This happy man is an elder from Tana Toraja. We had a brief chat with him over a few glasses of tuak. Tuak is similar to arak (Balinese arak made with coconut palm flower, not the Turkish and Iranian national drink). It can be a powerful alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice, sugar and yeast. Quality or well brewed tuak can be 50% alcohol. It is commonly shared and drank at Torajan funerals, festivals, weddings, hosting of guests and other special occasions. Both tuak and arak are more than just recreational or celebratory drinks. They are also used as a base for medicine. Balians (Balinese healers) will commonly use the arak base and add roots, herbs, and other organic materials and use it both internally and externally to cure a variety of maladies. It is said to provide more than simple intoxication and can lead to visions, messages in dreams and even hallucinations. Authentic high quality tuak and arak are hard to find and are sometimes completely fake and can even be poisonous. Unfortunately, reports of death from fake arak are not uncommon. Perhaps illogically the real arak and tuak can be found at warungs (small roadside stands where you can see them making it) vs. liquor stores where the product can be very weak or even cut with harmful chemicals and liquids.
Please note: Beware when purchasing any arak, tuak or any 'homemade liquors' while traveling. Balifornian Tours can help you source real arak and tuak. We do not make, manufacture or gain profit from this, we just want you to travel safely.
Copyright © 2010 Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog ~ Michael Doliveck
For more on tuak, arak and Toraja, Sulawesi and its incredible funerary practices, keep an eye out for the upcoming Balifornian Films documentary.
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Happy travels! Salamat Jalan!
Michael and Maryam ~
Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog ~ The best website for news and information on Bali and Indonesia.