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Indonesia Information

 

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world that straddles 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.

Indonesia is the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia. With 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the world. With well over 210 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world — after China, India and the USA — and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Indonesia markets itself as the ultimate in diversity, and the slogan is quite true, although not necessarily always in good ways. Indonesia's tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil, and are being logged and cut down at the same alarming speed. While the rich shop and party in Jakarta and Bali, after decades of economic mismanagement, the country is the only member of OPEC that has to import oil, and 53% of the population earns less than US$2/day (note because of declining oil production, Indonesia recently withdrew from OPEC). Infrastructure in much of the country remains rudimentary, and travelers off the beaten track (pretty much anywhere outside Bali) will need some patience and flexibility.

The Indonesian people, like any people, can be either friendly or rude to foreigners. Most of the time, though, they are incredibly friendly to foreigners who make it off the beaten track.

Regions

The nation of Indonesia is almost unimaginably vast: More than 17,000 islands providing 108,000 kilometers of beaches. The distance between Aceh in the West and Papua in the East is more than 4,000 kilometers (2500 miles), comparable to the distance between New York City and San Francisco. Laying on the western rim of the Ring of Fire Indonesia has more than 400 volcanoes, of which 130 are considered active, as well as many undersea volcanoes. The island of New Guinea (on which the Indonesian province of Papua is located) is the second largest island in the world.

Provinces are usually grouped by around larger islands and include smaller surrounding islands. The listing below follows this practice:

Sumatra (incl. the Riau Islands and Bangka-Belitung)
Wild and rugged, the 6th largest island in the world has a great natural and cultural wealth with more than 40 million inhabintants.

Kalimantan (Borneo)
The vast majority of this, the world's third largest island is covered by the Indonesian province. Uncharted jungles, mighty rivers, home of the orangutan, a paradise for the adventurer.

Java (and Madura)
The country's heartland, big cities including the capital Jakarta, and a lot of people packed on a not-so-big island. Also features the cultural treasures of Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan. One of the most populous island in the earth with more than 120 million inhabitans in a land equal to New York state.

Sulawesi (Celebes)
Strangely shaped, this island houses a diversity of societies and some spectacular scenery, Toraja cuture, rich flora and fauna, world class diving site, finest undersea scenery.

Nusa Tenggara (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Komodo and West Timor)

Also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, the "Southeast Islands" contain scores of ethnic groups, languages and religions, home to Komodo lizards and one of the best undersea coral site.

Maluku (Moluccas)
The historic Spice Islands, largely unexplored and almost unknown to the outside world.

Irian Jaya (Papua)
The western half of the island of New Guinea, with mountains, forests, swamps, an almost impenetrable wilderness in one of the remotest places on earth.

Cities


    * Jakarta - the perennially congested capital which is also the largest city of the country
    * Bandung - university town in the cooler highlands of Java
    * Banjarmasin - the largest town on Kalimantan
    * Manado - Christian town at the northeastern tip of Sulawesi, famous for diving
    * Medan - the main city of Sumatra
    * Surabaya - Indonesia's second largest city
    * Ujung Pandang (Makassar) - the gateway to Sulawesi
    * Yogyakarta - Java's cultural hub and the access point to the mighty temples of Prambanan and Borobudur

Other destinations

The following is a limited selection of some of Indonesia's top sights.

    * Anyer - Beach on in Banten province, near Mt. Krakatau and Ujung Kulon National Park.
    * Bali - A beautiful island with great culture and art.
    * Baliem Valley - the home of the famous penis-gourded Dani warriors
    * Bintan - Resort island just south of Singapore
    * Borobudur - A huge temple dedicated to the Buddha in Central Java which is Indonesia's most visited site.
    * Bunaken - One of the best scuba diving destinations in Indonesia, if not the world.
    * Lake Toba - Beautiful lake on North Sumatra province.
    * Mount Bromo - Some of the scariest volcanic scenery on the planet.
    * Tana Toraja - Highland area of South Sulawesi famed for their extraordinary funeral rites.

Culture

There is no one unified Indonesian culture as such, but the Hindu culture of the former Majapahit empire does provide a framework for the cultural traditions of the central islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali.
 

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