Beer & Baconless: Mr Bule Flees Ramadan

Jul 4th, 2011, in Featured, Society, by

As the holy month looms an Australian journalist plans his escape from the restrictions and impositions of Ramadhan and its aftermath.

In “WHY I’LL QUIT INDONESIA DURING RAMADAN” long time writer for the Jakarta Post newspaper Duncan Graham tells of his plans to make a temporary exit from his second home during the Muslim fasting month.

Duncan Graham in Indonesia
Duncan and friend

While stressing that foreigners need to adjust themselves to the customs they find in Indonesia, just as, he says, Muslim immigrants to secular countries should do the same and not:

slaughter goats in the backyard, take on extra wives or circumcise their daughters.

Duncan says he finds aspects of life during the holy month too much to bear, like:

Empty Shop Shelves

Duncan’s favourite liquor – Anker stout – vanishes from the shop shelves not just during Ramadan, but

the [Malang, East Java] town council ordered all shops to remove grog during the month before the holy month lest the sight of a shelf of grog inflame devout shoppers.

thus cruelly thwarting his plans to stock up.

Products of the swine as well seem to disappear from the shops, and bulk buying of bacon beforehand is ill advised as:

my sister-in-law used to be employed re-dating expired goods, like dairy products.


Provided you live far enough away from the nearest place of contemplation the cacophony from mosque loudspeakers has likely become part of the background noise of life, however Duncan says during Ramadan a fresh and mobile auditory assault is made when:

loud-speaker vans cruise the suburbs telling people to pray and breakfast at 3.30 am.

Fireworks during the fasting month are another annoyance he says

as unannounced bangs like gunshots at all hours is too much for anyone conscious that frustrated fundamentalists are still cruising the nation’s streets.

General Unpleasantness

People become grumpy during Ramadan, he says, due to the heat, hunger and thirst (entirely understandably he points out); office and shop staff become lazy.

Road Chaos

Due to the general grumpiness as above road users become more prone to road rage, and, at the end of Ramadan when folks mudik to their villages the roads become horribly congested, while many drivers/motorcyclists are weary and overloaded, so it’s too dangerous to venture out.

When considering where to flee from these annoyances and dangers some thought was given to a Christian area like North Sulawesi – where Duncan’s lovely wife and author of a guide for Indonesian women on snaring a western man (How to Catch Mr Bule) hails from – but that is no good either, as the churches there have begun imitating the mosques he says, loudly blaring reminders of the obligations that Sundays bring for Christians.


farewell to the Republic for a while.

Duncan is overseas bound, to Australia or New Zealand presumably, and Islam will have to do without him for a month at least, he ends, saying

we’re heading south to where the laws on noise pollution are policed and minorities’ views given some consideration, however scant.

17 Comments on “Beer & Baconless: Mr Bule Flees Ramadan”

  1. Chris says:

    Duncan’s favourite liquor – Anker stout

    I wasn’t aware Anker stout was so good; the locally-brewed version of Guinness is nasty…

    I disagree about the road chaos, though. My experience is that during Ramadan there is less traffic during the day, except in the hour before sunset. Also, the holy month reduced energy makes drivers more likely to be less dangerous/more considerate.

  2. Oigal says:

    Ah yes, I must agree with Duncan, always a good plan to relocate during the period of Ramadhan. Although last year in a piece of planning that make Hilter’s invasion of Russia look like a master-stoke, we booked our weekly boys golf trip to Surabaya right in the middle of the holy month forgot to check the dates! Big mistake, still it was hangover free golf I guess. The official planner of the trip is still getting emails questioning his trip planning skills.

    Funnily enough, locally for a couple of days at either end of the month, things tend to get a bit dry but after that business pretty much as usual just with bigger brown bags required from the owners of such establishments.

    On a (more or less) related issue, one of the first things you must do when buying or leasing a house is check Mosque proximity if you want a reasonably peaceful time. Duly we did that, check the house out a prayer time..yup all good! First Sunday after purchase, could not move in the street for noise and vehicles, the house next door is used by fundamentalist Christians…Dang, just when you think you have it all covered.

    Oh and sadly, in the lead up and during Ramadan, petty theft and break-ins increase as people try and meet their (for some) unreasonable financial expectations.

  3. deta says:

    That’s a good advice from Duncan. He wrote some valid points about traffic congestion and loud noise. After all, he is a man worth snaring then writing a book about 😀 . But speaking about adjusting to the custom, I am not sure if giving up having extra wives is on the same level of comparison with stocking up Anker or beacon. At least he only has to wait for a month.

  4. ET says:

    as unannounced bangs like gunshots at all hours is too much for anyone conscious that frustrated fundamentalists are still cruising the nation’s streets.

    This isn’t something exclusively typical for Ramadan and Muslims. Balinese Hindus seem to be contaminated by the same virus, especially around Nyepi and Newyear. I suppose this will also be the case around Imlek in Chinese kampungs.
    I can’t see the fun of it. Or am I missing something?

  5. Lairedion says:

    It’s not anymore what it used to be. When I was still living in Bandung I could eat and drink anything, anytime, anywhere.

    Reminds me of a funny cousin who always sat tight awaiting to break fasting and then joined us with eating babi rica…

  6. timdog says:

    And having told my favourite joke on the open thread, Lairedion’s reminiscence provides the opportunity to tell a story I’ve been longing to repeat here since I heard it several months ago.

    OK, here’s the scenario: A matronly middle-aged Javanese woman in Surabaya, the oldest child of a big, old-school middle class Catholic family. She is known, of course, as Bu Dhe. Like many of these extended priyayi families there are Catholic branches and Muslim branches; they turn up at each other’s weddings quite happily and generally get on in a thoroughly small-C catholic fashion…

    One of the more distant Muslim branches happens to have shifted from Tanah Jawa to Sundaland. It is also headed by a matriarch, and she is also, of course, called Bu Dhe. This Bu Dhe Bandung is unusually serious about her religion by the generally very Javanese standards of the family. She sports a jilbab and does all the requisite stuff and sticks to the rules.

    One day, earlier this year, Bu Dhe Bandung came to East Java to visit the Catholic Bu Dhe Surabaya. They had a nice cousinly get-together and gossiped about the various births, deaths and weddings.

    One day during the visit one of Bu Dhe Surabaya’s younger sisters dropped by the house with a gift of a certain prized snack food she’d bought from a famed outlet on a visit to some outlying town. Everyone was out except the maid, not the world’s brightest girl. The sister presented her with the bundled snacks as “for Bu Dhe”.

    Bu Dhe Surabaya was at work at the time; the visiting (Muslim) Bu Dhe Bandung was also out, visiting other cousins, and came back to the house first.
    “What’s that?” she asked the maid of the package on the table.
    “It’s for you, Bu Dhe,” the maid said, rather stupidly.
    Possibly equally stupidly, Bu Dhe Bandung did not ask “Who’s it from?” or “What is it?” or “Are you sure it’s not for the Bu Dhe whose house this is?”
    Instead she ate one of the snacks, declared it delicious, spirited the rest of the package to her room, and took it back to Bandung the next day.


    Sometime later, and slightly put out by the lack of thank you, Bu Dhe Surabaya’s younger sister asks her if she enjoyed the bakpao babi she left for her last week.
    “Bakpao babi? You never gave me any bakpao babi…” says Bu Dhe Surabaya.

    A certain amount of detective work and maid-questioning ensues, followed by gales of wicked laughter that you could probably hear as far away as Bandung…

    The entire family, including several of the less serious Surabaya-based Muslim members, were still howling with mirth over it weeks afterwards when they told me…

    You shouldn’t laugh, of course, but then maybe you should… 😉

  7. David says:

    Great story, any other pork tales out there?

    Didn’t quite get the reaction I was fishi.. expecting here, wasn’t one of DG’s highest quality pieces I think (still he no doubt got paid for the article which is the main thing and means he’s smarter than me) and there were some undertones or maybe even overtones going on there that I thought were quite interesting although I do agree with the overall thrust of the thing, Ramadan is a good time to take a break although as Chris points out the roads thing is sort of the reverse, roads are quieter except buka puasa rush hour and of course Lebaran is bliss in town. Plus it would only take a *little* resourcefulness to find beer and bacon, although I’m sure those were only props for the piece….

  8. Lairedion says:

    No a pork tale but an alcohol tale.

    A Sundanese aunt of mine (alm), who was the archetypical KTP Muslim, once made a fruit cocktail based on Martini Rosso we bought her and then served it deliberately to her relatives who were quite pious in their religious outlook.

    And of course the loads of KTP Muslim relatives and friends visiting our place regularly to duck Ramadan obligations and enjoying our wonderful babi rica, wines, whiskeys and other booze.

    Some of have them have become really fanatical (read: hypocritical) in later years….

  9. ET says:

    If you ever visit Ubud, Bali don’t miss the opportunity to have babi guling for lunch at Ibu Oka in front of the Puri Ubud and witness the numbers of Javanese muslims gathering there for a sinful culinary haj.

  10. Endo Hanafi says:

    Well, frankly it is not only bules who flee during the “holy month”, some Indonesian muslims too, as they find life is so unbearable with all the islamic thugs (FPI, Hizbut Thahir etc) go loose. The favorite destination is non-Islamic regions such as Bali and Manado. The haves have more choices escaping the horrible noise from the mosques and increased intolerance toward non-muslims.

    As the poors like myself, I am stuck with all these chaotic Arab-worshipping styles. I cannot do much but curse my great-great grandparents for adopting the intolerant, anti-social faith like Islam to be our religion.

  11. berlian biru says:

    Just for the record when do the pubs shut? I have some friends arriving on Thursday, must I stock up at home or does the shutdown start on Friday?

  12. bonni says:

    I hate ramadhan time. I can’t even buy beers at seven elev*n. F!

  13. Yaser Antone says:

    what abunch of sloppy buleks

  14. Oigal says:

    Sssh.Yaser..and two more beers make em dingin..

  15. ET says:

    Yaser, and for me satu porsi bakpao babi. And try to keep your fingers from it.

  16. Yaser Antone says:


    Ramadan is a great month for you to train yourself, to prove how strong you are. Can’t you live without those fielthy kind of food and drink,,
    what a freak hedonists, you will realize how good ramadan is, when you got diabetes, stroke, or cardiac arrest.

  17. Oigal says:

    Funny.. aren’t those three diseases rampant through the Indonesian population? Of course, its only an observation as I cannot provide any stats as the Health Minister gets her treatment overseas.

    Seriously that’s funny, starve myself then stuff myself like a pig at night proves how strong I am, it’s right up there with the self flagellation of the dippy Catholics..

    Now you have our order, we don’t mind chatting with the help but let’s snap up the beer and the food ok..

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