Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Drinking with Locals? Always a Good Decision.


One of my great inspirations, world traveler,  reformed partier, and certified badass Anthony Bourdain, said it best:

“Drink heavily with locals whenever possible.”

Uncle Tony, I could not agree more.

One of my favorite experiences of drinking with locals was a few nights into my stay in Ubud. And, like many good experiences, it happened most unexpectedly — due to Bali dogs.

Bali dogs are awful. They’re very territorial, and if you come close to them, they will growl at you or even chase you.  I’m not a dog person even on my best day, so I did not do well in Bali at night.  I had to sheepishly ask for someone to walk me back to my guesthouse more times than I’d like to admit.

(Later in the village of Keliki, my guide Putu told me, “In Bali, we say dog is doorbell.”  Well, they sure are!  And throughout Kuta, you can buy stickers that say “I <3 BALI DOGS.”  Of course you can.)

So at around 10:00 PM one night, even though I was staying in a guesthouse on a major street in Ubud, a Bali dog had taken over the middle of the street and growled at my approach — then ran toward me, barking like mad.

I ducked into the nearest open doorway — and found myself in a modern art gallery filled with hippie artists from all over Indonesia. The evening just getting into full swing, they were swigging an amber liquid from refilled water bottles.

Every country has its own cheap quasi-legal booze. In Cambodia, it’s rice wine; in Laos, it’s Lao Lao.  Here in Indonesia, it’s arrak — a sweet liqueur that could peel the paint off walls, and probably made in someone’s living room.

And because it was Indonesia, a country where people are so open, so welcoming and so kind, I was promptly invited to toast with them as well.  Party up in the gallery!

It was my first time drinking arrak, and I have to warn you — it’s not for beginners.

Indonesia may be a Muslim country, but it’s a country of many religions and many levels of devotion within each religion. These Indonesians, who hailed from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, had no qualms whatsoever about drinking…as long as it was arrak!

What did we do?  We talked about our lives. Our families.  Our goals and dreams.  Our mobile phones, and our dream mobile phones.  Obama’s favorite foods from Indonesia.

In that way, it was a run-of-the-mill night.  But it wasn’t — because from the warmth of the arrak, combined with the warmth of the Indonesians, I left that night with three surprisingly close friends.

Drinking with locals, I’ve found, is always a great decision.


13 Responses to “Drinking with Locals? Always a Good Decision.”
  1. Drinking with locals–always a good idea! Great post 🙂

  2. this is awesome! How funny that you ducked into that gallery completely by chance and ended up having a memorable night.
    I am not a dog person either, all those Bali dogs would have freaked me out!

  3. LLoyd says:

    It looks like these guys are about to eat your head!

    It always seems as though the best nights happen randomly.

    And drinking with locals is suberp – I’ve had a handful of opportunities myself. None more intoxicating than South Korea where the cheap liquor of choice is Soju – which flows like water for nearly the same price!

  4. Robyn says:

    I love that guys dreadlocks!!!

  5. Erica says:

    I concur! Most of my favorite memories are from drinking with locals. Love the warm post. <3

  6. Can’t go wrong drinking with the locals! Growling dogs would scare me to death too.

  7. Dan says:

    Do you ever stop smiling? Rock out, Kate.

  8. Anthony says:

    They are some meaty dreadies that guy has! It is crazy what you put into your body when you are travelling. Always willing to try any kind of moonshine that a local passes to you. I recently drank some homemade Tequila and it almost blow my head off. Of course I had to try it again to make sure it was ok to drink 😉

  9. Its sounds like you had a awesome time! I guess you should really be thanking that Bali dog since he kinda of put you in the situation to drink with the locals.

  10. Bali is History says:

    you said “Indonesia may be a Muslim country, but it’s a country of many religions and many levels of devotion within each religion”
    well…since Bali now is not a Muslim society but a Balinese Hindu society, you do have freedom here, you can drink as you like -for instance. But since the Muslim migrants aggressively come to Bali and stick to their own culture while in Bali the Bali’s face will change soon and it’s just the matter of time you will not be able to do the same thing. Yes..we talk about 3 millions Balinese Hindu compare to over 200 Millions Indonesian Muslims. Well..sad to say…soon Bali will be A History…

  11. FARHAN says:

    hurray go boom boom….

  12. vira says:

    have you tried arrak mixed with honey? It’s good! 😀


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