As the largest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia is blessed with so many different people, cultures, customs, traditions, artworks, food, animals, plants, landscapes, and everything that made it almost like 100 (or even 200) countries melted beautifully into one. Every island here is a unique mixture of natural splendors and different cultures of people who live upon it; from the vibrant tourists’ paradises of Bali and Lombok to the mysteriously shrouded cultures of the Asmat in Papua and those who dwell the highlands of Toraja in South Sulawesi.
Situated at the heart of the world’s precious coral triangle and along the Ring of Fire, Indonesia’s countless wonders stretches from mountain tops all the way to the bottom of its vast seas. Along the diverse landscapes, various unique wildlife made the archipelago their only natural habitat including the legendary Komodo Dragons, the gentle giant Orangutan, the majestic Cendrawasih Bird of Paradise, and so much more. Beyond the surface of the sea, Indonesia’s extensive coral reef is regarded as the richest and most diverse in the world; simply the ultimate paradise for divers and underwater enthusiasts.
With rich history that dates back for centuries, Indonesia also holds some of the most fascinating monuments of human civilization. Among these is the imposing Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java which the largest Buddhist monument that still stood majestically today with all its spectacular features. Equally fascinating is the Prambanan Temple Compounds which is one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.
The best time to go to Indonesia really just depends on you and what you’re up to. Being located near the equator, the country does have a pretty even climate with two long seasons – the cooler wet season from Nov-Apr, where rain falls for a few hours daily in sudden tropical downpours, and the warmer dry season that runs from June to Nov. As a rule of thumb, if you’re heading to Bali alone, take your pick, the weather is ideal year-round; June to Sept will allow you optimum island hopping.
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Official language: Bahasa Indonesia
After the arrival of Austranesian people into the archipelago between 2,500 BCE and 1,500 BCE, Indonesia quickly developed dozens of kingdoms, some short-lived and some lasting for a lengthy period of time, like the all-conquering Srivijaya kingdom of Sumatra, and the Javanese-Malaysian kingdom of Majapahit. Unfortunately, the arrival of colonial powers brought these kingdoms to a standstill.
Marco Polo regularly passed through the Indonesian islands during the 1200’s. However, it wasn’t until the 1500’s that European presence began influencing the area. The Dutch and the British began colonizing parts of Sumatra, Java and the modern day Malaysian peninsula and eventually, Dutch forces took control of Indonesia in 1619, although there were small British sections in Sumatra.
Throughout Holland’s colonization of Indonesia there were dozens of uprisings across the country, but these were usually rapidly suppressed by the Dutch. This lasted until the early 1900’s, when the Japanese defeated both the Dutch and British forces to control Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. This was originally met with cheers from locals, but Japanese control soon became brutal and bloody. Following the surrender of Japan in 1945, the archipelago was returned to the Dutch, although they didn’t return to the islands due to Holland’s destruction during the war. This paved the way for Indonesian independence.
The post-1945 period saw Indonesia experience conflict after conflict. Even today, independence issues still prevail in several areas of the archipelago. After four years of fighting, Indonesia finally defeated the Dutch forces, and took their independence in 1949. President Sukarno ruled until 1965, when a military coup led by General Suharto replaced the nationalist government. More than 30 years of economic stability and growth followed, but not without the country’s fair share of revolts and violence.
Suharto quelled any uprising brutally. In 1997, the reformist movement brought down Suharto, leading to a democratically elected government in 2004. Post-1997 saw several important events take place. East Timor gained independence after three decades of fighting in 2002. In 2004, the Boxing Day tsunami crippled the country, killing many thousands of citizens. Much of the country’s long history is on display at Jakarta’s National Museum (Jl Medan Merdeka Barat) and the political past can be found at Jakarta’s most visited site, the Monas or National Monument (Freedom Square, Jakarta).
Modern day Indonesia may be thriving with well-preserved colonial structures and influences, but there are plenty of ancient cultures still evident throughout the archipelago.
Despite the many different cultures within and between islands, the largest influence in Indonesia was Hindu that dominated the island during the Majahapit civilization. Even today, many of the ancient traditions are derived from Hindu, including the legendary shadow puppetry known as wayang kulit and the gamelan orchestra.
The local people are generally easygoing and friendly to visitors, but there are important etiquette tips to remember. Never use the left hand for anything, and saving face has become an important aspect of modern Indonesian society.
The climate of Indonesia is almost entirely tropical. The uniformly warm waters that make up 81% of Indonesia's area ensures that temperatures on land remain fairly constant, with the coastal plains averaging 28 °C, the inland and mountain areas averaging 26 °C, and the higher mountain regions, 23 °C.
Foreigners can apply for this visa upon arrival in Indonesia if their nationality is included on visa-on-arrival 68 countries list. A holder of Visit Visa on Arrival is given a 30-day stay and can be extended at the Immigration Office for 1 (one) time, in order to have another 30 days stay. Mandatory requirements include: passport with minimum 6 months validity and return/through tickets.
Train travel in Indonesia is restricted to Java and a small network in Sumatra. In Java, trains are among the most comfortable, fastest and easiest ways to travel. In the east, the railway service connects with the ferry to Bali, and in the west with the ferry to Sumatra.
The best way to get around Bali is with a hired car and driver. This option gives you the freedom of roaming around the country without the hassle of having to drive yourself. Biking is another option, just be prepared to weave through chaotic traffic.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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