Note: Manhattan was closed in late 2017. I have no further information.
The commercial sex scene in Shanghai was first covered on this site in some detail last year but it has been more than twelve months since anything was written about mainland China. The country is massive and loaded with adult entertainment though the nature of things means that most of it is underground even when it operates hidden in plain site.
On the surface Manhattan is just one of several regular bars operating in the most populous city proper in the world. A closer examination shows that it is also a place where independent working women from various parts of the world ply their trade.
Manhattan has been around for years. Some of the mainstream entertainment websites even describe it is an “old bar” that is “full of professional men and ladies.” I guess by professional men they mean business men. In that case their description is somewhat accurate. A lot of tourists and others also go to the bar however and the main draw isn’t the music.
The bar is located on Nanyang Lu. It is not in the most obvious of locations but the address is clear and the front is marked by a large sign that says MANHATTAN in block yellow letters. During the the day the area is quiet and filled with people going about their daily life. There are cafes and restaurants around and it looks like a normal neighborhood.
At night several taxi drivers with menacing looks hang around out front where they are joined by a team of beggars. Customers who make it past that gauntlet head up a flight of stairs to enter the bar through a set of glass doors.
Inside the bar is quite large. It has high vaulted ceilings and a long bar on the right side. The floor is filled with tables and on many nights also a lot of people. At the far end of the floor there is a raised stage where a live band plays music at an unnecessarily loud level. When the band takes breaks a DJ takes over and blasts everything from Chinese pop to American Country music.
Manhattan attracts all kinds and people from all over the world. Asian customers are the most common but Western guys also abound. No matter the country of origin many customers seem to drink much more than they can handle. On busy nights it is not out of the ordinary to see dozens of total drunken guys falling all over the place. Still it is a generally peaceful place and most people mind their own business with occasional exceptions.
The main attraction at Manhattan for most male customers is probably the two to three dozen Asian women who come looking for customers every night of the week. They are not affiliated to the bar but they see it as a place to make money. These women mainly hail from Vietnam though a few Thais and Filipinas can also be found. Some civilian women with no interest in the sex trade also go to Manhattan. Local Chinese women are most likely to belong to that group nowadays.
The working women at Manhattan are not shy and they tend to make themselves known. They don’t dress too provocatively but they are eager to flirt with guys especially when they think it will help them get some money. Since that’s the point for them to show up at the bar in the first place it only makes sense. What makes less sense is that there are always at least a few who seem more interested in playing with their phones than looking for customers.
Like many Vietnamese gals the working women at Manhattan are generally a good looking bunch. They do their hair and makeup and put on nice dresses they compliment their looks. There are usually at least a few real lookers but they often get selected quickly by groups of Asian guys who monopolize their time and but them numerous drinks. More mature women who likely have children back home are less likely to be booked for the night though they are not bad looking as a general rule.
A handful of the women who work the floor at Manhattan are very aggressive but as is usually the case they are also often the least attractive ladies in the bar. There are also usually a few very busty women hanging around the bar who have obviously had plastic surgery and can speak a high level of English. One can only guess what kinds of experiences they’ve had working wherever it is they picked up their English language skills. In any event they are definitely good looking though the higher rates they ask for may be the reason they are usually seen without men.
The regular staff at Manhattan looks overworked and harangued. They do their job of selling beers for 50 Yuan ($7.25 USD) a bottle but it is obvious that they cannot wait for their shift to end. Who can blame them? By 11:00 at night the place can even be difficult to customers to manage. Still many men find it worth it and keep coming night after night. The place is always busy.
The working women are generally a much warmer bunch though that may only be because they have to show a sunny disposition to score customers. Even then it seems that several go home alone on any given night.
One reason for that may be that a lot of guys at the bar drink themselves into a state of invalidity. Prices may also have some impact.
Most women selling their time at Manhattan want 1000 Yuan ($145 USD) to go home with a customer for a while. Some such as the previously mentioned plastic brigade often want more. Many ask for as much as double the going rate but will settle for the normal amount when guys negotiate.
Sessions are negotiated between women and customers. Some last a few hours others last all night. Different people come up with different agreements depending on whatever factors are at play. All night sessions typically costs guys more at 1500 Yuan ($218 USD) but again prices can vary according to the situation. Sometimes guys take ladies for a quick romp for as little as four or five hundred Yuan.
By midnight some of the working women at Manhattan that haven’t found a guy start heading home. Others double down and stay in it for the long haul. As closing time approaches police are often hanging around outside along with the taxis and beggars though they don’t seem to bother customers much if at all.
The same cannot be said for the street walkers who hang around outside and offer guys sex for as little as 400 Yuan ($58 USD). There are countless stories about these women robbing customers once in their rooms by emptying out pockets and even safes. Many unsavory tales have been told of the aforementioned taxis and karaoke club promoters often hailing from Africa who show up in the street late at night.
Manhattan. 154 Nanyang Rd, Jing’an District, Shanghai, China. Open every day from 7 PM – 6 AM. Phone: +86 (0)21-6247-6656. Click here for a map.