5 things I wish I knew before visiting Indonesia

Indonesia is a huge, mysterious archipelago of disparate islands and cultures. It is impossible to summarize. With over 238 million people, it is the 4th most populous nation on earth. Travel opportunities are many and various. Sparkling seas teeming with life, soaring volcanoes, never-ending coastline and cultural wonders all await the intrepid traveller.

1. Indonesia is more of a continent than a country

Indonesia is big. Very big. It covers a territorial area of over 5 million square kilometers. Look at it on the map and you will see that the distance between Banda in the west and Irian Jaya in the east makes it as wide as South East Asia itself. It is so big that any consideration of the land, the population, the geography, the marine life, the cuisine, the religious beliefs and the economy of Indonesia can only be done by first separating it into its regions.

2. The population is incredibly diverse

With a country so enormous, it is no wonder that there is a wide spread of people. However given the landmass is fragmented into so many islands, the diversity of the people should come as no great surprise. However, it is endlessly surprising. If you put into a room a typical Jakartan, a Bajau from Sulawesi, a Papuan and a Timorese you wouldn’t believe they all live under the one flag.

3. Some flavors may not be your cup of tea

Coffee and tea are big in Indonesia with some of the coffee from Java, Aceh and Sumatra gaining a reputation worldwide. Most unusual is probably the very expensive Kopi Luwak whose beans must go through the intestines of Asian Palm Civets to have removed the bitterness. From this faeces comes coffee that sells for a fortune in Europe and elsewhere. So ‘it’ not only happens. It sells.

4. At the heart of the world’s marine biodiversity

The coral triangle, the world’s most bio-diverse region of sea includes Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon islands, the East of Borneo and the Philippines. Mostly that means Indonesia. It is believed this is where life in the sea began. It is home to 76% of the world’s coral species , 37% of the world’s fish species and a high level of endemism. It is little wonder that so many places in Indonesia are of interest to conservationists and scuba divers alike; places such as Bali, Raja Ampat, Komodo and North Sulawesi.

5. The Spice Islands of Indonesia were once traded for New York

In 1667 the Treaty of Breda was signed, bringing an end to Dutch – English hostilities over the coveted Spice islands in Indonesia’s Banda Sea. It transpired to be a hugely significant moment in history, as the agreement was based around a property swap of the then English Run Island with the then Dutch New Amsterdam – Manhattan, New Jersey and Delaware Estuary. So New Amsterdam became New York.

Inspiration: World Nomads

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