Review: Emperor — Yangon, Burma
Emperor is one of the most well known nightlife hotspots in Yangon (also known as Rangoon) the capital city of Burma (also known as Myanmar). While many locals and visitors like undoubtedly pass by every night without a clue as to what goes on inside the place many others are hip to the scene. A good number of taxi drivers around town as well as people like guys working the desks and doors at hotels that see foreign visitors are fully aware of Emperor which they pronounce more like “Empire.” Emperor Disco is even listed as a landmark on Google Maps.
Even without the assistance of a local or a computer device Emperor isn’t all that difficult to find. While it is tucked away on an upper level of an otherwise nondescript building it is located right on a main road in the middle of the city. Emperor is on Shwedagon Pagoda Road in the block between Maha Bandula and Anawratha Road. A neon green sign lights up at night in front though actually getting in to the club requires entering from the street and following an iffy looking passageway to the right before entering the shaky elevator on the right (another elevator to the left goes somewhere else).
Once the lift reaches the sixth floor with the help of the man who risks his life every day to run it customers arrive at a small lobby with a table staffed by one or two women. These women speak just enough English to ask for the 5000 Kyat ($5 USD) entrance fee which includes a ticket for a drink. After paying customers can enter the club which is a lot like a disco out of the 1980’s.
At least that’s the impression one gets. It’s difficult to get a good look since the place is almost completely pitch black inside. Its anyone’s guess why the lights can’t be turned up but a few purple neon lights scattered around help to blind customers even more as they find their way around.
In the front of the club there is a large dance floor. In the back there are many cushioned chairs with small tables between them. At the back is a regular old bar that few people seem to sit at. Most customers try to grab one of the chairs before they get taken by someone else and taken they do get. Despite the condition of the place Emperor is very popular and it fills up with customers from places like Japan and Korea night after night. Once in a while a Western guy will show up to.
Whether its a result of the ever present darkness or low salaries the numerous waiters in the club aren’t what you’d call eager to take drink orders. They are friendly though and even though they speak almost no English they are happy to help once a customer politely flags one down. Drink prices are very cheap and there are no lady drinks.
There are ladies though. Lots of them. Depending on the night there can be as many as five dozen women in the club. Some are like freelancers that float around on their own. They usually wait for people to approach them but some will take the initiative and cozy up to a customer hoping that he takes a liking. Unfortunately as is usually the case in places like this the women who do the approaching are often the least attractive. Since most of the women who go to Emperor are at least somewhat good looking this isn’t too much of an issue and it’s easy enough to politely move on for those not interested.
While women start milling around when the place first opens at around 8:30 each night the main event seems to be the faux fashion show that starts a little later. The shows are common in establishments of this nature in Burma but rarely seen elsewhere. Women take turns walking toward the punters and doing a little turn as if they were on a catwalk. Of course they are young women who usually don’t have a ton of money so they’re style and behavior can seem a little awkward. Sure to be more awkward for some is the practice that goes along with it. Punters watching the show buy garlands that are placed around the necks of the women they like. Popular ladies can end up covered in these large flowery necklaces by the time its over.
The fashion show women are of course looking for compensated dating in the same way that the women floating around are though they typically want more money and many seem to prefer Japanese clientele. It seems rare that the advances of Asian visitors are refused but it does happen from time to time with certain women and guys from other countries outside of Southeast and East Asia even if it is less common at Emperor than it is at some other places like JJ’s which I plan to review in the future.
Rates vary from one woman to the next and depending on any number of circumstances but there is a typical range. The women who work the room on their own usually ask for 70000 Kyat ($68) when approaching newbies even though they almost always accept a standard offer of 50000 to 60000 to leave the bar with a customer. The women in the fashion shows expect more and some won’t even consider leaving the bar for less than 100000 Kyat ($97).
Prices can be quoted in local currency or US Dollars by either party. A quote of 80 dollars is usually considered to be equivalent to 80000 Kyat even though 80 USD dollars buys about 83000 Kyat.
As stated earlier the women are mostly attractive ranging in age from 19 to perhaps 25 though beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are surely guys out there who would disagree. Most of the ladies are petite though some are curvy and one or two may even be chubby. A few women can speak decent English but it’s not common. Hygiene is sometimes not up to the standards of other countries and some of the women will have dirty feet, deeply stained teeth or deeply smoke infused hair. This is stated not as an insult but a general fact. What good is reporting if it’s not accurate?
Most of the women are generally shy and inexperienced even if their line of work does involved them trying to find guys to give them money to take them out of the club and to somewhere more intimate. Depending on the women services rendered may be nothing more than laying on a bed though some seem to be picking up more skills nowadays. That is especially true of the women who work the room on their own.
Guys who decide to take a woman or women out of the club will indicate this and then wait for them to run off and get ready. After a few minutes the customer and his new lady friend will head back to the lobby where they will inevitably wait for the age old elevator to return to the floor. While they wait one of the security guards will probably pull out some suspicious looking prophylactics and offer them for sale at an exorbitant rate. Downstairs a few taxis will be parked and waiting to charge some higher than normal fee. This is common in these kinds of areas but it is unfortunate considering that taxi drivers in the city are normally among the most fair and honest to be found anywhere.
Hotels are expensive but at least many allow customers to bring guests back to their rooms. Originally agreements were made for overnight visits as a standard. Nowadays some women believe that the time spent together should only cover an hour or two though this still isn’t as common at Emperor as it is at some other places. Customers typically render payment to women they bring back after the agreed period has ended and the gals are on their way out. Most women will ask for an extra 5000 Kyat for taxi money on top of the agreed amount.
As a fairly easy to navigate club with a low barrier to entry where lots of good looking gals hang around I think Emperor Disco deserves three-and-a-half stars. The club itself isn’t much to look at and the low lighting approaches absurdity but the abundance of local ladies is a real plus. I also have to consider the area and what else is available. Emperor doesn’t necessarily stand out but it’s a good example of the Myanmar club model.
Emperor Disco. City Center Plaza, Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Yangon, Burma. Open seven days a week from 8:30 PM to midnight. Click here for a map.