Discover the best 10 destinations to enjoy gay Thailand

A rambling nation where frenetic city breaks and blissful island getaways merge in perfect harmony, Thailand is the fever dream you won’t want to wake up from. Rest up in utmost luxury within Bangkok’s affordably decadent spas or seek ancient empires and Buddhist stupas rising from the sun-scorched earth. Every day Thailand opens up a world of wonder to its visitors, be they hedonists, spiritualists or hardened foodies. For queer travellers especially, Thailand is the perfect retreat, populated by go-go boys, gay-friendly wellness retreats and alternative culture by the busload. Slurp on juicy rice noodles by day and ultra-cheap cocktails by night, embracing the contrast between old Thai customs and new era nightlife. Here’s our rundown of the best destinations in Thailand for gay travellers.

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made Thailand: Bangkok to the Beach

Discover the breadth of Thailand and its essential sites during visits to the shimmering, gold-plated Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, temple-rich Chiang Mai and the sun-soaked beaches of Koh Samui.

Photo: Humphrey Muleba

LGBTQ acceptance in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most tolerant countries in Asia, shaped by Buddhist values and a mai pen rai attitude that allow LGBTQ culture to thrive. While outward displays of affection are frowned upon and LGBTQ rights are not fully cemented in law, ladyboys and tom-dees proliferate in modern Thai culture. Gay marriage in Thailand is still not formally recognised, but, despite this, many same-sex couples travel to the nation to have their union blessed by Buddhist monks.

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Where East truly meets West, Bangkok melds traditional Buddhist ways of life with outrageous hedonism, creating a vibrant atmosphere ripe for exploration

1. Bangkok

Get sweaty in Bangkok alongside Thailand’s most streetwise locals and young backpackers from across the globe. Where East truly meets West, Bangkok melds traditional Buddhist ways of life with outrageous hedonism, creating a vibrant atmosphere ripe for exploration. Despite being one of Thailand’s more expensive cities with its fair share of hustlers, Bangkok is still among the most affordable cities in the world, where tuk-tuks tout for the price of a sandwich and hip boutique stores compete on price.

The veritable capital of ‘Gay Asia’, Bangkok is the first call for gay parties across the continent, boasting an infamous party scene to make even Ru Paul blush. While backpackers abound in cheap accommodations and the red light scene, there is more to the nightlife here. There are countless cabarets, clubs, saunas, go-go and karaoke bars around the city, with LGBT offerings centred in Silom. Outside of Silom, you’ll also find Sukhumvit Road, Aor Tor Gor and Khao San Road ready to welcome you. While some Bangkok gay bars and clubs are more respectable than others, if it’s plush sophistication you’re after, the city can provide. Try a roof-top infinity pool to escape the heat or check into a luxury hotel complete with spa, bar and bistro. Discover the best luxury offerings and our favourite Bangkok gay club in our dedicated Bangkok travel guide. Or, for when you’re done partying, take a look at the best day trips from Bangkok.

Photo: Joshua Rawson Harris

Photo: Jakob Owens

2. Koh Samet

One such day trip from Bangkok is to the glorious Koh Samet, known fondly as Thailand’s gayest island. Just two hours’ drive from the capital towards the southeast, Koh Samet is an ideal location for a weekend escape to the beach. Popular among Bangkok’s middle and upper classes, as much as the international gay community, Koh Samet serves laid-back parties in a tropical paradise, with crowds and prices peaking on the weekend. Like most Thai islands, Koh Samet is similarly gorgeous, with endless sunshine on palm-strewn beaches kissed by turquoise waters. Part of the Khao Laem Ya Ko Samet National Park, Koh Samet has an entry fee of 200 baht ($6USD) but this small amount goes towards protecting the natural environment and wildlife ecosystems on land and at sea.

Choose a beach based on your personality; party people can mingle and undertake water sports on Haad Sai Kaew and Ao Hin Khok; families can have fun on Ao Wong Duean; while shyer beachgoers can enjoy a romantic escape to Ao Wa, Ao Pakarang or Ao Kiew Na Nok. For one of the best beaches in gay Thailand travel straight to Ao Phai, home of the Silver Sands Bar and open-air nightclub and neighbour to Ao Tubtim, Koh Samet’s unofficial gay beach. Ao Tubtim was put on the map by Tub Tim Resort, another of the island’s best gay beach bars. Straighter and more Thai-style than what’s on offer in Phuket or Pattaya, nightlife on Koh Samet is for tourists and Bangkok gays keen on beachside karaoke and Thai pop disco.

Photo: Ragnar Vorel

3. Pattaya

If Koh Samet was likened to Baby Spice then Pattaya would definitely be Scary Spice, the wildest of Thailand’s many islands. Famed for its boys, epic nightlife and cheap, cheap luxury, Pattaya is bound to please those who really wanna zigazig ah. The Pattaya gay scene begins on the beach and moves into town come sundown. For gay-friendly beach days, try the popular Dongtan and Jomtien Beaches, before heading to the Walking Street entertainment district for cabarets, clubs, bars and raucous karaoke sessions. The Boyztown district sees the majority of gay bars, massage shops, restaurants and gay-oriented accommodations, seconded only by Sunee Plaza for go-go clubs and more massage. Alternatively, dive into the more exclusive world of Pattaya, splashing a little extra on luxury accommodation, rooftop pools, world-class spas and fine dining experiences.

While Pattaya has seen years of overdevelopment and a sex trade run rampant, most recently the government has begun efforts to restore the island’s natural beauty and crack down on illicit trade. And although the sex industry is very much alive here, there is now emphasis on sustainable development and vanilla-flavoured fun for all.

Photo: Rhett Noonan

Photo: Shawn Ang

4. Phuket

Another beach paradise with a reputation for naughtiness is the southern island of Phuket, hosting luxurious villas that overlook the Andaman Sea. Equally as affordable as Pattaya yet becoming more expensive each year, Phuket offers much of the same craziness as above. Complete your bingo card of things to do in Thailand; trying a cabaret, club or go-go bar and revelling in the lack of inhibition, or go upmarket to Phuket’s burgeoning luxury resorts, where cocktail bars, fine dining, classy spas and infinity pools lie in wait.

Gay Phuket is centred on the “Paradise Complex” of Patong, an area compacted to a few pedestrian streets with bars, cafés, clubs and restaurants competing to attract the foreign LGBTQ community. The more straight orientated party area runs along Bangla Road. For beachside fun, the rainbow-lined Patong beach is the top Phuket gay beach, running 3.5 kilometres alongside the beach resort town of Patong. Ever popular among gays and the starting point of Phuket Pride, Patong Beach is regularly packed. For a more chilled option, try Karon Beach to the south just below Patong or Bangtao Beach, a short drive north, where the popular gay hangout spot known as Dream Beach Club lies.

Photo: Max Liew

5. Koh Samui

Smaller and more stylish than either Phuket or Pattaya, Koh Samui is the east coast’s answer to island utopia with a fair amount of partying thrown in. Blessed with enviable weather, vast beaches and luxury lodgings, Koh Samui is the one to go to if you want to wind down in style. One of Thailand’s partying capitals, a short boat ride from the full-moon parties of Koh Phangan, Koh Samui offers extravagant, gay-friendly nightlife with the added bonus of cheaper drinks and fewer crowds. What’s more, is the island’s myriad daytime activities; from sundown, yachting to waterfall trekking in Angthong National Marine Park.

While affordability is one of Koh Samui’s key selling points, the island is not short of indulgence. Step your vacation game up by booking at one of the best luxury hotels in Koh Samui, where you’ll find everything from infinity pools to full treatment spas. As well as passing through the island’s friendly beach towns, don’t leave without enjoying a romantic dinner by Bophut Beach before sampling the local Alambic rum in Chaweng, Samui’s nightlife centre. Here you’ll find dazzling ladyboy shows and open-air events on Chaweng Beach. Lamai Beach is another one to explore, known as the island’s best gay beach with waterside restaurants and street food options.

Photo: Sasin Tipchai

6. Krabi

Land of the most magnificent seafood BBQ served at street markets across town, Krabi is the number one choice for both foodies and nature lovers. Often considered the jumping-off point to the southern islands including Koh Lanta and Railay Beach – Thailand’s deep water solo and climbing capital – Krabi is a destination in itself for its world-class street eats and wild surroundings. Kayaking, snorkelling, climbing and scuba diving adventures lie just a short minibus ride away but before branching out, take the time to appreciate the authenticity and unkempt beauty of Krabi’s limestone karsts, white-sand beaches and dense rainforest, spending time in slow-moving fishing villages and boating through the province’s arcane mangrove forests.

With just enough development for convenience, Krabi retains its tranquil charm by leaving the partying to nearby Ao Nang and Phi Phi. That’s not to say Krabi is without its fair share of nighttime entertainment; indeed, the neighbourhoods of Tonsai Village and Loh Dalum are packed with bars, pubs and clubs, all boasting a fresh, non-sleazy vibe. Depending on what you fancy, opt for live reggae nights in Krabi’s hippie dive bars or swig alcohol from a bucket at Center Point in Ao Nang.

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Much like Bangkok, Chiang Mai caters to all kinks with its array of go-go bars, cabarets, saunas and street events around Thapae Gate and the Night Bazaar area

7. Chiang Mai

The beating heart of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a veritable utopia for ex-pats, packed with things to do without battling the chaos of the capital. Easily walkable within the tourist centre (Old City), Chiang Mai is one for comfort and convenience. While away your days alternating between spas and street-side eateries, staying hydrating on steaming bowls of Kao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup) and fresh coconut smoothies. The largest city in Northern Thailand bordered by misty mountains, Chiang Mai has all you could ever want. Rent a motorbike or book a minivan to explore the rural regions to the northwest, stopping in Mae Hong Son on the Myanmar border for Western hippie enclaves, waterfalls and authentic tribal villages.

Marvel at the scenery on the journey back to the Old City where a very different cultural experience awaits. Much like Bangkok, Chiang Mai caters to all kinks with its array of go-go bars, cabarets, saunas and street events around Thapae Gate and the Night Bazaar area. Save your good clobber for an evening out in Nimmanhaeminda, where upmarket restaurants, bars and coffee shops line the streets beside a multitude of new boutique hotels. Gay Chiang Mai used to be centred on Santitham and Chang Puek, but today the freshest offerings lie along Gay Soi 6 (Soi 6 Charoen Prathet Road), with a smattering of gay karaoke bars, saunas and massage shops remaining in Santitham.

Photo: Sasin Tipchai

8. Koh Lipe

The remoteness of Koh Lipe – accessible only via Hat Yai airport and Pak Bara speedboat port on the border to Malaysia – is its saving grace, allowing it to dodge the development and over-tourism of the neighbouring islands. We can also thank its inconvenience for allowing the preservation of local ecosystems and healthy coral within Tarutao National Marine Park. On land, Koh Lipe impresses with a nice selection of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels which overlook fine white sand beaches stretching the 3.5-kilometre length of the island. Stay for a romantic beach break interspersed with some of the country’s best scuba diving opportunities before getting swept up in the close-knit yet lively local nightlife.

Looking for more ways to spend your days on Koh Lipe? Look no further than our article on things to do on Koh Lipe in Thailand.

Photo: Colton Duke

Photo: Sara Dubler

9. Koh Tao

Named after the turtles that inhabit the region’s clear waters, Koh Tao is certainly a great place to nest, served as it is by impeccable cliff-cradled beaches and everyday sunshine. Located close to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Koh Tao brings a breath of fresh air to the Gulf of Thailand with its bohemian charm and serene natural beauty.

Known for its large number of affordable diving schools, snorkelling sites and dazzling marine life, Koh Tao is a great place to recuperate and learn something new in nature. Lapped by calm waters and affording the best sundown views is Sairee Beach where you can rent a kayak and paddle to Koh Nang Yuan. Chalok Baan Kao Beach is another favourite but venturing off the set path will bring you to the island’s most serene unnamed beach spots, served by a guesthouse or two and caches of untouched coral. Thanks to the island’s regular influx of gay visitors, you’ll be in good company when the evening beckons, particularly in the area around Sairee Beach where most clubs and bars are located.

Photo: Derek Owens

10. Koh Phangan

Although the above destinations know how to have a good time, Koh Phangan deserves the accolade of the ultimate party island. Home of the infamous monthly Full Moon Party which attract thousands to the region, Koh Phangan goes by its own seasons, with crowds peaking each lunar month. Outside of the full moon, Koh Phangan rests in style, its beaches – notably Bottle Beach, Haad Yao Beach and Salad Beach – catering to a strong gay crowd looking for chilled out fun. The island’s small number of gay bars lie beachside, with more nightlife and gay-friendly offerings in the main town of Thong Sala. If low-key festivity is more your style, the town provides live music events, hippie gatherings and half-moon jungle parties throughout the season. On full moon, however, most will head straight to Haad Rin Beach where neon-clad travellers from across the globe bond over a shared love for DJ-led dance music, fire-wielding circus tricks and all-out hedonism. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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