Travelers to Bali are warned to avoid drinking a local alcohol drink called "arak," and sometimes referred to as "Jungle Juice." This is the same drink that killed dozens of people in 2009, including four foreigners.
Most recently, a New Zealand rugby player, 29, died after consuming this drink. Also, an Australian nurse, 25, believed to contain a distilled local alcohol called arak, which in 2009, killed dozens of people, including four foreigners, is still battling brain and kidney damage after drinking the potent brew only days before the rugby player died of methanol poisoning.
COMMENT: Travelers are cautioned that due to poor regulatory enforcement, "arak" is even sold in licensed bars. Reportedly, "arak" is a form of rice wine that is often not distilled properly, resulting in the inadvertent production of methanol, which can cause brain damage, blindness and even death.
Unfortunately, the drink is very unpredictable because some consumer can drink "arak" with no adverse effect, while others have been known to die and sustain permanent damage.
The sad part is that the local government in the Indonesian province of Bali permits "arak" to be sold, even after so many deaths and serious cases of harm have occurred. Yet, it is this same governmental entity that deliberately conceals the level of crime and accidents that befall foreign tourists.
Regrettably, a month after the rugby player died, a warning appeared on the Foreign Ministry's safe-travel website warning that "arak" was often mixed with fruit juice. It said anyone consuming the drink should ensure it came in a sealed bottle from a commercial distillery. Needless to say, such a statement lacks a great deal of transparency.
Travelers are also reminded that not much methanol need be consumed to be fatal. Typical symptoms of methanol poisoning include a headache, shortness of breath, blurred vision and vertigo. If untreated, the poisoning can lead to rapid breathing, blindness, a coma and seizures, which could lead to brain damage. The antidote for methanol poisoning is ethanol, which functions as a blocking agent and neutralizes the methanol.