I’ve had some pretty stonking hangovers in my life, but Bintang, Indonesia’s national beer has got to win hands down when it comes to bestowing what I can only describe as the Mother of all Mother of headaches the morning after. Through bitter experience I have found that it’s not necessarily the quantity of Bintang imbibed that’s the problem, it’s more a matter of the evil chemicals that lurk amidst the temptingly, cool, amber liquid that seems to be the culprit.
If you love wine ALOT and are thinking of re-locating to Indonesia then you do need to read this next part very carefully. However if, by dint of birth, your name happens to be Onassis or Rockefeller then you can happily skip the next couple of paragraphs as what I am about to say won’t apply to you.
Indonesia is a Muslim country, in fact it is the largest Islamic nation in the world, so the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited for the majority of this archipelago’s inhabitants. Of course there are some Muslims that drink, but by far and away, the majority of alcohol sold here is to expats, and tourists. It is certainly not the place to come to live if you have a bottle of wine a day habit or, like having pubs and bars on your doorstep. Because of the laws here, not only is wine very difficult to get hold of, (aside from hotels and some restaurants) when you do eventually sniff out a shop that sells it, either through word of mouth, or evenings spent trawling the internet for suppliers, it is exorbitantly expensive due to the extortionate tax levied on it.
Now, this is all pretty damn heartbreaking stuff for a lush such as myself to have to get my head around. When I first arrived here a few months back, I was blissfully ignorant about the availability of my favourite tipple, and worse still, of it’s price. I blithely skirted down the supermarket aisles arrogantly assuming that I would be able to find a stash of bottles somewhere on the shelves and when I did eventually locate the ‘Drinks’ aisle it was a very rude shock to find just a few dusty bottles of Export Guinness and a couple of small cans of Heineken. Even Carrefour, the French Super market chain stock no wine here and that is going against the trade’s description acts as far as I’m concerned. A French supermarket that doesn’t sell wine? Sacre Bleu!
Very likely a good few of you may be quaffing a glass of wine right now whilst reading this and I raise my glass of Bintang to you! ‘CHEERS!’ but please spare a thought for this damsel in distress (and any other wine lovers here) when I tell you that having now located a couple of wine shops not too far from where I live, the horror on then discovering that I would have to pay upwards of £25 -£30 for very mediocre wine – the sort that retails in the UK for £4.99 or 3 for a tenner variety or £40 upwards and the sky is then the limit for anything of any real quality. My favourite wine is Sauvignon Blanc and my preferences are New Zealand, French and Chilean in that order. My second favourite is Argentinian Malbec. If I was to throw all caution to the wind and blow my children’s entire inheritance on a bottle or two of these I would get not change from £100.
The thought is enough to turn anyone to drink.
I am not particularly fond of spirits, but needs must, especially as the joke is that it’s cheaper for me to buy proper Russian vodka at £14 a bottle than it is to buy shit quality wine. Mind you, even buying that is something of an experience here as the spirits section (certainly where I bought mine from in Debenhams of all places) is hidden, rather like a cordon sanitaire, behind a long red velvet curtain which you have to furtively hide behind whilst you make your selection. I felt like I was doing something terribly illicit and distinctly dodgy.
So, having read the above, I’m hoping that you’ve poured yourself another glass or two? I would just like to end this missive with a HUGE THANK YOU to Lisa. We were introduced recently through a mutual friend. After only a few hours of getting acquainted, this wonderful woman sent me round a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for my birthday. I guarantee that should you have been here, you would never in your life before have witnessed such speed as me getting that precious bottle out of it’s gift bag and straight into the freezer to chill. I tell you folks, I haven’t moved that fast in months.