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5 Things You Can't Miss in Cambodia and Laos

Siem Reap Reflection - Vogler

This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

Cambodia and Laos sit between Thailand and Vietnam and are among the least developed countries in Southeast Asia. Tourism is a bright spot in both countries, and based on our short exploration, it is easy to see why. Despite the difficult history and circumstances, people greet visitors with enormous smiles and warmth. Cambodia’s magnificent Angkor Wat complex, rediscovered in the 1850s, is a bucket list draw for world travelers. It has brought about tourism infrastructure development, and some of the same free-wheeling tourist economy trappings — good and bad — seen in more developed tourist economies. By comparison, Laos is most notable for its relative lack of development, but here too, the power of tourist spending is changing the landscape — literally and quickly.

Monk SelfieWe visited the three most accessible destinations in the area: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos. All three are easily reached, with accommodations for luxury travelers, backpackers, and everything in between. Siem Reap’s main draw is its temples, but lots of other cultural, culinary, spa, shopping, entertainment and adventure activities have sprung up. As Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh offers a striking portrait of resilience, having been a jewel of French Colonialism, through the devastation of the Khmer Rouge, to a modern metropolis. Luang Prabang doesn’t have the gay hotels and nightlife of Cambodia, but charms visitors with its quiet yet vibrant temple and village life.

There is so much to see in both countries and if you travel this far you're probably also going to see Thailand and possibly Vietnam. But as a little teaser of things we love in Cambodia and Laos, read on. To get the full monty on Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). There are many tour operators who can help arrange a tour of these beautiful places, including one of our favorites: ManAboutWorld Gay Tour Operator Editor's Choice Winner Out Adventures

1. Angkor Wat (Siem Reap): Angkor Wat, literally “city temple,” is an architectural wonder that was almost lost to encroaching jungles until it was rediscovered by French explorers in the late 19th century. Today the temple is Cambodia’s most popular attraction, with something close to four million visitors last year. The photo below has been dubbed the Lara Croft or Angelina Jolie Temple by visitors who note it was one of the filming locations of the famous adventure movie she filmed there.

2. Explore Siem Reap: Siem Reap is best known for the temples but it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and offers beautiful hotels, including a new gay boutique hotel called Men’s Resort & Spa, excellent dining and a wild and uninhibited nightlife, including some gay-specific options. 

3. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Phnom Penh): It has a sad and haunting name, but this museum provides crucial context to this country's current state and a stunning contrast to the warmth and happiness of the people you meet.

4. Sunset Cocktail Dinner Cruise (Phnom Penh): To lighten the mood after must-see number 3, reserve a romantic dinner cruise  on the Mekong River on Phocea Mekong cruises; they also offer full day trips leaving from either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.

5. Belmond La Resistance Phau Vao (Luang Prabang): Laos is a charming, relaxed country that still feels relatively undiscovered. You’ll feel a grand sense of exploration, like you’ve stumbled into a land time forgot, and it becomes yours while you’re there. At the end of a day of hiking and exploring the countryside and Luang Prabang you'll want some luxury and pampering. The Belmond property is the perfect spot.  

For even more insider recommendations in Cambodia and Laos and for other destinations around the globe and in the U.S., get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). 

ManAboutWorld is now on the iPhone! Android coming soon. To download for the iPhone, click HERE.

Image credits: Top and Bottom (Versatile? ;): Mark Vogler; Right: Billy Kolber

Roots


Travel: A Gay Laotian Man Talks About Life in Luang Prabang, Laos

01-Stef-with-Laos-family
Stefan posing with a very tolerant Laotian family in the capital city of Laos: Vientiane.

This article was written by Stefan and Sebastien and first appeared on their Nomadic Boys gay travel blog.

Laos has a mixed attitude toward gay people.

It appears to be another Asian country struggling hard to accept and protect its LGBT population. There are no anti discrimination laws in place and marriage equality is nowhere near being implemented.

Yet, there are no laws criminalizing homosexuality and haven’t really ever been since independence. We felt completely at ease traveling as a gay couple in Laos: locals just didn’t bat an eyelid when they worked out we are not really brothers.

We also noticed a very accepting attitude towards ladyboys (just like in Thailand), more so than in the West.

We met a local gay man named Somphorn, who gave us some insight into what it’s like growing up gay in Laos.

02-Somphorn-and-Stef
 Somphorn telling us about gay Laos and what it was like growing up in Luang Prabang.

Sabaidi Somphorn! Where are you from and what do you do?

Bonjour Les Nomadic Boys. My name is Somphorn Boupha. I am 28 years old and I am from Luang Prabang in North Laos. I own and manage Lao Lao Garden in Luang Prabang, which is a gay-friendly bar and restaurant.

03-Lao-Lao-Garden-menu
 Lao Lao Garden and bar in Luang Prabang

Are you out to your friends and family?

Yes, all my family and friends know I’m gay. I came out to my family when I was around 20 years old. My mother said she always suspected I was different and was very accepting, as were all my siblings. I lost my father from a young age so I never really knew him.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Travel: A Gay Laotian Man Talks About Life in Luang Prabang, Laos" »


5 Things You Can't Miss in Berlin, Germany

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This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

Berlin’s been on the receiving end of some backlash as of late. Having been the reigning king of cool for so long, it’s now even trendier to lash out against it, to claim Berlin is ‘over’ and to declare a dozen or so burgeoning the cities “the new Berlin!” But these headlines are mostly unfounded, and while we suspect travelers have grown bored and weary with media’s constant and sometimes hyperbolic praise of Berlin, they’ve not yet grown tired of the city itself. Step one foot in Berlin and it’s still every bit abuzz and edgy as it ever was. And we have a couple reasons why it might be time to check it out.

The first is Berlin Gay Pride (known locally as Christopher Street Day) takes place June 21-27, with festivities and events spread over the week.

7977616909_065eea412c_zThe other is a bit more hardcore: Folsom Europe the world’s biggest leather party (September 12-13). This two-day celebration of kink and fetishistic debauchery, where anything goes and nothing shocks, is a crowded, sweaty, festival of whips and chains, furries and slaves, collars and ball-gags, daddies and maids. And if that weren’t enough, it’s being held for the 12th year in Berlin, full of Germans who always manage to make any sexual act that much dirtier. So break out the nipple clamps and Gun Oil, because things are about to get messy.

 Here are our top 5 things we're loving in Berlin this spring.

1. Hotel 25 Hours: This new design boutique (think urban jungle chic) in the heart of Charlottenburg is a short walk to Schöeneberg. Judging by the hotel’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs that read ‘Please place aspirin in front of the door and leave,’ (along with 24 other options) they seem ready for the many hangovers that await them. The property has small but chic rooms, and has become one of the city’s best lifestyle hotels.

2. La Mano Verde: There’s currywurst on every corner in Berlin, so we wanted to steer you toward a new trend we’ve come to notice in this city that’s full of them: Berlin has recently become the vegan capital of Europe. And La Mano Verde is the original, serving an extraordinary vegan menu within walking distance to Schöeneberg. Their spaghetti de la mer is a must. 

3. Schwuz: This gay club is in a former beer beer factory at Rollbergstraße 26, and one of the nicest gay places to hang out in in Berlin. The crowd tends to be on the younger side. Ivery Friday is a themed night. 

4. Tiergarten: If it’s a warm and sunny day, the grassy knolls of the Tiergarten are Berlin’s sunbathing and cruising spot. Walk or bike up Hofjägeralle from Mitte towards the famed Victory statue column, and then take the first left trail into the woods before the column. Meander at a 45 degree angle into the park, heading towards the Lion Bridge. You’ll find gays spread in two areas, one predominantly clothed and one delightfully naked (well, delight is in the eye of the beholder). Cruising happens around the bridge by day and near the table tennis courts by night. Watch your wallet! See the Discodamaged.net Google Map for precise locations.

5. Schwules MuseumFor anybody with even a passing interest in LGBT history, the Schwule Museum which moved to Lützowstraße 73 in Mitte should definitely feature on their itinerary. Literally translating to “Gay Museum,” it is dedicated to preserving and celebrating all aspects of LGBT life through a variety of exhibitions, lectures and workshops hosted during the year. Its permanent exhibition is dedicated to 200 years of gay culture, while temporary exhibits honor gay icons such as Oscar Wilde and Marlene Dietrich.

Berlin wall

For even more insider recommendations in Berlin for other destinations around the globe and in the U.S., get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). 

And ManAboutWorld is now on the iPhone! Android coming soon. To download for the iPhone, click HERE.

Image credits: Top: Fabiana; Right: Lilas59; Bottom (Berlin Wall in the Newseum in Washington DC): John Pastor


5 Things You Can't Miss In Warsaw, Poland

LOW RES WAW1 Wojciech Staszczyk https-:www.flickr.com:photos:wstaszczyk:14201137721:
This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

For nearly a century, Warsaw was a city at times synonymous with strife and political upheaval — a victim of the Third Reich and then the Soviets after that. It’s endured invasions from Swedes and Prussians, and has had more Russian soldiers coming in and out of it than a … well, nevermind. It’s got a reputation for grey skies and dull architecture. Even its name — Warsaw — has a kind of gloomy ring to it. But recently, something’s been happening: The hipsters and the artists and the chefs from Berlin and Prague decided to move east where rents were cheaper; and with art and food and music (and gays!) came a newfound vibrancy. Soon after followed the boutique hotels and bars full of cute gay boys and re-emerging neighborhoods. Warsaw is surprisingly affordable for a European capital. While it’s part of the European Union, it still hasn’t adopted the Euro, and exchange rates for the Zloty are very favorable.

Much like Austin is to Texas, or Columbus to Ohio, this Polish city of 1.7 million is a relatively liberal dot in an otherwise conservative region. It’s a cosmopolitan, international city, where homosexuality has never been illegal, and where today, an enormous rainbow arch (known locally as Tecza) sculpted from thousands of plastic flowers sits in one of the central squares as a symbol of tolerance.

WHEN WE GO
On May 9 and June 6, the monthly COXY Party — a Berlin-esque, gay boy techno rave — returns to the city for its summer monthly residency. It’s fun, friendly and packed with a broad spectrum of guys. Fly in for the June 6 event, spend the week with your new friends from raucous COXY, and then stay through the next weekend to experience Warsaw Gay Pride on June 13. 

If you decide to support our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Warsaw you'll find lots of interesting attractions, sites and activities. For our complete list of must-see attractions, download our current issue. For now, enjoy our top 5 picks not to miss.

1.The Hotel BristolPart of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, this elegant, old world hotel has been beautifully renovated in an Art Deco/Hollywood Regency style and is set in an historic 1901 building on the edge of the Old Quarter and next to the presidential palace. We loved the on-site wine bar and bistro, park views, and plush, comfy beds, very central location and an accommodating staff.

2. Warszawa Wchodnia by Mateusz GesslerThis posh, upscale restaurant on the other side of the river, in the Praga LOW RES WAW4 https-:www.flickr.com:photos:25063318@N00:14273229663: district, specializes in French/Polish cuisine. Sit outside on a nice day, or inside at the counter surrounding the open kitchen and watch the handsome staff prepare your meal. It’s located in the Soho Factory, a collection of avant garde businesses in an old factory building.

3.Lazienki ParkFor an infusion of culture, start with a sunny day stroll through this extensive park, where you’ll find fountains, a palace, and beautiful gardens and sculptures, including a disproportionate number of stunning men in marble.

4. The Jewish CemeteryThis forgotten graveyard makes for a nice cultural companion to the Warsaw Rising museum, offering a different take on the scope of loss endured by Poland’s Jewish community. While the city’s adjacent Catholic cemetery is well-groomed and tended, the seemingly derelict and overgrown Jewish cemetery contextualizes the war in a poignant way.

5. Cafe Bar SzpilkaLocated across from the rainbow arch, this technically mixed (though very gay) bar is packed with cute boys, open 24 hours, and an uber trendy scene. Best to visit in the early hours after the clubs have closed. 

For even more insider recommendations in Warsaw for other destinations around the globe and in the U.S., get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

And ManAboutWorld is now on the iPhone! Android coming soon. To download for the iPhone, click HERE.

Image credits: Top: Wojciech Staszczyk; Right: Billy Kolber; Bottom: Magdalena Roeseler

LOW RES WAW7 Magdalena Roeseler https-:www.flickr.com:photos:magdalenaroeseler:14601872009:


5 Things You Can't Miss in San Francisco, California

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This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.


San Francisco is pretty much always ripe for a visit. It’s perfection in the spring, they host the world’s craziest Pride in summer, and three big gay street fairs, culminating with Folsom in the fall. But for a city so full of crazy parties, the Bay-to-Breakers street party — a 103-year-old foot race — is the only one that officially takes over the city and gives you a glimpse into the no-limits, creative, quirky spirit of the city as a whole.

TowerSure, it’s the sh-t show to end all sh-t shows, and wherever you go, you’ll run into costumed hordes, drunken masses, and the lingering smell of weed. Nowhere is safe from kookiness. And that’s the point. So make a crazy costume, grab a couple beers, and get ready to walk from the bay to the breakers. (Or, don’t, and just pretend to walk it while veering off into some debaucherous, spontaneously combusting dance party in Alamo Square Park, like everybody else does.)

On May 17, 2015, the city will host the country's longest ongoing race, maxing out at 12K from the San Francisco Bay and ending where the breakers crash onto the Pacific’s Ocean Beach near the Great Highway. Visit baytobreakers.com for registration info, fundraising opportunities, and the rules of the road.

If you head to San Francisco for this wacky road race or any other reason this spring, there's a lot to see and do from Alcatraz to Golden Gate Park to the Castro and on and on. We cover the city in full in ManAboutWorld, but we recently fell in love with the following five spots, which we for your next visit to the City by the Bay. 

1. Hotel Vitale: Understated elegance makes this property one of our favorite boutique hotels. The Americano Bar in the lobby — one of the city’s best — is great for a nightcap (they also serve breakfast in the morning.) The hotel is walking distance to Boulevard, The Slanted Door, Blue Bottle Coffee and the Ferry Building Market. It’s the best hotel in the Embarcadero area.

2. Starbelly: This spot is quintessential San Francisco: an easy-to-miss exterior, a warm, sleek-wood decor, low-hanging lights, a covered patio, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, and a sophisticated gay (and straight) crowd. Starbelly is the best Castro restaurant for a Saturday night dinner with a hip, lively atmosphere and great food.

3. Foreign Cinema: This oasis is enmeshed beside the Chilango grit of Mission St. At night, a silent, subtitled foreign film plays on a concrete wall above the warm glow of candle lit tables making it a nice choice for a romantic anniversary dinner; but the real surprise here is weekend brunch, featuring a sun-soaked patio, inside-outside seating, homemade pop-tarts, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a Croque Madame that will leave you speechless.

4. Churchill: Only a couple years old and already a neighborhood favorite, Churchill has a pool table, jukebox, and creative cocktails served in mason jars. Artsy specialists mix the drinks, but don’t be afraid to order a heavy beer in this place.

5. Toad Hall: The best of the gay clubs, Toad Hall has window seating, a dance floor, great music, and strong drinks. On crowded weekends, sit out on the back patio where there’s a separate bar and room to breathe. The bathrooms are crowded and lines are frustratingly long, but the good-looking crowd and familiar bartenders more than make up for it.

For even more insider recommendations in San Francisco for other destinations in the U.S. and around the globe, get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). 

Image credits: Top: Zappos-Bay to Breakers; Right: David Ohmer; Bottom: Bhautik Joshi

BaytoBreakers2 Bhautik Joshi https---www.flickr.com-photos-captin_nod-8756170557
 


5 Things You Can't Miss In Athens, Greece

ATH4 Harvey Barrison https---www.flickr.com-photos-hbarrison-3856976453-

This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

AthensAthens gets a bad rap. For most Western gay travelers heeding the siren call of Mykonos and Santorini, it’s an unavoidable waypoint, to be avoided except for a quick tour of the Acropolis. But stay long enough to explore, and you’ll see how outdated that reputation is. While the country is grinding through its sixth year of recession, there’s no mistaking the energy in the air, and for visitors this translates to a burgeoning street life that feels like New York’s East Village 20 years ago when the first swanky cocktail bars were opening. There are new museums (the five-year old Acropolis Museum is a marvel); the city offers cutting-edge art galleries and performances; and there’s a rapidly evolving food scene with a number of Michelin-starred restaurants muscling into Souvlaki land.

Neighborhoods once considered quite dull and pedestrian (to wit: Agia Eirinis’ mid-level fabric district, yawn) have erupted in recent years as hot gathering places. Eirinis’ labyrinthine streets are now punctuated by super cool spots with funky names (like TAF, see below), attracting hipsters à la Grecque (who can work thick beards like no other race on earth!). The limited gay bar scene starts quite late and Gazi, the gayborhood, is still a hot spot late at night though, like many Western gay ghettos, it seems to be on the wane, giving way to straight gentrification.

Athens is ready to reclaim the spotlight in any Greek itinerary. If you’re heading to Mykonos or Santorini, take a few days to discover it. If you’re coming for work, spend a few days to enjoy its pleasures. If you’re coming for the beaches (and there are spectacular ones nearby), bracket your visit with the city’s historic and modern urban appeal. An early June visit means lovely warm weather and Athens Pride, held June 13 in Klafthmonos Square. Whenever you visit, on your next trip to Greece, make time for Athens, but first be sure to check out our top five picks below.

1. New Hotel: This exciting, boundary-busting 79-room hotel with informal but efficient service is centrally located between the National Garden and the Acropolis just 200 yards from Syntagma Square. The New Hotel sports its Modernist Fifties facade proudly but inside it is cutting edge with its insides completely refashioned from the existing materials in whimsical and exciting ways.

2. KuzinaThis funky cool restaurant sprawls over several floors of a renovated 19th-century building. One floor is devoted to art. You can eat on the ground floor but it’s best to schlep to the Terazza, the rooftop, which opens in early afternoon. It’s best right at sunset.

3. TAF: TAF (the Art Foundation) is an incredibly cool multi-functional space offering drinks, art, culture and a buzzing hive of activity in a beautifully lit space. Hipsters and attractive Athenians of all ages and sexual orientations hoist craft brews and organic Greek wines while enjoying the latest art installation or live musical act. Our friends at GayGuide Greece have a full rundown of gay venues updated frequently.

ATH1 Greg Neate https---www.flickr.com-photos-neate_photos-8077571621-4. Acropolis & Acropolis MuseumThe best way to see the Acropolis is in tandem with the stunning new Acropolis Museum. There are arguments for seeing each first — our recommended approach is to go to the Acropolis with a guide who can explain everything (and sneak you by some of the horrendous lines. Then head directly to the fabulous, beautifully designed museum to get some context. 

5. Astir BeachAstir Beach located in Vouliagmeni is the most “in” beach where you’ll find lots of men, including many closeted guys with their girlfriends. Rent a car for the day; take a taxi; or take the tram to Glyfada, then bus no. 114 or 116. The beach is clean and you can find many amenities (shops, cafe, restaurant, and sport facilities). There are even ruins (a temple to Apollo) so you know you’re really in Greece.

For even more insider recommendations in Athens, Thessaloniki and our favorite islands, as well as opinionated travel information and inspiration for destinations in the U.S. and around the globe, get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). 

Image credits: Top: Harvey Barrison; Right: Greg Neate; Bottom: Panos Asproulis


ATH5 Panos Asproulis https---www.flickr.com-photos-paspro-3630143075-


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