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.