I have often looked at the U-A website to find information about new gay venues to visit when I travel. I realise many of its listings are not always up-to-date but the site has generally proved useful over many years. I even got myself what must be one of the original Utopia cards offering discounts in various countries.
Recently I was surprised to find that three of the most popular Asian saunas are not included in the listings - Aniki WOW and Soi13 in Taipei and the beautifully decorated HuTong in Hong Kong. According to a friend who is also an occasional poster in the Thai gay chat rooms, Taipei's Soi13 is packed at the weekends and is by far the best sauna in Taipei. Similarly HuTong often has a queue outside.
I decided to write to the webmaster to find out if the omissions had been accidental. He wrote a gracious reply to point out that they were deliberate. He had had comments from readers that all three saunas practised some form of discrimination. He wrote to each but received no reply. So they were deleted.
Since it is his site, he can include or omit whatever he wants. But having thought about this for some time and being a regular visitor to both cities, it does seem to me that omission does a disservice to the general gay community. It is perfectly possible to list a sauna and at the same time add in the description that there have been reports of discrimination. After all, this is what U-A does with Sauna Mania in Bangkok which is listed with a note that over 50s must pay more. I know that Aniki WOW has price discrimination for non-Taiwanese.
Equally the relatively new Soi13 charges double for all foreigners and I think this is based on Taiwan ID cards - but at NT500 (US$16) for non-Taiwanese it is not unreasonable given its popularity. Another sauna Hans near the Red House gay complex charges everyone NT$350 ($11.50) apart from Saturday nights when to goes up to NT$400. Both Aniki-WOW and Soi13 are listed on the Travelgayasia site and Soi13 gets very good reviews from non-Taiwan visitors.
Hong Kong's HuTong in Kowloon certainly does have a form of nationality and age discrimination. I believe, though, that this is put into operation when the facility if full or nearly full. Then the manager will select who is to gain entry - and I believe it is mostly if not always locals. Reviews on Travelgayasia range from "awesome", "worth the premium price, for sure" to "staff very rude". Entry last year was HK$205 (US$26).
My feeling now is that U-A actually does itself a disservice by merely omitting these saunas in their listings. It can only diminish the value of the site IMO.
Anything and everything about gay life anywhere in the world, especially Asia, other than Thailand.
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