Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia consisting of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited) and straddling the equator. The largest islands are Sumatra, Java (the most populous), Bali, Kalimantan (Indonesia's part of Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), the Nusa Tenggara islands, the Moluccas Islands, and Irian Jaya (also called West Papua), the western part of New Guinea. Its neighbor to the north is Malaysia and to the east is Papua New Guinea.

Indonesia, part of the “ring of fire,” has the largest number of active volcanoes in the world. Earthquakes are frequent. Wallace's line, a zoological demarcation between Asian and Australian flora and fauna, divides Indonesia.

There is no one unified Indonesian culture as such, but the Hindu culture of the former Majapahit empire does provide a framework for many of the cultural traditions found across the central islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. Perhaps the most distinctively "Indonesian" arts are wayang kulit shadow puppetry, where intricately detailed cutouts act out scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana and other popular folk stories. Modern-day Indonesian popular culture is largely dominated by the largest ethnic group, the Javanese. Suharto's ban on Western imports like rock'n'roll, while long since repealed, led to the development of indigenous forms of music like dangdut, a sultry form of pop developed in the 1970s, and the televised pelvic thrusts of starlet Inul Daratista in 2003 were nearly as controversial as Elvis once was. Anggun Cipta Sasmi is a talented Indonesian singer who became a famous singer in France. Her single "La neige au sahara" became a top hit on the European charts in the summer of 1997.


Most Indonesian films are low budget B movies. "Daun di Atas Bantal" (1998) is an exception; it won the "best movie" award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan (1998). The Raid, Redemption (Indonesian: Serbuan maut), and also known as The Raid was released in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival and has international distribution. Indonesian literature has yet to make much headway on the world stage, with torch-bearer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's works long banned in his own homeland, but the post-Suharto era has seen a small boom with Ayu Utami's Saman breaking both taboos and sales records.

80-88% of the population of Indonesia state their religion as being Islam (Sunni) making it numerically by far the largest religion in the nation and Indonesia the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Nevertheless, Indonesia officially remains a secular state. Although religious orthodoxies do vary across the Indonesia archipelago the strict observance of Islamic dress codes apparent in some countries is generally absent. In larger cities head scarves and overt manifestations of faith are exceptions rather than the rule. In some regional areas and the devout state of Aceh things can be considerably stricter. In fact, despite being nominally Muslim, many local stories and customs which are Hindu, Buddhist or animist in origin are faithfully preserved by much of the population.

The other four state-sanctioned religions are Protestantism (5%), Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (2%) and Buddhism (1%). Hindus are concentrated on Bali, while Christians are found mostly in parts of North Sumatra, Papua, North Sulawesi, and East Nusa Tenggara. Buddhism, on the other hand, is mainly practiced by the ethnic Chinese in the larger cities. There are also pockets of animism throughout the country, and many strict Muslims decry the casual Indonesian incorporation of animistic rites into the practices of notionally Islamic believers.

Indonesian national law decrees that all citizens of the Republic must declare their religion and that the declared religion must be one of the five that are officially sanctioned by the state, but after reformation Confucianism is now recognized (formerly it was lumped in with Buddhism, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism), alas not for Ahmadiyya Islam and Shia Islam. This results in obvious distortions. For example, many animist practitioners notionally call themselves Muslim or Christian for the benefit of the state bureaucracy and many Muslims in rural areas also have their traditional way of life which greatly influences their practice of Islam.

Upon arrival and disembarking from the plane, you'll immediately notice the sudden rush of warm, wet air. Indonesia is a warm place. It has no spring, summer, fall, or winter, just two seasons: rainy and dry, both of which are relative (it still rains during the dry season, it just rains less). While there is significant regional variation, in most of the country (including Java and Bali) the dry season is April to October, while the wet season is November to March.

In the highlands temperatures will naturally be cooler, and there are even snow-covered peaks in Papua, whose mountains can soar above 5000m. Bring a jacket along if planning to visit, for example, Mount Bromo on Java or Tana Toraja in Sulawesi.

Language & Dialects
There are more 583 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. There normally belong to the 350 different ethnic groups of the population. Bahasa Indonesia is the national language, written in Roman script and based on European orthography. In all tourist destination areas English is the number one foreign languages fairly spoken and written.

Flora & Fauna
Indonesia’s moderate climate throughout the year, its fertile soil brought about by lava, and its minerals found on land and in the sea caused by volcanic eruptions, have made this the ideal habitat for a large number of unique and endemic flora and fauna. Indonesia has among the most diverse variety of species of animal life on land and in the seas found anywhere in the world.

Indonesia’s flora and fauna is divided by the Wallace Line that runs between Bali and Lombok, continuing north between Kalimantan and Sulawesi. West of the Line, vegetation and wildlife are Asian in nature, whereas east of the Line, these resemble those of Australia.

Vegetation found in different parts of the archipelago varies according to rainfall, soil and altitude. On the wetter islands, on Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua, ancient rainforests cover large areas. These forests are rich in valuable hardwood, aromatic and spice trees, as well as exotic fruit trees. Lately, however, through illegal logging and human settlements, large tracts of forests have been decimated leaving infertile land that cause flooding and erosions.

On the islands east of Bali known as the Nusatenggara islands (or once known as the Small Sunda Islands), there are savannahs, while on other mountain tops such as in the Mt. Gede National Park only 100 kms from Jakarta, one finds edelweiss, more reminiscent of Switzerland.

Indonesia’s wildlife varies from the Java mouse deer (or kancil) and theone-horned rhino to the Sumatran and Kalimantan Orang Utan, the Sulwesi anoa (a small water buffalo), the prehistoric giant Komodo lizard to the exotic Bird of Paradise in Papua.

How about flora? Here in Indonesia, you can find Raflesia Arnoldi in Bengkulu, one of the giant and unique flowers in the world.

To preserve these unique flora and fauna Indonesia has designated 44 national parks throughout the archipelago, covering both land and sea, a large number of protected reserves offering ecotourism opportunities, as well as botanic gardens and zoos.

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