In its third year running, the Irish tradition of a Christmas season pub crawl is going strong in Phnom Penh.
Organised by serial socialite Stewart Gee and “professional drinker” Nikolai Thom, the boozefest takes place this Saturday night, and incorporates Christmas carolling, merry making, seasonal shenanigans and, of course, drinking. Based on the song The 12 Days of Christmas, the aim is to visit 12 bars scattered about the city, have a drink in each, sing a carol, and then lurch on to the next.
For such an outing, one would think that there would be a lot of rules to keep everyone in line and move the mob along, but according to Stewart there is only one. “The key rule is when the Santy moves, then everyone moves and sings the song.” Santy being the term for a Santa Claus (or possibly a snowman this year), on a stick, used in the Japanese fashion to shepherd tourists, (or in this case carollers), from bar to bar.
Nikolai also warns, “If you turn up late, you have to forfeit something. The later you are the harsher the forfeit.” By which he means, in true pub-crawl tradition, you’ll have to have a pint.
That’s not to say that anyone isn’t welcome to join at any time. The crawl starts at Raffles’ Elephant Bar to give the entire event a modicum of class and that special Christmas feeling. “Whingeing about the selection of bars will result in a harsh forfeit,” says Stewart, though the itinerary includes many expat favourites. “Going to a girlie bar after Raffles is 12 steps too far,” Nikolai adds.
The crawl started with six participants in its first year, garnered a good 20 dedicated drinkers in its second, and the outing’s third year promises to be even more popular. Helping its popularity is free drinks for “anyone who comes dressed in festive attire – reindeer antlers do not count,” and the promise that it “isn’t family friendly...but it is female friendly.”
The tradition of a Christmas pub crawl started in Ireland, on Dublin’s Baggots street at 2pm, from which boozehounds work their way toward the city centre. Stewart has never made it to 12 pubs on a single crawl in Ireland, but seems to have more stamina in Phnom Penh, where he managed to make it to 12 in the first year and 14 in the second.
Although some of the Christmas crawl’s legends from the past won’t attend this time, fear not, for there will be plenty of drinking – over eight hours in total.
The festivities are also likely to include games of the drinking variety and other activities, but not any food, so as Nikolai suggests, “a packed lunch is recommended.”
The pub crawl starts at 4pm at Raffles’ Elephant Bar because as Stewart says, “It’s how we start Christmas.”
The crowd will then stop at each bar on the list for about 45 minutes.
Apart from drinking, the only requirement of the crawl is for participants to sing The 12 Days of Christmas at each of the stops. And as Nikolai says, “Pace yourself.”