Gay Rugby Bridges Divide in South Africa

A couple of years ago on a trip to South Africa, I was introduced to a then young new team, the Jozi Cats. A few of the players met up with me to tell me all about the team and their plans for inclusionary rugby in South Africa. At the time, to me, the idea of gay rugby didn’t sound so out of the ordinary. I mean, there were gay sports leagues all over the world, and I didn’t perceive South Africa to be a place that wasn’t tolerant of queers — but apparently I wasn’t totally clued into the homophobia that exists in sports in South Africa. 

Two years after my initial visit, the Jozi Cats are killing it. After just coming back from another trip there, I was thrilled to hear about their growth and especially about how receptive the rugby association and competitive teams were to them. Originally founded in August of 2015, they began their journey with the simple idea of creating a safe and harassment-free environment for everyone to enjoy the game of rugby, along with building a competitive, social and diverse club, which welcomes players with all levels of experience who enjoy the sport. At the time, they were one of the few clubs that catered to adult beginners or previously experienced players looking for some social or competitive touch or contact rugby. Their approach was fairly simple; anyone who shares and commits to their values was welcome to join the Jozi Cats Rugby Club.

In early 2016, the club decided it was time to reach out to the community and really make their mark. They hired a PR firm that staged a bold campaign that turned gay stereotypes inside out by challenging you to ask “what does a gay rugby player look like?” and used the typical gay slurs one would hear on the sports field to tackle homophobia in rugby. The “Rugby, That’s So Gay” campaign launched that May and went viral. Over 350 million people in over 146 countries viewed the Jozi Cats campaign worldwide.

After their campaign, their next mission was to follow that up with action. Africa’s first gay rugby tour commenced in December 2016, with sights firmly set on shifting the conservative narrative of rugby in South Africa. They traveled throughout South Africa, creating awareness that homophobia had no place in sport and even hosted rugby clinics to inspire other LGBTQ communities around the country to start their own safe community space to enjoy rugby.

The world of sports is still a place where homophobia runs rampant. There have been isolated moments that can’t be taken for granted, but which still leave us wanting more. The Jozi Cats may be a small rugby club, all the way in South Africa, but their efforts are felt around the world through their impressive social media campaigns and outreach. Hopefully they will continue to inspire others in the world of sports to be more inclusive, eventually putting an end to the divisiveness that currently exists today.  

Six Resort Balcony Experiences To Lust Over

Who doesn’t love a good balcony, especially when on vacation? Just being able to step outside of your hotel room for some fresh air can make all the difference. But when it’s time to splurge on a vacation and experience something way beyond the usual, some resorts are offering a lot more than you could ever fathom, like private pools, culinary experiences to die for and of course some of the best views imaginable. Drool over this list of some of the best resort balconies in the world.

Surf & Sand Resort | Laguna Beach, Calif.

Located directly on 500 feet of California’s pristine Laguna Beach, Surf & Sand Resort is offering guests a new luxurious balcony experience with their new Sunset, Caviar & Bubbles amenity. Guests can book the amenity to upgrade their coastal getaway by enjoying champagne and caviar served up on their private oceanfront balconies. Included in the experience, the culinary team prepares Ossetra Caviar and Buckwheat Blini with all of the proper accoutrements including crème fraîche, chives, egg white and egg yolk hard boiled and red onion. Additionally, three uniquely exquisite Champagnes are offered as the perfect pairing to enjoy while delighting in the best seats in the house for a Laguna Beach sunset: Bottle of Dosnon & Lepage, Blanc de Noirs, Brut, “Recolté Noir”, Aube – $300, Bottle of Perrier-Jouët, Brut, “Belle Epoque,” Épernay 2007 – $500 and Bottle of Louis Roederer, Brut, “Cristal”, Reims 2009 – $700.

The Resort at Pedregal | Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The majestic Resort at Pedregal lies on Cabo San Lucas’ most coveted parcel of land – an extraordinary 24-acre site at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Each of the property’s luxury guest rooms boasts a private plunge pool on the balcony featuring sparkling ocean and beachfront views. Enhancing the balcony experience, each day of their stay guests enjoy a 4 p.m. delivery of fresh guacamole and salsa, warm chips and cold Coronita.

Andronis Boutique Hotel | Santorini, Greece

The luxurious and authentic Andronis Boutique hotel is carved into the dramatic crescent cliff-face of Santorini, offering breathtaking views of the infinite blue of the Aegean and picturesque white-washed houses of Oia. Located on the central pedestrian strip, Andronis Boutique Hotel is the ideal starting spot to discover the village by foot. The Cave Pool Suite at the boutique hotel boasts a stunning, private balcony with a heated cave plunge pool. Guests can enjoy an afternoon dip in the refreshing pool or order breakfast on their balcony overlooking the iconic caldera.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo | Lake Como, Italy

Ok, so this might not be a personal balcony experience but it’s still worthy of this list! At Grand Hotel Tremezzo, guests can dine at La Terrazza for the most romantic dinner on the balcony under the stars, served on the loveliest terrace on the whole of Lake Como. The lake takes center stage on and off the plate. At sunset the rose-tinted Grigne peaks and the twinkling lights of Bellagio offer an unparalleled spectacle. On cooler days and in the evenings La Terrazza turns into a cozy conservatory enclosed by huge picture windows, so guests will never miss the extra enjoyment of the panorama. And in the morning breakfast is served as the sun rises over Bellagio and a thousand shades of blue dance and dazzle on the water.

The Palms Turks and Caicos | Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

The 72 suite oceanfront resort lies just steps away from the famed Grace Bay Beach and boasts spacious suites featuring full kitchens, living areas and wrap-around terraces overlooking the ocean. The property also boasts an award winning 25,000 sq. ft. Spa, a selection of casual and fine dining restaurants and a serpentine infinity pool with swim-up bar. For an elevated take on room service, The Palms offers “In-Room Chefing”, in which Chef cooks dinner en-suite and serves to guests right on their private terrace.

The Setai, Miami Beach | Miami, FL

Available exclusively upon request, The Penthouse at The Setai, Miami Beach is situated beautifully atop The Setai’s soaring Ocean Suites, embodying the pinnacle of luxury and excellence and spanning the entire 40th floor. This illustrious four bedroom 10,000-square-foot sanctuary boasts a private rooftop pool with panoramic city and beach vistas, a gourmet kitchen, and a dining room for 10 guests. The Private Rooftop Terrace is 3,000 square-foot tropical sanctuary with infinity pool, Jacuzzi, and lounge area with enchanting views and a dedicated Ocean Suites arrival staff, concierge and valet team.

Biking With The Buddha

The first thing you’ll notice after landing in Sukhothai, a near $60, hourlong flight from Bangkok, is that the northern Thailand province’s airport is a zoo.

Yes, after stepping onto the humid tarmac, you’ll see zebras grazing beside white fences. As you board the trolley that takes you to the open air terminal, you’ll find giraffes stretching their long legs in the warm Thai sun. Tortoises not far from baggage claim. Pied tamarins bickering as customers ask for a first class upgrade. Wallabies just a few hops from security.

I wasn’t able to find out why this airport exhibited exotic animals while I was there, but after looking into it, the answer seems to be why not? The private airport (and free zoo for flyers) is owned by Bangkok Airways,  and the small collection of exotic animals on well kept, spacious grounds ornamented by 13th-century ruins, makes the airport one of the most unique I’ve come across in all of my travels.

This is how you’re welcomed to Sukhothai, a gem off the beaten path, just beyond the reach of the typical traveler’s radar. Located 256 miles north of Bangkok and 190 south of Chiang Mai, Sukhothai is a place of respite for the backpacker overwhelmed by busy and bustling capital and the tourist stricken islands of Thailand’s southern arm that flexes into the country’s famous turquoise seas.

The region’s historic capital, also named Sukhothai, dates back to the 13th century and was the first province of independence from the Khmers. The historic city was the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam; Sukhothai aptly and poetically means “the dawn of happiness.” Here, find freedom, sunshine, peace, and the first day of the rest of your life.

Among the gently sloped mountains giving way to peaceful pastoral flatlands, the area is well known for two historic parks: Sukhothai Historic Park and Si Satchanalai Historical Park.

At these expansive parks, the 800-year-old ruins of temples, relics, walls, and Buddhas sun themselves beside tranquil waterways, forests, and electric green lawns. Si Satchanalai is certainly the quieter of the two parks, as it rests 60 miles from the town center of New Sukhothai and, as a result, is visited primarily by locals. However, the layout of Sukhothai Historic Park still allows great solitude. During our day, we didn’t see more than fifty tourists. The two parks are smaller, lesser visited Angkor Wats, but with a more attainable and personalized grandeur.

What makes them primarily unique, besides the solitude from the masses and the freedom of self-guided exploration, is the amount of space both parks claim, making their exploration by bike not only practical but charming.

It is not often we get to double up and experience two activities at once. Here, biking and sightseeing.

Here, hundreds of years of history and the blend of Khmer/Thai architecture, a stunning scenery of palm, ponds decorated by lotus, and miles of bike and walking paths to pedal, glide, and cruise. It is in places like Sukhothai that we remember the finest and simplest things in life: an afternoon at a park with nothing but a bicycle is happiness. Sukhothai is sublime.

The group I traveled with in Sukhothai spent our first afternoon at Si Satchanalai, before recharging and spending our second day at Sukhothai Historical Park.

That morning, a bright one full of songbirds and Thai iced coffees, we rented our bikes from K Shop for about 30 baht a day (nearly $1 USD). We came prepared for the hot day before us, a humid 80-degree bluebird stunner. We wore light, shoulder-covering linens. We slathered sunscreen and sipped coconut water. We chose our bikes from a fleet of beach cruisers, adjusted our seats, and were off to see the 193 preserved ruins of the park.

What made the experience particularly pleasant as we hopped from temple to pagoda to stupa to shrine was the ease of the biking. The ground was so flat and the trails were so smoothly paved that even those who struggled with biking re-fell in love with the activity.

It was a moment to remember and become reacquainted with the joy we first felt when we took our first ride without training wheels. The land at the park is as flat and spacious as the land you learned how to ride a bike on as a young’un: your neighborhood’s car-free cul-de-sac, your elementary school’s empty parking lot, the long, forbidden, smooth as butter driveway of next-door-neighbor.

Throughout the afternoon, we stopped at Wat Mahathat (the temple of the great relic), the park’s biggest and most impressive structure, center-pieced by a calm, seated Buddha. Behind him, equidistant, were two more Buddhas, but these ones were standing. 

As we curved around the park into the heart of Traphang-Trakuan Lake to see another temple, Wat Si Sam, we came across something even more unexpected to me than standing Buddhas: a walking Buddha! Untroubled, this Buddha appeared to be floating across the grass with his left hand held out before him, which a scarlet-backed flowerpecker landed on, and roosted momentarily, before flying across the lake.

The afternoon by bike was one of the warmest of my recent trip to Thailand. Thailand proved its well-deserved nickname, the land of smiles. Towards the end of our afternoon, as I was gliding by another standing Buddha, I felt a cooling Thai breeze. As I passed him, I looked back.

It was as if this Buddha with his hand stretched out was balancing my training wheel-less bike, striding along beside me with his hands on my shoulders, pushing me forward, like a parent releasing their child onto open pavements. I was like a boy full of smiles peering over his shoulder, realizing he is no longer being balanced. I was cruising across the pathway a little bit closer into the present.

The Snugs

While in Sukhothai, be sure to stay at the Sriwilai, a gorgeous queer-friendly property only 10 minutes from the historical park. Besides the hotel’s stunning views of rice fields filled with feeding egrets and rainbows and gentle mountains, the property sits beside one of the 800-year-old pagodas, adding a historic, timeless aesthetic contrasted to the modern, minimalistic design of the 4-star property’s rooms. There is even a gorgeous infinity pool. Rooms from $91.

7 Queer Beaches to Skinnydip Before Fall

Whether you’re into it or not, another northern hemisphere summer is booking its flights, packing up its caftans, swimsuits, and culottes, and soon will be waiting on the autumnal curbside, anxious for its Uber to the airport.

Yes, summer will leave us on a jet plane for the southern hemisphere but there is still time to part with the season sunkissed. So strip down, lather up, and welcome a healthy dosage of September vitamin D as you tan on the soft sands and wade into cool salty waters on one of our favorite international nude beaches.

Some of the beaches are almost entirely queer, some contain queer sections, and others have informal queer contingents mixing with other naturists. Either way, be sure to lather up, bring plenty of water and snacks, and feel the freedom of al fresco swimming.

Log on beach at low tide in Wreck beach.

1. Wreck Beach, Vancouver, Canada

Located on the sand between the terminus of trails #6 and #7 near the University of British Columbia is the queer section of Wreck Beach, the largest and longest nude beach in North America at 4.84 miles. Besides the ample skinny dipping opportunities the beach provides in the chilly Pacific, beachgoers can hike along the shoreline, look for wildlife like whales, kingfishers, bald eagles, or visit the incredible vendors of the main beach for food. Plan for an adventure — Wreck Beach is remote! The beach is a is a 30-minute hike from the trailhead.

Greece. Cyclades Islands. Mykonos Island. Elia beach. (Photo by: Valletta Vittorio/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

2. Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece

What would a skinny dipping list be without one of the most popular nude beaches in Greece? Originally a gay mecca of a beach, Elia now caters to both a queer and straight clientele, but the queerest section is on the West end, the nude portion of the beach. Here, you can rent a daybed for around 15 Euro a day and order drinks and food from beachside servers, or, set up on the sand and BYOB.

Film image of Sitges, Spain

3. Platja dels Balmins, Sitges, Spain

Another Mediterranean classic, the remarkably queer-friendly beachside party town of Sitges, Spain (48 minutes from Barcelona by train) boasts three gay beaches, but only two of them allow nudity. Platja dels Balmins is the largest of the two nudist beaches. Like Elia Beach, Platja dels Balmins is well attended with servers if you’d like to pay for seating and service, has lifeguards on duty, and a nice cafe restaurant to grab dinner at after a long day in the sun. The body surfing can be a blast in the warm Mediterranean waters. Not your scene? Try Sitges’ other gay nude beach, Playa Del Muerto, a pebbly, naughtier alternative.

Florida, Haulover Beach Park, High Rise Residential Condominiums Of The City Of Sunny Isles Beach

4. Haulover Beach, Miami, USA

On the northern end of the nude section on Haulover Beach, winter birds from Canada, Europe, and the Northern US mix with the adventurous Fort Lauderdale and Miami locals on the wide white sands. Unlike some other beaches on this list, Haulover has lifeguards, concession stands and is a short, easy walk from the parking lot — making it easy to bring your own chairs, coolers, and beach gear.  Haulover Naturist Beach is a part of Miami-Dade County’s beautiful and well kept Haulover Park, 20 minutes north of Miami Beach, and 40 minutes south of Fort Lauderdale.

Sandy Bay is situated along the road between Cape Town to Cape Point and adjacent to Llandudno, Cape Town. Sandy Bay lies on one of the last remaining stretches of untouched natural coastline on the Cape coast. It is one of the Cape Peninsula’s most inaccessible beaches and as such is well known as an unofficial nudist beach.

5. Sandy Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Did the northern hemisphere summer escape you? Don’t worry, the last few beaches on our list are all in the southern, giving you ample time to plan your winter escape. Located about 30 minutes from downtown Cape Town, Sandy Bay is one of the few clothing-optional beaches in all of Africa. Like Wreck Beach in Vancouver, Sandy Bay requires a rocky 20-minute hike from the Llandudno Beach parking lot to Sandy Bay. Once you arrive, you’ll notice the gorgeous egg-shell white sands, aqua ocean and famous bluffs of Table Mountain National Park towering overhead.

Grumari beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Phil Clarke Hill/In Pictures via Getty Images)

6. Praia do Abricó, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

While I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the famous gay section of the Ipanema Beach in Rio, where bikinis and speedos rein supreme, you may not have heard of the only beach in the city that allows naturism, Praia do Abricó. Located an hour west in the protected municipal park of Grumari, the beach draws a large number of queer beachgoers. The beach has a section for nudism and was visited by the badass Brazilian feminist and performer, Luz Del Fuego, who became famous in the 1940s for wrapping pythons around her naked body and later founded the first naturist club in Brazil.

Lady Bay Beach, Watson’s Bay, Sydney, Australia.

7. Lady Bay Beach, Sydney, Australia

It is no secret that New South Wales’s capital is blessed with miles and miles of stunning beaches. While there are a few smaller unofficial nude beaches, like Little Congwong Beach in Botany Bay National Park, Lady Bay Beach is a popular official nude beach, as well as the oldest. About 25 minutes from downtown Sydney, the beach draws a large number of queer and straight sunbathers and offers them a stunning view of the Sydney Harbor as they bake in the warm Aussie sun.

Feeling Acadia’s Pink Moment Fantasy

It’s no secret that I’ve always been an enthusiast of the American West. I was born and raised in the region, and am currently in a never-ending love affair with it. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I fled to eastern possibilities, when I abandoned my glorious Rocky Mountains (and parents) for the sloping hills in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.  I flew across the country to attend high school for three years at a boarding school called Deerfield Academy.

When I arrived, I noticed the forests on the East Coast were leafier, the mountains more rounded, docile, and fluent and the confinements of the boarding school’s grueling academics, competitive student body, and brutal toxic masculinities made leaving campus on holiday breaks incredibly freeing.

One of my favorite trips happened on a long fall weekend and took me up to the coast of Maine. But my first weekend in the Pine Tree State was far too short and the weather spat a cold October drizzle the entire time. I knew I would have to come back down the road to explore Maine’s ruggedly handsome coast in better weather, specifically its famous Acadia National Park.

This past June, I was finally afforded the opportunity to return to “Vacationland”, as it is so affectionately nicknamed on its state license plates. Since I began the trek in New York City, I invited my friend Charlie Wilson, an actor in New York, to join me for the journey.

Charlie and I went to Deerfield together, though we didn’t know each other well as students. I do remember us once sharing a sit-down dinner table during my second year at the school. I was one year his senior but he already towered over me, tall, skinny, and daddy-long-legged at some outrageous height like 6’4’’. We made easy small talk in our preppy coat and ties for that month-long rotation but otherwise didn’t overlap. Also worth mentioning, neither of us was out in high school.

It wasn’t until about five years later that our paths crossed again. He was screaming “YAS” and tossing one dollar bills as Shangela (the robbed, All-Stars 3 winner) performed an energetic medley on stage at the mountaintop party at Aspen Gay Ski Week 2017. I approached him just after Shangela had snatched a five dollar bill from his long outreached arm, “Charlie Wilson?!” I yelled tapping him on the shoulder, “What?! You’re gay?!”

We kept in touch after skiing together that weekend but hadn’t seen each other until I arrived this summer in New York City. We took a train to Bedford Hills where Charlie grew up, picked up his SUV, and headed North the following morning.  On our way to Acadia, we climbed Katahdin, lost our wigs, and then two days later, made our way East, to the famous Mt. Desert Island, the host of the 102-year-old Acadia National Park.

It was early summer and as soon as we crossed the bridge that took us from the Maine mainland to the paw-shaped island the national park resides on, we were greeted by hairy beardtongue, dame rockets, and of course, one of the many icons of the park—fields of thick purple lupine. Fat, fuzzy bumblebees went from flower to flower in their own version of a drunken pub crawl, sloppy on nectar. Charming roads wound us to Acadia Cottages, a queer-friendly ma-and-pa accommodation on the sleepier southwest side of the island. The little cabin came complete with a deck and campy, lobster printed curtains.

That night we read guidebooks of the area to best plan the following day and put together our must-dos. On our list was the popular (for all the right reasons) Beehive hike, a swim at Sand Beach, lunch (and ice cream) in Bar Harbor, a glance at the crassly named Thunder Hole, a walk along the carriage paths, and a sunset in Wonderland, a beach on the south side of the westernmost finger of the island where the region’s famous pink rocks supposedly light up and glow even pinker than the imagery of Janelle Monae’s latest single. The whole beach is a lovely hue as the sun sinks below the island dappled horizon.

The phenomenon is one of the island’s treasures, something I had read about in the writings of Terry Tempest Williams and that had been described to me by a friend who graduated from the island’s tiny liberal arts school, College of the Atlantic.

The following morning we drove straight to the park’s famous Beehive Loop Trail and parked behind the long line of cars. This would be a good time to point out that although one of America’s smaller national parks at (49,052 acres, compared to Yosemite’s 761,747 acres) the park received 3.5 million visitors in 2017 (Yosemite was just above, at 4.3 million.) Since Acadia is quite small and compact, its massive attendance is much more noticeable as there is less space for visitors to spread.

The Beehive trail buzzes itself over the granite boulders of Champlain Mountain with the help of ladder rungs and platforms added by the park service. While the hike isn’t for the faintest of heart, it isn’t necessarily scary—but its few airy scrambles certainly excite. At the 1,070-foot summit, only a small portion of the park can be seen but the vastness of the sea is felt. In summer, the lime green of the island’s thick forests contrasts brilliantly against the big blue of the Atlantic.

The park was once the home of Wabanaki people before it was taken over by French Missionary colonists who eventually conceded the land to England in 1713 during the French Indian wars. The land was then controlled by Massachusetts, became American after the revolution, and by the 1850s, was already a popular vacation destination. It wasn’t until a man named Charles Eliot (later with the help of his father and George B. Dorr) pushed for its conservation into a National Monument in 1916 before it was upgraded to National Park status in 1918.

The area is also well known for being the vacation land of the Rockefellers, and their presence has literally been cut into the landscape in the form of 50 miles of carriage trails commissioned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1915-1933. Now, cyclists take the winding trails past lakes, rocky shoreline, and historic mansions.

The point of all of this backstory is to show that Acadia, unlike many western national parks, weaves in and out of the man-made. It is among the borderlands of a place where people “summer” and where woods and shorelines are wild, but where just offshore human presence exists in the form of, bright, fluorescent, bobbing lobster buoys.

The boundaries of the national park wind and weave as you drive, hike, or cycle and it becomes clear its entrance and exits are far more complex than the few in-and-out roads of many western parks. In many ways with its big crowds and idyll eastern setting, the entire island feels like a giant summer camp for families, tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

After our hike up Champlain, we were sweaty, and so, we decided to swim. At the very originally named Sand Beach, we set up some towels among the other tourists and we might have also taken a glance or two at the brawny lifeguard who observed the beachgoers from a high, white chair.

We ate snacks, watched the sandpipers and ruddy turnstones feeding in and out, in and out, as the waves crashed and receded, but most memorably, we continued one of our many in-depth talks about the confusion of our separate queernesses within the unforgiving old-boy cultures of our boarding school. The talks, beyond our bonding, turned out to be some of the most cathartic experiences of the trip, where we were able to unwind and reel in the tangled anchors of the past.

Since we were both closeted in high school, we had kept a lot bottled up. For one, our crushes. We roared as we exchanged their names— Charlie’s was a strong, curly-haired Vermonter in my year. We laughed the loudest when he told me that he once brought his crush his laundry, hoping subconsciously that the act would make the boy swoon for him. Charlie at least got a “thanks” from his crush.

My lacrosse-playing, wildman crush once said there wasn’t enough room at a table to sit next to him.

We both agreed that one of the most confusing things about our school was its rampant homophobia combined with an overt homoeroticism that seemed to linger into the new millennium from a time before co-education when the school was all boys.

The best instance Charlie had to illustrate our observation happened one night after study hall when his dorm gathered in the common area for snacks prepared by the dorm’s resident faculty. One shirtless boy, a lax (lacrosse) bro sat in another shirtless boy’s lap and called another, quieter, more feminine boy in the dorm a faggot.

My nearest example was from the school’s communal showers, where everyone pretended not to be looking at each other’s dicks but were certainly looking at each other’s dicks. I remember one boy, screamed at me “shave that bush, Colorado!” Which got a big round of laughter, as well as about 20 other boys to check out my dick.  There was also a hell of a lot of towel snapping at butts, which I remembered being surprised to learn happened in real life and not just puerile jock movies.

We concluded that the boundary between homosociality and eroticism was thin and wove in and out, like the borders of Acadia National Park with the land of Mount Desert Island. We concluded that that line, as young queer boys, was not helped by malicious homophobias, internal or otherwise. That the bromances we had witnessed (and perhaps even longed for) at our school by our heterosexual counterparts were just an unnamed and poorly documented form of an incredibly intimate male/male relationship. We knew the tortuous years at the school had resulted in our thick, thick skin. Skin we would need for our swim in the Atlantic.

We scurried to the shore, much like the sandpipers, but ran back just as fast as the shorebirds when the waves hit our ankles. The water couldn’t have been warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was ice. In fact, I’m sure it once was ice. I imagined the frigid currents cruising down from the North Pole by way of the Labrador Sea before it curled around Nova Scotia. We clutched our pearls, gasped loudly, and finally dunked ourselves in its frostiness.

The rest of our afternoon consisted of recovering from minor hypothermia in the hot summer sun, eating cleverly named ice cream (the Bay of Figs) from the busy tourist town of Bar Harbor, a walk on the Rockefeller’s carriage paths around Jordan’s Lake, and finally a drive back to our side of the island to finally catch the pink moment in a little area of the National Park called Wonderland.

A short five-minute walk took us from the parking lot through the salty shore conifers—black spruce, jack pines, balsam fir—to the pink, rocky coast of granite slabs and grussy beaches. As the sun began ducking the horizon, Wonderland began to turn rosier and rosier, though, not as magical as I had built it up to be. But as a romantic, I lead myself to believe that it was as pink as the inner shell of a queen conch shell. In Wonderland, we were watching the day put on its lacy nightgown before a long cosmos-drenched evening.

We tidepooled the shore for starfish in their little granite bowl galaxies and basked in the sun’s final coral hoorah. Looking out to the sea, on one of the shelves of the North American continent, it was cliched but true to feel at the edge of the big world, reeling in the heavy anchors of our prep school past, raising our proud pink sails, tacking eastward to unheralded deliverance.

Dragging My Gay Ass To The Top of Kilimanjaro

When I originally came up with the brilliant idea of hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, it was more of a joke. I didn’t actually think it would pan out…but it did. Once my flights were booked and I had more than 6 months to train, I knew deep inside that I wasn’t going to do anything to prepare for this adventure, except spend a lot of money on really great name brand gear. I lied to myself and kept pushing back on practice hikes. The gym and me never really got along so I wasn’t going to start now. As a master procrastinator (any of my editors can confirm), I wasn’t going to give in, and I would worry about it later. When later arrived, I was scared shitless of what I had signed up for.

After landing in Africa, I had a little over a week before the hike would begin. During this waiting period, the tour I was with involved us visiting parts of Kenya and Tanzania, including the Serengeti. We were also camping, so in my mind, this was great training for the camping I would be doing as I hiked a mountain — the tallest mountain in Africa. It was also during this time that I met a few of the others who would be taking the challenge with me. One of the first people I met, a lovely woman named Lucy, began to talk about the high altitude training that she went through at her gym back in Sydney. It was at this point that I began to panic internally. I nodded my head when I was asked about my training, in an effort to deflect without truly answering.

After our week of camping and spotting wildlife came to an end, it was time to make our way to the entrance of Mt Kilimanjaro National Park, where we would meet the remainder of our small group — ten in total. It was that night, at dinner, that I learned that four out of our group of ten identified within the queer spectrum. Two gays, a lesbian and a bisexual, oh my! I had my suspicions but it was the other gay man on the trip that quickly brought it up at dinner and got everyone to divulge their sexual preferences – I was glad he did because I immediately felt safe. I somehow knew that there was an understanding between the queers that we would be there for one another during this difficult hike to the top, which spanned over 5 days. Thankfully, the other six members of our group were all unfazed by our mini-queer takeover, and just like that, our family of 10 was bonded and we would conquer this mountain together. This was the same night that I also learned that most of the others had also not done much to train, so I was a bit relieved as I finished my third pint of beer.

The days that followed were miserable but memorable, mainly because of the amazing people that I was with. We were all suffering throughout, in one way or another, so it was easy to bond over our pain. I was doing it, though, and each day, as we got closer and closer to the base of the mountain, while gaining altitude, I was priming myself for what ultimately would be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. On summit night, we departed base camp at around 11pm with a goal of reaching Uhuru Peak (the very top of Kilimanjaro) by sunrise, which we did.

The way up was thankfully in the darkness because I didn’t have time to freak out over the steep grade of the climb, or notice how easy it would have been to fall off the side of the mountain. It wasn’t easy; nothing about this entire trip was easy. I was a solo traveler, climbing a mountain with strangers turned friends whom I had just met. The saint-like porters and guides that accompanied us were our lifelines. They watched every movement we made and at any sign of hesitation, they were there to reassure us and or carry our packs for us. These guys, along with my fellow hikers, are the reason I made it to the top, plain and simple. And that sunrise was magical. Not being able to tell the difference between the snow on the ground and the clouds surrounding the peak was something I will dream of for the rest of my life. The sense of accomplishment I felt was enough to start my waterworks. I cried because it was that damn beautiful. I had never cried over natural beauty so I was really taken aback when I did.

But now it was time for the climb down, and with the intense heat burning our skin and lighting the path we took to get up, I took a few moments to gasp at what I had just done because it was seriously terrifying. Going down was just as difficult because of the severity of the steepness. And for those who have trouble with their knees, it can be harder. A few years back, I had seriously injured my knee while trying to play it cool with my attractive surf instructor in Australia. It was raining, and I slipped off the board in 2 inches of water after successfully riding a wave into shore. Looking back, I always wished my surfing accident that led to months of a knee brace would have been a bit sexier, but it wasn’t, and I was forever reminded of my embarrassing slip with a right knee that often pained me, especially when walking or hiking down hills.

It wasn’t until I was about 25% completed with the tiresome downhill that I felt my knee twist and lost my balance before falling onto a porter and we both tumbled a few times over before he grabbed me by my jacket and stopped us both from continuing to slide. At this point, I knew my knee was done for the day, as I thought I felt the same sensations I did after slipping off that surfboard. We gathered our things and I stood up, only to realize that it was going to be a very painful way down. I put my arm around the porter and he helped me as best as he could as I hobbled down the mountain. My only option for getting down was to hike down, as services are limited. Once we reached a more comfortable portion of the mountain, where it wasn’t as steep, more men came to my rescue. They would take turns as I continued to place my arms around their shoulders and make my way down. I was holding back my tears and was doing everything I could to just make it to base camp.

A few hours into my pained journey down, a man from base camp (whom was not affiliated with my tour company whatsoever) met up with us, and he insisted on asking me about what had happened. I explained, and he didn’t seem convinced that my injury was as severe as I felt it was. It was then that he placed his hands on my leg and pulled it in one jerk force. He was under the impression that I had dislocated my knee and was attempting to reset it, without asking. I screamed in agony and the tears shot out from my eyes without hesitation. He looked at me and said, “Men don’t cry, stop crying, you will be fine.” I was gutted. All of the confidence I had built up over the last couple of weeks, the sense of accomplishment I had just felt while looking at the sunrise on top of Kilimanjaro, my sense of safety as a gay man in Africa, all of it, gone in an instant.

I couldn’t blame him. He wasn’t making that comment maliciously, but it ripped right through me and left me emotionless. I stood up, pointed to two of the porters and asked to continue the hike down. I was silent for the rest of the way down, ignoring the pain I felt in my knee and in my heart. As I walked into the hut where the 9 others were waiting for me, as I was the last to arrive back down, I looked at them and immediately burst into tears. My safety net was back and I once again felt supported. Our guides later came to me and showed concern, but it wasn’t the same. I could see they were worried that I was upset, but I wasn’t. I was just uncomfortable with the situation, and being shamed for crying didn’t help the situation whatsoever.

At the end of the day, I summited Mount Kilimanjaro, something I will always be proud of, and something I’ll most likely talk about for years to come. It was something I never thought I could do, but I did, with the help of my diverse new group of friends. Tears were shed, my masculinity was questioned, ligaments were abused…but none of that can ever replace those memories of the epic views from the top of Uhuru Peak.

The Best Way to Travel While There

My entire 17-day experience throughout Kenya and Tanzania was experienced through Intrepid. This was my first solo traveler group trip and although I was a bit hesitant at first, after completing this one, I’m ready to book my next. Intrepid Travel sends more than 100,000 travelers across the globe with their more than 1,000 itineraries. The Best of Tanzania itinerary offers adventure seekers the opportunity to experience Tanzania’s most famous natural wonders like the vast Serengeti plains, Ngorongoro Crater, Mt Kilimanjaro and the shore of the Zanzibar coast.

Swimming the Heath

In the middle of the night in late July 2006, a few paparazzi stalked the late queer icon George Michael from the bushes of Hampstead Heath, London’s largest park. He ridiculed the photographers for invading his privacy as they snapped photos of him exiting the hedgerows with a burly 58-year-old.

In an interview shortly after the tabloids were published, Michael said, “The fact that I choose to do that on a warm night in the best cruising ground in London – which happens to be about half a mile from my home – I don’t think would be that shocking to that many gay people.”

To this day, 12 years later, the Heath still remains one of London’s cruisiest places, but there is far more to the park than a clandestine parade through thickets of lurking eyes, butt grabs, and crotch pats below the razzle-dazzle of a North London moon.

At 790 acres, the park is the green lung of London, and on warm spring, summer, and fall days, Londoners come out in gaggles. There are loving picnickers on fleece blankets discreetly complementing their brie with pinot grigio, university students with their shirts off reading Kafka, rambunctious birthday parties of freeze tag-playing children, barefooted football players juggling with their mates, jazzercisers beside the lush woodlands, and birders on the lookout for blue tits, coal tits, and ring-necked parakeets.

But most sensationally, there are some 25 ponds freckling the green landscape, some of which are swimmable (year round!) and looked after by lifeguards. Among the most popular are the ponds on the eastern shoulder, just off Millfield Lane. There is the Mixed Bathing Pond for all genders, as well as a separate Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond and the Kenwood Women’s Bathing Pond, which as of December 2017 officially welcomed trans women.

At the recommendation of a daredevilishly handsome local, who I met while riding bikes the day before on the canals of London’s Eastside, I made my way to the Highgate Pond, because I will forever be a sucker for a swim.

I had grown tired of perusing museums, pretending to gawk at the famous architectural sites, palaces, and towers all fat with tourists. I was no longer impressed by the beefeaters and their silly red dresses and even sillier black hats. I did not want to hear another word about the Royal Wedding, I wanted to see Londoners letting loose in the good ol’ out of doors—I was ready for cold water and a frolicsome afternoon.

I grabbed a towel from the hotel, my book, my journal, and descended to the tube from Shoreditch’s Old Street and sweated ridiculously as the stuffy London Underground zipped me 30 minutes across town.

As I made my way to the ponds, I strolled over the rambling clay hills of the park punctuated by great willows.  And as I did, I felt two things simultaneously. The first was that since I was among such vast, well-kept English lawns (and had read a great deal about England in high school and college), I felt like what I imagined Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice once felt like as she rebelled against the patriarchy of her time, running on the wide-open meadows of Netherfield as the heroine of her own narrative.

The second feeling was cheekier, most likely because I was at the Heath. I felt the chutzpah of a young, hairy-chested, mullet-flaunting sex pot—like George Michael in the Wham! days of yesteryear.

Isn’t it wild that simply by being in a new place, full of sunshine and possibility, we can acquire wildly delusional confidence?

By 3pm, I had strolled half a mile from the Camden Underground and arrived at the Highgate Pond in brilliant sunshine as speckled wood butts and red admirals flopped happily from yarrow to purple harebells. It was a Sunday and one of the first sunny days of the season. It was the kind of Sunday everyone had been pining for, to darken their winter hues and flirt like floozies with the shining sun. The type of day that made one say, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!” and “zip-a-dee-ay” but also: “my, oh, my, what a wonderful day!”

On the outskirts of the men’s ponds, hundreds were squeezed into a sliver of grass beside the tall trees—here was excitement for warmth, for heat, for sun on bodies, for the possibilities of summer, perhaps, even for horniness, for leisure and for checking out the sun spilling itself generously onto other bodies.

And how were the bodies, you might ask?

Well, to begin, I no longer felt quite as sex-potty as I walked the commons of nuclear heterosexual families—there were cliques of men proudly displaying six packs that were cut so deeply they could hold an entire quart of lemonade in their chasms and butts so rotund I was becoming quite suspicious that they had snuck a soccer ball or two in the lycra swimsuits covering their hindquarters.

But never compare yourself to others, old chap, I told myself— everyone was wonderful and I was a part of their afternoon contingent. Some were paler than others, some had the littlest darn nipples I’ve ever seen, while some had nips as enormous as a £2 coin. There were bruin bellies and hairy backs as thick as carpets, freckled shoulders, as well as smooth, completely shaven legs beside wild Hobbit feet, and all of them were canoodling in the sun.

I read on the grass, alone, for half an hour after arriving, before a man around my age in glasses and a messy bird’s nest of hair,  sat nearby and read his own book—Blood Wedding (Bodas de Sangre) by Federico García Lorca—and soon we chatted and I found out that he was a playwright himself, recently single, and a grad school student who resented his ex-boyfriend who he claimed had become much funnier since they had broken up.

“I’m not mad about the breakup,” he said, which meant, of course, he was very mad about the breakup considering he was telling a random and delusional American stranger in the park about it. “I just wish he wouldn’t have been so dull while we dated. You know?”

I did know, man.  I mean, what’s worse than dating a bore, only to find out they’ve become hilarious after parting ways? And worse, apparently, this ex-boyfriend was now writing plays too—and apparently they were good.

“I come here every Sunday,” he told me. He never had to worry about seeing the ex-boyfriend because he was a “vampire” who hated the sun—and swimming.

“It’s the only place I feel like I can relax, have a spliff, cool down, and I always make a mate,” he said with a wink.

And like that, I had been upgraded from the ‘stranger by the pond’ to ‘mate’ in the matter of a casual conversation. What wasn’t to like about the Brits?

But soon, the humidity and heat persuaded me it to swim even though I was enjoying talking spitefully about someone else’s ex I didn’t know (but was honestly curious to meet to see how funny he really was).

I left my new mate who wasn’t yet ready for a dip and made my way to the busy gate of the Highgate Pond where men of all ages whizzed in and out, every single one ignoring the £2 entry fee on a self-service payment machine. Through the doorway marked “Men Only” a large concrete courtyard opened where men dried off, changed, and loitered.

On the left, in a small section were the nudists. The classic nudists you can already imagine without me even describing them—but I will anyway.

Mostly baby boomers unafraid of their bodies, unlike those modest changing-under-the-towel millennials. Some were bald, some were alone, and others were in groups with such casual rapport it appeared they were weekend regulars. They must be here every Sunday, I thought. They gathered and talked and there seemed to be a general consensus that like the invisible boundaries at a nude beach, this walled off area was the place for al fresco butt nakedness and who would complain about that?

The other section was much larger, like an outdoor locker room where brief moments of nudity were common. Pedestrian clothes were shucked and exchanged for board shorts, rugby shorts, booty shorts, or athletic cut briefs. Boyfriends changed next to each other beside straight fathers and their sons. Straights beside gays, bros between queers and none of them with fears for they were bonded in a comradery of mirthful summerness because beyond the changing area was the dock, and at the end of the dock, there was a diving board that launched you into a pond that persuaded even the most mature man into a brief cannonball of puerility.

I dropped trou and changed into short, leggy swimmers and felt quite European for the first time, maybe ever, as I made my way down the dock toward the diving board where there was a queue.

As I waited, I observed the pond that was sunk into the ground, dug in the 17th or 18th century and filled by the underground waters of the River Fleet and guarded by large three-story tall trees that hid the pond coyly from onlookers. It was a private sanctuary of freshwater dunking.

“That’s bloody cold!” one rugby-built man yelled to his friends after attempting a dive that became more of a belly flop in his clumsiness. I was, however, happy to hear the word “bloody” again as the synonym for “very.” It’s how I knew I was again in the Commonwealth and reminded me of my Australian days, years ago.

“That is bloody cold!” One of his mates yelled soon after a strange leap off the board that was somewhere between cannonball and a nerdy nose plug jump. But there was laughter as all of them pulled themselves from the dock for another go.

And then, it was my turn.

I stepped onto the diving board and looked out onto the water of the pond where wild lap swimmers went from buoy to buoy, where two Egyptian geese nestled in the reeds and yapped up an angry duet at a nearby squirrel.

I had not dived in a while, but with this group of well fit mates nearby, I knew the pressure was on, even though the stakes were incredibly low after their pitiful diving performances despite their clear athletic prowess.  

As I walked to the end of the board, again, I was again hoping for the repose of an Elizabeth Bennet, but also, again, the nonchalance of a George Michael fresh from the cruising hedgerow.  So I leaped, brought my hands together, bent my body in a nice arc, pointed my toes, and plunged into the cold waters still lingering from winter, slowly being persuaded by summer.

If I were to rate the dive, it would have been an 8— except for the fact that my shorts weren’t tied tightly enough and the men on the dock had let me know as soon as I surfaced that they had been yanked over my bum.

“That’s a bloody white arse!” They cackled, they laughed, and I loved the cheekiness of it all—here in London, we could be teenage boys again and tease strangers for lunar buttocks.  

The water was fresh, the men and boys were swimming all around in jocundity as the cicadas buzzed on the shore plants, and the trees dazzled their lime green leaves like eccentric jazz hands in the gentle afternoon breeze.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pity the tourists in humid, concrete traps of the city center—Big Who? The Tower of Where? Buckingham What?

I put my hands behind my head, puffed my chest to the sky, floated, and looked at the clearest bluebird sky I’m sure London’s ever seen humming George Michael’s “Outside”—

 

Let’s go outside (let’s go outside)
In the sunshine…

Back to nature, it’s human nature.

Alaska Airlines Allegedly Split Up Gay Couple So Hets Could Sit Together

Homophobia at 30,000 feet is real.

According to a Sunday Facebook post by David Cooley, the owner of Los Angeles gay bar The Abbey, Alaska Airlines staff separated he and his partner from each other to “give preferential treatment” to a straight couple who could not bear a moment away from each other. Cooley said that his partner was asked to move from a premium seat to coach.

“We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane,” Cooley wrote. “I cannot believe that an airline in this day and age would give a straight couple preferential treatment over a gay couple and go so far as to ask us to leave. We will never be flying Alaska Airlines or their recently purchased Virgin Airlines Group ever again.”

In a statement to HuffPost, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Oriana Branon said the airline has a “zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind” and called the incident a “seating error.”

“This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking an on-time departure and nothing more than that,” the statement reads. “It’s our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible; that didn’t happen here and we are deeply sorry for the situation,” she said.

She added, “We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right.”

As of press time, the status had over 1,900 shares on Facebook.

Because irony never rests, Alaska Airlines also has a page on its website dedicated to queer travel.

Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Elton John Slams Russia For Homophobic Laws

Sir Elton John is speaking out against Russia and its treatment of LGBT people. The gay icon is sick of discrimination and took an opportunity this week to slam the country’s homophobic government and the harmful ideologies and practices it perpetuates.

Speaking at a press conference at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, the venerable musician said, “We’re here to protect them and for everyone who’s HIV [positive] but especially for the LGBT community that has suffered so badly and is still suffering and it makes me crazy.” He added: “If there wasn’t this discrimination we could get rid of the disease far quicker.”

John has been a long-time luminary for the LGBTQ community and a prominent voice for people with HIV/AIDS, given his dedication to his AIDS Foundation. After launching further funding for local partners of the foundation in Eastern Europe, he expressed his concern with Russia’s homophobia.

“Until we get that idea out of our head that gay people are ‘less than’ then I am afraid we will still be sitting here in 20 years time discussing the same thing,” he insisted, elaborating, “To be an LGBT person in Russia is very difficult.”

Experts have warned of a looming HIV/AIDS crisis in Eastern Europe and central Asia, where numbers of those affected by the deadly disease are currently rising. Sir Elton John expressed how difficult it was to work in a conservative, homophobic country with discriminatory policies.

“We know what we are up against. We are not stupid,” he explained. “People have asked me to boycott Russia but you can’t boycott people.”

At the conference, Sir Elton John announced a new joint initiative with the Duke of Sussex. The two men are dedicated to tackling HIV infection in men, and the artist lauded the Duke for his passion and commitment to this issue.

The Weekender: Bangkok

Just last month, the Tourism Authority of Thailand–a part of the Thai Government’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports –hosted the first ever Thailand LGBT Travel Symposium in bustling Bangkok. This is a monumental milestone not to be overlooked. While Bangkok ( and Thailand in general) has long been a queer travel hot spot for its more liberal views on gender diversity as well as the country’s notorious queer nightlife, the Thai government is now officially making a commitment to welcome queer travelers from the world over. Could this mean gay marriage is somewhere on the horizon?

Thailand is vast, from the pastoral strawberry fields of the North to the famous limestone islands of the South, so let the country’s capital city serve as your official introduction to “The Land of Smiles”. Whether you’re touching down for just a few days before touring the country, in town for Asia’s biggest gay dance party,  gCircuit, or staying for business for a few weeks–there is an endless excitement on the effervescent streets of Bangkok. From cosmopolitan restaurants to markets filled with the scents of sizzling curries, Bangkok is a wild concrete jungle of rivers, tight streets, and leaping overpasses–navigated best by tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, pencil boats, trains, cars, and of course, by your own venturesome soul.  

 

Bhumibol Bridge and River bird eye view landscape in Bangkok Thailand

Friday

4:00pm–Cruising

Begin your the weekend on the Supanniga Cruise and sip your welcoming craft cocktails on this 40-person river cruise (many other river cruises are packed with 200-300 people and lukewarm buffets soured by amateur karaoke). Pass by Bangkok classics like Wat Arun and see the city at its most colorful as the golden afternoon casts itself upon the jagged skyline.

6pm- The Creative District

One of Bangkok’s buzziest neighborhoods is its emerging Creative District. Here, historic, modern, local, and European architecture are interwoven beside the mighty the Chao Phraya River. Many of the buildings are occupied by vibrant restaurants, bookstores, jewelry shops, and art galleries–like the Seredia Gallery which just featured artist Sudaporn Teja’s queer exhibit  “Loves Get Better with Time Quietly.” After the gallery, make some new friends at one of the district’s many cozy pubs like saki bar Jua or gin bar Teens of Thailand.

 

 

8pm-Never Ending Flavors

Let’s get straight to to the noms. Not far from the Creative District, just off the banks of the Chao Phraya, in a converted ice factory, is the handsomely designed The Never Ending Summer, which even after 12 days in Thailand, still held its own as my favorite meal of the entire trip and certainly, my favorite Thai meal ever. Each dish is exquisite and puts a zesty spin on a Thai classic.

Saturday

8am-Chatuchak Market

The trick is to get up and beat the heat (and crowds) at the legendary Chatuchak Weekend Market–an outdoor market with over 15,000 stalls that covers 27 acres (you can literally and figuratively get lost here.) What are you looking to buy? Knock-off Aussiebum jock straps? No problem. A meerkat? A stingray? I’m vehemently opposed to the sale of wildlife, but anything and everything exists within the market, legal or not.  Soap in the shape of dicks? You got it. Dicks in the shape of soap? I didn’t see any, but I’m sure it’s there. Be sure to bring cash and follow your nose for the street food vendors and many restaurants tucked inside. Make sure to bring cash, and why not make your first attempt at bartering?

10am- Thai Massage

That was a lot of walking, and I know you broke a sweat and the heat has you snoozy. Let’s Wake up with a trip to Divana Spa for one of the best massages in town. What would a trip to Thailand be without experiencing a little nuat phaen thai (Thai-style massage?) With techniques nearly 2,500 years old, the Divana’s Siamese Relax treatment is a great pick me up that will rock, roll, pull, and compress you.

12pm-Lunch by the River

How about some more tasty and modern Thai overlooking one of Bangkok’s most gorgeous landmarks, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn? One moment you’re on the busy, touristy streets outside the city’s most famous temples of Wat Pho, the next, you’re inside the elegant and air-conditioned Sala Rattanakosin Eatery and Bar (part of a cute boutique hotel, the Rattanakosin) being offered cool towels soaked in lemongrass ordering Thai-iced teas and flavorful Phanaeng curries.

 

Beautiful Thai Temple, Wat Benjamaborphit, temple in Bangkok, Thailand

3pm-SO Good

We love a pool party. If you’re lucky enough to be in Bangkok during the last Saturday of the month, be sure to check out the SO Sofitel Bangkok’s vibing monthly pool party So Pool Party. Some months are certainly queerer than others, but the event always has a strong LGBT contingent.  A gorgeous infinity pool spills out into views of the wild sprawl of Bangkok and a lovely mix of locals, expats, backpackers, and business people splash about at one of Bangkok’s hippest and most queer-friendly hotels.

6pm-Khao San Road

Although only 410 meters long, the street is said to have “one of the longest dreams in the world.” Here you’ll find true backpacker’s paradise. Cheap accomodations, an overabundance of Wifi cafes, tour planning offices, buses to Chiang Mai, street performances, cheap restaurants, grilled insect stands, as well as some of Bangkok’s more controversial sides, like the infamous ping pong shows. No matter what budget you’re on, it is worth a self-guided stroll and a stop for a late afternoon coffee or happy hour to exchange tales and tips with fellow travelers.

8pm-Sky High

Here’s the thing–I’m a real sucker for a rooftop bar and I thought I’d seen them all. Moonbar at the Banyan Tree Hotel Bangkok absolutely knocked my socks off. Located 61 floors up, this hot spot is constantly in the top 10 of the world’s rooftop bars. The lofty heights, minimalist house music, and celebratory atmosphere are sure to make your experience dreamlike as you sip away and feel the thick Bangkok breeze.

Late-Dancing

You’ve been itching and scratching to go out,  here’s your chance. Check out GoGrrrls!, a “girl-love-girl” all female-DJ dance party that’s been igniting Bangkok since 2013. As in any big city, venues and dates rotate so keep up to date on the event’s Facebook page.

More mainstream Thai nightlife can be found at Silom Soi 2, a hub of queer bars that cater more specifically to men. “Soi” in Thai means “ally” and this one is filled to the brim with gay establishments. The most popular is DJ Station (and its nightly stripper show) but don’t be scared to explore beyond this hot spot–it’s always more exciting when you choose your own adventure. Looking for a little more of a local experience? Check out Fake Club or APP Arena, which both put on quite the show as well.

Sunday

1pm: MOCA Bangkok

Nightlife goes late in Bangkok. Rise when you can, but when you do, make your way to The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok for five stories of  thought-provoking modern Thai art (with a few international artists on the fifth floor). The museum stands out among others for showcasing artwork that tackles and comments on many of the skeletons hidden in Thailand’s closet.

3pm: People Watching in Lumpini Park

Bangkok’s Central Park. This whole weekend you’ve been hurtling through a vast concrete jungle of impossible skyscrapers, tight alleys, and bumping shows–now it’s time to take in a moment of respite at the 142-acre Lumpini Park with a self-guided stroll. Called by some the “Green Lung” of Bangkok, the park is a hotspot for joggers, birdwatchers, bikers, picnickers, swan boaters, and local flora and fauna–including massive water monitors who casually pop out of the pond to sunbathe.

7:30pm: Maggie Choo’s

Sunday night in Bangkok mean’s a stop in at Maggie Choo’s, a well-known jazz bar that hosts a popular gay night on Sundays. Located in the basement of the Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom, this long standing party puts on a great weekly drag show that’s hosted by the host of Drag Race: Thailand Pangina Heals.

The Snugs

Fancy Pants-SO Sofitel Bangkok

Billing itself as “Bangkok’s First Urban Design Hotel,” the SO Sofitel is one of the hippest hotels in the city and a constant draw for queer travelers looking for luxury and mingling. The hotel has 237 rooms decorated by the elements in four different layouts: Water, Air, Earth, and Metal. The property also hosts a gorgeous infinity pool, and many of the rooms look out onto the soothing expanse of Lumpini Park. Rooms from $208 USD and up.

Goldie Locks- Sala Rattanakosin

This cute, Thai-owned boutique hotel is located right on the waters of the Chao Phraya and looks directly at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. The hotel is the perfect option for those looking for a more intimate accommodation that doesn’t lack in luxury. Rooms from $140 USD and up.

Backpacker- Minimis Hostel

One of the most aesthetically striking hostels in Bangkok, the Minimis Hostel is a great place to stay on a budget, without feeling like you’re on one. Beds starting from $22 USD and up.