Indonesia Travel Guide

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Indonesia Information

Population: 234.89 million

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7 (Sumatra, Java and West & Central Kalim

Driving side: Drivers drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Languages: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Javanese, Sund

Religion: 88% Muslim
8% Christian
2% Hindu

Emergency #: Police: 110
Ambulance: 118
Fire: 113

Indonesia Local Customs

Indonesia has a high Muslim populace and it is important to understand and respect the local beliefs, especially during the fasting period of Ramadan. Take your shoes off when entering a mosque or temple. The head is sacred and should be respected, t

Indonesia Culture

Over time, social and religious duty has been refined to form a code of behaviour called adat or traditional law. Islam is the predominant religion, but it is tempered by elements of Hindu-Buddhism, adat, and animism. Despite the lengthy colonial period, missionaries only succeeded in converting small pockets of the Indonesian population to Christianity. The most notable examples being the Bataks of Sumatra, the Toraks of Sulawesi and 95% of the population of Flores. It is believed that there are hundreds of places where spiritual energy is remarkably concentrated, and that it can be absorbed by followers (especially in Java).

More that 300 languages are spoken and most belong to the Malay-Polynesian group, where many regional languages and dialects are spoken. The national language is Bahasa Indonesia, which is almost identical to Malay, using a number of foreign words which indicates the long history of contact between Indonesia and other cultures.

Batik (the art of applying wax to cloth and then tie-dying it in colourful and dramatic designs) is produced widely throughout Indonesia. Yogyakarta, in Java, is the centre of this activity. Other forms of popular craft include: ikat (a type of weaving with tie-dyed threads), songket (silk cloth with gold or silver threads woven into it), and kris (artwork decorated with jewels). Popular artistic activities are Javanese wayang (puppet) plays and gamelan (hypnotic music composed mostly of percussive instruments).

Indonesian cuisine is greatly influenced by the Chinese, such as Padang food from Sumatra. Throughout Indonesia there is vendors selling snacks such as potatoes, sweet nuts, biscuits or fruit. Rice is basic to each meal, and is often eaten as a soup, or with an assortment of hot & spicy side dishes, salads and pickles. The most common dish is Nasi goreng (fried rice), while sate (skewered meats with a spicy peanut sauce), gado-gado (bean sprouts and veggies in peanut sauce), and seafood are also popular. There is a wide variety of tropical fruits grown in Indonesia and you can expect to find custard apples, durians, guavas, jackfruits, mangoes, papayas, star fruits and rambutans in abundance.

Indonesia Popular Destinations

Bali - The Balinese do not even have a word for paradise in their language, but Bali is so picturesque that one could be fooled into thinking it was a painted backdrop. The forests are lush and tropical, the beaches are lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, and volcanoes soar through the clouds. The paradise gloss, however, has been manufactured by the international tourist industry, and it pays scant regard to the political and economical reality of life on Bali.

Java - The most developed island in Indonesia. Tranquil rural scenes are broken with streets choked with traffic, there is beautiful open country-sides and filthy cities; all characteristics of an Asian society that is rapidly experiencing transition. Java has a mix of historic influences and religions, producing architectural wonders such as Borobudur and Prambanan, from the Hindu-Buddhist empires that reached their zenith on Java.

Lombok - This, mainly-Muslim, island is less developed than Bali. Here you will find better beaches, a bigger volcano and greater variety of landscapes. Because of the slow development and the fact that tourism is less intrusive here than on Bali, you might find the people of Lombok less blase about tourists and, in some cases, even quite resentful of the new wave of tourism. The spectacular volcano of Gunung Rinjani dominates the tranquil countryside and uncrowded beaches.

Sumatra - The island is as tropical as any island can get. Amazon-like rivers move slowly through canopies of natural rainforests, muddy mongrove estuaries, steamy interiors, brilliantly coloured flora and weird fauna. This is the perfect place for a boat trip. The island is struggling with a failing economy, despite its wealth of natural resources and the northern province has been the epicenter of religious violence between Christians and Muslims. The area has also been hit by devastating earthquakes.

Moving Around Indonesia

Domestic air service is a popular (and more convenient) choice of traveling, when it comes to getting from one destination to another, in Indonesia. Tickets bought overseas are quoted in US dollars and are about 50% more than if bought in Indonesia in rupiah.

The main roads in Indonesia are generally excellently surfaced and the main fare of traveling on road would be the ekonomi buses. Express bus is the next step up and carries the same cargo, but will get to the destination quicker. The luxury air-con buses have all the whistles and bells a coach should have, but can be quite costly if you travel extensively.

Rail travel is restricted to Java and Sumatra. It is advisable to buy train tickets well in advance to ensure a seat. Other transportation like cars, motorbikes and bicycles can be rented in the main cities and tourist centres. Ferries travel regularly between the various islands.

Local transport includes the ubiquitous bemo (pick-up trucks with rows of seats along each side), opelet (minibuses), bajaj (auto rickshaws), becak (bicycle rickshaws), and dokar (horse-drawn carts), generally at ridiculously low prices. Many towns have taxis, but agree on a fare in advance.

National festival and holidays

Greberb Syawal Ceremony - (December/January) expresses praise and gratefulness to God by Moslems after having completed their fasting duty in the sacred month of Ramadhan. The ceremony begins with the parade of the Kraton guards in their colourful uniforms comprising of the Wirobrojo, Daeng, Ketanggung, Jogokaryo, Prawirotomo, Mantrijero troops lead by their commander-in-chief. Marching from the Siti Hinggil, through the Pagelaran to the Northern Square and then the Gunungan procession soon follows.

Western New Year - (January 1st) is celebrated at hotels, resorts and within the town itself...any excuse for a party.

Garebeg Mulud - Gunungan is the climax of sekaten and starts in the morning with a parade of the Palace Guards and crosses the northern yard of the Sultan's Palace. At 10.00 a.m. the Gunungan leaves the palace preceded by Bugis and Surokarso squads. The mountain-shaped Gunungan, made from vegetables, peanuts, red pepper, eggs and sticky rice, symbolizes the prosperity and the wealth of the Mataram Kingdom.

Galungan - Another festival related to religion. It is observed in the eleventh week of the 210th day in the Balinese calendar and celebrates the creation of our world. This is Bali's most significant annual event, locals spend the day visiting family, friends and neighbours decked in their finest and indulge in heavy feasting.

New Year's Day - (January 1st) On New Year's Eve street festivals and carnivals are held. Paper trumpets are sold and can be heard blown everywhere. New Year's day itself tends to be a quiet affair as most people are recovering from the celebrations the night before.

Maulud Nabi Muhammad - (July) Celebrates the birth of Mohammad. Festivities start one week before.

Independence Day - (August 17th) is when the Republic of Indonesia achieved independence from the Dutch.

Ramadan - (Usually mid-November through to mid-December) This Islamic festival lasts a month and members of this faith fast during daylight hours and only eat and drink once the sun has set and before it rises the following day.

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