the nights’ events.

All the gay bars were recognisable in the Rato area. And simply follow the lads from joint to joint. My itinerary for the weekend nights is below. The great thing about Lisbon is the cost – it is so cheap for beer and cocktails. The atmosphere is electric, and welcoming. The people are friendly and chatty with nearly all of them speaking English. It is also an international city, so you are likely to meet Europeans from England, France, Spain, Italy, as well a Americans visiting on cruise ship.

Book flights and accommodation at least four weeks in advance and it can work out to be a cheap break:

Flights, EasyJet (my favourite airline): London – Lisbon; £110 return
AirParks car park: £26.99
Uneasy Hostel (2 nights): £60
Travelcard: €15, enough for 4 days
Meals: €12 – 20 for a good two-course dinner, 1 x beer, 2 x wine, 1 x coffee

Make the most of your time there, especially if you want to party by hiring an apartment:


Thursday
Chapito, 30 Anos: multi-use bar, club, social meeting spot.
A circus shop will make this place stand out. Go through the shop, down the stairs to the large courtyard – if you’re not in the middle of a circus training session hang around for some beers. Otherwise, head to the loft house restaurant. Now this has to be seen. We hung here all afternoon supping on Green Wine, a Portuguese delicacy J

From the restaurant you can over look the city and watch the sun set. It’s a spectacular scene and the colours of the fading evening Lisbon sun fill the sky with purples, oranges, greens, reds, and pinks, framed by a city with 200-year architecture (following the great Earth Quake in the 18th Century).

Friday
Bairro Alto
-       This is the place to start. It’s where the city comes together by night and especially at the weekend.
-       Wonder the streets, beer in hand and soak up the atmosphere, the music and the people watching

Les Marais
Rua de Santa Catarina 28, 1200 Lisboa
Open: M-Th 5.30pm-2am F/S 4am, Sun 1 – 11pm

We started in this sudo-French bar, the gay venue was recently purchased by new owners and had decided to maintain the name. Which with the gay market is the best idea, since we all follow maps that could be years out of date. I found this through Spartacus, after chatting to the owners who promote the bar on Scruff (great technique).

Shirtless Tuesdays – gives patrons the chance to receive free shots for taking off their shirt….not a bad deal!

The barmen were real lovely, and created a fun atmosphere. There really was no dull moment, even though when we arrived there were only about 8 people in the bar. An hour later, around 11.30pm, the bar had about 20 people. This is no bad thing, it’s well decorated, the drinks are good too. It’s brilliant if you’re in a couple and want to take it a bit easy, or in a group and all want a seat. I can imagine that on some days this places has a fantastic party.

From here we walked up to Bairro Alto past

Baliza
Rua de Bica de Duarte Belo 51-A, 1200-054 Lisboa
Open: M-F 1pm-2am, Sat 4pm-2am Sun Closed

We walked up through the streets to stop in

Portas Largas
Rua de Atalaia 105, 1200-038 Lisboa
Open S-Th 7pm-2am F/S 7pm-3am

This is a mixed crowd, I didn’t know what was straight and what was gay – the live music was infectious, the bar was packed – solid! People were all across the street at this crossroads. It was a great place to soak in Bairro Alto. Only recommendation, leave before 1am – it get a bit messy by 2am!

From here, sharp 10 – 15 minute walk to Rato. Aim was Bar 106 but by the time we got here it was closed, so I went onwards to clubbing

NOTE: Unfortunately on the night I was in Rato I was attacked by a group of lads who were trying to mug me. Fortunately, two guys who run the gay bar on the corner of the street, disturbed them and saved me from harm or loss. (I’ve been told that this activity is NOT common, but just don’t walk alone if possible) Please visit their bar:

Ursus Bar
Praça das Flores, 41-43 - Lisboa, 1200-192 Lisboa

A new bar, only recently opened. It’s got a lot of style to it. While it may seem small it packs a punch in the ‘cool’ stakes. The hosts are really friendly too.

Trumps
Rua da Imprensa Nacional 104-B, 1250-127 Lisboa
Open: F/S 11.45pm – 6an
10€ including 2 drinks

The big gay club in Lisbon. One room uber-pop music, the other more Dance-Pop. The audience is young, think 20’s. The bar staff are sexy. The music in the dance-pop room was excellent, especially with a live violinist onstage adding his flavour to the tracks. The people were really friendly and welcoming too.

Saturday

I stopped by Bar Cru (Rua de Sao Marcal 170), but it didn’t appeal to me. Entry charge at 12 midnight was not what I wanted and it felt too early for any of that. So next stop further down the road

Bar 106
Rua de Sao Marcal 106, 1200-44 Lisboa
9pm – 2am

This place is pretty smart. People are smoking outside and inside. Shots are being knocked back and there’s a lot of introductions. Something tells me this is the meeting place – prior to the clubs. It’s a good starting point.

WoofLX
Rua de Palmeira 44B, 1200 Lisboa
10pm – 4am

Now this seemed more sort of thing, I had stopped by on the way to Trump the night before, but at 3am it was pretty dead. So arriving at 1pm was a good chance to check out the lads. The barman (later to be the sexy dancer in Construction) handed out free entry tickets to the club.

It’s a bear bar, and it has many bears! And cubs! And otters! And admirers! Of course!

Tr3s/ Tres/ 3
Rua Ruben Antonio Leitao 2A, 1200 Lisboa
4pm – 2am

Sports themed bar and most people were outside, but it was well themed and would make an enjoyable indoor experience too. Everyone was hanging around waiting for the clubs to get busy, this was the atmosphere, it was apprehensive, sat in expectation, impatient, yet chatty and friendly.



Construction
Rua Cecilio de Sousa 84, 1200 Lisboa
11.30pm – 6am

This is the end of the night, it’s one large two-leveled dance club with a darkroom on the third floor. The more mature crew hangout here, so generally 30yr+ and there were quite a few women. It was a fun cruisey atmosphere with excellent music!


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Gay Guy Goes Gay China - discovering Gay Beijing



Gay China

Gay China is much more apparent than I expected, but with an internal population of over 1 billion people it really is obvious to understand why there is a hive of homosexual activity.

I had the chance to visit three gay venues while in Beijing, I also discovered how people keep in contact. It is worth downloading and accessing a couple of social applications for China; grindr, jack’d, and WeChat. The most popular gay chat device is definitely Jack’d. These weren’t limited to access through a VPN either.

What’s important to note, is that most of the Chinese live outside the central centre to Beijing, but there are a couple of gay venues worth visiting:


Destination
7 Gongti Xi Lu
Subway - Dong SiShiTaio
Next to walkers Stadium, past Asia Hotel

Great on Friday and Saturday. It has 1 dance floor - where everyone faces the DJ booth and Pole Dance Station, very weird, and has a further 7 bars and several chill out rooms that are well air conditioned.

Check out Bear Bar - with Teddy Bears – intended for their own Chinese variety of gay men bears.

The entry is 80 RMB entry including one drink. Drinks 30 RMB for cocktail / 35 RMB for a beer (at time of print)
There were very few westerners, about 10, when I was there but the place gets packed. Destination used to be the number one club but with the opening of Funky it's not as popular but still the best by all accounts.
Mix with the locals and dance, watch the locals drink and play dice games. It is a little hard to start conversations with them but once engaged they really are quite sociable.
Destination is an excellent mixed and diverse crowd that shows the new China and not that we see in the West in gay bars.
Open until 5am
Take a taxi back to the hotel and ensure it goes by a meter. Do not take a private taxi as it will work out more expensive.
Just two roads away from the main Bar street, next to the Workers Stadium

Kai Club
3rd Floor,Tongli Studio, Sanlitun (on the east side of the alley connecting Sanlitun Village and Opposite House), it’s just by Mohito Man (ask a backpacker and they will know this)  Take the stairway up to the entrance on the 3rd floor. This is really a very simple bar with dance floor and DJ every night of the week. It tends to attract a slightly younger audience.

Watch the boys order huge quantities of drinks and spend hours knocking them plus shots back.

- Popular on week nights though packed at weekends and overspills to straight bars
- Vodka red bull 10rmb though don't expect high quality drinks
- Gets reasonably busy post 11.30pm
- Good pop and dance music
- Smokey bar
- Largely a young crowd of 20 - 30 year olds
Funky
Apparently opposite Destination.  Although could not find it, above Coco
6 floor, 8 Gongti Xi Lu
This I was told is one of the best to visit on a Saturday.

Mesh
The Opposite House, 1 Sanlitun Bei Rd, Sanlitun.
This is an upmarket bar in a upmarket hotel that is popular with a gay crowd on a Thursday. It is largely middle-class and tourists/ expats. The drinks are 3 – 4 times more expensive than those on a regular street bar.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Fashion is destroying the human race

 
North Korea is stuck in a time warp. Walking through Pyongyang it's as though we're on a 1950s film set. Post-war fashion sprawls the streets as women are well and proudly dressed in single colour blouses, well tailored skirts and exorbitant heels; the men stroll in loose dull trousers, white vest and light single coloured shirts. The city is tidy, the people are tidy.

Take a step back to Beijing and its indisputable that while fashion allows self-expression, self-identity and an opportunity for us to create our Own self it is also destroying the human race by how uncoordinated each individual is to one another. In my eyes, People in the Western world look a mess! There's nothing much more that can be said - how have we got to a point where we allow people to wear pyjamas in the street or that we find it acceptable to wear uncoordinated colours, fail to wash and iron our clothes properly?
There's a lot to be said for controlling access to materials and therefore managing fashion! 

However what was interesting about North Korea / DPRK are the children who are wearing branded clothing of Adidas, Nike and shirts emblazoned with Manchester United and English football stripes. How this has entered the country is near impossible to understand.

A pink Christmas for LGBT visitors to Stockholm

Stockholm has an excellent reputation among international LGBT travelers, and has been ranked in the past few years as one of the world’s gay-friendliest destinations. In conjunction with "Pink Christmas Week| in Stockholm, Stockholm Visitors Board and VisitSweden will be focusing on a social media competition to appeal to potential LGBT visitors/travellers.

“Pink Christmas is an annual highlight in Stockholm, with a number of C

The Pink Christmas campaign can be found at www.facebook.com/gaylesbianstockholm and is based on a contest in which the prize is a trip to Stockholm. With themes such as Charge, Refresh and Recharge, the city hopes to feature how Stockholm’s offering can fulfill dreams of travel. The contest will take place over the three-week period from October 29–November 19, 2013.

Pink Christmas Week will be from December 9–15 in Stockholm, and is organized by Stockholm Gay Life. Over the course of the week, there will be Christmas markets, concerts and pink offerings at gay bars and clubs, as well as lectures and the Rainbow Fund’s prize presentation. One of the highlights will be the crowning of Lucia, followed by a "Pink Lucia" procession through parts of the city, culminating in a big party (of course!)
hristmas events. We hope to use the campaign ‘A Pink Christmas’ to highlight the fact that Stockholm has tons to offer gay and lesbian travellers during the Christmas season, too,” says Christina Guggenberger, project manager of the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network in Stockholm Visitors Board.

The Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network is a partner-based project within Stockholm Visitors Board, which works to market and develop Stockholm as an interesting and attractive destination for the LGBT segment. Stockholm Visitors Board (SVB) is the official visitors bureau of Stockholm. SVB works on a long-term basis with the marketing and development of Stockholm and the Stockholm Region as a travel destination. SVB is a Subsidiary of Stockholm Business Region and is owned by the City of Stockholm.
gaylesbian.visitstockholm.com
facebook.com/gaylesbianstockholm

Monday, 4 November 2013

Gay Guy Goes North Korea - what's gay about DPRK?


Gay Korea

North Korea is not an open country and it is impossible to fully interact with the locals, however what is interesting is that there are many gay tourists who visit the country. When I was there in my group alone there were 3 (at least :-) among 20. Tour groups often meet one another at different tourist sites and there is only 2 hotels therefore its easy to interact with other travellers. Certainly in the few days I was there I met at least 7 other gay travellers. 

So if you're looking for that unique experience in a country that seems off limits to gay, especially internally, you will be glad to know that there are ways to meet gay people easily and safely.

North Korea’s position on homosexuality is unknown, Wikipedia states:

Due to tradition in Korean culture, it is not customary for individuals of any sexual orientation to engage in public displays of affection. As a country that has embraced science and rationalism, the DPRK recognizes that many individuals are born with homosexuality as a genetic trait and treats them with due respect. Homosexuals in the DPRK have never been subject to repression, as in many capitalist regimes around the world. However, North Koreans also place a lot of emphasis on social harmony and morals. Therefore, the DPRK rejects many characteristics of the popular gay culture in the West, which many perceive to embrace consumerism, classism and promiscuity.[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_North_Korea

GlobalGayz officials said, 'The concept of same-sex attraction hardly exists in the minds of people. Even with people who feel this attraction, there is ignorance about what it means or how it can be expressed in behavior.'  http://www.sgn.org/sgnnews39_51/page1.cfm

It's not recommended you get too close to the Korean/DPRK locals however if they choose to get close to you, that will be their choice that you will need to wait for. They are urged not to interact on that level. Certainly on two occasions homosexuality in North Korea was apparent, once when I was dancing in the park and met one guy who was incredibly enthusiastic - as my gaydar set ringing. The second was watching a close intimate bond between an American tourist and a Korean guide...

Friday, 1 November 2013

Korea - a world into its own


The four days went swiftly but has left a lasting impression of beauty and fear, while still flying towards Beijing I am still apprehensive of my impending freedom (?! I am still heading to China I have to remind myself). Korean tour guides have escorted us since arriving by train in Pyongyang, our only rest late night at the hotel on an island separate from the people of Korea - but even then I was unable to prevent myself concocting conspiracy theories of what mat happen next, and how the country runs.
Korea is a land I still know little of, unless we can spend more significant amounts of time in the country we will only ever be “aliens” descending on a land that has pretty much remained stuck in the time-warp. This however is not a country where oppression is very visibly evident, regardless of what the western media portrays. My people watching didn’t seem to reflect what I had seen on TV or in the news. They were sociable and engaged, if somewhat protective of their country and state. People do smile, they believe in their leaders and they have opportunities that many poor people in the west don’t have, for example children having access to free education and extra-curricular activities. Though I do feel that a lot of this is a distraction for the people from political thought – though there were many times in which I felt incredibly relaxed in the Korean’s company. I still find it hard to fathom the true culture and belief system in DPRK.

Their belief system is somewhat inaccessible as their leaders pretty much proclaim themselves as a god/king-like figure, and lying in state highlights how its been indoctrinated into the culture. A line of kings has ruled the country since 1953, promoting a story of rising from rags to riches, that has kept the belief of their plight alive. Time has shown the weakness of the country and its apparent keenness to demonstrate its strength and position in the world by developing nuclear arms. Our guide proudly confirmed that as recently as 2011 nuclear weapons were successfully tested. It is also widely believed the country has a real satellite; the truth here is still unknown. Yet it's international network has declined significantly, once flying as far as Morocco and Russia the national air carrier - Air Koryo - now only hops to China, Indonesia and Malaysia . Likely the result off the back of the Cold War since less communist countries exist.
Admittedly my own values ethics and beliefs were somewhat tested while in Korea. The simplicity of life provides its own value, even just for a few days. Large empty streets, long expansive highways, no advertising or commercial marketing - only state propaganda, no computers yet mobile phone usage is on the rise, no Internet, a simplified metro system, no pollution and a community that appeared to exist for one another. This seemed somewhat special, an escape from our hectic western world yet what accompanies this way of life is sad and depressing, even if on the surface smiles are apparent. 
A social class system naturally created through communism and different roles in society enforces individuals and families to live long suffering lifes in their economic position sanctioned by rations and access to payment. Is it though really that different to the world of the west? How far does our propaganda position us in society? How our supposed democracy frees us and gives us choices? How our shackles are financial and education?