Once a conservative, far east outpost, Singapore now boasts a thriving gay bar scene with the great majority of places to be found on Neil Road and in Chinatown. The weekends are particularly busy when locals come out and guys flock in from the Phillipines for a big night on the town. Unlike many other cities in the world, the gays bars in Singapore are increasing in number and business is booming according to the bar owners with whom we chatted. We did not have time to explore all the bars in Singapore but here is our selection of current favourites.
Dorothy’s, formerly known as Bakstage Bar, can be found in the centre of Singapore’s Chinatown and now trades on the slogan, ‘there’s no place like home’. It is located upstairs at 13A Trengganu Street. Look up to find the rainbow flag waving at you from the second storey balcony. The small, dimly lit bar features Dorothy’s iconic ‘red shoes’ hanging above the bar.
When we arrived we were welcomed immediately by the very attentive staff. We had a choice of seating from high bar stools to low casual lounges. The balcony is by far the most popular area and the best place for meeting people, if you don’t mind some cigarette smoke.
From the balcony we saw the streets below packed with local Singaporeans threading their way through hundreds of brightly lit street stalls displaying a dazzling array of Chinese sweets, foods, and collections of vivid red decorations, envelopes and flowers in preparation for Chinese New Year. This bar is a friendly welcoming venue and has remained a favourite of locals and international visitors for many years.
TANTRIC BAR, BACKSTAGE BAR and MAY WONG’S CAFÉ
A short distance away you get three for the price of one. We had the very fortunate experience of meeting the manager of Tantric, Back Stage Bar and May Wong’s Cafe, Mr Alfred Tang. All three bars are located together at 78 Neil Road. Alfred and his partner have created a great product with three bars that complement each other perfectly.
Tantric is probably the most popular gay bar in Singapore and, around midnight on the weekends, it’s standing room only, with the outside courtyard becoming very crowded. For those who are game, the famous ‘blue sling’ is the bar’s signature drink. All the fun closes down at 3am on Saturday morning and 4am on Sunday morning, so you can really celebrate the end of the working week in style.
Backstage Bar, which was more our style, is quieter and more relaxed with plenty of room to drink at the ‘long bar’ or lounge around with friends in the plush, casual, cosy atmosphere of the red couches. Decorated with posters depicting iconic musicals and located in the heart of Tanjong Pagar, you can just chill out here and soak in the gay nightlife while sipping on some inspired cocktails. Alfred said that Backstage Bar moved across to Neil Road a few years ago to complete a perfect trio of gay bars, providing something to suit all tastes.
However, Alfred seemed most proud of May Wong’s Café, located upstairs above Tantric, and with good reason. Inspired by the famous late Hollywood actress Anna May Wong, May Wong’s Café has that exotic oriental feel with classy interiors, dazzling chandeliers, old posters, plush comfortable sofa seats, ideal to sink and be seen in. May Wong’s is the place of choice if you want that special, classy night of cocktails and frivolous fantasy.
EPIPHYTE CANAPÉ BAR (E BAR)
Epiphyte Bar, locally known as E Bar, is an upper level, chic, modern bar with designer mood lighting and groups of quiet drinkers, mainly on bar stools, enjoying drinks and canapés.
We did not taste the food but from all reports it is innovative, fresh and delicious. A great place to meet friends in an edgy, friendly atmosphere.
This is another bold Singapore gay bar. Out Bar is very busy, buzzy and popular with a mixed Asian clientele. As soon as we entered we were met by friendly waiters and, although quite noisy on a Saturday night, the packed bar was bright and alive with welcoming smiles and great music. We only enjoyed one drink here but we will certainly be returning on a future visit to investigate this fun bar more thoroughly.
Taboo is gay party central of the Singapore scene, or as someone put it, ‘the grand dame’ of Singapore’s gay nightlife. Our visit to Taboo after 11pm was timed perfectly for seeing the night club in full swing and packed with mostly guys and some girls, ready to party the night away.
Once a month on a Saturday Taboo has an impressive drag show that lasts for at least 40 minutes and it certainly gets the crowd excited with elaborate, sparkling costumes, iconic gay anthems and some hilarious audience participation.
The place was packed for the show and when it finished the DJ fired the place up with some more hot hits. Taboo has a long history in the Singapore gay scene and certainly warrants a visit.
This lively night club opens Wednesday to Saturday, charges $25 for entry, which includes a free drink and late night drag shows.
When in Singapore don’t miss the thriving gay scene which is fuelled by a confident and affluent young local crowd and international visitors who want safe, smart and fun places to socialise and be seen. Thursday to Saturday are the busiest nights and we can’t wait to get back for another taste of these sparkling gems in the gay Asian collection.
When GayMenOnHoliday.com visit Singapore we stay at Swissôtel The Stamford