Monday, July 02, 2007

Who Said Taiwan is Backwards?

Besides Japan, I will be visiting the motherland, Taiwan. My extended family, ala my mother's side lives there and I've made the journey about 8 times now. Yet, I have never been to a gay bar there, which is definitely going to change this time around. My extended family does not know I am gay, except for a cousin who came out to me when my family last visited me about two years ago in the states. This tidbit is from A site that caters to gays and lesbians in Asia and those who plan on traveling there. It lists shopping, food, parks, clubs, sex houses, EVERYTHING! Plus it has handy comments from people that have actually traveled to these places and spots. The site has been extremely helpful in allowing me to make decisions of what bars, cafes and other places (teehee) to visit. Here is some of what they have to say about Taiwan.

Taiwan is one of Asia's most progressive countries as far as LGBT rights are concerned, and certainly the most liberal of the Chinese diaspora. Not only does the government of Taipei print up its own free guide to the gay community, but school children are taught about homosexuality and tolerance for sexual minorities. Taiwan's first Gay Pride Festival was held on Sunday, June 29, 1997 at 2-28 Memorial Park (New Park) in Taipei (a favorite cruise spot at night). Over 30 gay organizations chose to celebrate in the sunlight at this location of Pai Hsien-Yung's famous gay novel, Crystal Boys.

Taiwanese, especially in Taipei, are adept at cruising on the Internet and many prefer making a quick and easy online rendezvous anonymously rather than the expense and time required to hang around a bar or sauna. Even so, the quality and selection of gay venues has increased noticeably along with the new openness of gays and lesbians in society. Young Taiwanese are opening trendy and stylish shops and meeting places. Wednesdays are considered "little weekends" and clubs may be a bit busier on that night than other weekdays. There are lots of options these days for gay clubs, but many Taiwanese, especially the older generation, continue to socialize in small karaoke bars. When you order your first drink at a Taiwanese-style bar you are usually served two at the same time, plus a plate of snacks. Beer is often served warm with ice. Don't be surprised if the waiter or captain pours himself a glass and sits down with you. Drinking alone would be inhospitable. If you don't speak Chinese, everybody in the place will understand you are a foreigner and the staff will consider who should best communicate with you and who to introduce you to. They may even call up one of their friends who speaks English to come to the club and translate. This may take some time, so be patient. Also, if someone likes you they may ask a friend to talk to you first and then introduce you to their group. It may take hours to actually find out who wanted to meet you in the first place. Usually, verbal contacts are preceded by raised glass toasts from across the pub.

Because English is not commonly spoken or used on signs outside Taipei, visitors may have difficulty locating the clubs and spas scattered around the smaller cities. Use business cards to get around. Usually, one gay establishment will carry cards of others, or the staff may draw you a map of local spots. Ask your hotel concierge to call the numbers below and then write directions in Chinese for a taxi driver.

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