Jun 27, 2010

Pinoy PLU Signal: Wet Area Patrons


Ok, let’s make it official. I declare that staying for a long time in the wet area of gyms and spas is a very strong Pinoy PLU signal. Unlike other signals I’ve shared before, I think this one will give you the highest probability of telling whether a guy is indeed one of us.

If you try to think about, it’s quite easy to see why this particular signal is true. First of all, Filipinos are generally quite modest especially with strangers. That alone is a disincentive for many Filipino men, gay or straight, to stay in the wet area where they need to be in towels. In fact, many straight guys I see in the gym don’t even bother with the wet area and just use the locker area as a place to store their belongings and to quickly change clothes. Some straight guys may indeed take a shower or even use the sauna or steam room but will not linger for longer than is necessary.

A second reason why straight men usually forgo the wet room is simply because they, by definition, aren’t physically attracted to other men. Thus, there’s no reason to stay long in the sauna or steam room—there is simply no eye candy for them to ogle at. Conversely, there’s also no reason for them to flaunt their gym-fit bodies there, unlike, say, on the shores of Boracay. Their target market are not other men.

That said, straight guys do indeed use the wet areas. Soaking in the heat and sweating it out is quite relaxing. A typical therapeutic session involves showering briefly to get wet, staying for about 5 to 10 minutes in either the steam room or the sauna, then concluding by cooling off with another shower. There’s an option to go to the other hot room, but this is not often done since one hot room session is enough.

One key difference in telling the straight from the gay at the wet area is the length of time spent there. PLU guys loiter around longer and frequently go back and forth between the steam room and sauna. They often stay in the area for 20 minutes or more. In fact, some notorious gay people don’t even bother with the gym floor itself and instead go straight to the locker room to press their luck.

Another crucial sign that a guy is game, short of physical contact, is if his eyes roam all around the sauna or steam room. Straight guys usually just close their eyes and avoid eye contact. Unabashed gay guys, on the other hand, will turn their heads to scope out the market.

Anyway, if you’d like to read more, I’ve explored gay men’s fascination with the showers, steam rooms, and sauna in several previous blog posts:

Jun 22, 2010

24 Kaikan (Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo)


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Tokyo’s gay scene, I will now share my experiences going to 24 Kaikan, which is Tokyo’s most popular chain of bathhouses. There are three branches, all in Tokyo. One is in Ueno, another in Asakusa, and the last one is (unsurprisingly) in Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo’s gay district that I described in my previous post.

I’ve gone to the Shinjuku branch two times a few years ago and both times were much later than my Arty Farty visit. The Shinjuku branch is the one nearest to where I was staying (though with Tokyo’s super-efficient train/subway system, distance is really not an issue), and the one has the most number of gaijin (foreigners) visiting, so it was an easy choice.

To tell you the truth, 24 Kaikan is actually the first bathhouse I’ve ever been to. I guess I just had more courage going to a foreign bathhouse than trying one out in Manila. It was actually my experiences in 24 Kaikan that encouraged me to try out the local bathhouses. Hehehe. :-)

Sad to say, none of the local bathhouses matches up to 24 Kaikan Shinjuku in terms of facilities, services, and maybe the crowd. They don’t even have a membership system, unlike here in Manila, and so I did not have to provide any identification the two times I went there. I actually really miss 24 Kaikan. But it is a bit pricey though. The entrance fee costs ¥2,600, which is currently equivalent to around 1,300 pesos. Yikes! But considering Tokyo’s cost of living (one of the most expensive cities in the world), a visit to 24 Kaikan still gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

Why “24”? Well, they’re open 24/7! A lot of bar-hoppers and clubbers in Shinjuku Ni-chome actually go to 24 Kaikan to crash for the night, or to have fun with the guy they met at the bar or club. You might say that 24 Kaikan is like a very convenient motel or lodging place. In fact, if I had known about it, I should’ve gone to 24 Kaikan after I got tired of Arty Farty!

As I’ve said, the Internet is my friend and the following web pages were extremely helpful in preventing me from making a cultural boo-boo in 24 Kaikan (like stepping onto the carpet with my shoes still on).

Anyway, the first time I went to 24 Kaikan I did not have too much trouble locating their 7-storey (7!) building and arrived there a little past midnight. I went up the stairs to the receiving area at the second floor. The procedures I read from Utopia were pretty much on target (the shoe lockers, the registration, and the locker room) and I was soon at the third floor where the wet area was located. I’ve never seen so many naked guys in one place before! And you can see pretty much all types of guys hanging around there. Fat old guys, young ripped lean guys, muscular African guys, hairy-chested Caucasians, you name it.

So I tried most of the wet area amenities. There’s the lukewarm pool (where this middle-aged Japanese man tried to touch me), the hot pool, the cold pool, the dry sauna, the steam room, the warm mist room, and various shower cubicles with glory holes. There was even a BDSM room in there! I actually like the mist room. It has a fine spray of warm water filling the space and it was quite relaxing actually. I didn’t cruise around the wet areas that time since the night was still young and there were other areas to check out. Hehehe.

After washing myself at the stool showers, I ascended to the fourth floor where the really dark common sleeping rooms where. Did I mention that they are really dark? The only illumination are dim red light bulbs. You will find yourself groping around just to get anywhere. The common rooms are set up like dormitory rooms with several double-deck beds as well as single beds. And plenty of condoms and tissue were scattered by the heads of the beds. Well, not much sleeping was going on since guys were mostly having sex. Instead of snoring, you will hear plenty of moaning.

I fortunately got an empty bunk in there with the intention of getting some nap, but I was soon joined by a Japanese guy who gave me one of the best blowjobs I’ve ever had. We did two rounds with a nap in between. He left after that, thanking me, and another man joined me soon after. I was really tired by that time so I tried to ignore his advances and attempted to get some sleep. By this time, the moaning all around noticeably got less audible and was replaced with a lot of snoring.

At around 4am, I left the common rooms and went back to the wet area. There I hooked up with this really cute and toned Japanese guy and we had some tongue action in one of the shower cubicles. I didn’t get his name but I learned that he was a few years older than me (but looked really younger) and that he has had two Filipino boyfriends before. No wonder he liked me. :-)

I left 24 Kaikan at around 6am when the trains have already started plying their routes.

I went back the following week. This time, I met this nice, cute Japanese named Aki at the wet area and we fondled each other in one of the pools. We also had a bit of fun later at the common rooms. I had several other encounters with other guys at various times. One time, a guy gave me a really nice hand job, one that had me squirming with pleasure. Another time was a threesome inside the steam room where one guy was licking my nipples and another was giving me a pleasurable hand job. Those were fun memorable times.

If ever I get the chance to visit Tokyo again, 24 Kaikan is definitely in my itinerary. :-)

Finally, do read this Japan Times article about 24 Kaikan and Shinjuku Ni-chome in general. It’s quite informative. You might also want to revisit this blog post at the Manila Gay Guy about a hattenba, or an informal bathhouse in Japan.

Jun 21, 2010

Arty Farty (Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo)


Inspired by the Corporate Closet’s IJ post about a bathhouse in Osaka, I decided to blog about the gay scene in Tokyo which I’ve had the chance to explore a bit during the times I’ve been to Japan several years ago. Like CC, I have this curious need to check out the pink scene whenever I go abroad. Hehehe. In the case of Tokyo, the place to go to is Shinjuku Ni-chome. That’s the Tokyo equivalent of Malate’s Orosa-Nakpil area.

One of the reasons why I started this blog and why I write a lot of guide-type entries is because of my experiences in Japan. I never would have tried out the gay scene there if I wasn’t able to read about it online. (And Utopia Asia is one good resource.) So I decided to share my knowledge about the Manila scene so that other PLUs who want to try it won’t go unprepared. :-)

A bit of a background on Japan

Before anything else, let’s talk about the guys in Tokyo. :-) Well, there are a lot of cute and yummy guys there and chinito types are plus pogi points for me. But generally, the cuteness density in Tokyo is not so much higher than in Manila. It’s just that you get to see a whole lot more people there especially on the trains and subways that you tend to see lots of cute guys too. The high school boys were particularly cute in their uniforms. :-)

In Japan, homosexuality is somewhat a non-issue. Before Japan opened up to the West, the country was almost like the ancient Greeks in how they dealt with gay love. Nowadays, Japan’s society have somewhat adopted the Western Christian disapproval of homosexuality. Most gay people in Japan are in the closet and because of the societal pressure to marry, there are a lot of married gay men. (You can read more in Wikipedia.)

Shinjuku Ni-chome

As I’ve said, this small area east of Shinjuku Station is the equivalent of Orosa-Nakpil in Malate and consists of several small city blocks. Shinjuku Ni-chome has about a hundred to two hundred small gay bars, clubs and cafes. Most of them can only accommodate no more than 15 people. It’s a really intimate place and most bars are usually not welcoming of strangers. Generally, each bar has a preference of its clientèle; there are the bars for the young twinks, those for the muscle beefcakes, and several for the popular chubby bears. There is supposedly a bar for any particular type you might prefer.

However, one thing common among these bars is that all of them, save for a handful or so, do not accommodate foreigners, or gaijin. Like many Filipinos, Japanese tend to stick to their own. Based on what I’ve researched back then, the only foreigner-friendly and popular bars back then were Advocates Cafe, Arty Farty, BG, and Club Dragon. I’m not sure if these still exist today.

Trying out Arty Farty

Photo taken from Flickr.

One Friday several years ago, I decided to finally try the scene out and so I swung by Shinjuku to do some advance scouting. (Yes, dapat may ocular inspection muna. Hehehe.) It was early in the evening so the area was not too crowded and I went around and around to look for these supposed four gaijin-friendly places. I found all of them except for Arty Farty. And, boy were they right when they said the bars were small. I don’t think you can pack more than 20 people inside Advocates Cafe alone.

The next day, Saturday, was my planned actual immersion to this world in Shinjuku. Before leaving for my gimik, I got on the Internet and researched some more and finally found the correct address of Arty Farty. (The Internet is your friend!) I got to Shinjuku Ni-chome at around 10 in the evening with the intention of staying up until 5 am, when the first trains start to ply their routes. (People who go out and have fun can either party till midnight and catch the last trains, or drink the night away until the trains move again.)

I wasn’t sure where to go really so I loitered around the area checking the scene out. There weren’t too many people in Advocates, and I couldn’t tell whether there were a lot of people in BG or Club Dragon. I went to where Arty Farty was located instead and after a short while a Caucasian guy went up to the door of Arty Farty and wondered how to open it. I helped him and we both got inside. Woah. There was no entrance fee!

Inside was a different world altogether. The place was packed to the brim and there were guys from all over the world having a great time. I can definitely tell that Arty Farty was the it place in Shinjuku Ni-chome, much like BED is in Malate. There were a lot of foreigners in there and the Japanese crowd is mostly between 20 to 35 years old. It’s very, very cosmopolitan. Arty Farty is also one of the exceptions to the bars in that it is large; there were probably a hundred people in there that I saw.

That said, I realized that it’s hard for me to socialize in a place like that. As I’ve said, Japanese tend to prefer other Japanese, and those that prefer gaijin prefer the white guys. Well, the Japanese can easily tell that I’m not one of them so I’m left mostly alone. The other foreigners, on the other hand, would assume that I’m Japanese and left me alone as well. Tsk, tsk.

A did get to talk to a couple of guys. One is a Japanese who asked if I were Thai or Malaysian. (Hehe, close enough.) He invited me to go to his place, but since I had no plan of doing anything naughty (besides, he wasn’t my type), I declined his offer. The other guy is a British citizen of Sri Lankan ancestry who got curious with me. He was definitely not my type so the conversation was short.

The music was nice enough, but it’s a clubber’s nightmare. The DJ had no mixing skills at all (actually he never attempted it) and the playlist had a bunch of house music followed by several hip-hop and R&B songs followed by house music and so on. I wished it was one or the other all throughout the night and that there was decent mixing. Then again, people did dance wildly when Madonna’s “Hung Up” and “Sorry” were played back-to-back and also when a bunch of Destiny’s Child hits were brought up later, so I guess they really enjoyed the music. But it does not hold a candle to the floor-filling goodness of a good Saturday night in Bed.

I got tired with the scene in Arty Farty at around 2 am. I’ve seen enough, decided that there’s no place like back home, and wanted to go back to the place I was staying at in southern Tokyo. But it was too late to go home by then so I tried my best to enjoy myself until 5 am. I think I even napped for a while on one of the sofas there. :-p

Next up, I’ll talk about 24 Kaikan, the most popular chain (yes, chain!) of bathhouses in Tokyo.

Jun 20, 2010

The SOP in Queeriosity Palace


I’ve talked about the SOPs of both Epitome and Club Bath before so let’s now tackle the SOP in Queeriosity Palace. One thing I have to say is that if you’ve ever been to Fahrenheit, then you would feel right at home with how things work in QP. This should not come as a surprise since Queeriosity used to be a sister bathhouse to Fahrenheit before the former was sold by the latter’s owner to this guy. The SOPs of QP and F are not exactly the same but the similarities are more prominent. But before we continue, you should review Queeriosity’s floor plan so you can follow the rest of the article.

So let’s get cracking! The first thing you will encounter in Queeriosity Palace is the “bouncer” (not the big, muscular type) who guards the door and would be the one to let you in. This is unlike Epitome and Club Bath who both have security guards manning the entrance but who would not screen you before you can get in.

Upon getting inside, you will immediately see the counter where you need to register. If you’re a first time member, you will need to fill out a membership form, pay the annual membership fee of 100 pesos as well as the entrance fee, which depends on the time you arrive and the day of the week. You can check out QP’s website to find the current rates. Like E and CB, you will also need to provide a valid ID so you can’t give a pseudonym on the form. But other than your name, I think you can get away with not declaring anything else like your address or contact details. However, if you like to be informed of promos and special events, then you should provide your mobile number. You will also be handed the membership card where you need to write your name and sign your signature at the back. Your ID and membership card (to be laminated) will be given to you later when you leave.

If you’re a returning member, you just need to provide a valid ID, your membership card and the entrance fee. If you are also renewing your membership, then you will additionally fill out a membership form again and sign a new membership card as well as pay an additional renewal fee. The old membership card will be surrendered.

After paying for the entrance, you’ll be given two keys attached to a bracelet. The bracelet will also have a tag with a number on it. You then turn to your right where the shoe and bag counter is. You will be given a pair of slippers by the nice shoe lady as well as a claim tag (which doesn’t necessarily match the number on the bracelet). You then surrender your shoes and bag and wear the slippers. There’s a bench beside the counter so you can sit down while changing footwear. I guess if you’re wearing slippers and have no bag in the first place, then you can skip this step. (I’m not sure because I’ve always worn shoes when I visit QP.) After this step, you will now proceed to the safety deposit boxes room which is located to the left of the registration counter.

At the safety deposit box area, there is a small table and a staff member to whom you will hand your key bracelet. He will provide a small plastic bag into which you will deposit all your valuables—wallet, cellphones, keys, wristwatches, etc.—including your shoe claim tag. The staff will log your bracelet number and these valuables into a logbook including the color of the wallet and the model of the cellphone. The staff will then have you sign the logbook, wrap the bag up and put it inside a safety deposit box bearing a number that matches your bracelet. One of the keys on your bracelet is for the box.

After depositing your valuables, you then get back your bracelet and then you will proceed to the locker room. A staff is there to assist you find your locker, which has a matching number as well. Using the other key on your bracelet you can then open your locker. Try the other key if the first key doesn’t work. Or ask the staff for help since some locks are hard to open. :-) Inside your locker is a plastic bag containing a bath towel and a small towel (if I remember correctly). There should also be a free condom inside. Queeriosity didn’t provide free condoms before because law enforcement agencies often used the presence of condoms as proof that an establishment is used for prostitution. But because of the heroic efforts of QP’s current owner, free condoms are now a regularly provided service.

So you now take off your clothes and don the towel and from there on you’re on your own. Explore the red-lit hallways on the second floor. Watch some porn in the video room. Have wild unforgettable sex with the guy you fancy in one of the numerous rooms. Relax in the ice-cold jacuzzi (I’ve never seen it warm). Or surf the web at the Internet cafe area. You can also avail of some food and refreshments at the bar and you will be billed when you leave. I’m not sure about this since I’m not a smoker, but I think you can smoke in the lounge area and at the bar, both on the ground floor.

After a few hours, and a round of sex (or two, or three), it’s now time to go home. Just go back to the locker room, wear your clothes and deposit the towel in a basket in the vanity room (where you can freshen up) located between the locker room and the safety deposit boxes room. At the safety deposit boxes, you give the staff your bracelet and he will fetch the plastic bag in the corresponding box and give it to you at the table. You will then sign the logbook to declare that there’s nothing missing.

After that, you go to to the registration shoe deposit counters and claim your ID, membership card, shoes and bags. Sometimes, the nice lady at the shoe counter will provide tissue so you can dry your feet, especially if you’ve taken a shower just before. Once everything is in order, just leave the place and come back some other day! :-)

As for Queeriosity’s membership card, it's just a laminated piece of stiff paper. The card contains the club’s contact details, the card number, the issue and expiration dates and some barcode. I didn’t bother taking a picture of it unlike with Epitome and Club Bath since it’s not worth it. Club Bath’s membership card is still the best I’ve seen being a piece of plastic that’s like a credit card.

Jun 13, 2010

The Red Light Special


I was driving along EDSA in Pasay recently and I noticed this attention-grabbing billboard along the southbound side facing west and near Pasay Rotonda. It had a bunch of silhouettes of sexy men and women with the words “Red Light Special” and a web address: http://www.redlightspecial.com.ph. I found the whole thing intriguing so I noted the URL down.

I thought it was some racy promo for San Miguel or another beer or some fashion show like Bench’s. But when I visited the website, it turns out to be an advocacy website for having safe sex, most especially of using condoms. It does not only concentrate on HIV/AIDS but touches also on other STIs. It even includes a list of medical institutions nationwide where you can have yourself tested for various sexually-transmitted infections. I think that this is quite a commendable effort but I’m troubled by the lack of any indication on who is behind this. Maybe they’re avoiding the wrath of the Catholic Church? Then again, the Church did not stop DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral from championing the cause of reproductive health, right?

One other thing that’s really troubling me with this website is that it says quite dangerous things! On its risk assessment page, the site declares that for oral sex between men with no ejaculation, there is “no risk for HIV, possible STI parasite risk.” The HIV part is not true! Pre-ejaculate fluid contains HIV and if the receiver has mouth sores or gingivitis, and especially if the oral sex is rough or if the receiver has braces, there is a non-negligible risk of fluid exchange leading to HIV infection! Saying that there’s no risk at all is very irresponsible.

So, while I admire the effort to inform people about sexual risks and using a sex-sells strategy to get people’s attention, I really cannot accept the fact that it contains wrong facts! What do you think?

Update (Oct 30): A commenter said that the website has now updated its information such that the information presented is no longer incorrect. Good for them!

Jun 3, 2010

Bed’s website is now on Blogger


Interesting.... After years of having a hosted website, Bed finally went to Google’s Blogger (aka Blogspot) for it’s official website. So now this means that the Malate club’s website is now a blog! Special events are now blog posts and they are using the the new pages feature of Blogger to provide the regular content like About, Talents, Directions, and Contact. Go and follow them. Now na!

This move actually makes sense. Instead of paying for web hosting, you can just use Blogger for free! Doc Tony’s gallery is hosted elsewhere and the website doesn’t really need much interaction, so there are no forums or discussion boards. What’s really important are the event announcements and for that purpose, a blog format is the obvious choice.