The best of San Fermin 2013: A tourist’s experience of the bull run, bull balcony and bull fight

15 July, 2013

Whether I’m up rushing for my balcony viewing of the bull run at 7am, strolling the streets in the afternoon, or trying to fall asleep at 2am, there isn’t 5 minutes where the music stops playing. And by music, I mean everything – I recognized a range of Spanish classic pop songs, to David Guetta and Gangnam Style. Pamplona during San Fermin is a perpetual 24-hour party. It reminded me a bit of my college days in Australia – a number of cobbled alleyways reeked of beer and piss.

*Bull Balcony viewing of the San Fermin Bull Run*

This was one for the bucketlist. Christine and I got the evening train in, and landed smack in street festivities of San Fermin. It was 11pm, and roads were closed when we got in, so our taxi dropped us off as far as it could. We pushed through crowds of inebriated party goers to navigate unfamiliar streets and quite quickly, found our way to our accommodation in Pamplona.

We were already tired, but its hard to ignore the jolts of adrenalin and cheers from celebrating locals. We were welcomed by our lovely local host, who briskly ushered us into a tight and tall apartment building – it was stairs only, and I struggled with my month-long luggage bag up 6 storeys.

My room was small, homely and cosy – a refreshing change from the usual hotels. There was something wrong with it though…

The noise. I wouldn’t even call it noise – “noise” is an underestimation. This, is deafening. I didn’t expect this, but be prepared for gunshots, marching drums and brass trumpets accompany the screams of party-goers every 5 minutes. It’s too hot to sleep if the window is closed, but it’s too noisy to sleep when the window is open.

I asked for an adventure, but I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

There are many things I do alone, but I’m glad San Fermin isn’t one of them.

I can’t believe it was as loud last night at midnight as it is in the morning at 6am. The party goers are screaming, tension is building, but I’m perched high up and safely on our balcony. We’re living through San Fermin (pun intended) the only way we know how – VIP style!

So much safer than being on the ground. Not long now till the morning bull run!

A sea of red and white – kind of like the Singaporean National Day parade, but 10x crazier. With bulls. And beer. And Spaniards.

Run with the bulls and you’ll have instant bragging rights, or die trying. I’ll rather stay safe and high up on the balcony please, it’s much nicer to be injury and trample-free!

I just want to shout “nacho libre” and see who responds!



*Bonafide bull fighting (Tauromachia)*
Location: Plaza De Toros

I woke up smiling, completely clueless as to what I was in for. Surprises are always fun right? My friend/blogger sister Chrispytine now lives in Europe and she told me about a trip to San Fermin in Pamplona that she was organizing.

The travel plans matched mine, and I put my hand up for it straightaway. I’ve always wanted to see a live bull fight – cartoons and movies could hardly do it justice and the bull fighters were depicted as such heroes. So off, we go.

Thanks to my immense lack of research before coming for a bullfight, I didn’t actually know that the celebratory tradition of bull fighting climaxes in the slow, drippy bloody death of a bull. The bull fighters (Toreros) and Matadors (senior bull fighters), spend half an hr per round teasing the bull with pink or red cloths while getting close enough to spear it. Slowly, but surely (bloody), it falls over in defeat. All the locals, half drunk on their BYO beer and wine, yell “ole ole ole” in victorious hurray.

My fellow foreigner friends and I have shell-shocked faces, sort of dismayed – and yet we clap and take pictures when we’re supposed to, feeling like we should try to enjoy the expensive entertainment that we came here for. An animal who is trapped into its own death is not a win for me, but we did pay for it.

How horrifying and heart-breaking to watch, my tears of sinking realisation punctuated only by the joyful roars of everyone else in the stadium. Surely a sport that honours the cruel torture and total death of an innocent animal is cruel and inhumane? I don’t think I have a right to criticise this long-standing cultural activity, so deeply a part of the lovely country of Spain which has warmly welcomed me. I decided I don’t like this world-famous sport at all, but it’s a little too late and also kind of ironic, considering I’m watching this while eating my kebab. My stomach feels sick with the thought and I start to visualize rainbows and butterflies.

Think it’s time to consider vegetarianism.


If anyone’s interested, I’ll write a proper post with camera pictures on the top things we did in Pamplona for San Fermin and a first-time breakdown of how much/how to get around, but it’s up to you to consider turning vegetarian after you experience this too.