A Guide to Drinking in Muslim Southeast Asia
In the past two weeks I've met more Muslims that in my entire life. At first, I thought they were going to go all Ian McKaye on me when I mentioned that I needed a beer after a long day working in the tropics of Indonesia and Malaysia, but I was wrong ... sort of.
If you find yourself in this part of the world, fear not; there are ways to live a sane drinking life in the land of Allah.
Rule #1: Make friends with the local Chinese. Even though the Chinese have been living in southeast Asia for 600 years, they're discriminated against by law and sometimes attacked and killed by fanatical Muslims. That's cause to drink. Lots. As you can see in this picture during a presentation I gave to a group of farmers, Tiger Beer is no enemy of the Malaysian Chinese. And dinner for these guys is wild boar liver that almost rips your teeth out. I heard in China they drink like in this picture, except it's Chinese rot-gut liquor instead of beer.
Rule # 2: Don't let your Muslim friends buy the beer. When my Muslim business partners found out I drank, they stocked our car with a six pack. Nice gesture, right? No. Having no idea that beer is supposed to be kept cold, the cans were hot to the point of exploding from sitting in the car all day by the time I knew they were there. Depending on religious conservatives to get you booze is like depending on a virgin to write a sexual positions book. Oh wait, that's what happened with the Kama Sutra.
Rule # 3: Don't let your Muslim friends prepare the beer. Beer on the rocks? Beer mixed with Coke? (The cola settles in the bottom of the glass into a black sludge, I swear to god). Yep, I've had to choke that shit down here. And when you squeeze lime into the local brew to make it half drinkable, they give you shit! Fight back with all you've got.
Rule # 4: Lose your snobbery. Get used to the ubiquitous international lager because you'll be lucky to have it at the end of the day. Indonesians drink Bintang (Star) Beer and Malaysians drink Tiger Beer. Tastes exactly like Isaac described months ago. But it definitely beats not drinking at all.