The Santiago Pub Crawl

July 30, 2012

The Santiago Pub Crawl tours around Barrio Bellavista attempting to pass on knowledge of a variety of different bars and nightclubs for different tastes. It wasn’t to mine. I’ve been on a lot of these organised pub crawls in Europe and some have been better than others but generally the idea is that you can see the most interesting bars a place has and meet people who speak English. Generally these bars are unusual and/or popular. On this one however, it felt at certain points as if the nondescript bars had been rented out – they were completely empty before we arrived. My gut feeling upon entering was that places like that are generally unpopular for a reason. Los Diamantes, our second bar was one such place.

Once we had all piled in, a man with a microphone got on to a stage and got women from different countries to come with him. Then, once in front of everyone, he got them to dance reggaeton with a man from California who ‘loved his f***ing job man’. It felt like a meat market, with women gyrating into this man’s crotch while he shook behind them with a face like a jock at a frat party; and the whole room chanting and pointing and cheering.

While walking between bars, they would get us to stop occasionally for photos. One of the organisers would scream to the group that we all have to scream “Santiago pub crawl” and then this huge group of people would just shout back at them with a noise not dissimilar to hooligans at a football match. He even got us to stop at the small amphitheatre area in front of La Chascona and scream “Hello Pablo Neruda” which just seemed absurd. I don’t want to think that Pablo Neruda’s walls are now three days a week an ear for boorish drunk foreigners. The organisers continually encouraged loutish behaviour even though a lot of the people I chatted to were nothing like that and felt awkward being pushed into it. If you don’t do it, you feel like a party pooper – You’re not (I’m really not!).

The third bar too was empty and nondescript and we were pushed into an upstairs area which must have been reserved for us. Seeing the function room of a place doesn’t really give you an idea of the vibe and it just feels awkwardly like speed-dating – looking around and trying to find someone to talk to when nothing around you inspires. Obviously it is still a good place to meet people and the crawl gives you the space and inhibition to be able to do that, but it would be far better if the surroundings sparked conversation and weren’t just random spaces for people to get drunk.

Eventually, the club at the end was a decent enough place to round up the night but mostly I was happy to shake off the shackles of the pub crawl and relax. There was pretty much only time for one drink in each other place sometimes not even that, so having the opportunity to sip rather than shot was appreciated.

The fact is you will never get to know what a bar is actually like until you go on your own terms, but often these pub crawls are ways to find bars you can return to while you’re here.

I won’t be returning to any of these.

The Santiago Pub Crawl is CLP10,000 and goes every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10pm at Lyrics bar on Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 257. This includes free beer at the first bar and a free shot at every other.

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