Why you should go to Hong Kong !

Hong Kong became an autonomous territory in China in 1997, ending nearly two centuries as an exotic port of call in the British empire. If anything, it is even more vibrant today, a global financial and tourist center with shopping, culinary and entertainment opportunities galore.

One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Hong Kong is also one of the most romantic, calling up classic cinema images like "The World of Susie Wong" and "In the Mood for Love." You can find hotel accommodations from backpacker digs to a luxurious room for nearly US$1,500 a night. Food and shopping options run the same gamut. Its sights and sites make international bucket lists, but just wandering around Hong Kong Island and Kowloon - the two halves that make up the Hong Kong whole - is an adventure in itself.

Hong Kong has an active and growing LGBTQ community, a Pride Parade each November and Asia's largest LGBTQ festival for several weeks each fall. Party goers will find gay clubs and bars in Soho on Hong Kong Island equal those in any world capital and an array of saunas, particularly in Wan Chai on the island and Mong Kok across the harbor in Kowloon.

You can spot many lesbian couples around Mong Kok, but the lala nightlife is less visible and more nuanced. Les Paradis HK, opened in 2014, is a popular lesbian bar. Les Peches has been staging monthly parties since 2005. The Women Coalition schedules a gathering the first Saturday of the month at Rainbow Center on Nathan Road in Kowloon with dinner after, but the talks are in Cantonese as are many Lesbian groups. Mastering at least a few words of Cantonese will help meet local Lesbians.

On the whole, Hong Kong is welcoming to LGBTQ visitors, but its laws lag behind other parts of the world. Until 1991, a male charged with homosexuality faced a maximum life sentence. Consensual homosexual relations were decriminalized, but the age of consent was 16 for heterosexual and 21 for homosexuals. LGBTQ groups contested, but not until 2005 was it 16 for everyone. No laws bar discrimination because of sexual orientation or hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, but violent attacks on gays are rare. China did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1997.

Homosexuality remains controversial, particularly in the business community. Same-sex marriage or civil unions are not recognized although domestic violence laws give some protection to same-sex couples. Cross-dressing is not illegal. After sexual reassignment surgery, individuals may change passports and identity cards but not birth certificates.

LGBTQ organizations have multiplied since the early 1990s when Horizons and the Ten Percent Club were launched. The annual parade attracts over 5,000, many from Mainland China where pride parades are forbidden.

Be inspired

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