Look, nobody goes to Laos specifically for the gay culture. Not even me. The capital city, Vientiane, is a small, sleepy place that has a total population of around 210,000. This is no bustling Asian capital like Bangkok or Taipei that can cater to every homo under the sun. So, when I turned up in Vientiane on the weekend just gone, I wasn’t expecting a gay mecca. And I didn’t get one either. But I did meet some of the loveliest people I’ve encountered on the whole of my trip so far, and had a really fantastic and memorable night out in the capital city of Laos.
There are two main gay bars in Vientiane: GQ Bar, and CCC Bar. Alas, I had such a great time in GQ Bar that I didn’t even manage to make it to CCC Bar, but from a few bits and bobs floating on the internet it would seem that they have nightly shows of some description. I’ll believe that when I see it, as I can’t imagine a gay bar in Vientiane being able to fill up with enough people to warrant a show. This is not a criticism of the place – but when you arrive in Vientiane, don’t expect go-go dancers gyrating for your pleasure. Vientiane has a very low key scene because it’s a very low key place.
Finding GQ Bar was my first hurdle. I managed to walk past it twice without noticing it at all, and then third time lucky, I saw a little rainbow flag in the corner of a window and knew that I had found the right place (on Chao Anou Road). There were two young Lao guys sitting outside, and I walked past them and peeked my head into the bar. It was completely dark, nobody was inside, and it didn’t look open. I was going to head to a hetero bar (I know, gross) when one of the lads outside invited me to sit with them. What did I have to lose? Nothing as far as I could tell, so I sat down with these guys and had my very first Beerlao, which incidentally makes me gurn (what is in that stuff?).
The boys were lovely company, and soon enough the friendly owner came outside to introduce himself. This was at around 8.30. “Will it get busier later on?” “It might or it might not. Probably because it is a Saturday.” I am beginning to discover that this laissez-faire attitude is a quality that is particular to Laos. It’s quite difficult for me to get my head around somebody not wanting to make a commercial success of a bar when it’s their livelihood, but this is just the Laos way. As the evening progressed, a few more people stopped by for a beer – a mix of locals who evidently all knew each other and of lost looking foreigners much like me.
A couple of hours passed and I was feeling quite tipsy. My guesthouse had an extremely annoying curfew of 11.30pm, but my new friends informed me that this was just something that Laos guesthouses advertised so they don’t have hordes of people coming back late at night, and in fact I would have no problem getting back to my bed in the early hours of the morning. So the decision was made, and I hopped on the back of a scooter to some out-of-town club. I’m *sure* that my friends told me it was called Soiladid, but an internet search seems to suggest that it is actually called Soradith. I was very drunk, so I could well be wrong.
Inside Soradith club.
This place was by no means full, but it had a decent sprinkling of gays, loud music, and flashing lights – hoorah! Even though I was dragged there in an inebriated state and finding the club was not my doing at all, this place really felt like a discovery. Aside from another guy who came from GQ Bar, I was the only Westerner in the place. I danced, I drank, I spoke with Lao lads. Lovely.
The lights came on to signal the end of the evening at around 1.30am (because Laos is a bit like that) and everybody got on their scooters and drove home after drinking copious amounts of Beerlao – not so great. But there is really no other way to get home as you certainly won’t find any taxis waiting outside. I saw a boy of about 10 years old driving a scooter earlier, so I think they are pretty relaxed about such matters in this country.
The lovely Lao boys dropped me outside of my guesthouse, and of course nobody would let me in. The bastards. My evening ended with me searching for another bed in Vientiane in the dead of the night. So my first night in Laos was a hot drunken gay mess – but I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way.