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How Gay-Friendly are Sri Lanka, Damascus, Seoul, Mysore, and Koh Kood?

A GLBT Perspective on the New York Times's "31 Places to Go in 2010"

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How Gay-Friendly are Sri Lanka, Damascus, Seoul, Mysore, and Koh Kood?

The Louisiana Museum for Modern Art, outside Copenhagen

photo by Andrew Collins
The New York Times Travel Section publishes an always intriguing "best places to go" round-up story each year. In 2010, they listed 31 destinations, from Sri Lanka to Istanbul.

For GLBT travelers, how does the Times list of 31 hot spots stack up? Personally, I'll go just about anywhere I can get to, gay-friendly or not. But some of these destinations won't specifically resonate with gay travelers, either because they have no discernible "scene" or they're in parts of the world with unwelcoming or even hostile attitudes toward gays and lesbians. Others on the list have actually developed quite lively gay scenes in recent years. Here's my admittedly quick-and-dirty take on each of the 31 destinations on the list, some impressions based on personal experience, others on what I've learned from other sources. For each one, I've also included a link or two for more information on the local scene.

  • Sri Lanka: The Times's No. 1 pick is officially not very gay-friendly, but this small, beautiful island nation off the southern tip of India has an active GLBT community working hard to change laws and attitudes. Utopia-Asia's excellent guide on Sri Lanka lists a number of gay-friendly nightlife and lodging options, and a Gay Pride celebration is now held each June in the capital city of Colombo.
  • Patagonia Wine Country: Argentina is home to one of the gay capitals of Latin America, Buenos Aires, and the country's most famous wine region, Mendoza, is also popular with GLBT travelers. Patagonia is more remote and with no scene, per se, but it's a great choice for couples, wine lovers, and adventurers. Several companies targeting the GLBT market do Patagonia tours, including Kuyay Travel and BA Gay Travel.
  • Seoul: The Times notes that Seoul has become recently "glammed up" with hip cafes and nightlife, and indeed, this increasingly cosmo, design-minded city is rapidly developing a prolific, visible, and trendy gay scene. Seoul is a city to watch, in this regard. Utopia-Asia's guide to Seoul is extensive, and you can learn a bit more about South Korea's slowly thawing attitudes toward gay travelers at GlobalGayz' website.
  • Mysore: India's resplendent "City of Palaces" probably isn't super-high on the vacation list of many GLBT travelers, unless they happen to be yoga enthusiasts. Still, as several cities in India began holding Gay Pride celebrations recently, Mysore is also drawing increased interest from gays and lesbians, especially those with a spiritual bent. GlobalGayz has this gallery on Mysore, and Mysore is on the itinerary of a tour offered by Indjapink, a gay tour operator (Mumbai, another city on the Times list is also visited on these tours).
  • Copenhagen: Host of the World Outgames last year and one of Europe's most progressive, attractive, and gay-welcoming cities, Copenhagen is without question one of the best GLBT destinations on the list. Resources abound, including Copenhagen Gay Life's directory and the Patroc Gay Guide to Copenhagen.
  • Koh Kood: Included on the Times list as Thailand's "emerging new luxury outpost", this lush and remote island doesn't yet have much in the way of gay-specific accommodations. But you can bet that as the tourism infrastructure here continues to develop, so too will its GLBT popularity. Overall, Thailand is the most gay-friendly country in Asia, and you'll find tons of information on other parts of the country at Utopia Asia.
  • Damascus: Not surprisingly, given Syria's mostly Sunni Muslim population, Damascus is without a visible gay scene. That being said, there is reportedly a discreet but perhaps unexpectedly large GLBT community, with much of whatever scene there is concentrated upon the Al Jadid Hammam (a famous public bath). GlobalGayz provides a fascinating perspective on gay life in Syria, and Michael Luongo's book Gay Travels in the Muslim World is an excellent resource on the Middle East in general, in the words of gays and lesbians.
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