Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. The group comprises the large superfamily Papilionoidea, which contains at least one former group, the skippers (formerly the superfamily “Hesperioidea”) and the most recent analyses suggest it also contains the moth-butterflies (formerly the superfamily “Hedyloidea”). Butterfly fossils date to the Paleocene, which was about 56 million years ago.
Butterflies have the typical four-stage insect life cycle. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their whole life cycle.
Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry and aposematism to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Many butterflies are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, including wasps, protozoans, flies, and other invertebrates, or are preyed upon by other organisms. Some species are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; other species are agents of pollination of some plants. Larvae of a few butterflies (e.g., harvesters) eat harmful insects, and a few are predators of ants, while others live as mutualists in association with ants. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.
Visit the Bali Butterflypark to see and interact with butterflies in all shapes, colors and sizes.
In Ubud you can find an abundance of tour companies offering bike trips around the island. The typical tour is a 40 km mostly downhill bike trip that includes breakfast at the top of a mountain, a visit to a coffee farm and a traditional Balinese village on the way down. You’ll stop at a restaurant before heading back, but this meal is not included in the tour price.
When is the best time and season to come to Bali? Bali is truly a magical place! You can come to Bali any month of the year. It feels like summer 365 days of the year! Both air and water temperature don’t change much during the year. Air temperature on average is consistently between 25-33 degrees Celsius, equivalent to 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperature averages around 28 degrees Celsius, or 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Not bad right?
Perfect for surfers looking to escape from constricting rubber suits and enjoy the freedom. You can surf without a wet suit year around. Some people may still get chilly and find the need to wear a spring suit, or a thick rash guard during the months of July-August. Water temperature dips slightly cooler during these months. Even so, majority of the people feel comfortable bare backing it throughout the year. Bali consistently has tourists all year long. There is a slight difference in visitors during August (considered to be peak season), compared to January, with the least amount of tourists. July and August tend to attract the highest volume of visitors. The weather is extremely pleasant during these months. Not too hot, not too humid, just the perfect temperature to entice people to Bali.
From December to March, the west monsoon can bring heavy showers and high humidity. But can still remain sunny with sporadic rain passing through quickly, mostly in the late afternoon, or evening. From June to September, low humidity tends to cool down in the evenings. This is the time of year when you will see minimal rain fall in Bali.
Rainy season in Bali
The rainy season in Bali is not bad compared to other Southeast Asian countries. Short spurts of tropical rains are always followed by sunshine. Most of the rain occur during the nights, although some days could bring bad luck and potentially rain non-stop throughout the day. The worst months for rain are usually January and February. Unless you absolutely love rain, try to avoid coming to Bali during these months. Despite having gloomy weather, there are good things about the rainy season. This is the time that it gets really warm. The water stays consistently warm even in the early morning. The air temperature stays the same both mornings and nights requiring no additional clothing. You can comfortably wear nothing but shorts, t-shirt, and sandals.
Dry season in Bali
Dry season begins around April, when the rains dissipate and humidity levels drop. Evenings become refreshingly cool. Some people may feel the need to wear a sweatshirt when driving a motorbike. The peak of the dry season in Bali is in July and August. So if you like dryer weather, we recommend coming to Bali in July or August.
Surfing seasons in Bali
You can actually surf year around in Bali. You just need to pay attention to which spots work during what time of the season. You may want to search for surf elsewhere during the rainy season (from November to April). Any surf spot southwest of Bali (Berawa Beach, Canggu, Pererenan, Balian, Medewi) will most likely not be ideal during the wet season. Avoid Kuta beach break as well, especially in January and February when the beach gets rather dirty. Some spots are best in the rainy season. Especially on the East side of the island, starting from Nusa Dua, Greenbowl and further north at Serangan, Keramas , Padang Galak , Lembeng and others. Dry season from May through Octover is the best time for surfing around the Bukit peninsula like Jimbaran, Balangan, Dreamland, Padang-Padang, and Uluwatu to name a few. Don’t forget to also check for surf in the Southwest region of Bali around Canggu.
Weather statistics in Bali
Month Average temperature & Humidity
- January 28 C / 82 F 75%
- February 28 C / 82 F 75%
- March 28 C / 82 F 70%
- April 28 C / 82 F 65%
- May 27 C / 80 F 65%
- June 27 C / 80 F 60%
- July 26 C / 78 F 55%
- August 26 C / 78 F 55%
- September 26 C / 78 F 60%
- October 27 C / 80 F 65%
- November 28 C / 82 F 65%
- December 28 C / 82 F 70%
The goal of this article is to help readers get a better understanding of everything you need to know about learning to surf in Bali. This might also be useful for all those novice surfers willing to improve. Bali is one of thousands of islands in Indonesia that offers world class breaks and is considered to be one of the best surfing areas on this planet. What makes Bali so unique other than warm waters, is that it offers waves year around in a variety of different breaks for all skill levels. From reef breaks, to beach, there are ample opportunities for surfers to progress rapidly. You can choose from several surf schools, camps, and private coaches if you feel the need for formal training. It is good to learn the basics as well safety and etiquette. Talk to a few locals to get some ideas on which surf school to choose from.
Surfing season in Bali
As mentioned previously, Bali has no surf season since its good year around. There are no issues with shortages of waves and you can always find good surf if you explore. Waves can sometimes be big and if you are a beginner, choosing the right surf school would be beneficial. They have the skill and knowledge to take you to the right spots suited to your level. Speaking of seasons, there is one thing that you should consider before planning your ultimate surf trip to Bali.
During the months of June, July, and August are the peak season where waves will be the biggest and at their best. This draws crowded line-ups, competitive, and aggressive surfers from all over the world. This is also the most expensive time to come to Bali as the prices for everything goes up, including airfares and hotel accommodations. Around the holidays in the months of November through February is what we call the wet season. It rains constantly and you will need to travel to the other side of the island to find better surf. I suggest coming April, May, September, and October. Its the best months in terms of weather, waves and crowds, best for beginner surfers. Weather in Bali is consistent all year, with an average temperature of 30 C / 80 F. Water temperature is always warm almost the same as the air temperature year round.
Where to surf
Bali’s main beginners surf spot is located in Kuta. Kuta is a beach break and offers perfect conditions for beginners. The waves break close to shore so that means less paddling and no worries about getting shredded on a reef when you fall. Kuta is well known as a beginners spot so it’s okay to make mistakes while learning without being yelled at by other surfers. Unfortunately it can get extremely crowded with kooks (Kook: term used by surfers to describe those who are reckless and dangerous to the safety of other surfers) and have a higher probability of getting a ding on your board or yourself.
So be mindful of safety and watch out! Other spots considered to be for beginners are Seminyak and Jimbaran, which are beach breaks. Padang Padang and Old Man’s are both reef breaks. The last two mentioned can be considered more intermediate because of the longer paddle and reef. Consider hiring a surf guide if you feel uncomfortable so they can show you the channels and where to lineup properly. During the wet season (December-February), you can consider spots like Nusa Dua (beach break), or Serangan (reef break).
Choosing surf school
There are plenty of surf schools in Bali. Most of them are located in Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and few in Padang-Padang. Most surfers gravitate towards Kuta for all its post surf activities. Saturated with bars, restaurants, and clubs on every corner. You might find it hard to get motivated to surf the next day after an all night extravaganza. Canggu and Padang-Padang is the opposite, with less distractions and more laid back. For those who want a peaceful and tranquil surf adventure, taking surf lessons in this area is recommended.
Bali surf conditions can be very tricky and no two surf spots are alike. Going to a surf school or hiring a guide is a must, so save yourself time and frustration trying to figure out when exactly is the best time for you to surf. When choosing a school, I suggest an international, well established surf school. They are well experienced surf instructors who know how to teach. Avoid local beach boys walking around offering private lessons right on the spot. It might seem like a cheaper option but, in the end, it will take more time to learn because those guys usually don’t know how to teach. You don’t need to book a school in advance. Just show up one day early before you want to start your lessons and sign up. The more lessons you book, the cheaper each lesson becomes. An average cost per lesson are around 35-40$ if you book 5-10 lessons in advance. If you are not sure how many lessons you want, I suggest do 3 lessons first.
When planning your lessons, consider the following: One lesson usually lasts about 3 hours. Depending on your physical shape, be ready to surf around 5 days a week, with a break every 3 days. Before making a choice about which surf school to choose, ask how many students they will have and the number of instructors for each group? Some surf schools will try to offer cheaper lessons but end up with 15 students in a group with one instructor.
Another reason for choosing an international surf school is to teach you about ocean safety, surfing etiquette and wave knowledge. Besides surf schools there are several surf camps and retreats to choose from. The difference between just taking lessons at a school vs. surf camp, is they offer a full package including surf lessons, accommodation and meals. Consider doing a surf camp if you want your itinerary laid out for you and surfing is your main goal while in Bali. Some surf camps are located in Padang Padang (Bukit), or Canggu area. Space is limited so booking a surf camp in advance is suggested.
What you might need for surfing
If you are a beginner, you won’t need to bring anything with you. In fact, you shouldn’t bring a surfboard to avoid any airline odd size baggage fees. You can rent surfboards when you arrive at any surf shop. Some surf schools provide beginner boards for you to use which is included in package cost. The good schools will even provide you with a rash guard and board shorts. The only thing I suggest bringing is sun screen. It can get very expensive here in Bali.
If you don’t already have rash guards, board shorts, or other surf apparel,there are plenty of surf shops in Kuta to choose from. All the top name brands have established shops throughout the island. From Billabong, Quicksilver, Roxy, Ripcurl, and many others to choose from. Don’t expect the pricing to be cheaper because you are in Bali. You will find that most things are priced the same as the surf shops at home. Surfboard rental is cheap. In Kuta, surf shops rent boards on average of 5$ a day, or 60$ a month
If you feel the need to own a board while you stay, be ready to fork up about 300-350$ for a used board. You can buy it from someone you may have just run into, or a surf shop. Don’t forget that you can always bargain to get the best possible deal. If you happen to ding your board, repair is inexpensive depending upon the severity of the damage. The worst case scenario of snapping your board in two will cost around 60$. Small minor dings shouldn’t be anymore than 10$, which can be negotiable. The best surf shop & repair in Kuta is Naruki on Benesari Street. Water temperature is always warm, so a wetsuit is not necessary. In the months of July and August, you may feel the need to wear a 2mm jacket, or spring suit. Most people wear rash guards to avoid long exposure to sun.
If you’re tired of Tabasco and are looking for some fire to spice up your meals, look no further. Indonesia’s sambal sauce – packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – is guaranteed to give you a healthy glow. Find out how sambal became the nation’s hottest sauce, and try some of Indoneo’s favourite recipes that will give you a taste to remember.
Whether you’re sitting in a five-star restaurant or relaxing at a street-side food-stall, you’re never far from sambal in Indonesia.
Sambal for your average Indonesian is like tomato ketchup to an American: it goes with everything. Rice or a stir-fry, beef or fish, on an omelette or in a soup – this all-purpose fiery, tangy relish comes in several hundred flavours. Add some shrimp paste and you get sambal terasi; throw in some peanuts and you’ve got sambal kacang. Like it sweet? Mix in some mango or pineapple. Smelly? Sambal durian. Make a baseline sambal chili paste sauce, and – if you can stand the heat – it’s time to get creative in the kitchen.
Where Does Sambal Come From?
It’s hard to imagine an Indonesian person without thinking of hot sambal sauce and sweaty mealtimes. But it wasn’t always so.
Everyone knows that the islands of Maluku were known as the ‘Spice Islands’. And while cloves and nutmeg were already key ingredients in local dishes, it wasn’t until Portuguese traders landed in 16th century Indonesia that chilis finally came face-to-face with their most devoted fans. Add some black pepper, turmeric, shallots, lemongrass and tamarind from India – or the ginger, garlic and soy sauce brought by Chinese sailors – and you begin to get a real taste of where sambal sauce comes from. Actually, it’s from a bit of everywhere.
But sambal isn’t just an Indonesian thing. Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Holland have all developed their own twists on tradition – but the word sambel (‘sambal’) is from Java. In Indonesia, you’ll often hear the basic sambal recipe referred to as sambal oelek or sambal ulek – ‘sambal’ describing the raw chili-paste mix, and ‘oelek’ referring to the stone pestle, or Javanese ulek, that the paste is ground up in.
A Chili a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
In Indonesia, the humble chili finds itself into most daily dishes – and is, unsurprisingly, the central ingredient in everyone’s favourite sauce: sambal oelek. Chili peppers have your health at heart. Boasting zero cholesterol, they’re also packed with Vitamin C – which fights off free radicals and prevents scurvy – as well as the important antioxidant Vitamin A. On the mineral front, they’re loaded with manganese, iron and magnesium – and the potassium in chilis will help control your heart-rate and blood pressure. Add a dash of Vitamin B-complex including niacin, riboflavin and thiamine to keep you cool-headed and relaxed – and you’ll find that ‘Sambal with everything’ is a smart health choice.
Different Types of Indonesian Sambal
Just as sambal’s ingredients are as varied as the traders who sailed across to Indonesia, so are the basic recipes that stretch from one end of the volcanic archipelago to the other.
If you like it a little bit sour, try a sambal asam – a terasi prawn-paste with some Indian tamarind concentrate thrown into the mix.
Fishy? It’s got to be Lombok’s sambal plecing with the island’s very own lengkare shrimp paste.
If you want it superhot (or don’t like your guests) then sambal setan – ‘devil’s sambal’ made with Madame Jeanette chilis and popular in Surabaya – should be at the top of your list.
If you’re visiting Palembang in South Sumatra and like it sweet, you might be served up with a sambal buah – literally a ‘fruit sambal’ – which is your basic terasi with a kemang mango and pineapple twist.
Passing through Sundanese territory in Bandung might see you sweating over some sambal jengkol made with the mildly poisonous jengkol bean – too much of this slightly stinky vegetable can give you gout and kidney failure. Perhaps give this one a miss.
Cooking up a storm on your barbecue? It’s got to be sambal kecap, the sweet-and-hot blend of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), red chili, tomatoes, shallots and a squeeze of lime. But be sure to keep some cold Bintang beers on hand.
In Bali’s Ubud, Ibu Oka (next to Ubud Palace) will serve you up one of the tastiest takes on Balinese sambal that accompanies her world-famous roast pork.
International Sambal Sauce Variations
In multicultural Singapore, food hawkers cater to all tastes by combining sambal’s standard ingredients with some English mustard and Indian curry leaves to make the perfectly hot chicken sambal.
In Malaysia, a basic prawn-based sambal terasi will have you searching for sambal belacan recipes in your cookbook. Ditto for a nasi lemak sambal recipe: it’s Malaysia’s national dish. Some Malaysians might prefer the sweet-and-sour sambal tempoyak with fermented durian and anchovies – although that sounds like a recipe for bad breath.
On the other side of the Indian Ocean, you’ll find that shrimp paste is substituted with crumbled Maldive fish – ending up as sini sambal, pol sambal or lunu miris in Sri Lanka.
When in Thailand, ask for a sriracha – and in China, la jaio. Your waiter won’t know what ‘sambal’ is.
Where to Buy Sambal
Whether you’re in Indonesia or abroad, there’s no excuse for not making your own homemade sambal. But if you’re already in Indonesia and feeling lazy, there are plenty of ready-made sambals and shrimp-pastes for sale at all major Indonesian supermarkets from Jakarta to Jogya. And they’re tasty. Take a walk around Bintang, Hardy’s, Delta Dewata or Carrefour for the widest choices.
In the United States, Europe or Australia, you’ll need to pay a visit to your nearest Asian greengrocers if you’re making your own and are looking for some of the more exotic ingredients. You can, of course, just buy your sambal online. In the US, try the Indo Food Store for a good range of Indonesian food products. The Australian-based Indo-Asian Grocery Store also has a wide choice of ready-to-eat sambals – or try the UK-based Melbury and Appleton for a sambal oelek substitute that can be delivered across Europe.
Where to Eat a Killer Sambal in Indonesia
OK, so you’re on holiday in Indonesia and you don’t want to make your own. Why not pop into one of Pondok Cabe’s budget restaurants while you’re in Yogyakarta for an eye-watering array of Mum’s Own sambal. Or in Bali’s Ubud, Ibu Oka (next to Ubud Palace) will serve you up one of the tastiest takes on Balinese sambal that accompanies her world-famous roast pork. And while you’re in Ubud, why not get your hands dirty in a cooking class and learn from an expert?
Preparing a Basic Sambal Sauce
You don’t need to be a masterchef to prepare your first baseline sambal sauce. If you’ve never made one before, the trick is to keep it simple – you can always get more imaginative later. For a traditional ‘Mothership’ recipe that goes well with rice, noodles, fried foods and, well, anything – it’s easy and quick.
To make your first cup of sambal, you’ll need the following:
- 1 cup of your favourite red or green Indonesian chilis, chopped.
- ½ a cup of chopped garlic.
- 3 tablespoons of canola oil – virgin olive oil also works.
- 2 tablespoons of white vinegar.
- Heat the oil in a pan, stir in the chopped chilis and garlic, and sauté until the chilis are soft.
- Transfer the chili-garlic mix to a mortar-and-pestle or a blender, taking care to leave as much of the oil as possible behind in the pan.
- Add a pinch of salt, and grind (or blend) the chilis and garlic until you have a smooth but slightly chunky consistency. You’ll find you have more control over the consistency if you grind by hand.
- Return the chili-garlic-salt mix to the pan, add the vinegar, and stir on a medium heat for 1-2 minutes – or until the sambal has thickened.
- And there you have it. Your first Mothership Sambal is ready to accompany your favourite Asian dish. If you have some left over, store it in a sealed glass jar with a lid as a base for tomorrow’s more adventurous sambal recipe. It’ll stay fresh in your fridge for a week.
Pro-Tips When Preparing Sambal
- Wear disposable gloves when you’re cutting and handling chili peppers – and make sure that you take the gloves off before you rub your eye.
- Using a blender might seem easier than using a pestle-and-mortar – but the strong chili taste will contaminate other foods unless you pour water and coffee-grounds into the blender afterwards to get rid of the unwanted smell.
- When including shrimp paste in a sambal, first wrap it in some tin foil or a banana leaf and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C – it’ll take the edge off the strong taste, and release its flavours.
Some Like it Hot
They say you can spot an Indonesian on holiday by the large jar of sambal in his hotel room. To your average Indonesian person, a meal isn’t a meal without rice – and without sambal, it isn’t worth eating. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert – a spicy sambal sauce will put fire in your belly and give your body a healthy boost. But remember one important thing: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
‘Sunday Brunches’ have become trendy amongst the high-end international hotels over the past few years all around the world. With buffets and all you can eat style dinning cascading with oysters, sashimi, premium meats, decadent desserts, accompanied with free flow champagne if you choose, it’s no surprise the trend has caught on here in Bali. Here we have the best of Bali’s Sunday Brunches from gastronomic and extravagant, sophisticated and polished to child friendly.
Soleil at The Mulia Nusa Dua
An extravagant brunch serving Mediterranean and Pan-Asian cuisine. Everything about the Mulia says luxury and the Brunch is infamous for its decadence.
Cut Catch Cucina at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort
A huge selection of the best local seafood, premium meat cuts and modern Italian dishes. Cut Catch Cocina is a sophisticated dinning experience and has a very good reputation amongst the island’s brunches. Also open for a Saturday sitting.
Nikki Beach Nusa Dua
The brunch at Nikki beach is the place to be seen, with Brunches turning into all day pool parties. Enjoy a large variety of food before heading to the lounges for some sun and cocktails.
Starfish Bloo The W Petitenget
An island favourite, Starfish Bloo specialises in Pan-Asian cuisine and seafood platters in a casual but elegant seaside Brunch setting.
Benkay Japanese Restaurant at Grand Nikko Bali
Japanese specialties such as sushi, sashimi, tempura, udon and other favorites are available from an extensive buffet accompanied by free flow green tea. A stunning resort and the Sunday Brunch is a refreshing change from other Sunday Brunches.
Sheraton Sunday Market Brunch Kuta
This Sunday Brunch really highlights fresh produce and ingredients from the island. Known to be very unpretentious, the Sheraton Sunday Market Brunch is also great for kids.
Lobster Brunch Fairmont Sanur Beach
Featuring a unique lobster-centric a la carte menu and a wide selection of savory and sweet buffet dishes, including oysters, cold meats, cheeses and delicious seafood dishes.
Uma Cucina at Uma by Como Ubud
With all you can eat à la cart service, Uma by Como insures a quality dinning experience. Choose from a variety of anti-pasto dishes to seafood and of course dessert.
Glow at Como Shambhala Estate Ubud
Come Shambhala Estate offers a ‘health retreat’ style stay. The Sunday Brunch at Glow is à la cart style with a focus on lighter dishes.
The Astor Diamond Champagne Sunday Brunch at Kayuputih St Regis Nusa Dua
Expect decadence and gastronomic indulgence with beverage packages including premium champagne and wine. Use of the Children’s learning centre complimentary during Brunch hours.
Boneka Sunday Bruch St Regis Nusa Dua
Only a little bit more low key than Kayuputih also as St Regis, Boneka does an Avruga pearls and oyster station and lobster omelette. Use of the Children’s learning centre complimentary during Brunch hours.
Pregos Westin Nusa Dua
The family friendliest Brunch on the island, Pregos serves an Italian style all you can eat brunch with many child friendly options. Beverage packages available for adults.
“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline; and it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons. But, at the very least, you need a beer.” (Frank Zappa) Indonesia can boast everything that Zappa dreamed of – except that the archipelago hasn’t gone nuclear. The Republic of Indonesia isn’t exactly a virgin when it comes to brewing beer, and she prides herself on three locally-created ales – the ubiquitous Bintang Pilsener; Bintang’s cheaper, more bitter sidekick Anker; and Bali’s niche, sickly-sweet Bali Hai. But if push comes to shove? It’s PT. Multi Bintang Indonesia’s Bintang beer – brewed under the watchful eye of Holland’s drinks company, Heineken – that has always won over Indonesia’s thirstiest hearts and throats.
Fittingly, bintang in Indonesian means ‘star’. And in this country, it’s a champ. The beer’s Heineken-style, red-starred logo can be seen on merchandise across the length and breadth of the archipelago: from cigarette lighters and baseball caps to the flashing beacons outside some of the country’s darker karaoke bars – and to the walking beer adverts dressed in Bintang T-shirts and tank-tops that criss-cross the hot streets of Bali’s Kuta.
Bintang in Indonesia’s History
Bintang is no new-kid-on-the-block. The beer was, unsurprisingly, first brewed in Surabaya in 1929 during the period of Dutch colonial rule. In 1957, once Indonesia had become independent under the anti-Western President Sukarno, his left-leaning government appropriated the brewery before Heineken retook control of operations in 1967 under the right-wing President Suharto. It’s a political-football thing.
Bintang, Bintang Zero and Bintang Radler
Bintang beer is a brave attempt at a pale, American-style lager – boasting a malty, hoppy finish not far from its parent ale, Heineken. It isn’t the weakest beer in the world: weighing in at a hefty 4.7%, it won’t take many in Indonesia’s tropical heat to make you wish you’d stuck to the fruit juice.
PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk also brews a local version of Heineken for the Indonesian market – while Heineken’s step-daughter Bintang now comes in three flavours. There’s the standard, full-alcohol pilsner that decorates bar-tops from Sumatra to Flores; the newer, Muslim-friendly, alcohol-free version aptly named ‘Bintang Zero’; and the newest, lemonade-like ‘Bintang Radler’ – weighing in at a mummy-friendly 2% alcohol.
Alcohol and the Law in Indonesia Today
In 2015, the future of Indonesia’s favourite beer is looking cloudy. A recently passed by-law has removed all alcoholic drinks from the shelves of the nation’s convenience stores – except for Bali, of course, where you can still buy a cold Bintang from your 7/11. The next country-wide law being drawn up would ban alcohol altogether in Indonesia – a move that might prove unpopular with Mr. Bintang and his merry crew.
Get Your Bintang Shirt On
Many of the world’s keenest beer enthusiasts have swilled Bintang around their highly-trained palates and arrived at verdicts ranging from: “Very weak taste”, to “Good fizz and a fair amount of malt; a very light beer that pours a lighter shade”. Let’s face it: Bintang isn’t about to win any top awards at the Oktoberfest. But much can be forgiven after the first cool mouthful on a hot day.
If you’re from the UK, try ordering a bottle in one of the further-flung corners of Indonesia: it’ll be reassuringly warm, just like back home. If you’re from the USA, and you arrive during a power-cut, you might want to ‘get local’: ask for some es batu (‘ice-block’), chip away at it until it fits in your glass, let it settle for a moment… and sip. It’s an acquired taste, but it’s refreshing. And it rehydrates you, too.
The honest verdict on Bintang? As a tropical lager designed for cool refreshment over flavour, it wins every time.
Bintang: The Verdict
More than a few international travellers have emptied a bottle or two of Indonesia’s fizziest: from the darkest corners of Jakarta’s nightclubs to the brightest Sumbawan beach. The honest verdict? As a tropical lager that has been designed for cool refreshment over flavour, it wins every time.
After all, it’s usually the only beer on the menu.
Modern Indonesia was mapped by Dutch traders in their obsessive search for precious spices. After a near-disastrous first voyage in 1595, spice routes were opened up to Holland – and led to the birth of the Dutch East India Company. This is the story of the rise of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie – the VOC – and its spectacular fall from grace.
The Scent of The Spice Islands
Before the vanguard of the United East Indian Company – the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or ‘VOC’ – landed on Java in 1595, the Malay archipelago was already a booming trade zone. The East Indies – now modern Indonesia – was a melting pot of missionaries, traders and adventurers selling religion, spices and gold. From the earliest Indian, Chinese and Arabian merchants to the Portuguese who arrived late in 1511, the Indonesian people were no strangers to outsiders.
Setting foot on Indonesian soil for the first time, the Portuguese would have found a geographically-fractured collection of volcanic islands split by warring kingdoms – but joined together by a common desire for maritime trade. The islands’ heady perfume of exotic spices drew Spaniards, Dutch and the English to Indonesia’s shores in search of riches. But it was the Dutch, under the freelance flag of the VOC, who would eventually lay the foundations for the modern Indonesian state.
Who Were the VOC?
The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie – known to the English as the Dutch East India Company – was the first ever private company owned entirely by its shareholders. It was the original multinational corporation, and the first ever company to issue stock.
Over the years, the VOC stretched from America, Africa and Japan to the East Indies. Its goal: to make as much money as possible. They achieved this beyond their wildest dreams – if the VOC was around today the company would be worth around $7.5 trillion (the number calculated for inflation), which is 10 times more than the present valuation of Apple or Google. But it was the VOC’s desire for vast wealth – and their subsequent greed – that saw the company go bankrupt 200 years after it was formed.
The Birth of an Empire
In 1595, the first Dutch trip to the fabled Spice Islands almost ended in catastrophe. Relying on maps stolen by Dutch spies from Chinese and Portuguese traders, Commander Cornelis de Houtman’s fleet of four ships made landfall in Banten, West Java – more by luck than seamanship.
Business didn’t begin well.
After killing Javanese and Portuguese traders in Banten and having a dozen of his own crew murdered off the coast of Java, it seems the VOC’s later karma was set when de Houtman’s men landed on nearby Madura island and murdered a local prince. But despite having lost half of his crew to murder, disease and drowning on his virgin voyage, de Houtman sailed back to Holland with exactly what he came for: a direct route to the East, spices to sell, and the promise of a fortune.
Competition, Consolidation and the Formation of the Dutch East India Company
By 1598 increasing numbers of Dutch fleets had set sail for the East Indies in search of cloves and nutmeg, and they began to fan out across the archipelago from Maluku to Ambon. Spices began to change hands in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at profits of over 400%.
But one-off voyages were high-risk both in terms of lives lost and money gambled. After all, they weren’t the only adventurers after the golden spice: the English and Portuguese were in direct competition with the early Dutch expeditions. In 1602, the Dutch government copied the British trading model of the English East India Company by sponsoring the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or the United East Indies Company – and in 1602 the VOC was born. It was to last less than 200 years.
In 1610, the VOC created the post of ‘Governor General’ in the East Indies and the ‘Council of the Indies’ at home in Holland to oversee its private financial affairs. Back in the cities of Holland, the VOC’s main shareholders – the Heeren XVII, a group of 17 highly influential men – made sure that they held overall control. Meanwhile in Asia, the first VOC headquarters found its feet in Ambon from 1610 to 1619. The Dutch East Indies Company was fast becoming organised – and it was looking for ways to squeeze out the remaining European players.
If the VOC was around today the company would be worth around $7.5 trillion (the number calculated for inflation), which is 10 times more than the present valuation of Apple or Google.
Monopoly and Murder: The VOC Conquers the East Indies
The Dutch VOC, now led by the infamous Jan Pieterszoon Coen, had the East Indies spice trade almost to themselves. For a band of men intent on creating enormous wealth at any cost – and given no political or moral limitations by shareholders back home as to how they made it – the 17th and 18th centuries were carte blanche for the VOC.
Coen’s Dutch East India Company had free reign to sign treaties, mint their own coins, imprison and execute at will, maintain private armies, wage wars, pass laws, build forts and seize land. But the newly-formed VOC had a thorn in its side. In 1604, a second English East India Company fleet had sailed to the spice markets of Ternate, Tidore, Ambon and Banda – and by 1617 had set up trading posts from Kalimantan to Sumatra – in direct competition with the Dutch VOC.
The response was brutal. First, Coen and his men ransacked the West Javanese port-town of Jayakarta in 1619, renamed it Batavia (later Jakarta) and established their new VOC headquarters from its smoking ruins. Meanwhile on the other side of Indonesia, Coen had also quickly recognised the importance of the Banda Islands as the only place in the world that grew the highly precious nutmeg tree – mother of nutmeg and mace. His VOC routed the small group of English settlers who had already begun trade on the tiny island of Run. And after Coen hadsigned a deceptive agreement with local sultans, the VOC secured the rest of the Banda Islands in 1621 – with the execution of over 14,000 local inhabitants – to ensure a ruthless Dutch stranglehold over the globe’s only source of nutmeg.
Two years later, in faraway Ambon – where representatives of the Dutch East India Company had signed a pact with its British competitors – ten members of the English East India Company were tortured and beheaded by the VOC in 1623. Both the Banda Island and Amboyna massacres were pivotal in leading to the quiet withdrawal of the English traders to the relative safety of India and China.
Indonesia’s lucrative Spice World was now in the steel grip of the feared Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie.
How the Dutch Traded Manhattan for Nutmeg
By the time the Dutch East India Company had been formed, nutmeg had already become the Number One spice in Europe. Considered an aphrodisiac and narcotic, it also disguised the stench of rotten meat – and was chosen as The Cure for Europe’s dark years of the bubonic plague. Nutmeg came at a price: European consumers paid 68,000 times its original cost at the world’s only source: the far-away Banda Islands of Indonesia.
But the VOC had a problem over the nutmeg monopoly in the Banda Islands – and had control of all but one island, the tiny island of Run. English traders had beaten them there. The VOC attacked Run in 1616, and after four epic years of resistance by a joint English-Bandanese force, the VOC were finally able to take the last Banda Island. But the English didn’t forget easily – and pressed for their claim to Run through two more Anglo-Dutch wars.
At last it was agreed. The English would give up tiny Run for another insignificant, VOC-held island on the other side of the world – Manhattan, home of Nieuw Amsterdam – now… modern New York.
The Rise of the Dutch East India Company in Indonesia …
Despite their communal greed – or perhaps because of it – the Dutch East India Company was fast becoming the richest and most ruthless private company the world had ever seen. Extortion and violent suppression remained its hallmark.
By 1699, VOC lands claimed stretched from Sumatra and Ternate to Maluku and beyond. Slaves and opium were traded on Bali. Boatloads of nutmeg and cloves, pepper, sugar, tobacco and coffee snaked their way back to the lucrative markets of Europe. Under the protection of some 40 warships and a private army of more than 20,000 soldiers, the VOC’s 150 merchant ships and 50,000 employees were able to pay their shareholders an eye-popping dividend of 40% on their original investment.
Business was booming. It seemed almost too good to be true.
… And its Fall
It was. Although all appeared healthy from the outside, the Dutch East India Company was rotting from within. Despite harsh penalties for private trading, it was commonplace for VOC employees to strike deals behind the Company’s back. Corruption was rife. So was competition: European demand for East Indies sugar had already declined after 1720 as Brazil flooded the market with a cheaper product. And back home in Europe, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War had all but ruined the Dutch state.
Three strikes finally sealed the fate of the Dutch East India Company forever.
The first, in 1740 when a chaotic VOC massacre of 10,000 Chinese traders in Batavia rattled the confidence of shareholders back home. A second strike came when Frenchman Pierre Poivre (“Peter Pepper”) successfully smuggled nutmeg seedlings to the Caribbean in 1770 where the plants thrived – thus breaking the Dutch monopoly. Strike Three came from Mother Nature herself in the form of a 1778 volcanic eruption that sent a massive tsunami crashing over half the nutmeg groves of Banda.
The end was in sight. Perhaps it was karma. By 1799, the Dutch East India Company had become the victim of its own corruption – and went spectacularly bankrupt. Its assets and debts fell to the crown of Holland who assumed colonial power in the newly-named ‘Dutch East Indies’. But not before the VOC had sent over half a million men on more than 4,750 voyages to net more than 2.5 million tons of Asian goods in just 197 years.
Brutal or not, the Dutch East India Company had been a roaring financial success. And as ruthless as they were, de Houtman and his successors had also unwittingly carved out what was later to become the Republic of Indonesia.
The stamp of the VOC had made its mark.
Impacts of the VOC on Today’s Indonesia
The VOC and their Dutch East Indies colonial successors weren’t afraid of sailing from one side of the vast Malay archipelago to the other – and in doing so laid down the political boundaries of modern Indonesia. From Banda Aceh in the west to Kalimantan and Sulawesi in the north, to faraway Ambon and Papua in the east along Java’s backbone in the centre, the early traders covered a lot of sea miles.
One of the longest-standing legacies of the VOC in Indonesia is the now-teeming, hectic capital city of Jakarta – home to some 16 million people. An insignificant Javanese port-town until the early Dutch traders arrived, the original Jayakarta was burned to the ground by Coen and Company in 1619 before being re-built as Batavia – after the Batavieren, or mythical Dutch ancestors of legend. Which is why born-and-bred inhabitants of Jakarta now call themselves Orang Betawi.
The VOC headquarters in Batavia was originally a walled city complete with fortress, churches, tree-lined streets and canals. Jakarta’s canals – more suited to cool western Europe than the sultry, humid tropics – still survive, but continue to be a source of annual flooding and disease.
The introduction of cash-crops such as coffee, sugar and tobacco – despite using precious land otherwise needed to grow food – continues to benefit modern Indonesia. Who hasn’t enjoyed a smoke over a cup of sweet Java recently?
The VOC-engineered ‘race pyramid’ – with the Dutch at the top, Javanese nobility just below, Chinese traders in the middle and the indigenous Malays at the bottom – was the perfect policy of racial ‘Divide and Rule’ to keep trade running smoothly. Strict racial segregation also kept a successive Dutch colonial government in power for another 150 years until disillusioned Indonesian nationalists ousted the colonialists in 1948.
While Portuguese traders brought Catholicism with them in their sea-chests, the VOC was largely Protestant – which is why two of Indonesia’s six official religions are now Katolik (‘Catholic’), and Kristen (‘Protestant’). Protestants make up 6,9% of Indonesia’s population; Catholics just 2,9%.
Traces of the Dutch East India Company in Modern Indonesia
If you’re in North Jakarta, take a wander around Kota Tua, or the Old Town. Check out the VOC cannons in the square next to Café Batavia. Many old Dutch buildings are now in disrepair; but the nearby teeming port of Sunda Kelapa with its huge Makassar schooners is an impressive sight.
Hire a guide for a tour around Kota Tua’s Fatahillah Square for a dive into VOC and Dutch East Indies history.
Visit the VOC’s original shipyard and trade offices in Jakarta’s Kota district – and its nearby Maritime Museum. But be prepared for a surprise. The trendy mall and café next door are still called ‘VOC’ – but it now stands for ‘Very Old Café’…
Further afield is Ambon’s Fort Nieuw Victoria – a Portuguese fort commandeered by the VOC – which was to become the Company’s first headquarters in the East Indies. The original fort was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1754, and later rebuilt as Fort Nieuw Victoria. It is now closed to the public and used as a modern-day military garrison by the Indonesian army.
Also in Ambon is Fort Amsterdam – which started life as a Portuguese trade lodge before being expanded and converted into a VOC prison, an ammunition magazine and a small fort. Situated on the pretty west coast of Ambon in Hila Town, Fort Amsterdam has recently been restored and is open to the public.
Perhaps the largest and best-preserved VOC fort is Fort Belgica on Bandaneira Island in Maluku’s Banda Islands. Dripping in spice history, Fort Belgica was built in 1611 and extensively redesigned in 1667. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Despite boasting 50 cannons and a garrison of 400 men, Fort Belgica surrendered to the British in 1796 without a shot being fired. If you want to see a large European fort in the middle of the tropics, this is it.
Named after the Dutch Royal Family’s ‘House of Orange’, Fort Oranye in North Maluku’s Ternate City was built in 1607 on the remains of a Malay fort. Fort Oranye is in good condition despite numerous earthquakes – and although parts are now used by the Indonesian military and police, it welcomes visitors.
Another VOC outpost built in 1610 on the foundations of an earlier Portuguese fort in Ternate is Fort Kalamata. Guarding the valuable clove trade from pirates and competitors, it can be found 1 km south of Bastiong, and is open to the public.
A more accessible legacy of the Dutch East India Company is Fort Vredeburg in Java’s Yogyakarta – now a museum celebrating Indonesian independence from the Dutch. Originally constructed in 1760 and named Fort Rustenburg (“Resting Place”), it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1867 and rebuilt by Dutch East Indies colonialists – who renamed it Fort Vredeburg, or “Peace Fort”. It can be found next to the Sultan’s Palace.
Dutch Loanwords in Modern Bahasa Indonesia
asbak – asbak (ashtray)
diskusi – discussie (discussion)
gaji – gage (wage)
handuk – handdoek (towel)
helm – helm (helmet)
kantor – kantoor (office)
komandan – commandant (commander)
kopor – koffer (suitcase)
korupsi – corruptie (corruption)
polisi – politie (police)
prinsip – principe (principle)
resiko – risico (risk)
rok – rok (skirt)
rokok – roken (cigarette)
serius – serieus (serious)
traktir – trakteer (treat)
wortel – wortel (carrot)
Soft, succulent, spiky and stinky, Durian fruit is worshipped by some and outlawed by others. Known to its fans as the “King of Fruits”, it’s rich in Vitamin B and C and a sworn enemy of free radicals. Durian’s creamy flesh is packed with minerals, keeps you young, helps control your heart rate and even sends you off to sleep. But not everyone’s convinced…
Like any good outlaw, durian is tough on the outside with a heart of gold. At least, that’s how the fruit’s devotees describe it. Its critics don’t pull any punches when it comes to the rotten smell: “Ungodly”. “Like a three-week-old dead cow in custard.” And from an international food critic: “Its odour is best described as pig sh*t, turpentine and onions garnished with a dirty gym sock.”
It’s fair to say that the humble durian has a bad rap – bad enough to have earned itself Banned Fruit status on Singapore’s subway, Thailand’s trains, Asia’s airlines and every hotel from Medan to Kupang.
How Does a Durian Taste?
“On the third bite,” says one hater, “it was as though I had just eaten a diseased, parasite-infested animal with a bad case of rabies. I prayed I wouldn’t be sick because I really didn’t want to taste it again on the way up.” To a durian lover: “The taste is light melon with a creamy, almost eggy texture – a bit pineappley, with a tome of yogurt and buttermilk sourness.” Getting better. So what does the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace say about the durian’s flavour?
“A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.”
The World of Durian
OK, so it’s edible. And it has its lovers. Despite the fruit’s aggressive appearance – up to 30cms long, two or three kilos in weight, football-sized with thorns sharp enough to slice your skin – durian is really just a big softy at heart. Cut one open and you’ll find the soft, creamy-yellow or red flesh surrounding a large seed – the colour of the pulp depending on the species.
Durian’s Extended Asian Family
There are 30 recognised tree species – the scientific name for a durian plant is ‘Durio’ – and nine of these produce edible fruit. While the durian tree isn’t native to Thailand, most of the world’s durian exports come from there – other Southeast Asian countries who grow their own are Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines. In Indonesia, the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan are the main durian-growing regions – hardly surprising, as the word ‘durian’ stems from the Malay-Indonesian word duri, meaning ‘thorn’.
Love them or loathe them, you’re never too far from a durian tree in Indonesia – Bali and Java also cultivate their own – while you’ll only find the unique red durian in East Java’s Banyuwangi province. Indonesian lovers of this divisive fruit are spoilt with a double durian-growing season: the first from October to February, and the bonus in Sumatra from June to September. Lucky them.
Durian trees are tall – up to 50 metres – and grow buttery-smelling, feathery flowers that tempt bats and honeybees to pollinate them. But it’s not just humans and bats that can smell a durian tree a mile off. The pungent fruit pulls in hungry Sumatran elephants, wild rainforest pigs, orangutans and even carnivorous tigers from up to a kilometre away – ensuring that the trees’ seeds are spread far and wide, and guaranteeing the durian’s questionable place in evolution.
And that, in a nutshell, is why durians smell so bad.
Durian is high in tryptophan, an amino acid converted by the body into serotonin – which in turn promotes a feeling of happiness and relaxation.
What’s the Difference Between Jackfruit and Durian?
Like durian, jackfruit also shares an abundance of minerals and vitamins. And like durian, it’s pretty smelly too. They both have greeny-brown outer shells. But that’s where the similarities end. Your average jackfruit can dwarf a durian: whereas a large durian might reach 3kg, a big jackfruit can tip the scales at 30kg. Jackfruits don’t have thorns or spikes, either – they’re knobbly with bumps.
And while durian flesh is creamy, jackfruit pulp is more rubbery and stringy – more soft bubble-gum than custard slurp. Jackfruit taste? According to one lover, it’s “… indescribable. A sweet, almondine, onion-sherry chocolate mousse with hints of garlic and farts”. Hm. So not that different, then. And just as you’ll see a ‘No Durian’ sign in Denpasar’s airport, you’ll also see a ‘No Jackfruit’ sign next to it. They’re both on the banned-from-flying list.
Nutritional Facts About Durian
But if carnivorous tigers love them, surely they can’t be that bad for your health? Get over the stench, and they’re a wonder food. Iron, potassium, Vitamin C, riboflavin, folic acid, thiamine, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorous, Vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, sodium, protein, fibre, phytonutrients, water and beneficial dietary fats. That isn’t bad for a big fruit.
With a nutritional list as impressive as this, it’s no surprise that durians are very, very good for your health.
Feeling old? A portion of durian a day can help turn back the clock. Because of the fruit’s high levels of vitamins and their organic chemical make-up, durians have a high level of antioxidants that actively reduce the amount of free radicals in your body. This means less age-related tooth-loosening, less hair loss, less wrinkles – and less arthritis, heart disease, macular degeneration and fewer age spots. Who said the fountain of youth was a myth?
If you find it hard to sleep, durian’s the cure. This super-fruit is high in tryptophan, an amino acid converted by the body into serotonin – which in turn promotes a feeling of happiness and relaxation. The serotonin is then converted into melatonin, which makes the body feel tired. No need to count sheep after a portion of Big D.
The Indonesian people have a saying: “Durian jatuh, sarung naik”. Which roughly translates as: “When a durian falls, up comes the sarong.” The jury’s out on whether durian makes you a tiger in the bedroom – but it has been scientifically proven to reduce the chances of infertility in men and women. Which can’t be a bad thing.
Prevention is better than cure. If you want to cut your prospects of getting cancer, durian is half the battle. Crammed with antioxidants, these are the sworn enemy of free radicals that can destroy the DNA of normal cells – which can then become cancerous. If you already have cancer, the phytonutrients in durian will battle cancerous cells – as well as giving your depleted immune system a turbo-boost.
Anaemia is a thing of the past on a durian diet. High levels of folic acid, iron and copper will bring your red blood cell count swinging back into the positive.
Durian keeps you regular. Its high levels of dietary fibre stimulates peristaltic motion and the secretion of gastric and digestive juices, all of which help to reduce bloating, constipation, heartburn and cramps. And surprisingly for a fruit, eating durian also lowers the frequency of diarrhoea – as its dietary fibre is of the insoluble, not the soluble, type.
Say goodbye to high blood pressure, as durian fruit is an excellent source of potassium. With plenty of potassium in your bloodstream, your blood vessels will relax – not only reducing the stress on your cardiovascular system, but also helping to reduce your chances of a heart attack, a stroke or atherosclerosis. And with plenty of blood pumping through your brain, you’re lowering your chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease too. They say a Sumatran elephant never forgets…
The Downside of Durians
A word of warning. Although a Sumatran tiger might not be counting the calories, you might want to get your calculator out if you’re on a diet. An average durian contains anywhere from 885 calories to 1,500 calories – or up to 75 percent of an adult’s daily recommended 2,000 calories. Durian fruit is also very high in carbohydrates. If you’re watching your waistline, a durian dinner is probably not for you.
And don’t drink alcohol with them – you’ll turn into a hot-air balloon.
Drinking beer while eating durian can kill you. Although they’re not a good mix – you may end up with big wind and indigestion – science says that you will most probably wake up the next day. But the combination will test your liver as it battles to break down large amounts of fats and sugar in the durian and the alcohol. Better go teetotal during a durian feast.
Durian is loaded with cholesterol. No, it isn’t. In fact durian fruit has zero cholesterol. You might be thinking of red meat or dairy products which contain saturated fats. Durian is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that actually help lower your cholesterol…
Eating the King of Fruits will make you a King in the Bedroom. Hm. It’s true that durian may cause your body temperature to rise – which might help – but durian is not technically an aphrodisiac. However, eating it does increase stamina and sperm motility – which might explain this happy old housewife’s tale.
Durian must be eaten with mangosteen to reduce its ‘heatiness’. Ancient Chinese wisdom says so, but science isn’t so sure. Both are more likely to have been eaten together out of habit as the two fruits are harvested at around the same time.
How and Where to Buy Durian
So you’ve decided that durians’ enormous health benefits outweigh the stink. How do you buy one?
Indonesia is the home of durians, and you’re never far away from one. If you’re in a big city like Jakarta or Surabaya – or in a tourist centre like Bali – many of the larger supermarkets will stock them. The disadvantage is not being able to chat with the person who is selling it to you. If you’re in Europe, Australia or the States, you might be able to track down some frozen durian – not ideal, but better than nothing. Rule Number One: fly to Indonesia, and take a walk around your local morning market.
What’s the Price of a Durian?
If you’re wondering about durian prices in Indonesia… well, it depends on the season, the size and how far from a durian plantation you are. Count on a medium-sized durian weighing about 1,5kg to 2kg to cost you in the region of Rp.50,000 – about USD3.70.
How to Choose a Ripe Durian
It depends on your taste. If you’re a Thai, you’ll eat them slightly under-ripe. But your average Indonesian likes a durian so ripe that it will have developed an alcoholic bite. For something in between, try this. Walk along to your local market, make sure you’re smelling a durian and not a jackfruit, and put your nose close to the skin. If it has no smell at all, chances are it isn’t ripe. If the odour is already strong, it’s probably over-ripe. A durian at its peak should have a low-level, slightly earthy, slightly sulphurous smell with a hint of freshly-cut grass and scrambled eggs.
If you don’t fancy the sniff-test, there’s another way. Have a chat with your friendly fruit-seller. Durians fall off the tree when they’re ripe – which explains why so many people are injured or killed under durian trees every year. If your durian fell within the last day, chances are that it’s perfect. If it has been sitting around in the fruit stall for several days, it isn’t.
If you only speak Beginner’s Indonesian, there is a third way. Wiggle the stem. If it’s loose, it’s close to ripe. If the stem has already broken off or comes off in your hand, it’s over-ripe. A durian expert will dig a fingernail into the stem – it should be grass-green. If the stem is dark brown and shrivelled, your durian may be days old – and has probably been ripening under a tarpaulin.
Some say the easiest way is to pick up a durian and give it a shake. If the seed rattles around like a maraca, it’s very over-ripe. If there is no rattle, the flesh will be hard – which is how some people like it. If all else fails, find a spot between the sharp thorns, and press down into the skin with your thumb. If it gives a bit, it’s ready. If it’s as hard as a rock, it isn’t.
Or just try the human touch. Smile at your friendly durian seller and say: “Saya cari (’cha-ree’) durian yang sudah (‘soo-dah’) matang. Tolong bisa (‘bee-sah’) pilih (‘pee-lee’) yang bagus untuk saya?” Which means: “I’m looking for a ripe durian. Please could you pick a nice one for me?” And the lovely lady behind the counter will present you with a beauty.
How to Open and Eat a Durian
If you’re a newbie, the simplest thing in Indonesia is to find your local durian seller and ask them to open one up in front of you. Watch and learn. After several expert chops and thumps, they’ll discard the skin and the seed and present you with a plastic bag full of durian flesh. Just make sure you don’t bring it back on the bus or in someone else’s car. It may be wise to bring an airtight container with you.
Once you’ve watched an expert, eaten your first durian and find yourself coming back for more, you’re probably a durian addict. Pick your next durian yourself and bring it home. This could get messy, so place it on plenty of newspaper – possibly outside.
There are two methods: the knife or the stamp. If you’re handy with a sharp knife, chop off the stem, find a natural seam in your durian and carefully cut down and away from the stem. (Some people wear a baseball mitt on their other hand so they don’t spike themselves.) Bury your fingers under the thick husk – being careful of the sharp thorns – and slowly prise apart. You should have two halves now. Scoop out the pulp from one of the sections and you’re good to go.
A safer way is to put on some old, thick-soled shoes – and while you’re holding onto something for balance, stand increasingly hard on the durian until it naturally breaks along its seams. Prise the durian apart with your fingers, and eat.
How do you eat a durian? The best way is to get sticky with your fingers…
Some Favourite Durian Recipes
You’ve got over the smell. You’ve picked and opened your first fresh durian. And you’ve been brave enough to taste it. So what’s next?
You’ll be pleased to know that Indonesians have been perfecting ways to enjoy the King of Fruits for the past couple of thousand years – and one of the most popular durian recipes is called Duri Durian – also known as Makassar Durian Tarts. A toffee-like delicacy from Sulawesi, Duri Durian is popular during the Muslim festivals of Idul Fitri and Idul Adha.
Pooed by civet cats for the pickiest of people, kopi luwak is more expensive than silver. Discovered by penniless farmers and enjoyed by city bankers, kopi luwak may beat a ‘capoocino’ – but is it as pure and as ethical as we’d like to believe? Read on for the story of the costliest coffee on earth.
You’ve tried them all: Arabica and Robusta, espressos, cappuccinos, café lattes and cafe zorros. But when was the last time you drank a coffee at Starbucks that has passed through the guts of a cat? Indonesian kopi luwak – or civet coffee – is exactly that.
Known as ‘fox-dung coffee’ in Vietnam (and ‘cat-poop coffee’ by its critics), kopi luwak may be the most expensive cup of coffee in the world – but its origins couldn’t be more humble.
The Origins of Luwak Coffee and the Palm Civet Cat
Far away in the tropical rainforests of Indonesia 200 hundred years ago, farmers in Java and Sumatra were busy planting a crop that they had never seen before: coffee. And while their Dutch colonial masters sipped it over breakfast and sold it by the ton to a growing European audience, the farmers themselves were forbidden to drink it. Until a little jungle cat came along.
Indonesia’s palm civet cat – the luwak – is a curious animal. Nocturnal, shy and looking like a cross between a mongoose and a weasel, it is found in the tropical jungles of Asia. And like the Dutch plantation owners, it also developed a taste for coffee.
Picking the ripest coffee cherries on their nightly rounds, the little luwaks would digest the fruit’s flesh – but the hard seeds, or beans, would pass undisturbed in their droppings. Collected, washed, roasted and ground by the plantation farmers, word quickly spread about the new wonder drink – its prized aroma and smooth, earthy flavour soon becoming a firm favourite of the Dutch colonialists.
Coffee Luwak Hits the West
Fast-forward two hundred years, and the secret was out. Oprah Winfrey drank a cup on prime-time TV; so did Jack Nicholson’s character in the 2007 Hollywood film ‘The Bucket List’. When the Guardian newspaper published a review about it in 2008, kopi luwak was being sold in high-class London coffee houses for £50 ($75) a cup. Nowadays, a kilo of authentic, ethically-produced luwak coffee can cost you upwards of $800 – about the same price as a kilo of Colombian cocaine paste.
So How Does it Taste?
If you’re paying nearly a hundred dollars for a pick-me-up, a cup of cat-poo coffee had better match the price tag. One kopi luwak virgin writes: ‘On first taste it’s pretty fantastic with all of the higher notes you tend to get with a well-roasted bespoke coffee… the defining characteristic is a lovely, long, subtly nutty aftertaste…’
Not bad then. Another food expert agrees: ‘A small sip… reveals an earthy profundity, an uncanny blend of Jamaican mountain and Indonesian jungle. As an exotic holiday for your tongue, the price tag is almost reasonable…’
So apart from its high price-tag, it’s OK then?
Not quite. One reason for its exorbitant cost was the claim that only 500kg of the beans were collected annually – a claim that is totally untrue. But when word spread among Indonesian farmers that they could sell a kilo of the precious poop for $130, everybody wanted in on the game. Jungle civets were rounded up by hunters in Bali, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, and sold on to battery farms.
The shy, nocturnal luwaks – far from their natural jungle habitats – suddenly found themselves locked in tiny cages and force-fed inferior coffee beans until they died or succumbed to disease. For a solitary animal used to 17 sq km of territory and feeding on a varied diet of meat and vegetables, it was a recipe for disaster.
The coffee luwak trade soon expanded to Vietnam, China and the Philippines, and fake beans quickly flooded the market.
It wasn’t long before journalists and animal welfare activists began to voice their complaints about the cruelty that this suddenly fashionable and highly-profitable industry had created. Kopi luwak – and the jungle civets that helped to produce it – had become victims of their own success.
But if you think you’ll never be able to sample a cup of the most expensive coffee on earth, you may just be in with a chance. The backlash against ruthless civet farms and a push for sustainable, ethically-produced kopi luwak has begun.
Thanks to public campaigns by well-known animal welfare organisations such as PETA, large UK kopi luwak retailers like Harrods and Selfridges were encouraged to investigate their supply chains. They consequently stopped selling civet coffee until they could guarantee that it was sourced from the wild.
As a result of continued pressure, UTZ Certified – a programme for sustainable farming – no longer certifies producers that use battery-farmed palm civets. Which means that before you buy any kopi luwak online or in a coffee shop, make sure that it has the UTZ Certified stamp. Even better if it is also certified by World Animal Protection and the Rainforest Alliance.
Claims and Facts About Luwak Coffee
Claim: “Only about 500 kilos of luwak coffee are harvested each year.”
Fact: Over 50 tons of civet coffee are produced by Indonesia, China, Vietnam and the Philippines every year.
Claim: “Our palm civets are well-looked after.”
Fact: If they are living in their natural habitats, wild civets don’t need looking after.
Claim: “It isn’t illegal in Indonesia to keep civets in cages.”
Fact: That’s correct. But tightly-controlled government quotas regarding the trapping of civets in the wild are largely ignored by hunters and plantation owners.
Claim: “Our civet coffee is certified and ethically sourced.”
Fact: Many luwak coffee producers certify their own plantations as ethically sound. Only luwak coffee that carries the UTZ Certified stamp has been verified as non-battery-farmed and cruelty-free.
Where Can I Buy Ethically-Farmed Kopi Luwak?
It’s harder than it seems. Your best bet for wild-foraged luwak coffee may be online, as larger non-Indonesian retailers have more of a reputation to lose when buying from an unethical source.
Wild Gayo Luwak – established in 2015 – is adamant that all of its ‘doree’ kopi luwak coffee beans are collected from free-range palm civets, and that this North Sumatran plantation operates within World Animal Protection guidelines. Coffee from the same plantation is sold through Sea Island Coffee from London at £18, or $28, for 50 grams.
The US KopiLuwakDirect sells wild civet coffee too, claiming that “The Luwaks are free to choose for themselves which beans they consume, and to eat their full varied natural diet, which enriches the flavour of our delicious coffee.” – but offers no certification from WAP, UTZ or the Rainforest Alliance.
If you’re looking to buy ethical luwak coffee on Bali, you may not have much luck buying at source. According to Project Luwak Singapore, “… there are no UTZ Certified coffee plantations” on the resort island. There are, however, plenty of guided tours available to show you around Bali’s coffee luwak plantations – and you’ll have lots of opportunity to see first-hand how caged palm civets produce the coffee. Beware the overpriced, on-site souvenir shops.
Where to buy kopi luwak if you’re already in Indonesia? Your best bet is to look around some of the bigger supermarkets like Carrefour, Bintang and Delta Dewata in the tourist destinations or major cities – and check for those all-important stamps of certification. But don’t be shocked at the price.
One More Thing – Fake Kopi Luwak…
A Japanese professor has finally invented a test that can tell if your luwak coffee beans have in fact passed through the guts of a palm civet cat – but the test can’t tell if that luwak is wild, or is living in a cage. And it’s difficult to send every pack of kopi luwak to Japan for testing before you buy. A tip: sniff your beans. If they smell leafy, you’re in with a chance. If they smell like rice, you’ve been conned. And pay attention to their colour: real kopi luwak beans are a yellowish-green rather than the more normal, dark chocolate colour.
Some retailers boast of being able to sell luwak coffee wholesale. This should set some alarm bells ringing. Firstly, wild civets simply can’t produce enough kopi luwak to fill a container. And secondly, there’s a good chance that your super-coffee has been mixed with regular Arabica straight from the tree. Beware of prices that look too good to be true. Let’s face it: real, ethically-sourced luwak coffee doesn’t come cheap…
Tips for Brewing a Perfect Cup of Kopi Luwak Coffee
So you’ve bought your first, super-expensive packet of certified luwak coffee, and you can’t wait to try it. But take a few tips from the experts first.
Go for whole beans, and grind them yourself to ensure the freshest coffee. But only grind as much as you need… or it’ll lose its flavour.
For a coffee as expensive as this, don’t risk ruining it with tap water. Treat yourself to a bottle of mineral water instead.
Stay away from mixing kopi luwak with milk or cream – it’ll interfere with the coffee’s subtle taste.
If you’re using an espresso machine, grind the beans extra fine to produce a thick, concentrated cup.
The most common method is to use a percolator, or ‘drip coffee maker’. Medium-grind your coffee beans. Make sure you get the water-to-coffee ratio right: 1-2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 fluid ounces of water is a good starting point.
If you’re a traditionalist and have 15 minutes to spare, you may want to try this. Take a saucepan, and add a generous teaspoon of finely-ground coffee for each cup you want to make – plus one for the pot. For each cup of coffee you’re making, add 1 ½ cups of cold water to the saucepan and heat on a medium-high heat. Stir frequently. As soon as the coffee comes to the boil, remove from the heat, stir and allow the coffee grounds to settle for 1-2 minutes. Pour carefully, leaving the grounds behind. Enjoy.
From secret coffee-drinking sessions in the jungle to the most expensive brew on the planet: kopi luwak is a curious case. Coffee connoisseurs rave about it; animal rights activists wish it had never been discovered. But find that rarest of creatures – the ethically-certified bag of cat-poo coffee – and you may find that your mornings will never be the same again.
Not known exactly where Kecak dance originated and which was first developed, but there are some kind of agreement on the Balinese Kecak was first developed into a performing arts in the village of Bona, Gianyar, as additional knowledge Kecak was originally a song or music that is resultant from a combination sounds that make up melodies that are usually used to accompany the sacred dance Sanghyang. And can only be staged in the temple. Then in the early 1930s by artists from the village of Bona, Gianyar trying to develop a Kecak dance by taking the story of Ramayana who danced as a substitute for Sanghyang Dance so this dance could eventually be displayed in public as a performance art. Part of the Ramayana story in which the first is taken as Goddess Sita was abducted by King Ravana.
The development of Bali Kecak and Fire Dance in Bali
Kecak Dance in Bali continues to change and progress since the 1970’s. Developments can be seen is in terms of story and staging. In terms of the story for staging not only sticking to one part of the Ramayana, but also other parts of the story of the Ramayana. Then in terms of staging also began to experience growth not only found in one place likes the Village Bona, Gianyar, but also other villages in Bali began to develop Kecak dance so all regions in Bali there are dozens of Kecak groups whose members are usually members of the Banjar. Activities such as Kecak dance festival is often held in Bali well by government or by a school of art in Bali. As well as from the amount of much dancers who ever performed in the Kecak dance was recorded in 1979 which involved 500 dancers. At that time kecak performed by taking the story from the Mahabharata. But this record was broken by Tabanan regency government that organizes colossal Kecak dance with 5000 dancers on September 29, 2006, at Tanah Lot, Tabanan, Bali.
Pattern of Bali Kecak and Fire Dance
As a Kecak dance performance is supported by some very important factor, and in the Kecak dance performance presents the dance as an introduction to the story, of course, vital music to accompany the dancers movements. But in the Kecak Dance, the music generated from a combination sounds of members “cak” which were about 50-70 people all of them will make music in akapela. A person will act as a leader who gives the tone early, someone else acting as a suppressor in charge of pressure high or low tone, someone else acting as a solo singer, and someone else will act as the mastermind behind that to deliver the story. the dancers in the Kecak dance motion should not follow the movement of dance accompanied with gamelan. So in the Kecak dancethis gestures of the dancer is more relaxed because the main priority is the storyline and the sound mix.
Bali Kecak and Fire Dance Performance Story
What makes the Kecak special is that the accompanying music is provided by the human voice, the gamelan suara, a choir of a hundred men or more sitting in concentric circles, swaying, standing up, lying prone as the story develops.Amongst the swaying masses the voices of the storytellers can be heard telling the unfolding tale.
The story is a fragment from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic which finds its expression in many forms, not only in dance, but also in painting and carving. Prince Rama, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ayodya, and his wife Sita have been banished from the kingdom by King Dasarata as a result of trickery by Rama’s stepmother. The story begins with the arrival of Rama and Sita accompanied by Rama’s brother Laksmana in the forest of Dandaka.
The trio have been observed by the demon Rahwana, King of Alengka, who lusts after the beautiful Sita. Rahwana sends his prime minister Marica to try and isolate Sita so that Rahwana can kidnap her. Marica’s magical powers turn him into a golden deer and he enters the forest and when the Sita sees the golden deer she is so enchanted by it that she asks Rama to capture it for her. Rama chases after the deer leaving his brother Laksamana behind with strict instuction to protec Sita. When Sita thinks she hears a cry for help from Rama she forces Laksamana to go after Rama by accusing him of cowardice and he goes off to help Rama with great reluctance after drawing a magic circle on the ground and telling Sita the she should not under any circumstance step out side the circle.
Sita, left alone in the forest becomes an easy prey to the trickery of Rahwana who has disguised himself has an old periest and bags Sita for some food as he is cold and hungry. Sita falls for for his trick, she steps outside the circle to give the old priest some food and rahwana grabs her and takes her to his palace.Once back in his palace in Alengka, Rahwana tries everything he can to seduce Sita without any luck.
In the palace of Alengka, Sita pours out her heart about her cruel fate to Rahwana’s niece Trijata, when Hanoman appears telling her that hi is Rama’s envoy and proving it by showing her Rama’s ring. Sita gives Hanoman a hairpin to show she is still alive and sand him back to Rama with a massage to come to her rescue. In the meantime Rama and Laksamana accompanied by Tualen are wandering in the forest looking for Sita when Meganada, Rahwana’s son, appeares and engages Rama and Laksamana in Battle. Meganada uses his magic powers and shoots of an arrow which magically turns in to a dragon which overpowers Rama and Laksamana and they are trussed up in ropes.
The bird Garuda, King of all the bird, a good friend of King Dasarata, has observed trouble Rama is in from high up in the sky and comes to the rescue freeing the brothers from the ropes. Rama and Laksamana continue on their way to rescue Sita and are joined by Sugriwa, king of the monkeyes, and his monkeys army. This fragmen of the Ramayana come to an end with the bittle between Sugriwa and his Monkeys Army and Meganada and his Demon Army which ends with the defeat of Meganada.