Taipei, the national capital of Taiwan, is the country's political, economic, scientific, military and cultural center, and a global leader in cutting-edge computer and electronics technologies. Part of the best collection of Chinese art in the world is here, half the collection of the emperors from the Forbidden Ciy in Beijing, known as the Taipei Gugong, representing over over 10,000 years of Chinese arts and history at the National Palace Museum. A more traditional Chinese society survives here too, without some of the kinds of changes seen on the mainland after decades of Communism.
Perhaps the best Chinese food in the world can be enjoyed in Taiwan, in varieties that reflect the influences of many regions; noodles from South China, soups of Fujan, mixed in with local Taiwanese fare -a natural melange of island rustic foods, heavy on pork and shrimp paste, using roots and dried fish for more complex flavors. A wide assortment of International cuisines are also represented. In the opinion of many reviewers, Taiwanese street food ranks with the best, and costs very little.
The Taiwanese gay population is probably among the friendliest on earth, and tourists flock here from other Asian cities like Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Open and welcoming to foreigners, the guys appear genuine in their concern that everyone has a good time on their island. Less visible than the gay men's scene, lesbians are equally welcoming, and most women only have only to visit the right cafe or go to a dance event organized by LezMeeting to fit right in.
A Bit of History
Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, was inhabited only by aboriginal peoples until Dutch and Spanish settlers arrived in the 17th century. Han Chinese people began immigrating soon after, and pro-Ming loyalists expelled the Dutch in 1662 to establish Chinese rule. Taipei was founded in the early 18th century under the Qing Dynasty. Taiwan became a Japanese colony in 1895, with Taipei as its capital, following the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese began an extensive program of building, using advanced urban planning, including an extensive railroad network. Many city landmarks and cultural institutions date from this period.
In 1945, after WWII, Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China. The island soon provided sanctuary for Chiang Kai-shek as he retreated with the Kuomintang/ Nationalist government in December 1949, after the Chinese Communist Party prevailed on the mainland. Taipei became the provisional capital of the ROC, which represented China in the United Nations and other organizations, until the People's Republic of China took the seats in the 1970s. Until his death in 1975, Chiang ruled a one-party state with a government of mostly mainlanders, prohibited opposition parties, and suppressed local culture - forbidding the use of local languages in media broadcasts and schools. During the "White Terror" around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned, and thousands were executed for opposition to his government. But Chiang's authoritarian state also pushed economic development, contributing to present-day prosperity. Fifteen years after his death, in 1990, mass rallies in the plaza at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall finally prompted a transition to multi-party democracy in the mid-90s.
Gay Rights in Taiwan
Under Chiang Kai-chek the government mostly ignored homosexuality, preferring to insist it didn't exist in the ROC. Men cruised New Park (now 2-28 Park) and the government put up lights and cleared the underbrush; but police didn't launch the kind of anti-gay crack-downs seen in many pre-Stonewall Western societies. Red Light District prostitution in Wanhua didn't get "cleaned up" until long after Chiang's death either.
Today Taiwan ranks among the most "progressive" countries in Asia, and adult, private consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal. Sexual orientation discrimination in education was banned in 2003, and 2007 legislation banned such discrimination in the workplace too. The LGBT Pride parade each October is one of Asia's largest, with participant numbers now standing at about 60,000. Men still cruise 2-28 Park, but phone app hook-ups are as popular here as anywhere, and sex workers no longer need red lights in their windows. Same-sex marriage legislation however, first proposed in 2003, has stalled. Worse still, Taiwan is said by Utopia-Asia to deport HIV+ foreigners. They advise those who are poz not to tell the visa office, and to do an anonymous test before being tested for a work visa.
In further bad news from Taiwan: police in Taipei raided the huge G5 Pride Party in October 2014, shutting it down; then in November 2014, as reported by London's Pink News website, they shut down the local website Gayway for “distributing obscene material” in their ongoing efforts to "...purify the online environment.”
Most international flights arrive at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, in nearby Taoyuan County. Songshan Airport at city center serves domestic flights and flights to Tokyo International Airport, Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, and some 15 cities in the People's Republic of China. Songshan Airport is accessible by the Neihu Line of Taipei Metro. From Taiwan Taoyuan take the shuttle bus to the THSR Taoyuan Station, a direct-to-center bus, or a bus between the two airports.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail system operates bullet trains between Taipei and the west coast cities of Banciao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Zuoying (Kaohsiung). The Taiwan Railway Administration runs passenger trains throughout the island.
The Taipei Joint Bus System operates an extensive city bus system serving areas not covered by the metro, with exclusive bus lanes. Riders of the city metro system can use an EasyCard for discounted bus fares, and vice versa. Several major intercity bus terminals are located throughout the city, including the Taipei Bus Station and Taipei City Hall Bus Station.
YouBike provides a short-distance transportation option linked to the city’s MRT metro stations, with 173 rental stations along the MRT Bannan, Wenhu and Luzhou lines and other locations, and a fleet of over 5,000 bikes. An EasyCard acts as both payment and membership card.
The New Taiwan dollar is the currency of Taiwan with the code TWD, and the common abbreviation NT$. The value has fluctuated between 25-30 NT$ per US dollar in recent years. ATMs are everywhere, and most businesses accept credit cards - allthough some bars and cafes take cash only.
Among the 12 districts of Taipei City the most interesting ones for gay and lesbian visitors include:
Wanhua - the oldest district in Taipei, made up of 36 villages, home to ‘gay village’ businesses clustered around The Red House, among a number of historic buildings such as the Longshan Temple, built during years of Japanese rule. Here too is Ximending, the city's center for fashion, theater, music, herbs, open-air markets, alternative subcultures, and things Japanese, with many shops, night markets and department stores along pedestrian-only streets. Elements of the former "red light district" remain just out of sight, despite a 1990s "clean up." Get off the metro at Ximen MRT Station for the Red House.
Da’an – known for the shopping district on and around Zhongxiao East Road and Dunhua South Road, with specialty boutiques, department stores, and fashionable restaurants, plus three major national universities, and several museums. For gay clubbing check out the Luxy, plus several lesbian-popular cafes such as the Love Lez. The East Metro Market runs beneath Zhongxiao Road between metro stations, and find the Tonghua Night Market on the east side, the Shida Night Market to the west.
Xinyi – adjacent to Da’an, has government buildings, a financial district, the Taipei 101 tower and World Trade Center, large shopping malls and luxury hotels.
Songshan – former tea estate lands, now a financial center and home to the Raohe Street Night Market, Songshan Airport, the University of Taipei, Ciyou Temple and the Taipei Arena.
Beitou – in northernmost suburbs, the most mountainous and highest area of the city, with the Yangmingshan National Park, geothermal hot springs and spas that include the Kawayu, popular with gay men.
Media and Resources
TravelGayAsia is an online travel guide listing gay bars, nightclubs, saunas, spas, beaches, shops and more, in Taipei and 48 other cities in 13 Asian countries, plus Australia and New Zealand.
UtopiaAsia also has a guide to Taipei, along with other towns in Taiwan, and they cover cities in 20 countries throughout the region, with maps, and a loyal network of "utopians" who leave comments about all the bars and bathhouses.
GinGin Bookstore, near the MRT Taipower Building Station, has LGBT books, magazines, comics, DVDs, and CDs, plus tank tops, shorts, and odds and ends ranging from rainbow buttons to dildos. They're also an informal community center, with various events and activities for men and women.
LezMeeting is a lesbian online lifestyle magazine with events listings including their own Lez's Wonderland parties; a portal into a women's world not found in most gay magazines. In Chinese only, but easily translated. Love Boat, with a store in Da'an, also has services, information and events mainly for women, but gay men-friendly.
The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association provides LGBT peer counseling, support networks, and other community resources, mostly in English, but including Chinese-language bar/club listings you won't see in most city guides.
AngloInfo/Taipei has useful tips in English about life in Taipei, for short-term tourists, or anyone considering a move to this city.
For English-language print media, each with online editions, see: the Taipei Times with daily news and bilingual section; and the China Post, for news, politics, business and visitor information. The Taiwan News is another online source for news in English.
Cinemas normally show films in the original languages, with Chinese subtitles; look for programs/ schedules in the above newspapers. The three week Taipei Film Festival takes place from late June through mid-July.
The Guide to Taipei is a good quick reference resource for many places of interest, website links and transit system information.
Waegook Tom is the blog of a gay British expat, now living in Taipei; with observations about gay Taiwan, along with Korea, a previous home, and other stops in recent travels between Eastern Europe and Colombia.
A thriving 'gay boy' culture has emerged in Taipei over the past few years and bears are well represented too, prompting some people to call this city “the new Bangkok,” with many bars, dance clubs, saunas, massage spas, and hot springs. Gay clubbers and partygoers come here from all around the region and beyond, for world-class dance parties and circuit festivals. The businesses we list are those most accessible to visitors, but a wider, Chinese-language-only LGBT community exists for anyone who speaks the language, with many small locals' clubs. This is particularly true in the much lower-profile lesbian community, a much larger scene than one might think on first impression or judging by media listings. Women visitors can check out the lesbian-popular cafes and shops like Love Boat to get oriented, to be welcomed, and very likely shown around by friendly locals. Where possible in our map listings we include business names and addresses in Chinese, to show taxi drivers or others who don't speak English - click through from the links below.
Hotels and Guesthouses
3rd Floor Stay (114-4, Section 2, Wuchang St, 3rd Fl, Wanhua; 886-2-2381-0606), 6-room, men-only guesthouse a short walk from Red House, shops, restaurants and cinema complex.; DVD/TV, free WiFi.
Inn Touch (2, Lane 53, Section 2, Hankou St, Wanhua; 886-2-2331-4506), men-only, 20 single room hostel a few blocks from Red House bars; gym access, cafe, rooms with PCs and free WiFi.
Q Stay (42, Section 2, Changsha St, Wanhua; 886-2-2331-4506), 15-room gay men's boutique hotel near Red House, 24-hour snacks, roof garden; each room with desktop computer, HD TV, cable TV, free WiFi.
Three Little Birds (10-1, Lane 62, TaiShun St, Da-an; 886-98-805-5537), cozy rooms near Taipower Bldg metro, friendly staff, gay tourism advice, kitchen and laundry facilities, bike rentals, common room TV/ DVD/ computer, WiFi throughout.
W Taipei (10, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Rd, Xinyi; 886-2-7703-8888), 405 modern rooms and suites, swimming pool, gym/spa, international and Chinese cuisine restaurants, bars; upscale shopping district nearby.
For a dozen hotel and guesthouse suggestions, see our Taipei map and listings pages.
83 Karaoke (12, Lane 85, Linsen North Rd, Zhongshan), older crowd gay karaoke bar.
Abrazo (53, Lane 290, Guang Fu South Rd, Xin Yi/ Daan), gay and mixed neighborhood wine and cocktail bar, DJ sets.
Bear House (7, Lane 133, Linshen North Rd, Zhongshan), Japanese-style bear bar.
Bear Junkies (192 Kunming St, 2nd floor, Wanhua), Tuesday - Sunday locals' restaurant/bar and cafe, 20s/30s men, popular with bears.
Café Dalida (51, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), gay village bar in courtyard of Red House, day and night cocktails, patio seatings, locals and tourist mix.
Commander (41, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, 2F, Wanhua), men's leather, uniform and fetish terrace bar at the Red House complex.
Commander D (36, Section 2, Hanshong St, Wanhua), more hard-core popular cruise and fetish gay bar, BDSM play spaces, younger crowd. A short walk from the Red House complex.
Empress Lounge (13, Alley 5, Lane 147, Section 1, Jīlóng Rd, Xinyi), large gay-owned café/bar nightclub, quality sound system, coffees, herbal teas and organic specialties; comfy couches, mis-matched furnishings, men/women, young professionals mix.
Floating (183, Xining South Road, 2nd floor), gay karaoke cocktail bar at The Red House.
Funky Club (10, Section 1, Hangzhou South Rd, Zhongzheng), popular dance club, mostly male, locals and tourists, special events, live shows, karaoke.
G-MiXi (57, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), gay-friendly bar and restaurant at The Red House, local and international food, terrace, free WiFi.
G-Paradise (47, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), men's bear bar at The Red House, special cocktails.
G2 Paradise (39, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), men's cocktail bar, bears.
G.Star (23 Long Jiang Rd, Zhongshan), dance club, young local crowd, theme nights, stage shows, go-go dancers.
G-Mixi (57, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), gay-friendly bar, Taiwanese/Western restaurant, terrace seating, free WiFi.
Goldfish Bar (13, Lane 85, Linsen North Rd, Zhongshan), gay lounge/music bar, muscle men and bear crowd.
Insomnia Cafe (8, Lane 60, Taishun St, Da'an), lesbian-popular cafe/bar; meals, drinks, art, music, books.
JumP (8, Section 1, Jīlóng Rd, Songshan), popular gay dance club nights, theme parties, Friday and Saturday capacity crowds.
La Boca (56, Lane 346, Guāngfù South Rd, Da'an), small, trendy gay cocktails bar, mostly men, packed on weekends.
Love Lez Cafe (2, Lane 7, Zhonghua Road, Da'an), lesbian bar and cafe meals; very much a locals' scene, but everyone welcome.
Luxy (201, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao East Rd, 5F, Da'an), largest dance club in Taiwan; regular quarterly gay parties, shows, go-gos.
L World (61, Lane, Linsen North Rd, Datong), a 'woman's secret garden,' small low-key lesbian lounge bar.
Matt Bar (11, Lane 121, Section 1, Zhōngshān North Rd, Zhongshan), gay karaoke bar, men/bears, cozy couches, manga art, theme parties, very international crowd.
Park Lounge Taipei (153-2, Yanji St, B1, Da'an), chic minimalist cocktail bar, young, gay-friendly crowd, Friday/Saturday DJs, hot/buff go-go boys.
Red House (Lane 10, Chengdu Rd, Wanhua), cultural heritage site building, cinema, concerts, a dozen gay shops, services, cafes and bars, including: Base panda karaoke bar; Café Dalida cocktals patio; D-Cup coffeeshop; Commander men's leather-fetish bar; F2 Room gay-friendly/mixed karaoke bar; Floating gay karaoke cocktail bar; G-Mixi gay-friendly food/drinks and WiFi; G-Paradise bears' den; G2-Paradise men/bears cocktail bar; Red small corner bar; Shibuya gay locals' bar and patio, Sol popular indoor/outdoor LGBT bar; and Xanadu drag bar.
Taboo (90, Section 2, Jianguo North Rd, B1, Zhongshan), Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights lesbian lounge and dance club nights, theme parties; open weekends 10pm-4am.
Tiger Bar (83-10 Wuchang St, Section 2, Wanhua), small nightly karaoke bar, popular with bears; theme parties.
Twiice Club (222, Jinshan South Rd) - CLOSED - 'girls-ony' party bar/club, friends welcome, theme nights.
Witchhouse (7, Lane 56, Section 3, Xinsheng South Rd, Da’an), coffeehouse/ cafe favorite of women, Thursday-Saturday live music; fish, pasta, Mexican and veggie meal options.
For some restaurants and cafes suggestions, see our Taipei maps and listings pages.
Aniki WoW (11 Ningxia Rd, Datong), men's bathhouse Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, heated pool, gym, café/bar, cinema, free WiFi.
Hans Men’s Sauna (120, 2F, XiNing South Rd, Wanhua), small, clean dry sauna, steam room, TV lounge, showers, video station, dark room, cabins, snack area; mature men.
Huang Chi Spa (42-1, Lane 402, Xíngyì Rd, Beitou), all-male, all-naked Japanese-style spa, restaurant, bear-popular.
Huang Gong / Royal Palace (20, Xining South Rd, Wanhua), 24-hour gay bathhouse, mature men and their admirers.
Kawayu Spa & Sauna (10, 300 Lane, Shin-Yi Rd, Beitou), popular naked-men-only Japanese-styled hot springs, steam room, cold water tub and Jacuzzi; massage services, restaurant.
Office Sauna (265, Chang An West Rd), hot and cold pool, stream room, sauna, private cabins on 5 floors; locals, tourists, bears.
Rainbow Sauna (142, 2F, Kunming St, Wanhua), Jacuzzi, steam room, video lounge, dark room; with young crowd.
XL Club (10, 4F, Minzu East Rd, Zhongshan), men's clothing-optional gym and cruise club; steam room, maze, relax zone, tanning and computer areas.
For man-to-man massage spa locations, see our services listings. All offer whole-body massages of various kinds for men by men; many also do body wraps, scrubs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and more. Staff are usually as easy on the eyes as they are good with their hands, and the spas often post their photos online. Call ahead to book an appointment if someone catches your fancy.
Shops are everywhere in Taipei; the old-style market places, and whole streets of stores, all selling similar merchandise are famous. But gradually these are giving way to large modern department stores and sprawling air-conditioned malls at city center.
The Eslite Xinyi store (11 Songshou Rd) is the biggest bookshop in Taiwan, with books and magazines that include English-language titles, DVD movies, music CDs and more. Their Dunhua branch store (245, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd, near Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station), is open 24 hours, and features a section for LGBT readers.
In Songshan, the Living Mall, across the river south of city center, just north of Taipei City Hall MRT Station is another large multi-level shopping mall of 15 floors.
Several small fashionwear and accessory shops can be found in the Gay Village among the bars at Red House; others are in the Zhongzheng District.
Body Formula (183-1, Xining South Rd, Wanhua), men's underwear, swimwear, sports and casual clothing.
GinGin (8, Alley 8, Lane 210, Sect. 3, Roosevelt//Luosifu Road, 1st Fl, Zhongzheng), LGBT books, magazines, comics, DVDs, and CDs, plus tank tops, shorts, and odds and ends ranging from rainbow buttons to dildos. They're also an informal community center, with events and activities.
Guy-Shop (67, Chengdu Rd, 5thFl, Wanhua), men's boutique/ adult store at Red House, magazines, fetish items and toys, lubes, cock-rings.
Love Boat (11, Lane 240, Sect. 3, Roosevelt/Luosifu Rd, 1st Fl, Zhongzheng), queer fashion and lifestyle shop; books, DVDs, VCDs, unisex clothes, chest/breast binders, erotic toys, rainbow accessories, plus I Ching readings, Chakra Healing, Universe Knife Massage, and Galaxy LGBT Photo Studio services.
OTOKO Men’s Boutique (10, Chengdu Road, Lane 39, Wanhua; at Red House), gay shop for tees, tanktops, tees; designer undergear and swimwear brands include Croota, Daigo, and New Urban Male.
Push Homme (35, Lane 10, Chengdu Road, 2nd floor, Wanhua), casual and sports-style men's clothing store at Red House, STUD underwear/ swimwear.
Tough Factory (2, Lane 82, Xiníng South Rd, Wanhua), tanning booths, gym supplements, men’s underwear/ swimwear, magazines and comics, casual clothing, bears' gear.