Myanmar/Burma: Where’s That?!

Ashton in Bagan

Guest-blogger, Ashton Giese

Discover why Ashton calls Myanmar his most unique experience in Asia! Guest-blogger, Ashton Giese, the GAYographer, looks to expose gay travelers to true cultural experiences with custom tours abroad as well as advocate for LGBT rights with his blog and travel news brief, GAYography

Want to go somewhere unique and developing, yet functional and relatively safe? Check out this magical Southeast-Asian nation. Despite lots of growing pains and a still shady government, adventurist tourists have discovered Burma at an exciting juncture in its history. So, if you’re looking for a challenge, beautiful sights and friendly people, come check out this emerging country. Gays are flocking here too! Being LGBT might always be difficult in a relatively conservative society, yet the predominant religion (Buddismremains relatively ambivalent and you’re likely to find friendly eyes just like everywhere else in the world.

Panaramic Temples Bagan

Temples of Bagan

My first day I set out in the capital, Yangon (or Rangoon), a hot-bed of frenetic activity – everyone on the street attempts to sell something, though mostly the same products. It’s difficult to imagine how people can make a living – but they sure are trying. Food is also right there on the street – but the hockers have to keep moving, swatting the flies and shouting out about their products. With the locals (and foreigners alike) wearing traditional longyi, faces smeared with allegedly antioxidant Thanaka paste and teeth & mouths gleaming red from chewing betel nuts it can feel quite alien, yet everyone’s always smiling (especially at foreigners)…

Girl with thanaka paste

Thanaka paste

Read the complete blog at gAytlas.com 

Brand g Vacations Opens New LGBT Bridges with Cuba

LGBT tour operator Brand g Vacations today released an updated itinerary for its February 2015 trip to Cuba, expanding its unique People to People Exchange.
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Founded in 2011 as “the next generation in gay travel,” Brand g Vacations aims to capture the growing numbers of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) travelers, along with straight allies, who enjoy innovative escorted vacations to international spots.

“It’s a whole new way to see Cuba” said Brand g’s Managing Partner, Jeff Gundvaldson. “This will be one of the first opportunities for US citizens to enjoy shipboard life not only to travel from city to city but also as a floating hotel.” Jeff added, “This allows ample time to see the very best Cuba has to offer, while ensuring high quality dining and comfortable lodging, and minimizing the time spent traveling by motor coach.”

The new itinerary contains many special attractions for LGBT passengers including an optional visit to Humbolt 52, Havana’s first gay bar and Cabaret Las Vegas with its popular drag show. Visitors also will have the chance to meet with Dr. Alberto Roque, one of Cuba’s best known advocates on gender issues and equality, take a visit to the National Sex Education Center, Cenesex, which is an educational organization and an advocate for LGBT rights in Cuba, and enjoy lunch with Norma Guillard, lesbian activist and professor at the University of Havana.

According to Gundvaldson “This will be a great opportunity for our enthusiasticpassengers to connect face-to-face with Cuba’s leading LGBT citizens and allies, as well as a chance to learn about Cuban life, history and the progress they are making.”

The itinerary also allows for a special visit to the UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve region and the international/eco-community of “Las Terrazas,” a tour of ‘Old Havana” a walk through one of the country’s largest nature reserves and a turtle breeding center, and to take part in exchanges with artists, salsa dance lessons and much more.  “We will offer a good cross section of activities across a wide range of interests,” said Gundvaldson, “We are sure that there is something to appeal to most everyone.”

Brand g Vacations has shown continued growth since its launch, from a single riverboat trip in 2012 to eight trips planned for 2015. Itineraries include full-ship riverboat charters in Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as three Amazon and Machu Picchu departures and a Panama Canal crossing. Future plans for Brand g include the Ganges in India, Greece and Turkey, southern France and many more destinations.Trinidad Street

“Our goal is simple. We offer unique, compelling and lesser traveled corners of the globe to our guests,” said Gundvaldson, “We have a real passion for LGBT group travel and especially for more intimate and meaningful trips that Brand g is best known for. We always aim for exotic bucket list destinations along with some of the tried and true and more popular destinations. What really makes us special is our emphasis on unique destinations and smaller ships, which translates to more intimate personal experiences for our travelers.”

For more information about Brand g Vacations’ cruises and tours, visit www.brandgvacations.com or call 1 800 433 4303.

Prague Pride 2014 to support gays and lesbians from the East

The Czech Republic remains the most tolerant country of the former Eastern Bloc, which is reflected by its Pride event, which is the biggest and most open LGBT festival of the region. However further East many gays and lesbians face persecution by their government and extremist groups in their societies. This is why Prague Pride decided to support them by giving them an opportunity to attend this year’s Prague Pride parade virtually. They will be able to connect to a secured website www.LGBTavatars.cz, which will be launched shortly. Here people can choose a person physically present in Prague, who will represent them in the Parade. These „live avatars“ will join the Parade on their behalf and share messages, photos and short videos from the Prague Pride Parade through an easy mobile application. Those who do not enter the interaction with a concrete avatar can still access the public contents on the website.

“People cannot organize festivals similar to Prague Pride to the East of our country. In Moscow, such parades have been banned until 2112 and attendees in neighboring countries risk attacks from the police or extremists,“ said Czeslaw Walek, the president of Prague Pride.

The main theme of Prague Pride 2014 is also reflected by the festival poster in the style of propaganda posters from the 1950’s and will be visible in several events during the week, such as a debate on LGBT in diplomacy and the Pride Talks, where people from different kind of societies from all over the world will talk about LGBT life in their respective countries.

Overall Prague Pride will provide a week-long cutting edge program, with almost a 100 different kind of cultural and social events, parties, debates and much more. Many of those  events are catered especially to tourists and will be held in English. There will be a week-long festival village on the banks of the river, where people can join in various activities, see exhibitions, watch movie screenings, enjoy concerts and get all the information about Prague and its gay community. It will be a place of to meet participants, guests and the organizers of the festival. Other highlights of the program include a concert by the famous British duo the Pet Shop Boys, the election of Mr Bear Czech Republic and the annual Business Forum.

The main event of the week, the Prague Pride Parade, will take place on Saturday 16 August and will start at the world-famous Wenceslas Square. This year more organisations than ever before will participate. The route of the parade will lead through the beautiful historical city centre to Letná Park, where a free concert with several DJ stages and an information fair will be held until late in the evening. The Saturday will conclude with several parties all over town, showing the many facets of Prague’s gay scene.PraguePride_visual_Eng

Join us for Give OUT Day on May 15 – National Day of LGBT Giving

giveout day

Being based in Minnesota, we at Brand g vacations know the power of giving back. Our state hosts one of the largest “Days of Giving” in the country, when people are encouraged to give to their favorite non-profit organization(s) during a 24-hour period. Following that same great model, on May 15th, the LGBTQ community and allies across the country will come together for 24 hours of generosity. Watch as our dynamic Minnesota LGBTQ organizations compete for local prizes and try to win the National Title of most individual donors!
Minnesota organizations will compete for a prize pool of $15,000 as well as competing for national prizes. Prizes are based on the number of individual donations – so every organization has a great chance of winning one of the prizes. On Give OUT Day itself people will be able to see which organizations are getting the most gifts – in real time – by checking out the Minnesota Leader Board on the Give OUT Day home page.
http://giveout.razoo.com/giving_events/giveout14/home

Details for Minneapolis Give OUT Day Event
Mason’s 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM
528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 516-3344
http://www.masonsmn.com/

Cash Bar
Appetizers complimentary paid for by the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation
Internet available and results will be projected on screens
As we all agreed at the last meeting – no entertainment..

Brand g Vacations Reunites with Prague Pride

Brand g Vacations is teaming up with the leaders of Prague Pride for our second Danube River cruise. We’re working with local LGBT organizations in Prague to provide guests with optional activities that stray from the conventional. Our pre-cruise stay in Prague will coincide with the 2014 Prague Pride Festival – August 12-18.Prague Pride blog
We have continued our relationship with Czeslaw Walek, an advocate for LGBT rights and Director of Prague Pride. Walek helped organize the first-ever and highly successful event in 2011, which drew strong criticism from Czech president Vaclav Klaus and right-wing groups.
“I was very impressed that Brand g Vacations made the effort to reach out to us again,” said Walek. “It shows that they are going above and beyond in their continued commitment to their guests.” Following our pre-cruise nights in Prague, our all gay group will sail down the Danube from picturesque Nuremberg to Passau, Melk, Vienna, Bratislava and ending in Budapest. We have created a custom itinerary that includes two of the best Eastern European cities which have become prime destinations for gay and lesbian travelers.
“There’s no better way to support destinations that welcome us than with our tourism dollars,” says Rounds. “A full ship of LGBT passengers can make a strong statement, and it gives us the chance to validate the power of travel through our choices.”

Making a difference with our LGBT Tourism dollars

By Susan Cogger, LGBT rights activist

VietPride 2013The Vietnam LGBT community is celebrating Pride this month with parades in eight cities. The government is considering legalizing same-sex marriage with the Justice and Health Ministries having publicly supported the move. If approved, Vietnam would be the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

There is no question that a ship full of LGBT passengers makes a strong statement.  Brand G Vacations’ October Mekong River cruise will be spectacular.  You’ll travel through some of the most interesting parts of the world in the company of other LGBT folks on a luxury riverboat.

Just saying the names of these countries conjures memories and images from war to peace, ancient temples to bustling cities, street food to luxury service. This is a chance to get to see some of the best of Cambodia and Vietnam in a great environment in the comfort of an all LGBT trip.  This 12-day trip takes you from the amazing Angkor temples, to the Mekong river with floating markets and small villages, to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

The trip is during the latter part of October as the rainy season tapers off and the weather is cooler. This is a beautiful, lush time to visit. Recently, Cambodia and Vietnam have experienced huge growth in travel and the infrastructure to support travel. No doubt, these countries will continue to change and evolve so this is a perfect time to explore these Southeast Asian countries.

Brand G Vacations (www.brandgvacations.com) has an extensive background in cruise travel and creating great vacations.  As this is a Brand g vacation, all are welcome on board!

Author’s Note: I’m especially excited for this trip, as it will be Terry’s and my honeymoon.  Since the freedom to marry became legal in Minnesota on August 1, many of our friends have married.  And we’re not the only ones celebrating by going on this trip.  Do join us!

Brand g Vacations and Freedom to Marry’s President Evan Wolfson team up to celebrate gay marriage in France

Evan Wolfson

Founder and President of Freedom to Marry

Brand g Vacations is pleased to announce that Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, will join us as a featured speaker on our Burgundy and Provence cruise this August. Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage throughout the United States and Evan is the civil rights attorney who is generally considered the architect of the national marriage equality movement.

“What better place to celebrate the progress on gay rights and the freedom to marry than France, the latest country to end the exclusion from marriage?” says Evan. “And what better time than this summer, when we will be marking victories in four countries round the world while teeing up the next wave of work globally and in the US? I can’t wait to make new friends and combine activism and good conversation with the delights of a river cruise through la belle France, courtesy of Brand g Vacations.”

Evan goes on to describe the focus of the discussion he has planned for our cruise. “This year France becomes the 17th country on 5 continents where same-sex couples can share in the freedom to marry — up from zero little more than a decade ago — reflecting the same momentum that we are seeing in the freedom to marry movement in the United States.” Evan will also explain how the Freedom to Marry campaign has made such progress, and what more needs to be done to secure the freedom to marry and full equality in the US while continuing to propel global human rights for all LGBT people.

“There is no one who exemplifies the fight to win gay marriage in the U.S. better than Evan. We are thrilled that he will be joining us” says Brand g Vacations’ Charlie Rounds

For more information about this cruise:http://www.brandgvacations.com/Pages/Burgundy-Provence-Riverboat-Cruise.aspx