Old Town Clubbing

After getting back from Lake Namtso we had one last night to spend in Lhasa. We went to the same rooftop bar overlooking the Jokhang Temple when we first arrived in Lhasa.

When Yi went to the Potala Palace she ended up on a different tour. It was here she met a local who had recommended a club in Old Town for us to visit. Another person in our tour group was interested so the three of us headed out while the rest of the tour stayed at the rooftop bar for more drinks.

The club was difficult to find, even with the address. We worked it out after seeing some people leaving a taxi and walking into it. At first it seemed a little seedy, having to climb several stairs through a small opening between two buildings. Once inside we had the familiar having to find us a table.

But this club was very different to New Town. There was a reasonably sized stage with several small tables in front of it. This club wasn’t about trying to force you to buy overpriced champagne sparkling white wine, or requiring spending limits to sit at special tables. The club was well-lit and every table was the same. Some tables had already been filled with several empty bottles of cheap lager.

The music was mostly traditional Tibetan music with a modern twist (at least that’s what it seemed like – I’m not an expert in traditional Chinese music). People would get on the stage and dance – sometimes professional dancers, sometimes just the younger Tibetans in the club. There were definitely similarities with the way Chinese clubs, but without all the pretentiousness and showing off. In other words this club was fun.

We were the only foreigners in the bar – two white guys and a Han girl surrounded by Tibetans. I have to admit I was a little nervous – did we really belong here? This was quickly relieved when people started getting our attention and raising their glasses to us. One man even said “Thanks for coming!”.

We had a few bottles of cheap beer and eventually got the courage to jump on stage and dance. About five seconds later everyone else decided to run away from the stage. A little embarrassed we returned to our seats and the dance floor filled up again.

Eventually Yi got tired and we decided to head back. Our friend decided to stay after we got a phone call from our tour guide saying the rest of them were coming. We left him on his own waiting for them to arrive.

Unfortunately he spent the night alone because they never made it to the club…

New Town Clubbing

It was our English tour guide’s birthday and he decided he wanted to go out in Lhasa’s New Town to celebrate. Our tour group gathered together in our hotel’s lobby and we laid out a rough plan for the night: we would have a few drinks in Old Town then head to a club in New Town.

We found a small bar across the road from our hotel and sat down in the hopes of a nice cold beer. We were still learning that cold beer was basically impossible to get in Tibet. They offered us an alternative – warm beer and a glass with ice.

Drinks in Old Town
Drinks in Old Town

We had a couple of rounds of drinks then went out to get a taxi to New Town. Our tour guide knew a club, but he couldn’t quite remember the address so he gave us a street nearby to meet at. As we drove out of Old Town and into New Town I noticed that the city seemed to morph into a generic Chinese city – lit up skyscrapers and dark streets. They had preserved Old Lhasa and just built a city around it.

When we all finally arrived at the meeting place, we walked over to the club. If you’ve never been to a Chinese night club before, it is a very strange experience. When you go in you are given a table, but you are expected to spend a certain amount of money to sit at that table. When we walked in to the club they instantly gave us one of the best tables in the club.

Then we had to order drinks. Obviously we all wanted to order individually, most of us wanting a beer. They only wanted to sell us overpriced champagne or a crate of dozens of beers, however. This led into the most complicated attempt to order alcohol ever – they didn’t seem to understand why we didn’t want to buy overpriced alcohol we weren’t going to finish. Eventually they realised we weren’t going to spend stupid amounts of money and moved us to sit at the bar.

The club was typically chinese. Everyone was seated at a table where table service was provided. There was a dance floor that was full of clubber dancing to cheesy pop-dance tunes like “The Happy Birthday Song” and “Merry Christmas”. Behind the dance floor was a stage where professional dancers would come on and perform.

New Town Club
Professional dancers at a New Town Club

We were at the bar struggling to get the attention of the bartenders. We had no trouble getting the attention of people in the club however – foreigners aren’t very common in Tibetan clubs. We had now been in the club for over an hour and still hadn’t managed to get a drink.

We eventually did get their attention and the drinks started to flow. We got drunk, danced with the locals and finally stumbled into taxis and handed them our hotel’s business cards. There’s a reason I generally don’t like Chinese night clubs.