Attitudes toward and openness about gay culture and civil rights are changing rapidly throughout much of Asia, and one nation that's leading the way is Taiwan, one of the most densely population countries in the world. The capital city, Taipei, which lies near the northern tip of this island nation slightly larger than the state of Maryland, hosts the largest Gay Pride event in Asia. Taipei Gay Pride is held in late October - the date this year is October 29, 2016.
The Taipei Gay Pride Parade kicks off on Saturday, October 29, at 2 pm from Jingfu Gate Circle (here's the Google Maps location), which is near Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, in the Zhongzheng District (NTU Hospital is the nearest stop on the metro). Here's a map of the Taiwan Pride parade route, showing both the north and south routes of the parade.
Compared with a number of Pride events around the world, especially if you're primarily familiar with those held in North America, the Taiwan Gay Pride Parade is more about visibility and solidarity -albeit with a joyful, friendly spirits - than partying and entertainment. More than 80,000 participants and spectators turn out, including delegations from numerous countries all over Asia - Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and so on. The event began in 2003 with a modest march of just a few hundred but has rapidly evolved into a must-do weekend-long event drawing visitors from all over Asia and increasingly beyond.
It's also one of the last Pride events on the calendar. This fun, spirited march is also reflective of just how openly and strongly Taiwan as a nation has come to accept, and to an increasing degree, embrace diversity.
Although the parade takes place on the west side of the city center, in the Zhongzheng District and close to a number of key cultural and education institutions (the National Central Library, the National Concert Hall, the University of Taipei, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Freedom Square Memorial Arch), the parade occurs about a kilometer east of the city's most pronounced gay district, Red House - it's about a 20-minute walk between the two areas.
Parties During Taiwan Gay Pride Weekend
The buzzy cluster of gay bars and terraces (along with cafes and underwear and club-gear boutiques) situated around the historic Red House arts and design market in the Ximending district are always packed with revelers throughout the Pride weekend. To get here, take a taxi or the metro to Ximen Station - the distinctive redbrick Red House building is across the street, and the bars curve around the plaza behind the building, both at street level and upstairs. The surrounding Ximen area, especially the blocks immediately north of Red House, also abound with karaoke clubs, restaurants and shops (from outposts of international chains to upscale establishments), and a handful of boutique-y hotels.
Head a few blocks north of Red House to find Commander D, the most popular of Taiwan's gay fetish and leather clubs, which is also a hive of activity during Pride.
On the east side of the city, hip and stylish gay nightspots like the young and modish Park Taipei (close to the Daan metro station) and Abrazo (a few blocks south of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall metro station) also draws huge crowds partying into the wee hours.
Where to Stay During Taiwan Pride
Host of the most see-and-be-seen party during the weekend, the swish and contemporary W Tapei Hotel (10 Zhongxiao East Rd., 886-2-7703-8888) is one of the hottest addresses in the city during Pride weekend. The stylish hotel offers a Proud to Love Pride Package during each year during Pride Weekend, which includes access to the glam Woobar & Wet Bar party, on the hotel's 10th-floor pool level. You can book the W Tapai Proud to Love package here.
Taipei Gay Resources
For more details on the Taipei gay scene, which is extensive, it's well worth having a look at the online GayTaipei4U Taipei Gay Guide - it's a helpful site with details on local bars, gay bathhouses, events, and more.
If you're planning a trip to this gay-friendly nation, look to the very helpful website of the Taiwan Tourism Office, which has plenty of details on hotels, attractions, and transportation. It's easy to find direct flights from North America to Taipei on a number of airlines, with some of the best deals available on the national carrier, Eva Air, which has service to Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Toronto, and New York City.