Taiwan History

Taipei’s most infamous street: Linsen Bei Lu

Linsen North Road (林森北路) is well-known for being the closest thing Taipei has to offer in terms of red light districts, and having now exhausted almost every other Taiwan-related topic on this blog it was time for Bubbletea 101 to explore the secrets of this famous street. An obvious point: I wouldn’t recommend reading this post in the office, unless your boss is the particularly understanding type!

林森北路 by night

林森北路 by night

The lanes that run off Linsen Bei are famous for their countless Jiǔdiàn (酒店), which Google Translate will tell you (rather incorrectly) are hotels. This couldn’t be further from the truth; a typical Linsen Bei Jiǔdiàn is a bar featuring a number of small KTV rooms. The venues employ a number of Jiǔdiàn Xiǎojiě, or bar girls, who are tasked with accompanying the predominantly male guests in their singing, drinking and – depending on the establishment – more lewd activities. Venues that do offer ‘extra services’ are technically illegal and police raids take place occasionally, although apparently not enough to wipe out the more sleazy operators.

My wife mentioned to me sometime ago that she knew a woman who is employed at a Jiǔdiàn, and ever since I’ve been pestering her to ask her acquaintance if she would consent to an interview. I’m happy to report permission was finally granted, under the condition that some key facts are edited to ensure our source’s identity remains a secret. Let’s call our source Miss Hung, a 26-year old Jiǔdiàn Xiǎojiě who’s been working in the industry for the past two years.

Thanks for your time Miss Hung. Can you tell us briefly about your job and what happens on a typical night at the Jiǔdiàn you work at?
I arrive around 6pm and leave around 4am. When I arrive I’ll change into my clothes for the night, eat a lunchbox and wait for the customers to arrive. When the customers arrive our manager takes us to their KTV room. At first it can be a little awkward but after everyone has a few drinks it’s more relaxed. The new girls like to drink a lot, which makes their job harder because the customers are less likely to tip girls well if they get drunk. The more experienced girls will avoid drinking too much and they can earn more that way.

Jiǔdiàn Xiǎojiě

Jiǔdiàn Xiǎojiě

In a typical month I earn between NT$100,000 to NT$200,000 and work five nights a week, although I spend quite a lot of the money buying makeup and clothes to wear to work. At my Jiǔdiàn we take our clothes off and sometimes dance with the customers but there’s nothing more than that, customers aren’t allowed to touch the girls here. There are plenty of other Jiǔdiàns on Linsen Bei where a lot more goes on but I definitely wouldn’t want to work at a place like that. Sometimes a customer will make a deal with a girl here to take her to a hotel although it isn’t so common at my Jiǔdiàn; the clients who are interested in that generally go to other venues.

Tell us a bit about the typical customers that visit your Jiǔdiàn?
Most of our customers are Taiwanese or Japanese businessmen, sometimes we get Western tourists trying to come in but because they generally don’t speak Chinese the manager won’t let them because it’s too hard to communicate. For the businessmen, a lot of the time they are more focused on doing business deals or discussing what happened in the office than paying much attention to the girls. Some of them just love to sing and it can be fun to sing along with them (but most of them sing pretty badly). And a lot of the time they drink so much they end up heading to the bathroom and aren’t seen again for several hours, so we send a Shàoyé (少爺) to go check on them and make sure they’re ok.

Shaoye

Shàoyé are responsible for preparing and cleaning the rooms

Who are these Shàoyé?
Shàoyé are male staff responsible for cleaning the rooms, making sure the microphone is working, just all the odd jobs around the Jiǔdiàn. They deliver the food and drinks to the room and guide the customers to and from their room. Shàoyé are not allowed to peek at the girls when they take their clothes off – they’re only allowed to check on the customers. If a customer hits a Shàoyé, then the Shàoyé aren’t allowed to hit them back. Shàoyé generally don’t earn a fixed salary; their income largely comes from tips paid by customers. But a lot of the customers are so drunk they start handing out NT$1,000 notes by the end of the night so Shàoyé can generally make decent money, as long as they are helpful (and don’t peek!)

How much do customers generally pay for a night at the Jiǔdiàn?
A lot of money! It really varies, depending on how many girls they want (have to get at least two), how much alcohol they drink, and so on. I guess the average group would pay at least NT$20,000 per hour but it can go a lot higher (one night we had a group of Japanese businessmen and they hired 10 girls and went through countless bottles of whisky; I think they spent close to NT$1 mn). All I know is that the boss drives a Lamborghini so he must be making a bit of money!

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Bonnie

    August 15, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Interesting!!!

  2. nick

    August 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Google translates jiudian as hotel because in China, big hotels are called jiudian.

    • Bubbletea101

      August 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Ah, my wife actually mentioned that to me after I wrote the post. My bad 🙂

  3. nick

    August 15, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Also, I think that little collection of brotgels and KTV joints by Longshan Temple qualifies more as a red light district, though it is much sketchier than Linsen Bei Lu.

    • josh

      August 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      haha yeh, i stumbled on that when i visited longshan and went across the street to look for a bubble tea! i was pretty shocked they let that go on next to a major sightseeing place.

  4. Veteran

    August 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I highly doubt she is truthful to you– ones that take off clothes let you touch all you want above panty line. Just saying.

    • Bubbletea101

      August 16, 2015 at 7:28 am

      I reckon we might need to interview you for a follow up Veteran 🙂

  5. Lydia

    February 6, 2016 at 2:03 am

    my ex gf worked at such a place, but yea, if they take their clothes off i’t one of the illegal ones and it’s basically guaranteed that touching is allowed.
    the completely legal version would be only skimpy clothes but no stripping, and basically the girls trying to make their customers fall in love with them so they will come back every night to “date”. fun fact: it’s required that if a customer asks for their phone number, they HAVE to give them their number and stay in touch. so even after work, you’re not really off work.
    Most customers , if they find a girl there who they like, will also try to take them out. meaning, paying much more than they pay inside of the jiudian, to buy that girls time so they can take them out for dinner . or to a hotel. probably to a hotel most of the time, and if the girl doesn’t want to (in a lot of places the girls can choose themselves if they want to make more money through…extra service or not) she might just get drugged. there was a case recently about one xiaojie who worked in taipei letting a guy buy her time, going outside with him and waking up in a hotel in gaohsiung.
    many guys will also make the xiaojie drunk on purpose (they’re not allowed to say no when customers want to drink together) in hope of getting a feel, if it’s one of the “no touching unless the xiaojie allows it” places. or make them drunk and take them to the bathroom for more service.
    A lot of the places sell drugs too, where one of the Shàoyé will come in with a bag and asks what you want. and sometimes the girls will have to sell things (probably drugs too) to the customers, mostly around christmas time. christmas is apparantly a very busy time for jiudian.

    oh btw, some bigger actual hotels even in Taiwan are named jiudian too! the actual jiudian will not have jiudian written anywhere, it’s usually names like “gold dragon ” “lover’s meeting place ” “banquet hall” etc (or at least those are the kinda names they have at linsen lu)

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