Indonesia – End of the Line

Tribal Talk

Made up of 18,000 islands, Indonesia is home to many unique people. Perhaps not as visible as people living under the six recognized religions in the country, of which citizens have to pick one and can only marry outside of their religion if one person converts, are the many tribes that inhabit some of those islands. Let’s take a look at some of those fascinating folks!

Korowai

With all the zombie fiction that exists today, it’s not surprising that some have gone on to take it all a little too seriously… but what if those people had no access to any media and up until about 1970, believed they were the only people that existed. Living high above the forest floor in treehouses (which are also used to mark the passage of time), for fear of “walking corpses” at night below, the Korowai are cannibalistic, while also being hunter-gatherers. Numbering 3,000 people, the tribe is expected to vanish with the next generation as more and more young members leave for Dutch missionary settlements.

Cannibal Cold Shoulder

Asmat

Fellow cannibals (not of the Fine Young variety!), the Asmat had a feared reputation as headhunters and just being scary folks. Any explorers landing nearby would be met with loud noises and explosions of white powder, causing them to flee. The group (with a population of 70,000) is famous for their woodcarving, which is collected worldwide, even bringing Michael Rockefeller (yes, of that Rockefeller family) to Indonesia. When Rockefeller disappeared, the Asmat were launched into the public eye and given their way of life, you can only assume what happened to Rockefeller’s never-discovered body.

Iban

Called Sea Dayaks (I think they were trying to be derogatory) by British Colonists, this tribe was constantly at war with other factions and were known for headhunting, both acts necessary for life on an overcrowded island. The skulls collected by Iban warriors were regarded as their most-prized possessions. The people also took a lot of stock in jars and brass instruments, which they believed depicted wealth. Today, the Iban have largely evolved. Although some still live in traditional longhouses, these homes have been equipped with modern technology and utilities.

Yali

At average heights of under five feet, the Yali are officially recognized as pygmies. If you want to visit the Yali, you better be prepared for an arduous journey through treacherous trails that wind through the Jayawijaya Mountains. Once you get there, things may not get much better, as the tribe also has a history of cannibalism, going so far as to grind their victims bones to dust, ensuring they would never return. That said, the tribe’s women get to live in their own houses, while the men reside in communal homes. Each family has their own vegetable garden, so they do have that going for them.

Tribe Clown

Dani

Yet another group of ferocious warriors, who had to constantly fight to hold their land, thought to be the most fertile on the island. Unlike others, the Dani were not cannibals, but they are unique for turning their most honourable chiefs and warriors into smoked mummies, which they gladly put on display for visitors to the tribe. Also, after an enemy was killed, the Dani would engage in a two-day dance-a-thon, showing off weapons and other possessions taken from their victim(s). Sweet potatoes are used as currency, for trade and dowries by the Dani, so make sure to pick up some packs of yam fries before heading to Indonesia.

Mentawai

The Mentawai are easily recognizable thanks to their heavily tattooed bodies and sharpened teeth, which they do because they believe it makes you beautiful and elegant. I’m not sure vampires would agree, but they can’t even see themselves in mirrors anyway! The tattoos are used to record age, social status, and profession. Children receive their first tattoo at 11 or 12 years old on their upper arms. Then, at the age of 18, tattoos are added to the thighs. Finally, the rest of the body, head to toe is tattooed. The tattoos are important for Mentawai afterlife, helping tribal members recognize family based on the designs.

Indonesia: End of the Line

End of the Line Martini

  • 1.5 oz Pisang Ambon
  • 1.5 oz Frangelico
  • Top with Whip Cream
  • Garnish with Crushed Nuts

As people around the world prepare to celebrate the coming of the New Year, another unique Indonesian custom should also be noted: Hindus living there celebrate a Day of Silence, which includes no work, travel, electricity, entertainment, talking, or eating. This causes the streets to empty, the airport to shutdown, and tourists to be restricted to their accomodations. Only emergency vehicles carrying passengers with life-threating issues and women in labor are allowed.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
What a perfectly titled cocktail to end the Around the World project, of which I have greatly enjoyed! And we went out with a bang, as this drink is very good, warming the body and soul. How can you go wrong with combining bananas (Pisang Ambon) and nuts (Frangelico)!? The Crushed Peanuts for garnish were a nice touch for a snack to go along with the martini.

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Indonesia – Born to be Wild

Beast from the East

Indonesia is home to the fearsome Komodo Dragon, found on a few of the country’s 18,000 islands, including – of all places! – Komodo Island. They are the largest reptiles in the world and are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Endangered Species list, due to declining population. Let’s take a careful, but closer look at these mysterious beasts:

Komodo Dragons were considered mythological creatures until 1910, when Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek of the Netherlands discovered them. An early expedition to Komodo Island, in 1926, to track down these illusive lizards was the inspiration for the 1933 classic film, King Kong. The leader of that expedition, W. Douglas Burden, is credited with naming the animal.

Komodo Kitty

Although once called “land crocodiles,” they are good swimmers. Hell, they can even climb trees and reach speeds of 14-18 km/h. Komodo Dragons can be cannibalistic, eating older and younger lizards that are unable to protect themselves. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park was the first place to publicly display a Komodo Dragon, in 1934. Because the reptile is the national animal of Indonesia, only the President can authorize one to be removed from the country.

On average, Komodo Dragons measure 8-10 feet and weigh 150-250 pounds, with a tail that is as long as its body. They can live anywhere from 30-50 years. The female Komodo Dragon lays eggs (anywhere from 15 to 30 in each batch) that take about nine months to hatch. The lovable beasts maintain a single mate throughout their life, meaning we’ll never see them on Maury going through lie detector or paternity tests!

You probably wouldn’t want to bring one of these monsters home with you, as there is some debate as to whether Komodo Dragons are venomous or not. Their saliva – which is coloured red – is thought to be poisonous because of septic bacteria, but glands have also been discovered in the animal’s jaw, that contain venom-like secretions that cause quick swelling, issues with blood clotting, shooting pain, and muscle paralysis.

Komodo Big Bird

There have been reports of Komodo Dragon attacks on humans, including fatalities. In 2007, an eight-year-old boy was killed, while playing near a village on Komodo Island. Two years later, a 31-year-old man met his end, while picking fruit and falling from a tree, into the waiting mouths of two lizards. Between those two incidents, a group of SCUBA divers were swept away from their boat and onto Rinca Island, where they spent the next two days avoiding assaults, before being rescued.

Actress Sharon Stone’s husband, Phil Bronstein, was attacked by a Komodo Dragon, while on a private tour of the Los Angeles Zoo. Bronstein had removed his white running shoes, so as not to confuse the reptiles, who are fed white rats. It was reported that Bronstein, an editor for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, was only saved by Stone seductively uncrossing her legs – a la Basic Instinct – allowing the man to escape. He needed surgery to repair damaged tendons and a crushed big toe.

Like vultures, Komodo Dragons don’t mind their meat rotten and their prey includes snakes, fish, pigs, deer and the odd water buffalo. Much like snakes, the lizards use a forked tongue to smell dead animals, which they can sense up to 4km away. In one meal, a Komodo Dragon can eat 80% of its body weight, using shark-like teeth. As a result, the Komodo Dragon may only eat once per month and still not have to reach for midnight snacks like potato chips and cookies!

Indonesia: Born to be Wild

Born to be Wild Cocktail

  • 0.75 oz Pisang Ambon
  • 0.75 oz Tequila
  • 0.75 oz Vodka
  • Top with Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Splash of Limeade
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge

As if Komodo Dragons weren’t bad enough, when Mrs. Sip and I were in Indonesia, the Sip Advisor was attacked by monkeys. One ended up on my back only to be chased off by a more dominant primate, who in turn, was chased off by another brute, with all the action occurring on a hunched over Sip Advisor, fearing for his life!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This was a very good cocktail, which I made a few times after the first sampling. It is pretty potent, despite the light alcohol content of the Pisang Ambon, so imbibe at your own risk. This is basically a really awesome alternative to the delicious Long Island Iced Tea!