The world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia, has more than 18.000 islands to be explored makes it one of the most diverse treasures on earth. Wide range of adventurous activities, leisure holidays, various types of traditional food and beverages blows and also fascinating people, culture and tradition that will make you fall in love and never want to leave the country.
Indonesia extends outward the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the north as well as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, it also neighbors Australia to the south, and Palau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand to the north, India to the northwest. It is by far the largest and most varied archipelago on Earth. With 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, makes Indonesia as one of the world’s greatest island hopping, ferry riding, and beach lounging adventure. About 240 million people live in this fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India and USA. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world. Indonesia’s tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil. While the rich shop and party in Jakarta and Bali.
Rich with culture, tradition in variation of background and religion, people in Indonesia promote “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) as their slogan for almost 70 years. However the concept of an “Indonesian” remains artificial and the country’s citizens divide themselves along a vast slew of ethnicities, clans, tribes and even castes. The largest ethnic groups are the Javanese (45%) of central and eastern Java, the Sundanese (14%) from western Java, the Madurese (7.5%) from the island of Madura, and Coastal Malays (7.5%), mostly from Sumatra. This leaves 26% for the Acehnese and Minangkabau of Sumatra, the Balinese, the Iban and Dayaks of Kalimantan, and a bewildering patchwork of groups in Nusa Tenggara and Papua in the eastern part of the archipelago. There are no less than 3000 official ethnic groups!
Indonesian culture and custom varies from place to place and depends on the ethnic groups which makes it almost impossible for visitor to know and understand all of the traditions. But like any country in the world, good manner, courtesy and concern towards other people are important to gain respects and develop good relationship. Unlike the western people, Indonesian are generally indirect in their approach. They would avoid embarrasing the other party by saying “no” at the begining, also to avoid getting their request turned down by the other party. Usually people will make request when they know that they have a fairly chance of getting a “yes” answer. However, most residents who live in the main cities are generall more direct and straightforward in their approach. If you talk rapidly,it is suggested for you to talk slower, common words are advisable, slang expressions should be avoided due they might not be understood or create miss-understading.
Some body language must also be noted, hang your hand on the hips consider to be rude, crossing hands over te chest consider to be unpolite. Head is the most respectful part of the body, touching other person’ head is considered to be disrespectful. The right hand is known as the “good” hand, while left hand is the “bad” one. Therefore, using left hand to eat or pass anything, especially food is considered to be unpolite. Dress-up politely is important, a more formal dress such as a suit, jacket or gown is used in an important course such as weddings. While in daily life, people dress more casually, wearing long pants, dress below the knees and a shirt covering the upper arm. Indonesian are known as rather religious people, no matter what religion a person belongs to. Therefore any visitor is advised not to exposed himself as a non-believer even if he is.
Sarcastic jokes are only happen in a small group-talk, within a specific topic that might only be understood by this group, not in public. Indonesian people are very family-oriented. Fathers has very dominant role in the family, he tends to be the desicion-maker. Obedience is very important value in the family, children ask the parents’ opinions and permission is not considered as the form of dependencies but it is viewed as the form of respects towards them. As this is usually difficult to adjust for visitors, especially for them who come from liberal and independent society.
Hindu culture of the former Majapahit Empire provides a framework for many of the cultural traditions found across the central islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. Perhaps the most distinctively “Indonesian” arts are wayang kulit, the shadow puppetry; intricately detailed cutouts act out scenes. Dance and theater performs beautifully within tradition. Both wayang and traditional dance commonly accompanied with the gamelan orchestra, complex metallic rhythms are the obligatory backdrop to both religious ceremonies and traditional entertainment. The story that is performed in wayang and the dance comes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana and other popular folk stories, or represent the gratitude and pray to the ancestor and gods.
What to see in Indonesia
Indonesia is home for more than 160 active volcanoes, far more than any country in the world. Some of the easiest volcano trekking for visitors are Bromo-Tengger-Semeru in East Java National Park, Ijen Crater also in East Java, Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Mount Agung and Mount Batur in Bali. There are more than 226 mountains remains calm along the archipelago. As the world’s largest archipelago, beaches and underwater make a significant attractions along the coast. Aside from of course, Bali, that become one of the most popular tourist destination in the world, there are uncountable amount of-track-beaches located in Maluku, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and even still in Jakarta region makes hidden paradise for one to see. In a nation of more than 18.000 islands, the options are almost endless.
Indonesia has the largest tropical forest in the world that supports incredibly diverse amount of wilderness; Orangutan and other primates that critically endangered, Javan Rhinoceros, Tigers and extraordinary numbers of bird species. Some forest recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Ujung Kulon in West Java, Bukin Barisan, Gunung Lauser and Kerinci Seblat in Sumatra. UNESCO World Heritage Sites also given to the archaeological excavation site in Java, Sangiran and also subak rice irrigation in Jatiluwih, Bali. Further to the east, Komodo Island is home for Komodo Dragon and diverse marine life. Also the remote Lorentz National Park in Papua has a permanent glacier remains as the largest national park in the world.
What to do in Indonesia
Scuba Diving in Indonesia
Divers call the underwater scene in Indonesia as “The Garden of Eden”. It’s generally accepted as the world’s best country for sea life. Located in the middle of the ‘Coral Triangle’ of diversity that extends from Australia to the Philippines and across to Borneo and into the South Pacific, this country is at the core of the ocean’s heart, where the marine variety suggests life in the sea began. With 20% of the world’s coral reefs, over 3,000 different species of fish and 600 coral species, deep water trenches, volcanic sea mounts, World War II wrecks, and an endless variety of macro life, Indonesia scuba diving is both excellent and inexpensive.
There are at least four places that is most popular for scuba diving, they are diving in Bali, diving in Raja Ampat, diving in Komodo or diving is Lembeh Strait. Bali is Indonesia’s most popular dive holiday destination. Many visitors find the attraction of good-shore-based-diving set against a stunning back drop of huge, magnificent volcanoes and picturesque rice paddy terraces, simply irresistible. ne of the greatest features of Bali are the incredibly rich and varied dive sites. Deep drop-offs and steep banks, coral ridges and bommies, one of the most famous wrecks in the world, volcanic outcrops and seagrass beds are all part of the underwater tapestry.
Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small isles, cays and shoals surrounding the 4 main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo. Over 1,200 fish species – a world record 284 on 1 single dive at Kofiau Island, the benchmark figure for an excellent dive site of 200 fish species surpassed on 51% of Raja Ampat dives (another world record), 600 coral species (a remarkable 97% of all scleratinia recorded from Indonesia are likely to occur in these islands), 699 mollusc species.
The variety of marine life that you can see in Komodo rivals the world’s best dive destinations. From sunfish, mantas, dolphins and eagle rays to pygmy seahorses, ornate ghost piperfish, clown frogfish, nudibranchs and blue-ringed octopus, all are at home amongst a spectacular range of colourful sponges, sea squirts, tunicates and corals; Komodo is a macro enthusiast’s heaven.
In Lembeh is a different story. No place on the planet gives you the chance to see more shy critters such as the mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, harlequin shrimps, skeleton shrimps and innumerable nudibranchs. The fish also include the usual tropical reef suspects but also the more bizarre: Ambon scorpionfish, snake eels, stonefish, sea robins, stargazers, devil fish and even the weedy scorpionfish. There are also beautiful seahorses including pygmies, pegasus, mandarinfish, ghost pipefish and the endemic Banggai cardinalfish. Lembeh Strait Dive have a higher than average rate of return customers as enthused first-timers return year upon year, never tiring of the wonders of this undersea paradise.
Volcano Hike in Indonesia
Being an archipelago that is situated on the confluence of the tectonic plates – Asian, Australian, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, it has as many as 129 volcanoes making it the country with 13 percent of the world’s volcanoes, it’s called Indonesian Ring of Fire. The highest peak is the Puncak Jaya in Papua, while some of the most famous peak are Mount Bromo (East Java), where it stands forebodingly within the Tengger caldera sea of sand while spewing off white sulphurous smoke. Mount Bromo also considered to be the most active volcanoes of the world and one of the frequent visited ones. Ijen Crater (East Java) inside the crater you will see a magnificent turquoise sulphur lake that exudes flames, blue fire at night and smoky white in the day.You will also meet many sulphur collectors on your hike up and be shocked by the condition of their work consuming the harmful fumes all the time. Ijen volcano contains the world’s largest acidic volcanic lake that shines in beautiful turquoise color.
Mount Semeru (Central Java), the tallest mountain in Java also known as Mahameru. The Great Mountain, deriving from the mystical Hindu-Buddhist mountain of Meru and Sumeru the gods. Climbing to the peak takes two hiking days and it is relatively easy for seasoned hikers. The only challenge is the last slope up to the summit. Mount Merbabu (Central Java), known as “The Mountain if Ash” It lies adjacent to Mount Merapi towards the southeast at the height of 3142 m. It is a challenging hike up to the peak, there are two peaks – Syarif (3119 m) and Kenteng Songo (3142 m), forming a U-shaped valley.
Mount Krakatoa (Sunda Strait), located on volcanic island situated in Sunda straits. The eruption of Mount Krakatoa in 1883 had been noted as one of the most violent volcanic events ever recorded. Mount Kerinci (Sumatra), the highest peak in Sumatra, home for endanger Sumatran Tiger. It is still a very much active volcano with constant annual activities. The climb up this mountain would take 3 days 2 nights to reach the summit, or one day less if not. Mount Batur (Bali), Mount Batur is an active volcano standing at 1700m, many travelers hike a do this short but can be quite tough 2 hours hike up the mountain to have a sunrise view over Bali and its surrounding islands. Mount Agung (Bali) standing tall at 3142 m at east is the highest mountain in Bali. It holds a spiritual significance to the Balinese as the Mother Temple of Besakih. Legend has it that it is created by the Hindu God Pasupati when he split the Mount Meru which is the spiritual axis of the universe.
Mount Rinjani (Lombok), second highest volcano in Indonesia (after Mount Kerinci). It ha a caldera of 50 km square with a crater lake in it called Segara Anak. Many pilgrims come yearly to this lake to make offerings to the gods and the lake. To hike this volcano mountain would take two days of demanding trekking but the view at the summit is all so worth it. Mount Kelimutu (Flores), home for three-colored lake. The lakes are in hues of blue, green and red due to its volcanic substances and it changes colors depending on season and time making it somewhat magical. And in Papua we have Puncak Jaya, This is one of the world’s seven ultimate summit and the only mountain in Indonesia which has a glacier top.
Freedive in Indonesia
One breath, going deep with no tank! Freedive become more popular in the last two years, more people start to have the desire to try and experience the underwater experience with no tank. Some people admit the indescribable tranquility under the water when they do freedive. Four of the most popular freedive school spread in Bali, Gili and Jakarta. Gili Freedive is considered to be the mosrt popular school who certificate the larget number of freedivers in the world. There are three other freedive school in Amed and Tulamben, Bali and One of the largest freedive forum based in Jakarta called freedive Indonesia.
More and more activities to choose from each region you are going to visit. Leisure and retreats, mediation class, wellness and yoga, also party. Shopping and entertainments are astride along the archipelago. In term of things to do, Indonesia seems to be one f the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia.
What to eat in Indonesia
With 18,000 islands to choose from, Indonesian food is an umbrella term covering a vast variety of regional cuisines found across the nation. Variety of herbs and spices makes beautiful mixed of ingredients. Different province has different basic food to eat; most of the west part of the archipelago eats rice, while on the eastern part they eat sago and grains.
Rice is served is many different form, Bubur is rice porridge topping with fried chicken and vegetable popular for breakfast. Lontong is the rice cake, wrapped with banana leaves, used for celebration or daily servings. Nasi Goreng, fried rice the most popular dish for travelers, can be added with eggs on the top. Nasi Kuning, the yellow rice, cooked with turmeric is commonly used for festive celebration or ceremonial dish. Nasi Padang, come from the same region where Rendan comes from, Padang, where the white rice served with numerous types of curries. Nasi Timbel and Nasi Bakar, white rice seasoned with simple herbs and garlic, wrapped in banana leave toasted on charcoal. Nasi Uduk, white rice cooked with coconut milk eaten with fried egg and fried chicken.
Noodle comes in the second place o the most popular dish comes into two form they are called bakmi and kwetiaw. Bakmi is thin noodle usually served boiled and kwetiaw is flat rice noodle commonly used for fried or mixed with soy sauce. Soups come is different variety such as baso is the meatballs and noodles in chicken broth, rawon, spicy beef soup from East Java, Sayur Asam, is vegetable soup is tamarind broth, Sayur Lodeh vegetable soup is coconut milk broth, or Soto Ayam, chicken soup with vermicelli and chicken broth.
Main dishes you will commonly see such as fried chicken (ayam goreng), grilled chicken (ayam bakar), cap cay (Chinese style stir-fried vegetable with soy sauce), Gado-Gado (boiled vegetable with peanut sauce), Gudeg (jackfruit stew, you can find it in Yogyakarta), grilled fish (ikan bakar), Karedok (raw vegetable with peanut sauce), sate (grilled chicken, fish, or lamb on sticks served with soy sauce or peanut sauce).
Another dish you can find is called “gorengan”, it literally means “fried stuff”. Simple recipe: raw vegetable, fruits or other food dipped into rice flour seasoned with salt, sugar, pepper, and green onion sliced and then deep-fried. What is fried may vary from banana, tofu, tempe, sweet potato, cassava, etc. Gorengan is commonly sold in street hawkers, usually recognized through their specifically-designed carts. Being street food, however, you might need to be aware as the level of hygiene and cleanliness may be questionable. Also be wary that gorengan is commonly fried using the recycled cooking oil, that is the same portion of cooking oil used to fry gorengan over and over, and sometimes, unsold gorengan is fried repeatedly to keep it warm.
Money in Indonesia
The unit of currency is the Indonesia rupiah (IDR), commonly abbreviated as Rp. The largest banknote is Rp100,000, roughly equivalent to US$10. Bills also come in Rp50,000, Rp20,000, Rp10,000, Rp5,000 and Rp1,000. Aluminum coins are available in denominations of Rp500, Rp200, Rp100, Rp50. US dollars will be accepted by many in a pinch, but are typically used as an investment and for (very) large purchases, not buying a bowl of noodles on the street. Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is available in many cities spreading in various location and often can be found inside convenience store such as Circle K, Alfamart, Indomaret, and many more. For payment with credit card, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted but American Express is not available. Banks and money exchangers are widely available on Java, Bali and Lombok, but can be a major headache anywhere else, so load up with Rupiah before heading off to any outer islands. Money exchangers are very picky about bill condition, and pre-2006 dollars or any imperfect bills or (ripped, wrinkled, stained, or marked in any way) will normally be rejected.
Get in Indonesia
There are three ways of entering Indonesia:
- Visa Waiver by showing your passport, get stamped, that’s it. Applies only to a few select, mostly ASEAN countries.
- Visa on arrival. Pay on arrival; get a visa in your passport, gets it stamped. Most visitors fall into this category.
- Visa in advance. Obtain a visa at an Indonesian embassy before arrival.
A minimum of 6 months validity must be available in your passport and it must contain at least one or more blank pages. This same rule applies to any visa extension that may be sought whilst in the country. Also note that the days a visa holder is within Indonesia are counted with the day of entry being day 1, not day 0. This means that by 24:00 (twelve midnight) on the night of the day of arrival you have been in Indonesia for one day. If you enter at 23:59 (11:59pm) then 2 minutes later you have been in Indonesia for 2 days.
Customs in Indonesia is usually quite laid-back. You’re allowed to bring in one litre of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100g of tobacco products, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. Amounts of money carried in excess of 100 million rupiah, or the equivalent in other currencies, have to be declared upon arrival or departure. In addition to the obvious drugs and guns, importing pornography and fruit, plants, meat or fish is (technically) prohibited. Indonesia imposes the death penalty on those caught bringing in drugs.
Weather in Indonesia
As located in the equator, Indonesia has tropical climate. Dry season starts in April and last until October which make a perfect time to travel, while monsoon starts in November to March which also is fine to travel as well. The rain season in Sumatra and Java falls late in the afternoon. On Sumatra the monsoons can very heavy making roads inaccessible, whereas in eastern Java there’s hardly any rain in dry season. Best time to travel Bali is in the dry season; the monsoon season starts in October and ends in March, but in between the monsoon showers you can expect bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine as well. In Lombok the different between dry and rain season is pretty large. The driest months are August and September, the wettest are November – February. Due to its irregular shape and the fact that it’s on a geographical borderline, Sulawesi has two opposite climates; The South-West also has a monsoon season from October – March. In the North, around Manado, most of the rain falls in June and July, but has a dry season from August – October. Since Kalimantan has heavy tropical rain along the year, the best time to visit is on September to March.
Get Around Indonesia
Travel around Indonesia is considered to be a fun, adventurous, yet challenging experience. Each of the regions has different transportation system. However, private transports (cars), motorcycles and buses are most common use in the country-side area, while taxis, trains, also the minivan called “bemos” used as the public car is available in the middle-size cities and big cities. Ojek, the motorcycle taxis mostly common in the big cities while becak, or three-cycle or rickshaw is available in the small cities are used to travel in the short distants. For a long distant transport, buses between district is an option. Night busses drive along the coastral line in Java take passanger from east to west of Java, buses also take passengers between islands and provinces. A passanger might need to change the bus as some point to get to his destination. The best and quickest way for island hopping is by airlines, low cost airfare available in certain seasons. Other option is by interisland ferries which usually takes longer durations.