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Fill ‘er up with Johnnie Walker Black

by Michael

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.

Doz & Amanda February 2, 2012 at 5:09 am

Haha! we thought the same. We knew it definitely wasn’t Pepsi!
Our tuk-tuk driver wouldn’t use them though as he said they water it down and his bike didn’t run properly.


Mar February 2, 2012 at 7:10 am

And here I am recyling my bottles or returning them for a nickel refund.

Us February 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

Always trust a tuk-tuk driver.

Us February 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

It’s hard to see you competing with Texaco back home but give it a try!

Ed Moran April 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm

My wife and I just returned from an 18 day trip to Vietnam and a 4 day extension in Siem Reap Cambodia. We read you article in Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. It brought back many memories. Thank you.

Us April 23, 2012 at 2:02 am

Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy our other Vietnam stories too.

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