Drunk in Indonesia

According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, the Indonesian police are apparently investigating the deaths of four foreigners who have overdosed on, wait for it, not heroin, but the locally produced arak wine!

The men — from Britain, France, Germany and Ireland — have all died within the last six weeks…

… with so many deaths occurring within such a short period, one foreign bar owner in Lombok, who asked not to be named, urged authorities to pull the wine from shelves until it was tested.

Pretty pathetic if you ask me! Gives the impression that foreigners aren't good drinkers. And it’s not as if Indonesians are noted for their boozing, is it?

But should they be? Cos perhaps the Indonesians are much better drinkers than we give them credit for. So where are Indonesia’s biggest boozers? I’ve got a few ideas:

1) Tanah Toraja in Central Sulawesi. Famous for its beautiful countryside, coffee, friendly people, magnificent traditional houses and animal sacrifices, these dudes know how to drink. After a bone-shaking ride from Ujung Padang, we got off a bus, desperate to find something to eat, but ended up in a warung that only served banana fritters and balok (a sort of sweet fermented palm drink served in a bamboo tube. The local microlet drivers convinced us it wasn’t too strong but they were lying. The only time I have ever been completely legless in Indonesia.

2) Manado in North Sulawesi. Got invited to a party and was offered something called Cap Tikus. A bit like drinking paraffin, so they mix it with coke. Pure paint stripper, but they seem to like it up there. It also explains why there are so many blind people in Manado.

3) Lombok. While in the Gili islands off Lombok I got hold of some very nice banana wine. Very sweet. Not the sort of stuff to glug back obviously, but it’s nice to sip. And the next thing you know the bottle is empty and the world is spinning.

So good in fact is the banana wine in Lombok that I’m surprised some company doesn’t make banana liquors on a commercial basis in Indonesia. But ain’t there already a banana liquor on the market? Yep. There sure is: it’s produced by Rémy Cointreau and is bright green. It isn't made in Indonesia mind you, and comes from France! But they still have the cheek to call it Pisang Ambon!


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