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How to sum up a country as vast and diverse as Indonesia?
It is home to well over 15,000 islands and is a highly active volcanic region being part of the pacific ring of fire. This was the source of the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands throughout Asia and even reach as far as Africa.
But although the region occasionally harnesses such a destructive power it also somewhat paradoxically hides some of the most beautiful white sand beaches and coral rich dive locations on Earth.
Although some parts of Indonesia are overdeveloped (Kuta-Bali) and well-trodden by backpackers (The Gili Islands and Lombok) it's still very easy to lose the crowds and feel like your on an adventure (West Papau).
Here is an overview of the different regions of Indonesia:
Bali - Famous for it's surfing beaches and nightlife.
Lombok/Gili Islands - Lombok is slightly less developed than Bali, with some hidden beaches that don't see nearly as many crowds if you rent a motorbike and explore yourself. The Gili Islands are pricing out backpackers these days and losing there tranquility as developers move in. Still there are decent opportunities for snorkelling and some okay diving, and the beaches are beautiful. Party's are lots of fun, magic mushrooms are sold openly on Gili Trawnagan in resturants and bars due to a lack of police prescence on the island. Be careful because they can be very strong! Marijuana also available. Both seem to be tolerated by the islanders.
Flores - Further east lies Flores, home to volcanic multi-coloured lakes created by the active Volcanos further inland to the west.
It also has some world-class diving spots around Luanbajo and completely secluded islands with empty beaches that you'll never hear mentioned about in any guide book. Just hire a fishing boat to drop you off and hire snorkelling gear.
West Timor- Off the beaten trail. You can hop over to East Timor for a visa run, but with the unstable political climate check first. Not really much to do when you get there though.
Sulawesi - Central Sulawesi has some awesome 'hill tribe' trekking potential. The North has the Togian Islands which are some of the best island/beaches in the world with crystal clear waters and all types of coral reef and marine life. The infrequent ferry can make getting there a pain though.
West Papua- Very remote, off the beaten-trail. Learn some Bahasa-Indonesi before going as English isn't so widely spoken. West Papua is home to remote native villages/hill tribes and untouched ancient rainforest. The Makua Islands to the West off the coast are home to more white sand beaches to die for, but getting there can be difficult. You have to take Indonesian domestic flights and boats to Ambon and work from there. Plan it meticulously and check the political situation.
Java - Overcrowded, but Mt Bromo is worth a look. Jakartha not a well liked city, very intimidating and lacks any sights. The train system is not so efficient.
Sumatra- Rainforest trekking is fantastic; Home to Orangutans and tigers. Infrastructure is poor as in many places across Indonesia. South sumatra has some mighty active volcanoes.
There are obviously loads more regions, but this covers the main bulk. It is a vast and diverse part of the planet and it's frustrating that you can only usually get a 30 day visa (on arrival). Longer visas are available but have to be got in advance and can be tricky due to having to fill in names of your employer to sponsor you and so forth (this was true as of early 2008, might've chnaged now so check). 30 days is nowhere near enough time so you have to really plan ahead and take into account the unreliable transportation. Concentrate on one or two (smaller) regions only.
General budget is around $25 a day, less off the beaten trail, more if you party hard in places like Bali or take loads of domestic flights.
While Sept 11 may have placed fear into peoples hearts regarding this wonderful country, I can say from personal experiance it is both safe and beautiful. The people right throughout Indondesia were by far the most friendly that I have ever encounted. This coming from a Kiwi who has also visisted the Pacific Islands and Thailand is a complement. Bali, while very touristy is still a wonderful place to visit. If you are young and keen to 'meet and greet' there are 1000's of other people you can find late in the evenings at the Sari Club (try the Jungle Juice). Otherwise you can go up to Ubud for culture and batiks, or the northern beaches to get away from it all. Being Hindu, you are safe from any religous problems and these are over mediaised anyway. The must see for any trip to Indonesia has to be the Gili islands off the coast of Lombok. To get there from Bali, just take a 1 hour ferry to Lombok and a mini van around the island or there is a newer, more expensive fast cat that does the trip straight from Bali. There are 3 islands, one for younger people who want to party to the early hours. Be aware on Gili Thangwan magic mushrooms are legal and dope is plentiful. There is a robinson crusoe island where you can get away from it all and a family destination. Not only are they incrediably cheap but you can snorkel right off the perfect white beaches. The diving is also cheap and wonderful ($25USD). Once the situation settles down I suggest a trip to Java. The Mt Bromo sunrise will remind you of middle earth. Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings will be transported there in the imagination imediatly. Mt Merepi near Jogjakarta is one of the biggest highlights. To be able to climb a hill at night and watch live lava flow down a mountain is a view I am not talented enough to describe. It is an experiance I will treasure for the rest of my life. Indonesia is one of the cheapest places to go in th
e world, the people are wonderful and just want to meet you. OK they are all trying to sell something as well, but as long as you keep a smile on your face they will love you. If you get a chance, do not let the biased media put you off visiting this wonderful place. I was there from Sept 5 to Sept 25 and never had one single problem or issue. Do not go wearing an American flag outside of mosques and you will be fine.
Update 15 August 2001: The British Embassy in Jakarta has warned Britons in Indonesia that they may be the targets of a "terrorist threat". ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Update: 11 AUGUST 2001 - The US has issued a warning over Indonesian travel. The US State Department says information has been received indicating that extremists might target American interests in Indonesia, and this could include TOURISTS and TOUR GROUPS. American aid workers on non-essential projects have been ordered to go to Singapore. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Megawati has now replaced Wahid as President. There may be attempts to destabilise her government. A few days ago a bomb went off in a big shopping mall in Jakarta. Consult www.fco.gov.uk before making your plans to visit Bali and other parts of Indonesia. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NEWS JULY 23 2001 - 1. Dozens of tanks entered the Monas Park in Central Jakarta, reminding one of events in May 1998 (when over 1000 died) 2. Explosions at two churches in Jakarta left at least 54 injured (23 July 2001) 3. "Australia ready to evacuate citizens from Jakarta," according to the 23 July 2001 Jakarta Post www.thejakartapost.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bombs exploded outside a number of Christian churches across Indonesia during Christmas Eve celebrations 24/12/00. At least 15 people were killed and up to 100 injured. The BBC's Jonathan Head says the simultaneous timing of so many blasts throws suspicion on THE INDONESIAN MILITARY (or elements of it). The military have been blamed for stirring up religious conflict in Indonesia. The Australian FINANCIAL REVIEW 27/12/00 stated that there is "a widespread belief that elements of the ARMY and other interests linked to former President S
uharto's New Order Government are carrying out the bombings to destabilise....president Wahid, and end Indonesia's democratic experiment..." The Review article argued that A national emergency caused by widespread religious conflict is just what hardline nationalists, such as former army chief General Wiranto, need as a pretext to return to power. ############################################ The old gentleman who used to massage my humble feet, and the important feet of a top Indonesian military man, assured me that "most of the odd things that happen in Jakarta" are carefully planned at military HQ. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ But in fact to understand Indonesia it helps to understand that the army, the police, businessmen, Moslems militants and the Mafia are all divided into various warring factions. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ US State Department 3/11/00 American tourists have been advised by their government not to visit Bali or other parts of Indonesia. On 29 October 2000 the BBC reported "Radical Moslem groups in Indonesia have been searching hotels in Solo (Java) for American citizens, giving them an ultimatum to leave the area within 48 hours....In Jakarta last week the American embassy closed its consular and visa section because of threats...All American citizens have been told to take extra security measures..." Earlier in October the Governor of Bali made it clear he was not keen to welcome Australian tourists. The United States embassy in Jakarta said on 21 september 2000 that it had been told by credible sources that a wave of bombings in Indonesia will escalate (source: Sydney Morning Herald.) On 21 Sept. the Jakarta-based news service, Detikworld, reported the existence of a leaked document revealing the bombing targets include shopping centres (On 21 September Bali's l
argest market was burnt down -maybe it was an accident?). The document said that serving military officers (and hardline Islamic leaders) had held meetings from May to July to discuss ways to plunge Indonesia into CHAOS with the aim of forcing the downfall of President Wahid. The document alleged that 2,000 provocateurs had been trained to provoke violence. The British Foreign Office issued a warning on 21 September that "Some areas of Indonesia are unstable...British nationals should carry mobile phones...avoid large crowds...there have been several bomb explosions (The Malaysian ambassador was nearly killed on 1st August and 15 people were killed in a later explosion at the stock exchange. Several months ago Christians had their heads chopped off on a street in Jakarta). Three UN workers were hacked to death in West Timor and members of the military are now suspects. Sulawesi - on May 23 2000 a group of Ninjas (possibly from the military's special forces Koppassus) entered the Lora Utara subdistrict killing everyone they met....In August a mob of masked men attacked a village. EVERYONE WHO WAS OVER TEN WAS TIED UP AND LOADED ONTO TRUCKS AND BROUGHT TO A SPOT BY THE RIVER POSO. THE MASKED MEN THEN CHOPPED EVERYONE'S HEAD OFF, ONE BY ONE. The list of suspected murderers includes members of the Indonesian military and police. (Sources: Gamma, The Jakarta Post). The Sydney Morning Herald on 15 September 2000 reported a "major US force, including 3 amphibious assault ships and a guided missile cruiser" off the coast of Timor. On 16 September 2000 US Defence Secretary William Cohen arrived in Jakarta to issue warnings to the Indonesian military about their conduct. In a part of Indonesia called Maluku (The Spice Islands) around 10,000 people have been killed (according to Rev. John Barr from the United Church of Australia, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald)in recent violence. According to Dr
George Aditjondro, writing in The Nation (Bangkok) and in the Sydney Morning Herald, THE VIOLENCE WAS WELL-PLANNED AND PREPARED BY OFFICERS OF THE INDONESIAN ARMY. Their aim was to hurt Indonesia's Vice-President, for whom Maluku is a stronghold, and to boost the power of the army (while destabilising President wahid). In the 1960's between half a million and one million Indonesians died in army-inspired killings. BALI WAS ONE OF THE AREAS WHERE THE KILLINGS WERE AT THEIR WORST. Since May 1998, Bali has not been immune from violence. There have been riots. On 5th October 2000 The Jakarta Post ran a long article in the increase of crime in Bali. It referred in particular to bag snatchings (Naples-style). It quoted tourists as saying they would not be returning to Bali as the attitude of the local people had changed. And what about these "Moslem extremists" ? Most Indonesian Moslems are tolerant and peaceful. Many demonstrations and killings are carried out by people who are not Moslems but who are dressed up as Moslems. The Los Angeles Times ( www.latimes.com ) on 27/12/00 had an excellent article about Islam in Indonesia: "The goal of many Islamists is to shape the national agenda, not hold power," according to one Islamist. Another Islamist is quoted as saying, "We like America..." He goes on to say he would protect minorities of all kind including lesbians and gays.... The LA Times article points out that the five new Islamic parties hold only 90 of the Indonesian parliament's 500 seats. With the addition of other parties with Moslem membership and values, the total reaches 173. There are Jihadis. They are a tiny minority. The main threat to peace comes most probably from elements of THE MILITARY, the SUHARTOISTS, and a few hardline Moslem fanatics.
I have been living in the archipelago for years now & still regard it as 1 of the most wonderous palce that God ever made. It may not be like that of the Garden of Eden, but close enough though. The country is made up of more than 13, 000 islands & these could fit across the atlantic from UK to the States in length!! 5 major island can be spotted easily & they are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi & Irian Jaya. Indonesia is full of unpolluted nor marred paradise across the islands & thus it's name. For those who love wildlife, palce that 1 should visit are the rainforests & jungles in Kalimantan & parts of Sumatra. & those who love montainous views may visit, Bromo, Irian Jaya. Diving is a great sport for uncultivated sea or ocean corals & they may check Manado out. for a start Many people from the western world love to see the activities of tribal civilisation whereby they may visit Kalimantan & irian Jaya. Komodo dragon, 1 of the endangered species are found in the Komodo island. Irian Jaya is also famous for its Bird of Paradise, another endangered bird. Beautiful beaches are they for those who love them to enoy, located in teh thousand islang region north of Java island. The people are friendly enough to take tourist around so not to worry & food, accomodation is truly cheap. Ranging from 10's of pounds onwards & transport are assessible in many ways. Local tour are avaible readily almost at any time. There exist wide range of cultures whereby at each region of the archipelago do have its own unique style of making things, dialects, food & habits. Spice is always a must to any individual & such can be found mostly in the islands of Maluku, between Sulawesi & Irian Jaya. Religion also do play a part in Indonesia whereby the Majority are Muslims, then next in line, Christianity & Buddhism, Hinduism. Last but not least, welcome to Paradise of the East!!
"Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesian: Republik Indonesia), is a nation of about 17,500 islands in South East Asia, and the world's largest archipelagic state. With a population of over 200 million, it is the world's fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority nation. With a democratically elected parliament and president, Indonesia is considered the world's third largest democracy (after India and the United States). Its capital is Jakarta, and the country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia and by sea Indonesia neighbours Singapore, The Philippines and Australia. Indonesia is a unitary state consisting of numerous distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups spread across its numerous islands that have not always been united. However, a shared history of colonialism, rebellion against it, a national language, and a Muslim majority population have helped to define Indonesia as a state and nation. Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka tunggal ika" ("Unity in diversity", derived from Old Javanese), reflects the amalgamation of a myriad cultures, languages, and ethnic groups that shape every aspect of the country. Sectarian tensions and separatism, however, have threatened political stability in some regions, leading to violent confrontations."