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Pub Crawling in Santiago

The Santiago Pub Crawl tours around Barrio Bellavista attempt to pass on the 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 organized pub crawls in Europe, and some have been better than others. Generally, the idea is that you can see the most interesting bars and meet people who speak English. These bars are typically either unusual or popular.
On this one, however, many of the nondescript bars were completely empty when we arrived. My gut feeling was that places like these are 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 stage and told women from different countries to come with him. Then, once in front of every one, 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.   The whole room chanted and pointed and cheered.
While walking between bars, they would get us to stop occasionally for photos. One of the organizers would scream to the group that we all have to scream “Santiago pub crawl!”  Then, this huge group of people would just shout back at them with a noise similar 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 drunken foreigners.
The organizers continually encouraged loutish behaviour even though a lot of the people I chatted to felt awkward about being pushed into it. If you don’t do it, you feel like a party-pooper.  You’re not.
The third bar was also 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.  It just feels awkwardly like speed-dating – looking around and trying to find someone to talk to when nothing around you inspires.
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 hammered.
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 only time for one drink in every place (sometimes not even that), so having the opportunity to sip rather than shoot was appreciated.
The fact is, you will never get to know what a bar is actually like until you go on your own terms.  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.
Written by Lara Jakob on August 2, 2012.


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