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Drinking Water & Other Drinks

The Balinese have nothing against a drink, and alcohol is widely available. However this doesn’t mean that drunken behaviour is entirely acceptable.

Indonesia’s most popular beer is the ubiquitous Bintang, but the cheaper Bali Hai is nearly as widespread. Bintang is a fairly highly regarded classic light Asian beer, Bali Hai is a lager, and despite the name it’s actually brewed in a suburb of Jakarta. The Bali-based microbrew Storm is available in several different flavors, and the pale ale is especially good. The Storm beer is more expensive though. The other local beer is Anker. Both Carlsberg and San Miguel are brewed locally under license. A wide range of more expensive imported beers are also available. Beer is relatively expensive in local terms, though still cheap by western standards; at Rp 15,000 and up a small bottle costs the same as a full meal in a local eatery. In tourist centres, happy hours are widely publicised before and after sunset, with regular (stubbie) bottles of beer going for Rp 10,000 to 20,000 and the large bottles for Rp 18,000 to 30,000.

Bali’s traditional hooches are arak, a clear distilled spirit that packs a 40° punch; brem, a fermented rice wine sold in gift shops in attractive clay bottles that are much nicer than the taste of the stuff inside; and tuak, a palm ‘wine’ which is often served at traditional festivities. Visitors should be extremely careful about where they purchase arak, as there have been a number of serious poisoning cases and even some deaths involving tainted arak.

Tap water in Bali is not drinkable, but bottled water is universally available and extremely inexpensive (Rp 10,000 or so for a 1.5 litre bottle); restaurants usually use commercially purified water for cooking. The most popular brand is Aqua and that name is often used generically for bottled water. Filtered water shops are also common, providing on-site treatment of the mains water to a potable standard. This is known as air putih (literally “white water”). These shops are much cheaper than retail outlets, selling water for about Rp 15,000 per 11-litre reusable container, and they avoid the waste created by plastic bottles.

Very cheap (about Rp 15,000) are fresh fruit juices and their mixes (it can be watermelon, melon, papaya, orange, lime, banana or almost any other fruit you can think of). In Bali, avocado (alpukat) is used as a dessert fruit. Blended with sugar, a little water and ice—and sometimes chocolate syrup—this is a beverage you will rarely find elsewhere! If you do not drink alcohol, Bali’s fresh juices in various creative combinations will please you no end. Almost all restaurant menus have a section devoted to various non-alcoholic fruit-based drinks.

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