Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago (a word more fun to say than to spell). According to the CIA, there’s 17,508 islands; a mere 952 are inhabited. To put it more succinctly, Indonesia is really big.
Due to its prime geographic location, smack dab between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, Indonesia has been long regarded as a prime trading post. With each trader, they brought little smatterings of their culture. The diversity within Indonesia, be it biological or anthropological, is truly staggering. In Indonesia, you can see heavy doses of China, Malaysia, Vietnam and India. Three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism left a heavy toll on Indonesia as well.
Indonesia is one of those places to go when you want to see everything all at once. You can have your dirty, urban midnight adventures in Jakarta. The traffic is a sight to behold and the shopping and nightlife is incredible. It’s one of the most populated cities in Asia, brimming with under-30s. Jakartans tweet more than any other city in the world. There’s even a burgeoning metal scene.
But for those who are trying to take a step back and relax, there’s more than enough to go around. Just north of Jakarta is Thousand Islands or Kepulauan Seribu. It’s a chain of around 128 islands that offer a quick respite to the crush of Jakarta. Only 36 of the islands have been developed. Here, you can swim with the sea turtles and see shockingly bright coral reefs.
The most popular island is Bali. It’s definitely earned the title of largest tourist destination in Indonesia for good reason. There’s a highly developed art scene. The Balinese are famous for modern dance, metalwork, painting, leatherwork and music. If you’re so lucky to go, check out the Kecak dance and watch men in dragon masks leap over fire to gentle and stirring gamelan music. Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine life. The surfing and diving here is legendary. For those who want to stray off the beaches, head to Ubud. You can bike around rice paddies and hike through jungles plush with monkeys.
Indonesia is a one stop shop for all of the wonderful and weird that South East Asia can offer. While the ticket can be pricey, it’s worth the trip