Although karaoke in the US is generally considered a lame gimmicky bullshit thing to put in your bar, abroad it can be lot of fun. In many foreign countries people go crazy for karaoke and not just in Asia. For example, Bulgarian chicks absolutely love karaoke and you can find one club or another running karaoke pretty much 7 days per week. It’s a great place to pickup.
But I digress, we’re here to talk about Chinese karaoke which they call KTV. KTV joints are everywhere in China. KTV is quite different from traditional western karaoke which is usually just a big screen at the front of the bar and some nerd with a crappy computer program running the music and organizing the waiting list of singers. When you go to KTV you get a private room with a big flat screen TV, a fancy entertainment system, big plush couches and often a private bathroom. The rooms are usually big enough for up to 10 people but they do vary in size. There are many different quality levels of KTV – it ranges from quite cheap to extremely expensive.
KTV is definitely the kind of thing you’ll need a local to advise you on, but before you can ask a local to help you out you need to decide whether you’re looking for KTV or “special” KTV (*wink* *wink*). Some KTV joints are places you could take a date and others will provide one for you. If you opt for the latter shortly after you’re assigned your private room anywhere between 15-30 girls will be paraded ceremoniously into the room. They may or may not be dressed in matching outfits (as pictured below) and they may be dressed extremely sexy or rather conservative – it all depends on which KTV place you visit. You are now expected to pick a girl, whichever one you like just point. Congratulations now you have a date for your KTV experience. Unfortunately English language ability is rare with these girls but if you’ve been following our standard Single Dude Travel advice you will have taken a basic crash course. You will also now learn (if you didn’t already know this) that you can communicate to some degree without any common language. True you will not be pondering any deep philosophical questions but you’re just here to have fun.
A little beer is definitely in order (and is usually cheap) so order some Tsing Tao and get to work. If you don’t like signing the girls will often sing to you and sometimes they’re pretty good (they get lots of practice). They also really like playing a game with dice which can also be a drinking game and believe or not rock paper scissors. I shit you not. If I were to describe Chinese girls in two words it would be: easily amused. Try something as simple as winking at them and smiling.
At some point a guy is going to come in with a cart full of goodies… little snacks and stuff like that. It’s cheap don’t worry. Encourage the girls to order something, they’re often hungry. Be careful what you eat though… they eat some really weird shit in China. I found out after the fact one of the girls fed me duck intestines. I almost lost my lunch when I heard that the next day.
Sometime during your evening you may also be offered a strip tease show by one or more girls. It costs extra, find out how much before you buy. Expect 10-15 minutes of full contact lap dancing and other antics. The policy is “please touch” unlike the in the US where that will get your ass kicked by a steroid abusing meat head bouncer. At one point a tiny little hottie weighing no more than 90 lbs commanded me up off the couch “You, on the wall!” where she proceeding to use me as a jungle gym.
So everybody is well fed, well drunk and you’ve had your fill of beer, karaoke, duck intestines and strip shows – now what? It’s up to you… usually. There are “special” services on the menu but it’s kind of a gray area and depends on which KTV you’re in. Some dirty filthy ones have beds right upstairs like an Amsterdam whorehouse and it’s the KTV joint selling you this “service”. Others want to negotiate the transaction but you are supposed to leave with the girl. And yet others will provide either option. It’s important to point out though that although the vast majority of these girls do fuck for money (let’s not sugar coat it) they’re not required to and they don’t have to. There are probably a few in there that just do the whole hanging out and singing thing to make their “sitting fee” and that’s the end of it. If you are good looking and treat the girls nicely they may be down to meet you after for fun not for work. This is what happened to me (twice) although maybe I was just lucky, I’m not sure you can always expect this result. I have some real hang ups about paying for sex. It’s also important to point out that they won’t be mad at you for wasting their time if you just leave. If you’re not into paying for it and like me detest the concept of going into some filthy little room upstairs I recommend you just invite the girl out when she finishes work. She might say she’s too tired – this might mean she really is too tired (they work a lot) or it might mean “fuck you” in polite terms or it might mean “I’ll need some money to wake me up”. Ask her for her phone number, she’ll probably give it to you. Try her another time. Or maybe you’ll be lucky like I was and she’ll say “Sure, I finish at 12.30 please call me!!!!”. If you are dealing with a girl that doesn’t speak English make sure you have a Chinese guy friend to translate. You don’t want there to be misunderstandings here in anyway, it wouldn’t be fair to your KTV girl.
However you work it out I highly recommend spending some time with a KTV girl outside of the club. In both cases the girls were total sweethearts, they really seemed like they were having a good time, both at the club and afterward. Maybe they are just good little actresses but I never got any of that typical vibe you get from a stripper in the US for example. You know how it is when you’re getting a lap dance in the states and you have a mutual understanding that she hates you, hates her job and is secretly wishing you’ll cop a feel so her steroid abusing, shaved gorilla, neanderthal bouncer boyfriend can knock out all your teeth. There was none of that shit going on in KTV. I’m sure there are KTV girls that hate their job, their life and your face so choose wisely when they do the lineup. Look for a genuine smile and open body language. However, make sure you don’t mistake shyness for misery, remember she may be way more keen on spending time with you instead of some fat old Chinese business man that’s going to treat her like an object. If at first you don’t succeed try again.
So now that I’ve given you all these exciting details let’s talk pricing. The room is going to be a fixed price for a fixed time period. The time period is probably negotiable. If you want to be guaranteed a certain time slot and a certain amount of time make a reservation. They start around 400 RMB ($60) but remember you could easily go with 3 or 4 of your friends. The beer and snacks are usually pretty cheap – I was paying 16 RMB ($2.50) for a half liter bottle at the most expensive KTV I visited. The girls will expect a “sitting fee” just to hang out with you at the end of the night which will range from 100 RMB ($15) to the sky… The hostess and/or server may or may not also expect a 100 RMB ($15) or more mandatory tip. Make sure you understand what you’re getting into before you get started, every place is different. Aforementioned special “services” for later will also vary wildly, I’ve surveyed some locals and have been told it starts as low as 150 RMB (~$22) to thousands of RMB (hundreds of bucks). You may be able to find a shitty KTV that is cheaper but you probably don’t want to go there. These things just have a tremendously huge range of quality levels and pricing. I’m sure somewhere they have one that runs all the way up to the “Elliot Spitzer $5,000 an hour level”. The most important thing is to have a local Chinese guy who’s in the know advising you and translating where necessary. Trust me it will be easy to make a new Chinese friend if you invite him to “special” KTV and offer to pay for the room and a couple of beers. Tell him he’s on his own for the “special” treatment. I’ve been three times with 3 friends each time and we’ve spent between 800 ($123) – 1200 RMB ($185) each time for everything except “special” services.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this comprehensive introduction to KTV.