A tropical fishie.

 
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Thailand and Burma are neighbors, but they couldn't be more different.
Southeast Asia  
 

This is one of several pages created to share insights from gay and lesbian scuba divers, about diving sites worldwide. For other locations, please go to our dive location index.

 

 

 

 

If you're concerned about political unrest in Indonesia or other areas, check the State Department's travel advisories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While it's easy to get dive lessons in the Philippines from a qualified outfitter, we recommend getting lessons at home, so you can spend more of your vacation diving. Our Dive FAQs page tells more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gay Thailand provides more insights into this friendly and appealing land.

Diving is an optional activity on several days of Honah Lee, an outdoors vacation in Thailand for gay men and lesbians. It's one of many active holidays offered by Alyson Adventures, award-winning leader in the field of gay travel.

 

Other active vacations are described at our affiliated Gay Adventure Travel and Lesbian Adventure Travel sites.

 

 

 

Burma 

The waters of Burma have excellent diving, but Burma is controlled by one of the world's most repressive military regimes. Thus Burma, also known as Myanmar, ranks firmly at the bottom of anybody's list of fun places to be gay. Or alive, for that matter.

There's a good case to be made for not giving the Burmese regime any of your dollars. However, if you choose to dive there, the best way is to start in Phuket, Thailand. Several dive operators here will take you into Burmese waters. Be prepared to pay a hefty fee for your Burmese visa.

 Anemones' beauty belies their stinging power.Indonesia 

The vast archipelago of Indonesia stretches some 3,000 miles -- as wide as the continental United States -- and includes over 16,000 islands. It includes numerous superb dive sites, many of which are still largely unvisited.

Visitors to Indonesia cannot rely on the same quality of dive services and training that they'd get in the U.S. We recommend it for experienced divers, but novices should accumulate experience at a location where training is more uniform. Conservative use of dive tables is also recommended. Decompression chambers here are few and, given the state of transportation, quite far between.

Social attitudes vary among the islands, but homosexuality is not illegal, and traditionally has been treated casually, as a part of the human experience, and perfectly compatible with heterosexual marriage. The growing presence of a western-style gay presence has created some negative reaction in a few areas, but overall, Indonesia remains largely tolerant.

Recent political unrest in Indonesia need not deter all visitors. This is the world's fourth most populous country, and riots in one region won't necessarily impact visitors to another. If in doubt, check with the U.S. State Department about the location you plan to visit.

Divers hover above a World War II aircraft engine.For gay and lesbian divers, Indonesia's most appealing destination is Bali. In a Hindu region of the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is more gay-friendly than the Muslim Jakarta. It even has a few gay bars, though gay culture is quite undeveloped. Bali is also home to some of the most popular dive sites are around Bali, roughly in the center of the archipelago. The wreck of a World War II Liberty ship at Tulamben is a popular site. Trickier, but drawing raves from experienced divers, is Tepekong Canyon, off the island of Candi Dasa. And, finally, it's very inexpensive.

Malaysia

Anti-gay attitudes remain strong in Malaysia. Barbaric criminal prosecutions have resulted in penalties that include whippings, or up to 20 years in prison. In 2001, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad refueled the homophobia, prosecuting a political rival who was accused of engaging in homosexual acts (the man got a nine-year prison sentence) and announcing that gay visitors would be ejected from the country.

As for diving? The waters of Malaysia host several world-class diving sites, most notably Sipadan, known for its pelagics. But equally inviting sites can be found in countries that are far friendlier, where you can spend your dollars without supporting such regimes. For gay people determined to dive Malaysian waters, a dive boat will offer a more comfortable environment than a land-based vacation.

  The Philippines 

The Philippines offer both a vast number of high-quality dive sites, and an environment generally accepting of gay visitors.In contrast to some Asian countries such as Indonesia, the quality of training and support in the Philippines is generally high. A new diver can get lessons from a PADI or NAUI recognized operator and be confident of learning good skills -- and non-English speaking students can often find an instructor in their native language. (We still advise getting lessons in advance, as discussed on our Dive FAQs page.)

As for actual dive sites: It's hard to beat the variety offered by the Philippines, from deep wall dives to placid lagoons. Once you're here, the Philippines can be quite inexpensive. To get the best deals, take the time to shop around, rather than simply taking the packages offered at the big chain hotels.

The Philippines have no laws against homosexuality among consenting adults. There's a small but visible gay community in Manila. Outside the capital, signs of gay life are scarce, but visitors who show respect for their host country are unlikely to encounter problems.

Thailand 

Southern Thailand consists of a peninsula with different bodies of water, and diving conditions, on each side. To the west lies the Andaman Sea; Phuket is a common base for divers here. On the east is the Gulf of Thailand and the island of Ko Samui.

A diver checks out an orange sponge.North of the Similan Islands lie the Burma Banks. Despite their name, these are in international waters. In the 1990s Burma briefly tried to regulate diving here; at this writing, they have backed off from earlier demands, but the future remains unpredictable.

When it comes to attitudes about homosexuality, Thailand ranks with the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries as one of the world's most non-discriminatory countries. Sexuality in general is accepted here as a part of the human experience, and only due to western influence have the Thai's even begun to distinguish between gay and straight sex.

While activities behind your bedroom door are considered no one else's business in Thailand, a high level of public modesty is expected. Nude sunbathing is taboo; so are public displays of affection such as kissing. Gay visitors are often enchanted to learn, however, that while heterosexual couples would be shunned if they held hands in public, same-same friends can be quite affectionate with one another.

 

 
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