Gay Hong Kong
Covid-19 emergency measures:
With the expiration of social distancing measures on May 7th, the Hong Kong government will reopen schools and relax some restrictions, as new coronavirus infections stabilise. Current limits on public gatherings of groups of up to four persons will rise to eight. Gyms, cinemas, gaming centres, mahjong, massage and beauty parlours will reopen, but with restrictions in place until May 21st. Bars and pubs may also reopen, with a cap on the number of patrons, and without live bands or dancing.
Although it’s been two decades since the change in sovereignty, this small enclave of seven million people remains a world apart from the rest of China. When established as a British colony in 1842, the area was just a collection of small fishing villages around a magnificent harbor. Today, with a large foreign working population and an 'East meets West' way of life, Hong Kong's people have a unique society that borrows from both worlds. With a degree of political and legal autonomy under the 'one country, two systems' policy, the city ranks as the third most important international financial center after New York and London, with it's own currency, one of the highest per capita income levels, and a generally high level of civil liberties. At the same time, as part of China, the city is at the cutting edge of changes taking place across this vast and populous country; an important position in what is expected to be the world's most powerful economy, sometime within the next decade.
In many ways Hong Kong is already one of the most gay-friendly cities in Asia. British courts, using harsh laws against male homosexuality, could once impose sentences of life imprisonment, but that changed in 1991 when the Legislative Council decriminalized private, adult, non-commercial, consensual homosexual relations. The age of consent was set at 16 in 2006. While social conservatives, often evangelical Christians or Catholics, still view homosexuality as immoral, a majority of people aren't bothered. The history of same-sex relations in China, before negative Western viewpoints took hold, has been documented since ancient times; celebrated in the art and literature of many dynasties. Confucians did however consider having children (especially sons) to be an important family duty. See the Wiki article Homosexuality in China.
In today's gay scene, upscale cocktail lounges and rather dressy dance clubs contrast with the uncomplicated sex and nudity found at private men's saunas and the sensual touches at the many massage establishments. Otherwise, the sex and fetish clubs, erotic strippers and dark rooms so common in the West are absent here, but many attractive young men post online ads with none-too-subtle come-ons and a phone number, often with explicit photos of themselves. Chinese-only websites, far more numerous than those in English, provide a vast array of chat-lines and hook-ups for men. Although gay sex is legal in China, sex-for-pay is (technically) not.
There are gay business clusters in several districts, including around Hollywood Road area in Central and Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island, and around Nathan Road in Kowloon across the harbor. Middle Bay, a small area next to Repulse Bay on Hong Kong Island, the most popular gay beach, is accessible by taxi or a short walk from Repulse. Walk a little further to find another gay section at South Bay Beach. Lantau Island's south coast has a beautiful long stretch of sand called Cheung Sha Beach, where gay sunbathers spread their towels next to a rocky outcrop bisecting the beach.
See an overview of gay places of interest to visitors, with locations and website links, in our map & listings section. Pick up a copy of DS Magazine's Q Guide, with monthly-updated lists and maps, before heading out to explore. For a little networking while in town, check out the amusingly named Fruits in Suits, a business group that holds mixers once a month.
Many of the gayest events of the year take place at the end of the year, during Pink Season. Check out the September Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, one of the biggest gay events of the year, and the Hong Kong Pride Parade in November. Previous Pink Seasons have included a Gay Day at Hong Kong Disneyland and a Mr. Gay Hong Kong contest -- with the winner representing Hong Kong in the Mr. Gay World Pageant.
As one of the world's powerhouse cities of commerce, Hong Kong has few equals for shopping opportunities. A local penchant for bargaining and the lack of sales tax only add to the incentives at the vast selection of shops of all kinds. Canton Road is home to many upscale brand-name stores, and Harbour City has hundreds of shops. The nearby 1881 Heritage, a former colonial police station, is a luxury shopping center. Elements, above the Kowloon MTR Station, has five levels of stores, each representing one of the five elements of nature, plus a ice skating rink and huge cinema.
Big spenders might consider staying at the new five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel which occupies the upper floors of the International Commerce Centre, towering above Kowloon MTR Station in the world's fourth tallest building by height. Their Ozone bar has tapas and great views of the city and Victoria Harbour from the top floor, but allows no sandals, teeshirts or shorts. For some other lodgings options see our map & listings section.
Noodles, dim sum, and other Cantonese favorites characterize traditional Hong Kong cuisine, but this international city also offers a wide variety of other foods from elsewhere in China, East Asia, and around the world. For gay-friendly restaurant listings, see the Dining Out section of Dim Sum Magazine. Other guides are listed under 'media' below.
Hong Kong International Airport is the main international gateway. The MTR Airport Express train is the best and quickest way to get into the city, costing 350 HKD round trip (around US$45), including 3 consecutive days of unlimited travel on MTR lines, Light Rail and MTR Bus services. You get a 50 HKD ($6.50) refund if you return the card. There are also buses and taxis.
Within such a densely packed area the public transportation of this city is highly developed, and has one of the highest levels of usage anywhere. A Single Journey Ticket entitles you to one ride to a pre-selected destination on the day of purchase. The fare is based on the distance travelled. Normal adult fares range between 4.5 HKD and 14.5 HKD per trip for most destinations throughout the system, not including outlying lines, the Disneyland station or the airport and checkpoint (China) terminuses.
An Octopus rechargeable smart card can make per-trip costs even cheaper, and a Tourist Day Pass is available for unlimited rides on most types of MTR and Light Rail for 65 HKD (around US$8). A variety of other passes, including trips to Hong Kong Disneyland, are also offered.
The five subway lines are the speediest way to get around Hong Kong. On the surface there are double-decker trams, buses, and taxis. Wi-Fi coverage is available at 32 stations along the MTR network. For all public transportation info see the MTR website.
Star Ferry carries passengers across Victoria Harbour, providing great views as well as transportation. They also offer harbor tours on their re-creation of a classic ferry of old Hong Kong, with cafe on board. A number of other ferry companies also provide connections around the harbor - see the ferry pages of Discover Hong Kong for more on these.
The Peak Tramway funicular railway carries tourists and residents to upper levels of Hong Kong Island, from Central district to Victoria Peak via the Mid-Levels. The Mid-Levels escalator, the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, is one of several escalators and moving pavements in the steep and hilly terrain of the Central and Western districts. Mid-Levels travel time is about 25 minutes for 800 metres, and a climb of 135 metres -- quicker if you walk at the same time. Note "SoHo" means "above Hollywood Road" in the escalator system landscape.
Unlike elsewhere in China, vehicles in Hong Kong and Macau are driven on the left-hand side of the road, as in Britain, Australia and Japan (among others). Pedestrians from elsewhere should look for cars and buses in unexpected places; but with jaywalking laws strictly enforced, few cross against the light.
Cantonese, the de facto official language spoken by most people here, is mutually unintelligible with other spoken Chinese varieties, but somewhat similar when written. Lessons in Mandarin, China's national language, are encouraged, but Cantonese lyrics in popular music make it fashionable far beyond the home area. English, another official language, is understood by about 35 percent of people in Hong Kong, mostly as a second language. Signs in both Chinese and English are commonplace, with many roads retaining their colonial names in English.
What to do
Main sights on your to-see list should include the Chi Lin Nunnery, a peaceful retreat in a sprawling suburb; the Hong Kong Museum of Art; and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Check out the skyline view seen on the postcards, from Victoria Peak, by way of the Peak Tramway. You’ll also want to see the Tian Tan Buddha, a 202-ton statue said to be the world’s largest, overlooking Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. For more suggestions see our activities listings.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the Hong Kong dollar, the ninth most traded currency in the world. Credit cards are accepted everywhere in this cosmopolitan city. ATMs can be found all over, and some HSBC machines provide 24-hour HKD cash withdrawals for Visa and Mastercard holders. Consult your home bank before departure for more details. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has a useful section at Money.
Media and Resources
DS Magazine is Hong Kong's free gay lifestyle magazine. Their pocket-size monthly Q Guide has detailed maps of gay Hong Kong and Kowloon that can be downloaded in pdf format.
Element Magazine is an Asian app for all platforms, about men's fashions, groomig, entertainment and travel. Fruits & Suits, or FinS, is an LGBT informal monthly professional networking event. Check their facebook page for their social events venue of the month.
Plug Magazine, with glossy print pages and a website, promotes community, culture, and creativity in Hong Kong, from a gay perspective.
Utopia, the gay guide to Asia, also has listings for Hong Kong. Travel Gay Asia also has listings for SE Asia, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Sydney Australia, with good coverage of the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Hong Kong.
Time Out also has a good guide to the LGBT scene in Hong Kong.
Rainbow HK operates the LGBT Community Centre in Hong Kong with over 100 annual activities including discussion groups, forums, workshops, art shows, movies, sports, camping, BBQs, picnics, karaoke events and music concerts. Services include blood testing, counseling, hotline, education, outreach, HIV intervention, legal support, and emergency domestic violence support.
GayHK is a local website portal for saunas, and massage services, in Chinese and English. Some outfits have out-services only.
Discover Hong Kong is the website of the HK Tourism Board. For information about public swimming pools and beaches, museums, libraries and parks, see the Leisure & Cultural Services or the Public Museums website.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Hong Kong listings pages.
Going Out, bars
Boo Bar (225 Nathan Rd, Jordan), karaoke bar, early crowd of bears, DJs until 4am on weekends.
LinQ (35 Pottinger St, Central), casual gay/mixed bar, Wednesday Guy’s Nights, Saturday LIT, DJ music, terrace, international mix.
L’Paradis (57-59 Chatham Rd S, Cameron Centre 5/F, Tsim Sha Tsui), nightly lesbian bar, games, karaoke, dancing, theme party nights.
New Wally Matt Lounge (152 Austin Rd, Kowloon), gay bar/lounge, restaurant, internet WiFi, happy hours, mixed international older crowd.
T:me (65 Hollywood Rd, Central), trendy, gay-friendly Soho mixed bar, soft jazz, quality wines.
Virus (447-449 Lockhart Rd, Chung Wai Commercial Bldg, 21/F, Causeway Bay), long-time lesbian bar, new location, karaoke, BBQ/food, make your own drinks specials.
Wink (79 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan), chic gay bar, all black, minimal decor, all-day breakfast, cocktail menu.
ZerOne (Shop 17 Hang Fook Bldg, 17-23 Shanghai St, Jordan), small locals' gay pub in Kowloon, karaoke, men/women, snacks.
CLOSED: Adonis Bar (468 Jaffe Rd, Causeway Bay); Bauhinia Beach Club (South Bay Rd, Middle Bay Beach); Cafe Queen (237 Queens Rd W, Sheung Wan; Deja Vu (41 Staunton St, Central); Lab (468 Jaffe Rd, Causeway Bay); Midnight & Co (79 Wyndham, Central); Tony's Bar (5A, Chatham Rd, S, Kowloon); Volume HEAT (83-85 Hollywood Rd, Central); X Bar (50 Jardine's Bazaar, Causeway Bay).
Going Out, clubs
Bing Bing (15 Sharp St East, Causeway Bay), popular gay craft cocktail lounge on the 22nd floor, good sound, special parties, shows, go-go boys, mostly young local guys; formerly Circo.
FLM (62 Jervois St, Central), gay two-floor nightclub dancing, drag shows, theme parties; the former Volume | BEAT location.
Guerrilla Hong Kong sponsored gay take-over nights at straight clubs around town each month; inactive since Oct 2017.
Ophelia (200 Queen's Rd E/ 1/F, Lee Tung Ave, Wan Chai), opulent dance club/ cocktail lounge cabaret entertainment, friendly all week, gayest Tuesdays with drag diva and male dancers; dress smart.
Petticoat Lane (57-59 Wyndham St, Central), Wednesday-Sunday basement LGBT/ mixed "no-labels" dancing/clubbing, bartender hunks, outdoor area, male & female pole dancers.
PLAY Club (1 On Hing Ter, Central), gay-friendly mixed dance club, international vibe, shows, special events.
Volar (38-44 D'Aguilar St, Central), serious dance club, mixed crowd, guest DJs from around the world.
Zoo (33 Jervois St, Sheung Wan), jungle decor, mixed dance crowd, jazz & Latin music nights.
CLOSED: Club 97 (9 Lan Kwai Fong, Central); Propaganda (1 Hollywood Rd, Central), long-time popular gay dance club; Volume BEAT (62 Jervois St, Sheung Wan), gay nightclub dancing.
Saunas & Cruise Clubs
Hong Kong has a lot of gay saunas; places where gay men go for "release" and relaxation, as opposed to the clubs, where they go to socialize, dress up, see-and-be-seen. We list the 14 most accessible for visitors below and in our map & listings/saunas page.
Most have all the amenities you'd expect: dry sauna, steam room, Jacuzzis, cabins, video lounges and dark room cruising; some also have pools, bars, karaoke nights and/or cafes. Some are favored by bears, others by younger crowds, with varying proportions of East/West mixing. Others not listed, mostly locals' bathhouses, can be found by anyone adventurous enough (and Cantonese speaking) by searching the local listings.
Among the most welcoming saunas to gay foreigners:
Arena (16 Granville Circuit, Tsim Sha Tsui), 24-hour sauna, dark room, hot tub, nude days, cabins; formerly ABC Sauna.
Central Escalator (37 Cochrane St, Cheung Hing Commercial Bldg, Central), small but central men's steam and dry sauna, Jacuzzi, cabins, snacks, international mix.
Colony Sauna (177 Prince Edward Rd West, Kowloon), 24-hour steam room, Jacuzzi, dark room, cabins, locals/visitors, TV lounge and garden terrace, WiFi, nude nights.
Soda Sauna (417-421 Hennessy Rd, Causeway Bay), 24-hour steam and dry saunas, tanning, dark room, cabins, videos, WiFi, and snacks; formerly Action.
Gong Guan (30 Jordan Rd, Vincent House 3/F, Kowloon), modern new steam and dry saunas, dark room, cabins, open 24-hours over weekends.
HuTong (639-645 Shanghai St, Kar Wong Bldg 2/F, Mong Kok), 24-hour steam and dry sauna, locals/visitor mix, Jacuzzi, dark maze, nude and muscular nights, suite rooms.
Other saunas include: Chaps (15 Ming Yuen Western St, North Point), My Way (340 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai), and Jungle (577 Nathan Rd, Mong Kok) attracting a mainly younger Asian crowd, and Galaxy (81 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui), steam and dry saunas with mostly older Asian crowd and karaoke rooms -- all welcome foreigners.
CLOSED: Alexander 24 (404 Reclamation St, Mong Kok).
Men's cruise venues include: Bird's Men's Club (90 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui), Kowloon foreigner-welcoming nude afternoon-evening facility with video lounge, private cabins and shower; and Rainbow Bear (482 Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei), bears' club with cafe and private cabins.
For our listings of 22 massage spas, see Services on the map page. All provide in-house services and some will come to a home residence or hotel room. In addition, Felix Massage, Gym Spa HK, Gay Hotel Massage HK, Super Spa, Male Massage Hong Kong and MM Club provide out-call services only. There are many more if you look around, and/or speak the language. See the GayHK website for more complete local online listings of over 160 local saunas, spas, and massage service providers, with websites mostly in Chinese, but many in English as well.
Accommodations & Restaurants
You can find lodgings most anywhere in the city, at rates from cheap and basic to world-class luxury suites with fantastic city views and regal pampering, if price isn't an issue.
We list a sample ranging from the Y-Loft Hostel to the Ritz-Carlton atop the ICC Tower (the world's highest hotel rooms), in Kowloon, Central and nearby areas. The Butterfly group of hotels, along with Mini Hotel Central are each well-located and full-service, at affordable prices.
See these and more, along with some restaurant suggestions, each with location and most with a website link, at our map & listings/hotels page.