Indonesia is huge, sprawled out over 17,500 islands, 38 provinces, 1.9 m sq Km and with over 238 million inhabitants it is the worlds 4th most populated country and the largest muslim country int he world. However only around 6,000 of the islands are inhabited and travelling Indonesia cannot be done in one go due to the vast scale and size of the country. A massively important trade route throughout the centuries due to its geographical location has made Indonesia diverse in so many aspects, in fact Indonesia’s national motto is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” meaning “Unity in Diversity”. To show how widespread Indonesia is, it borders Malaysia on the east, PNG no the West, Australia to the South and Philippines to the North.
Bang int he middle of the Ring of Fire gives Indonesia its unique landmass often dominated by volcanoes, lush rain forests and golden beaches. Its also is based int he coral triangle where it holds some of the most diverse and unique marine life on this earth. Because of the widespread land mass Indonesia the fight for making money off the land and sea is hard to control by the Federal government. In some parts of Indonesia mass deforestation is underway, fishing rights in certain areas sold to highest bidders all for the present day generation to make a quick buck are hard to police.
Underneath all this though you find a beautiful country, steeped with history, blessed with natural resources and with a population that are generally kind and helpful. There are over 300 different ethnic groups in Indonesia influenced from many parts of the globe and not just from Asia. From devout Muslims in Sumatra to Hindus in Bali and onto less religious areas in the west of Indonesia where time is almost forgotten, Indonesia is an amazing place to travel if not a little daunting at first. Travel is easy, from road to air to sea all islands can be accessed somehow and as usual in Asia there are always tourist agencies able to lend a hand. Air Travel in Indonesia on local airlines can only be down through travel agents or by arriving at the airport to jump onto the next flight if its not fully booked already. Buses are usually full to the brim and the drivers are sometimes a little crazy. Travelling by sea is generally not bad and a great and cheap way to island hope but check the quality of the vessel first.
The food is ok, if you like rice and noodles! the main dishes you can find all over Indonesia are Nasi Goreng or Mei Goreng – fired rice or fried noodles, generally with a fried egg on top. Satey is readily available in most places and vegetarian foods available also like Gado Gado. For true culinary highlights head to Bali to try slow roasted duck – Bebek, Roast Suckling Pork – Babi Gulung, Bakso – Soup and of course Goreng (fried) from pork, chicken, goat and sheep. Maybe not a varied as Thai food but still good, though the more into the country you get and away from the touristy places the more limited the food gets and you are sometimes only left to eat Nsi Goreng for weeks on end. My tip is to take Marmite with you – fried rice completely different, but if you don’t like marmite pick up some Kepak Manis (sweet thick soya sauce) and Sambal to give the dishes a whole new flavour, amiable in most shops far and wide in Idonesia.
Most of the country speaks Bahasa which is quite and easy language to learn as there are no phonetics and only if you have a grasp of a few words they can be put anywhere in a sentence and still make sense. Obviously picking up the basics P’s & Q’s and numbers can make life easy and go a long way. Be sure to barter for most things unless its the price is written out on a menu as most prices will have the automatic western price hike you tend to expect. Barter with a smile and you usually get things a lot cheaper.
For me the highlight of Indonesia is the diving, so different and such a myriad of different diving locations. I have dived in a number of locations throughout Indonesia now but I almost feel that I haven’t even touched the surface when talking with other divers who have managed to go a litre further. The diving can be cheap if you look around but sometimes best done on a Live aboard like the one I did I Komodo to get to as may different locations in a short time. Temperatures range from 16 to 30 degrees all depending on the place and the time of year.