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When we walked the streets of Bali we noticed sidewalk vendors selling bottles of Absolut vodka with a yellowish liquid inside. Usually the bottles were stuffed closed with a wad of cloth making them look like a row of Molotov cocktails. Whatever was in them, it certainly wasn’t vodka.

Petrol bottle

In some parts of the world these would be potential weapons.

We thought maybe it was arak, the potent local liquor that is fermented from coconuts and responsible for the occasional tourist death. Michael asked the shopkeeper if it was something to drink. He just laughed and said, “No, it’s for motorbike.” What we thought were impromptu liquor stores were actually gas stations.

We noticed the same thing in Cambodia. Only there the preferred bottles were Johnnie Walker Black and Johnnie Walker Red, maybe the Black Label was higher octane.

You can learn about the visitors to a place by the bottles used to sell petrol. Bali, with its beaches and warm weather, appeals to vodka swilling Russian tourists, hence all the leftover Absolut bottles. The tourists visiting the temple of Angkor Wat are apparently more of a scotch drinking crowd. In neighborhoods less affected by tourism the preferred bottles were Coke and Fanta.

Either way, we admired the ingenuity of this bottle recycling program.

Coke petrol bottles

In local neighborhoods Coke bottles are the real thing.