Welcome to Indonesia
Consisting of more than 17,000 islands, the vast Indonesian archipelago spans 5,120 km across the equator, positioned between the Asian and Australian continents. Four-fifths of the area is sea with the major islands of Sumatera, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua. The 300 ethnic groups that exist harmoniously give birth to a potpourri of cultures and fascinating people. The major ethnic groups are: Minangkabaunese, Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, Maduranese and Ambonnese. Arab, Chinese and Indian immigrants have also settled in regions throughout the country, particularly in the coastal cities.
Geographically, Indonesia's landscape is greatly varied. Java and Bali have the most fertile islands and rice fields are concentrated in these two regions, whereas Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua are still largely covered with tropical rainforest. Open savannah and grassland characterize Nusa Tenggara.
The lowland that comprises most of Indonesia has a characteristically tropical climate with abundant rainfall, high-temperatures and humidity. Rainy Indonesia's tropical climate and unique geographical character provide shelter for flora and fauna that are as diversely rich as its land and people. The plant and animals in Indonesia's western region represent that of mainland Asia while those in the eastern region are typical of Australia. Endemic species, which are the pride of Indonesia, exist in the central region, such as orangutans, tigers, one-horned rhinos, elephants, dugongs, anoas and komodo dragons. The warm tropical waters of the archipelago nurture a rich marine environment that holds a myriad of fish, coral species and marine mammals.
A cultural heritage passed on through generations offers a wealth of traditional arts and crafts. Batik, wooden carvings, weavings, silverworks and many other traditional skills produce exquisitely beautiful items. Indonesia's multi-racial and multi-religious culture mean festivals steeped in traditions are celebrated throughout the year. Frequently featured in these events are dances, wayang theaters and other performing arts.
Indonesia is located across the equator and stretch from Sumatra in the west to Irian Jaya in the east, or from Sabang to Merauke (Dari Sabang ke Merauke). The total area is 1 904 569 km2. That is somewhat bigger than the area of Australia, though only 20% consists of land, the rest is water. The number of islands in the Indonesian archipelago is disputed, but a commonly cited figure is 13 667, of which about 6000 are inhabited.
Straddling the equator, Indonesia tends to have a fairly even climate year-round. Rather than four seasons, Indonesia has two – wet and dry – and there are no extremes of winter and summer.
In most parts of Indonesia, the wet season falls between October and April (low season), and the dry season between May and September (high season). Rain tends to come in sudden tropical downpours, but it can also rain nonstop for days. In some parts of the country, such as kalimantan the difference between the seasons is slight – the dry season just seems to be slightly hotter and slightly drier than the wet season. In other areas, such as Nusa Tenggara, the differences are very pronounced, with droughts in the dry season and floods in the wet.
Though travel in the wet season is not usually a major problem in most parts of Indonesia, mud-clogged back roads can be a deterrent. The best time to visit is in the dry season. The ‘wet’ starts to descend in October and varies in intensity across the archipelago. The December to February rains can make travel prohibitive in Nusa Tenggara, when rough seas either cancel (or sink) ferries, and roads on Flores are washed out. Parts of Papua are also inaccessible. The rains shift in Sumatra, peaking from October to January in the north, and from January to February in the south. But seasonal change makes little difference in Bali, and in kalimantan higher water levels from December to February improve access to rivers and small tributaries.
In most cases, experiencing an Indonesian festival is reason enough to head to a destination. Some are so significant, however, that they can generate difficult conditions for travelers. Tanga Toraja’s funeral season boosts Rantepao’s population, and hotel prices, substantially during July and August. In Java it’s a good idea to avoid the final days of Idul Fitri, when public transport is mayhem and some businesses close.
A tragic drop in tourist hordes means that Indonesia’s ‘high season’ no longer presents the same kind of bother it once did. The December–January Christmas holiday period and the school holidays still brings a wave of migratory Australians, and Europeans head to Bali, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi in July and August. But climatic impediments aside, pretty much any time is a good time to head to Indonesia at the moment.
The main Indonesian holiday periods are the end of Ramadan, when domestic tourists fill resorts and prices escalate; Christmas; and mid-June to mid-July, when graduating high-school students take off by the busload to various tourist attractions, mainly in Java and Bali.
Food & Cuisine of Indonesia - Rice is the staple food in most parts of Indonesia though some variation is found in some of the islands in eastern Indonesia where staple food ranges from corn, sago, cassava to sweet potatoes. But things are changing fast and here also rice is catching them up in popularity. Nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles) and gado-gado (vegetables topped with peanut sauce and sliced boiled egg) are some of the typical Indonesian dishes.
As Indonesia is an archipelago, fish is one of the favorite food items and various types of fish feature prominently in the diet. Seafood is found in abundance and has great variety such as lobster, oyster, prawns, shrimp, squid, crab, etc. Coconut is ubiquitously available and apart from being used as cooking oil its milk and pulp is used as an ingredient in many dishes. Beef and chicken are widely available; pork is only found in Chinese restaurants or in non-Muslim regions. Coconut, chilli, soy sauce and peanut sauce are common flavorings. Some of the major fruits found in Indonesia are jackfruit, durian, starfruit, papaya, pineapple and mango.
Besides traditional Indonesian food, Chinese and Continental dishes are also hugely popular in Indonesia. Many popular fast food joints have also established their chains in major cities of Indonesia
Dress is normally casual and light clothing is advisable due to the hot, humid climate. Trousers or slacks and shirts are generally considered appropriate but a jacket and tie are required formal occasions or when making official calls. For some formal occasions, long-sleeved batik shirts are acceptable.
For travel to mountain areas, a light sweater or jacket is recommended. Halter tops and shorts are frowned upon in most places except around sports facilities or on the beach. Proper decorum should especially be observed when visiting places of worship.
Travel within Indonesia ranges from boats, self drive and chauffeur driven cars, to both slow and fast buses, bicycles and motorbikes. Hiring a car or minibus with or without driver, is one of the most rewarding ways of getting around. However, bear in mind that the nation's transportation infrastructure does not move with the kind of speed and efficiency that Western travelers expect. It is best to adjust your pace to local conditions.