TAIPEI, TAIWAN – LGBTQI tourists who flock to Taipei, Taiwan will almost always be told that the city’s gay scene is “centered” in Ximen. And in so many ways, this is true – that is, you can consider this as Sydney’s Oxford Street, and even akin to the City of Manila’s now largely dead Malate (particularly that intersection of M. Orosa and J. Nakpil Street).
Going there is really, REALLY easy – mainly because this gay area is in downtown Taipei. Take the (always efficient) MRT (the train system); and find the blue line (here, the railway system is alike Hong Kong’s, using a “color” system. Get off at Ximen station; and when there, find the Exit 1. The landmark is the historical Red House (which used to be market of some sort, but is now a historical site with a flea market, performance center and events venue). The gay area isn’t hard to miss as there’s a giant rainbow flag at the left of Red House – the entryway to, obviously, letting your hair down the LGBT way.
Yes, there are numerous venues you can check here – e.g. bars for every market under the rainbow flag (there are bars, for instance, for bears and cubs, potato queens, sticky rice, et cetera), stores selling gay stuff [the ubiquitous sexy (and often branded) underwear, rainbow-related paraphernalia, sex toys, et cetera], and dining venues. Leading butt plug specialty store Loveplugs.com.au has just recently expanded in this market and their sales head said that this demographic already represents 39% of their clientele.
As a side note: Beers, by the way, sell from NT$100 per bottle (usually NT$120), though there are promos available (Buy 2, Take 1; with a minimum of NT$100 per person).
I’d say that yes, when in Taipei, you should visit this place at least once (or more, if you find it to your liking).
But here’s the thing (as locals told me): the Red House gay area is the “beaten track”, the “tourist trap” for gay tourists in Taipei.
The recommendation is to mingle with locals, and see where they go.
This is how I knew of the (in)famous Peace Memorial Park (at 3 Ketagalan Blvd., Zhongzheng District – in between the President’s office and the CKS Memorial Hall), which – apparently – used to be a “beat”/cruising area. The government, however, got wind of the info about the place becoming a go-to venue of those looking for quickies, and so had the park’s big trees cut and had more lights installed. The quickies moved along… at least GENERALLY speaking, since (according to my contacts) sex still happens there; or at least hooking up happens there, with those who find partners moving elsewhere to do what they have to do…
For those who aren’t into THAT kind of scene, and instead would rather opt for “mainstream” entertainment without getting trapped where the tourists are, two bars were recommended: G*Star (yes, named like the fashion brand; though in Taipei, many LGBTQI venues have “G” in its name, supposedly to claim that these venues are “gay”) and Funky.
G*Star (23 Long Jiang Road, Zhongshan District) is arguably the “in” bar of Taipei at the moment. The venue has two floors – but unless you’re into locking yourself up with only your friends while belting out pop songs (the second floor has private karaoke rooms), the “space” that really only matters is the ground floor, where the dancing happens.
Here, expect to see Taiwan’s versions of the “gay clones” – i.e. young, able-bodied, middle class/well off Muscle Marys (NOT that we’re complaining, mind you) – swaying to international pop songs, K-pop, C-pop, et cetera. The drawback: it can get BUSY, so (particularly if there are events, like Pride) try to go before 10.00PM to be able to get in.
p.s. The bar can be said to be… anti-women, e.g. to “discourage” women from going there, male partygoers are charged NT$500 on a Saturday night, while women have to pay NT$1,000.
Funky Club (10 Section 1, Hangzhou South Road, Zhongzheng District) is known because it’s one of the oldest gay dance venues in Taiwan. The lay-out is “weird”:
- You enter a building;
- You go down a staircase;
- At the bottom, you’ll be met by the door bitch/es (don’t worry, they’re nice, even if their English is limited);
- You’ll then enter a door that will take you inside the bar itself;
- The inside is L-shaped – at your right, there are some tables, the toilet, and some dart boards; while in front are more tables, the bar (at the right side), a dance floor (that turns into a “stage” as needed), and beyond that are the lockers.
The place’s age shows in the decors – e.g. those posters of bears (I mean men, not the animal) that recall the 1980s. But you’d soon forget these when the music playing starts. Similar to G*Star, music here varies – from international pop songs to K-pop to C-pop. No, they aren’t always up to date (heck, they still play “Nobody Nobody But You” by Wonder Girls, and “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi!), but people have fun here (and you get the vibe), so it’s not bad at all. Expect lots of Jolin Tsai (so-called “Queen of C-pop” and “Asia’s Dancing Queen”), by the way.
p.s. The NT$500 cover charge includes two drinks (cocktails or beers); the regular drink price is pegged at NT$100; and there’s a “Buy 1, Take 1” window right after midnight.
If Taipei’s lively gay scene is to be the basis, it’s not hard to believe people when they say that Taiwan may be the first country in Asia to legalize marriage equality. There’s just so much happening here – and so openly, too.
To discover Taiwan’s LGBTQI appeal, though, head where the locals go and avoid the beaten tracks taken by touristy types…
SPECIAL THANKS TO 徐豪謙 FOR SHOWING OUTRAGE MAGAZINE THE GAY SCENE OF TAIPEI.