Vocal talent means nothing in the karaoke world. It has never
mattered whether or not one sings well. The point is that
it is a moment to shine -- on or off key. It is the one form
of entertainment where you can only blame yourself -- the
entertainer -- for not having a good time.
Outside of Japan, the largest number of karaoke clubs, more
commonly known as KTVs, can be found in Taiwan. Taichung itself
is said to have the largest number of KTVs on the island.
May not be the first thing to market to the masses, but it
is inherently a part of Taiwanese culture and probably the
easiest activities for foreigners to access. As artificial
as KTVs may be to westerners, who would rather be outside
creating their own entertainment, there is something about
the Asian karaoke experience that shouldn¡¦t
It's laid back entertainment that gives foreigners an optimum
chance to completely submerge themselves and revel in Taiwanese
Karaoke was supposedly started in a tiny snack bar in Kobe
City, Japan. When the entertainer of the night wasn't available
due to an illness or other undetermined reasons, the owner
of the bar would play tapes of background music, toss the
microphone into the customer's hands and the rest was history.
Karaoke combines two Japanese words: kara is short for karappo,
which means empty, and oke is part of okestura, meaning orchestra.
An empty orchestra, a mic and a singer - the major ingredients
Since its origination 20 years ago, Taiwan has also picked
up on the karaoke craze. The Taiwanese have worked diligently
over the past years, making karaoke their own.
Today, karaoke clubs and bars are one of the most popular
forms of entertainment for the Taiwanese. It is difficult
to travel through any city in Taiwan without being flashed
down in the dark by bright neon lights luring passerbys Vegas-style.
Taichung currently has over *** KTVs listed in the white
pages. Many of these KTVs are legitimate chains and family-like
entertainment clubs. Other KTVs put some ambiguity into Taiwan's
definition of illegal. Even with the latest crackdowns on
high-end KTV clubs, which cater to some of Taiwan's richest
businessmen, Jio Diens (KTV Night Clubs) are rank high in
Some of the more conspicuous KTVs focus on giving businessmen
full nights of alcohol and fun. They are easily recognized
by the red, white and blue twirling barbershop spindle out
in front. Large posters of semi-naked women are most likely
your best insight into what kind of business these laobans
If entered, expect to be bombarded by KTV "princesses",
decked out in elaborate chiapo clothing, who are looking to
dig deep into your pockets. One night at a Jio Dien could
amount from NT$30 to 40,000. Even the smaller ones, which
are barely visible from the street and usually have dark steaming
windows, offer shady entertainment for around NT$5,000 or
NT$600 per person.
Aside from the fact that A-mei and Coco's latest "Di
da di" will both be missing from the shelves, don't expect
to find any foreign music either. Since most of Jio Diens
customers are older businessmen, their selections are mainly
limited to traditional Taiwanese music. The clubs are also
known for having bad systems, since singing karaokee is not
always the main purpose.
There are plenty of establishments which offer good wholesome
singing fun, as wholesome as karaoke can get of course. Perhaps
the most famous and most popular KTV chain in Taiwan is Holiday
KTV, which beam bright orange and white signs which are difficult
to miss. Holiday KTV is known for their good service and excellent
systems, providing optimum singing needs.
Holiday KTV is probably the best option for foreigners since
it boasts a large foreign music selection as well as a large
collection of the latest Chinese pop songs. Unless you can
read characters, it is best to memorize the lyrics before
entering since the TV screens don't offer ba pa ma pa or ping
ying. On any weekday, Holiday can cost around NT$199 per person
for up to two and a half hours of singing. On the weekends,
the price jumps to NT$299 per person. Drinks and food are
not included in the price. There are up to 40 rooms at each
Holiday KTV but it is advisable to go early since it is one
of the hottest spots for Chinese teenagers to hang out. Holiday
KTVs are located downtown **** and at 821 Wen Hsin Rd., Section
If you are looking for something more private and comfortable,
you can rent a room at Ja Nien Hua or Hu Jia Huan, both which
feature private wooden houses for groups of people. A small
room for 5 people costs NT$300 per person, a middle sized
room costs around $500 per person and a large room may cost
up to $800 per person. There are two Ja Nien Huas in Taichung
which can be found on Chung Kang Rd before the bus station
and on Han Ko Rd., Section 4. Hu Jia Huan also has two locations
at Nantun Rd. and Wen Hsin Rd., Section 2.
If you want to go KTV hopping, about 10 different privately
owned KTVs can be found in second section of Wen Hsin Rd.
between Kung Yi Rd. and Chung Kang Rd. There are also (ask
While karaokee may not revolutionize the musical world, who
is to say that stars won¡¦t be born as they find
themselves at the mic within the confines of a KTV. One thing
is certain however -- the Taiwanese love to sing. While most
westerners are more reserved about karaoke, often times willing
only to sing in large groups or while under the influence
of alcohol at bars, the Chinese travel in hordes to KTVs,
with family members, friends, co-workers and strangers. It
rare to meet a Chinese person who has not willingly visited
a KTV once or twice in his or her life.
All foreigners living in Taiwan should take on the KTV experience
before returning home. It may not seem authentic, traditional,
or cultural for that matter. And it's not be as fun as majong
or as meaningful as tae kwan do and most would agree that
it's artificial entertainment at its best. But when the lights
hit you and the music starts, you'll understand the karaoke
craze. Maybe you'll want more, maybe you won't. But you'll
never know unless you try.