Nightlife in Kaohsiung doesn’t match night life in New York City, but it’s not too bad. Considering that Kaohsiung has 1.5 million residents to New York City’s 8 million, I maintain that Kaohsiung has better night life per capita than New York City. Take my opinion with a grain of salt—I’ve only explored a small segment of the harbor city’s bars, pubs and clubs.
The most popular form of evening entertainment here seems to be karaoke bars. The preferred name for karaoke in Taiwan is “KTV” (which I’m guessing means Karaoke Television, although to be honest I’m not sure). Taiwanese love KTV. Not only do they love karaoke more than your average (sane) American, they also go about it differently. Rather than set up a stage and a microphone in the corner of a crowded bar, Taiwanese organize their KTV experience into private party rooms. Each room is equipped with chairs, sofas, tables, a TV, microphone, speakers and a computer with a list of songs. With fewer people jostling to sing, everyone in each group has more opportunities to strut their stuff. Also, culturally reserved Taiwanese feel more comfortable performing in front of a familiar audience.
My ETA group is going to KTV for the second time tonight. Our first trip was great fun. We went to an upscale KTV joint that looked like a hotel. $450NT (roughly $15USD) each bought four hours of KTV in a swank private room with unlimited non-alcoholic drinks and two big platters of munchies. Each party is allowed to bring in their own alcohol if they feel like singing 80s rock at some point. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of English songs available, although I was in equal measure dismayed by the complete and utter lack of John Mellencamp. I’m great at karaoke John Mellencamp. Not so great at karaoke Backstreet Boys, or karaoke Celine Dion.
Besides KTV, there are many bars and clubs at hand. One notable stop was the Pig & Whistle, a weird pub-club fusion owned and operated by an Australian expat. It’s closing soon, but in its heyday it was the place to be. Now-a-days it’s a Taiwanese cougar bar, equipped with a live band that only recently discovered Abba (and loved it).
The Pig & Whistle isn’t going out of business (only) because it’s a cougar bar with a bad band (in all fairness to the DJ, with whom I spoke, the DJ’ing is very good and I had a good time dancing). Business model explains the P&Ws misfortune. Kaohsiung’s most popular clubs, Lamp and Dream, charge males 500-600$NT (roughly $20USD) cover and then let them drink all they want for free (liquor or beer). Ladies enter for free and drink for free. Traditional bar business models, with small covers and larger charges for drinks, cannot compete because all the women go Lamp and Dream, and the Taiwanese men follow them (and pay way more cover than they can make up in drinks [and simultaneously avoid death by alcohol poisoning]).
I’m sure many of my male friends from the United States, who on average are about four inches taller, more muscular and twenty pounds heavier than their Taiwanese counterparts, have already figured out that Lamp and Dream are an absolute and utter steal. $20USD counts as a cover and all you can drink. Once I have four drinks I’m pretty much scamming the entire island of Manhattan. Since, Mother Dearest, your son drinks with great moderation, he has obviously does not receive a better deal than that. Point is, ladies and Western men make out like bandits.
I just want to pause and emphasize how brilliant this business model is. Ladies go because it’s totally free for them, which attracts men of all stripes. Western men go because they receive a phenomenal deal for all they drink. Western men attract more Taiwanese women (I’m still not sufficiently accustomed to this, and I won’t try explaining how strange and offputting [yes, offputting. You’d think it would just seem like a great thing immediately, but it’s actually offputting]) it is to be the center of female attention all the time ), which in turn attracts more Taiwanese men who will not be able to recoup their cover charge in free drinks (and live to tell the tale). I think Lamp and Dream are proof positive that Taiwan is a fully developed, advanced economy.