|In the words of the iconic Redgum song, we’ve all been to Bali at some time or another. And look, I am actually quite a fan as long as I can avoid downtown Kuta. But having been there again recently, not only has everyone been to Bali, they are all wearing a Bintang T-Shirt, Bintang wife beater or pair of Bintang hot pants.
It seems every Aussie needs to highlight the fact that, well, they are an Aussie. And how better than wearing the same T-shirt advertising the same so-so non-Aussie beer.
|With this in mind my fellow botf correspondent @bladdamasta set me a quite daunting (as it turned out) task. “Buy me a Bali Hai T-shirt”, he challenged. “How easy will this be!”, I thought to myself. I was off to Bali. Tick. Bali Hai is brewed (sort of) near Bali. Tick. You can buy Bali Hai in Kuta bars. Tick. Kuta is full of cheap tacky T-shirt knockoff shops that would print my arse on one if I asked. Tick.|
|Well, despite all those big, fat ticks. The outcome was a resounding gameshow ‘Bzzzzt’. Having diverted my family for a lovely afternoon in Kuta on some flimsy excuse, I parked them at Fat Yogis and set out on my quest. Bugga me I must have walked every lane of Kuta only to be treated with what ranged from somnolent disinterest to spiteful derision when I politely asked for a Bali Hai T-shirt.
There’s an opportunity here brewers of Bali Hai. I can’t be only person ever to want to purchase a T-shirt to advertise your so-so non-Aussie beer?
|I flew home empty handed but far from defeated. I contacted the brewer in Java. Surely I can buy one from them. Nope. Next, I had seen the colourful cans in local bottlos so there must be a local distributor. BINGO! “Can I buy a Bali Hai T-shirt?”, I queried plaintively down the phone. Can you what! They even through in a hat.
It is not the best beer ‘T’ I have seen. Nor the best designed. But it is the hardest to find and I love it. I just need to wear it back to Bali where I am sure to stand out.
Despite the omnipresence of Bintang in Bali – helped by the hordes of Australians who feel compelled to don the ‘Uniform des Australiens’ while holidaying there – there are a couple of ‘Indonesian’ competitors plus a few craft beer suprises.
Bintang, despite the bad press, is not a bad beer and is in fact very drinkable given the climate and the ability of the local water supply to turn your stool to liquid. Owned and operated by Heineken it is has been brewed since 1929.
Next in popularity, several lengths back, is Bali Hai. Despite the name it is brewed on Java and is owned by San Miguel (Phillipines) and Kirin (Japan). Also a pilsener like Bintang I prefer it as it tastes a little more full bodied.
A fair way back again is Ankar. I could only find this in a couple of supermarkets and in taste it was indistinguishable from Bintang. Brewed again on Java it is also a subsiduary of San Miguel.
The two suprises were a couple of local Bali craft beers. The first company, Stark, produces a wheat beer (reviewed in an earlier blog) and a dark beer. The other, Storm Brewing, produces a whole range with seasonals etc but your correspondent could not track any down. I passed the brewery in Denpasar while en route elsewhere and there was no way Mrs botf was going to let me stray.
Walk down Pat Pong Rd Bangkok and you are offered a ping pong show (sans bats), walk down the Ramblas in Barcelona and it’s gypsies with babies, walk down the Champs Élysées in Paris and its ‘Tourist Menu’ (microwaved bags of shite with a French flag stuck in it)….walk along the coastal path on Lembongan and it’s ‘snorkel snorkel?’.
Despite the obvious Benny Hill overtones it really is the offer to rent a boat and snorkel over the coral reefs Lembongan has to offer. Having seen those of Bali (covered in sanitary pads and devoid of coral-the basic premise of a coral reef you’d assume) and Lombok (dynamited into oblivion) you’d understand if your correspondent ignored the offer.
However the junior botfs were insistent and at 30 Aussie bananas for the day – this is for your own boat – it is a bargain.
Off we set and my mind was blown. This botf correspondent has had a previous life as a marine biologist and has dived on the GBR extensively. Lembongan’s reefs are in the same league. They are glorious and easily accessible. What is more impressive is that they are not formally protected. Our local guide told us there is an unwritten rule that if the reefs are fished or dynamited the tourists will stop coming. So any local caught doing this ‘disappears’ (his words).
On to todays meal. As mentioned Lembongan does not have a rich culinary history so I tried the Thai Green fish curry at the Bange Bange Warung that we have settled on as our preferred haunt.
One mouthful and the lining of my throat and oesophagus were instantly stripped. No thought was given to the providence of the fish as no microbe on earth could survive the chilli in this puppy. I consumed the meal assisted by Bintang but as I write this missive the sweat brought on by processing this meal is still wet on my brow. My hope is at least that it exits correctly and does not attempt to return via the gates.
Mopeds are the way to get around on Nusa Lembongan. With three tin lids all below driving age this becomes a tricky task. Mrs botf and I rented 2 mopeds and your correspondent took on board Miss botf and one of the Master botfs. Being Indo I was still carrying two less kids than most family mopeds that we passed.
You can pretty much circumnavigate Lembongan and its tiny neighbour, Ceningan, in a day including stops for swims, lunch and assorted photo calls, bintangs and kids issues. Highly recommended.
I chose a local Lembongan dish for today’s post. Duck Lembongan. Methinks Lembongan’s culinary history is a short one as this dish matches shredded roasted duck with penne pasta. Still it was delicious in its own way.
Just a note on Indo ducks. Also relevant for its chickens. These ain’t no fatted, juicy birds that have been hand raised and then slaughtered and hung on a hook in the window of BBQ King to tempt you with their dripping fats. This duck in the photo was likely the one I nearly ran over on my moped this afternoon as it scratched about for scraps in the gutter. They are scrawny and a bit stringy. Still tastes like duck.
Botf has decamped to Nusa Lembongan with the family. Nusa Lembongan is an island about 30 mins east of Bali in the Lombok Channel.
Compared to Kuta it is pretty undeveloped. There’s a mix of low and middling quality villa complexes with one or two top end ‘spas’ – snooty term for warung ( see earlier post ).
All overlook Bali and its volcano Mt Agung so sitting in any eatery with a Bintang affords one a brilliant view. Todays dish was Satay Chicken. Just spectacular. Given the higher temps as compared to Ubud your Bintang is best consumed from the 620ml longneck so as to save your waiter excessive return trips.
Warung in Indonesian means small house, guesthouse or roadside eatery. They are everywhere in Bali and are brilliant for experiencing everything about Indo. The noise, the food, the traffic….the vibe.
Near your correspondent’s spread in Ubud is a warung called Naughty Nuri’s.
On every hard bargained taxi back to base I passed Nuri’s and it was pumping. Westerners and locals alike…milling about and punching out ribs. Nuri’s was a rib place. I like ribs.
So I convinced Mrs botf and the three tin lids that Nuri’s was the place for our last dinner in Ubud. The ribs were brilliant (and it was just ribs – none of this vege stuff). The ribs were BBQ’d out the front of the warung and then plonked in front of you for consumption. They had been marinaded in something fragrant, rich and delicious. AAA+.
Beer of choice – Bintang.
The food in Ubud is unbelievable. The strong Aussie banana means dinner for a family of 5 including a few Bintangs comes in at about AUD20-25.
What’s more the choice is amazing. While I have my daily Lund-inspired Nasi Goreng (more in a later post) there are a plethora of options with something new each day.
Today’s beerporn has the de rigeur Bintang together with some superb pork and crackling we had at a roadside warung. The pork arrived whole, as it were, on the head of motorcyclist who had shipped it in straight off the spit. It was then sliced onto plates in front of you for consumption.
Bali is often called the Island of the Gods. While Bintang is omnipresent so are temples. Family temples, clan temples, village temples, district temples, island temples and rice paddy temples.
The majority of Balinese are Hindu and the temple is the cornerstone of most Balinese peoples’ lives. They set their personal calendar to temple events and it governs almost their whole daily life.
I believe this lends them the happy and welcoming disposition they all seem to display despite most living as subsistence farmers in what can only be described as crippling poverty.
Pictured here is a Bintang with my personal pool god.
botf is now set up in Ubud with the family. Your correspondent loves Indo and loves Bintang. Only issue….there’s only Bintang.
I have been set a challenge to get a fellow correspondent a Bala Hai T-shirt (the only other Indo beer we know). It will be difficult simply finding one to consume.
With the Pacific Peso above parity with the USD, Indo is a great place to be. Great food and drink is cheap with a longneck of Bintang coming in at about AUD2.
Yep. The botf crew are off to another exotique locale. This time it’s the land of Bintang – Indonesia.
More used to helping Garuda reassess how much Bintang they need on the SYD-DENPASAR leg, your correspondent is definitely not travelling as the guest of Virgin.
7 bananas a pop for canned Cascade Premium is the fine for now having three kids. At least Luke Mangans pie was hot.