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Englishman in Bandung

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Sunday 27 November 2011: Absolute 100

I decided to celebrate my first milestone by sharing my favorite tipple with you all. It is 100% proof, so be careful that you do not hurt yourselves. I ticked the box to upload the samples and poured a few fingers into the keyboard, so I hope your shots arrive in good order.

I actually bought this bottle a while ago, on my way home from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on one of my many visa trips. I kept the bottle because there was a story attached:

I checked in at the airport at KL, did security and customs and was released into the duty free Aladdin's cave. I don't know about you, but I find it impossible to pass all those exotic aperitifs without at least buying something for the weekend. I did try to resist, honest.

I popped into the store to just have a look around and buy a block of chocolate for wifey, we may well be divorced or separated, not sure which, but this does not release me from my obligations to bring home a gift. I spotted a whole row dedicated to Absolute vodka. Racked up were just about every flavor known to Swedes. Bless 'em, their country is plagued with a semi prohibition and they still turn out better vodka than the Russians. After nearly an hour of intense deliberations, I settled on the 100 and a bottle of peach flavor.

At the counter and unsure of the rules, I asked the nice young lady, what the alcohol limit was for Indonesia. She replied in a very positive, 'I know all the limits' kind of voice, "two liters sir". The limit for most countries is in fact two liters, but not for Indonesia. After fifteen years of travelling in and out, I knew perfectly well that the limit was one litre. To this very day, I still cannot figure out what my mind set was on that fateful day, what on earth was I thinking. The fact is that I just could not choose between the 100 and the peach.

Perhaps I was thinking that I could blame the whole smuggling racket thing on the girl at the counter, but I did not get her confirmation in writing, so that excuse was not going to fly. By the way, never, ever ask the girl at the counter what the limit is. She will add up what is sitting on the counter in front of her and divide by the number of people that appear to be in your group and that will be the official limit, "seventeen liters sir".

Maybe I was thinking that if, on the off chance that I get caught, I will just pay the excess duty and be done with it. Ha! That's a laugh. I know for a fact that they search every bag, every time in Bandung airport, so the chances of getting away with the crime are actually lower than Newcastle winning the FA cup.

Anyway, the decision to go ahead and attempt to swindle the Indonesian excise coffers was made. Now in Bandung airport, my hand luggage passed through the scanner, into the hands of a rather burly customs guy, who didn't appear to be having a very good day. "Anything to declare", I presume was the question, as it was in Indonesian speak, to which I replied "no". Strangely enough, this seemed to cheer him up some, as he opened my bag, reached in and pulled out the two offending bottles. "Follow me sir". Oh dear.

I won't bore you with the 'I thought you were allowed' discussion, as I am sure that you can work out how well that went. I next reached for my wallet and confidently offered to pay the excess. My experience is that flashing some folding will always get the job done, always has in the past anyway. But not today, shock, horror!

Had I declared the error, I could have paid the duty, but because I did not declare the excess, the excess must be confiscated. I started to fear that I might well be arrested and deported and was starting to perspire profusely around about now. But, still fighting for my Absolute, I inquired if I could keep one of the bottles and he said that I could choose. This was a double relief, as it also hinted that I was not being detained.

I then inquired as to what happens to the confiscated bottle. He told me that all the confiscated liquor is poured away at the end of the shift. "Do you mind if I pour it out myself" I inquired, "No problem, you can drink it if you like, but the bottle stays". So I chose to keep the 100 and took the peach to the bathroom. I know you are thinking that this is a really dumb idea, but I at least wanted to taste the flavor, as this was a new one to me.

I tasted a good third of the bottle, before my gag reflex started to kick in and with a tear in my eye, I poured the rest down the drain. There's going to be some roaches with sore heads tomorrow. I returned the empty bottle to the smiling customs guy and he let me through.

As usual on these trips, I went straight to the North Sea bar on jalan Braga, to celebrate a successful visa run. I managed a couple of beers, but within an hour I was staggering badly. This had everyone confused, as it was still early doors and I usually shut the place at 02:30. I tried explaining what had happened, but my powers of speech had deserted me. In fact, my powers of memory packed in about that time too, as I awoke with a huge hangover.

Fortunately, I have several regular taxi drivers, who all know where I live. It was just a case of returning to the bar the next day to find my bag, with the still intact 100 bottle, find my taxi savior and pay him double for looking after me. Job done, another adventure completed. I'm sure there is a moral to be learned from this experience, but I'm quite certain that I won't figure it out.

Now you know the story behind the blip. So raise your shot glasses and here's to the next hundred. Blips that is.

A special thankyou to my sponsor, subscribers and regular visitors who give me the motivation to strive to raise my bar and do better. Habits are hard to break, I shot the dragon this morning, had a tough time persuading him to bend his body so that it would fit on the bottle, had to bribe him with a couple of flies.

Dave

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