Need to know Indonesia
Cox & Kings’ Far East expert Neill Prothero tells all you need to know about Indonesia.
LOCATION: Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands to the north of Australia, spreading along the equator for a distance of 5,000km and separating the Indian and Pacific oceans.
LANGUAGES: Indonesian (Bahasa), 300 regional languages.
POPULATION: 242.3 million.
TIME ZONE: GMT +7 hours.
CURRENCY: Rupiah (Rp). £1 = Rp15,148.
VISAS: British passport holders arriving by air can obtain a visa on arrival for 30 days, at a cost of $25.
POTTED HISTORY: The seventh-century Srivijaya kingdom began the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism, which continued with the Sailendra, Mataram and Majapahit kingdoms. Islam spread from northern Sumatra and became the dominant religion from the late 13th century. European traders arrived in the 16th century, dominated by the Dutch until the Second World War, before independence was declared in 1949 by President Sukarno. General Suharto seized control in the 60s and ruled for 31 years, followed by the first presidential election in 2004.
TOP TIP: Cycling in the countryside around Ubud is the ideal way to explore the landscape, glimpse the rural Balinese way of life and meet the local people.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
WHEN TO GO
Indonesia is a good year round destination, with a warm tropical climate consisting of two seasons; wet (November to March) and dry (April to October).
WHAT TO READ
Bali: A Paradise Created by Adrian Vickers
From the artists and writers of the 1930s to the Eat, Pray, Love tours so popular today, this book explores what makes Bali so special for visitors, and how it has managed to preserve its identity.
Gifts of Unknown Things by Lyall Watson
Both a scientific exploration and an imaginative adventure, the author explores the extraordinary island of Nus Tarian, where everyday reality contains terrifying, inexplicable, and miraculous phenomena.
In the Time of Madness by Richard Lloyd Parry
An eye-witness account of Indonesia’s recent violent history, including the end of the Suharto regime, East Timor’s struggle for independence, and reports of headhunting and cannibalism on the island of Borneo.
WHAT TO WATCH
The Year of Living Dangerously: Adapted from the novel of the same name by Christopher Koch, the story follows a love affair set in Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno.
FIND OUT MORE
www.indonesia.travel A wealth of information on accommodation, culture, nightlife and tourist attractions.
WHERE TO STAY
Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta
Centrally located, the Mandarin Oriental is one of the most luxurious hotels in Jakarta. In all, 272 spacious rooms and suites are designed in a luxurious, contemporary style with Indonesian touches.
The Oberoi, Bali
Located on Seminyak beach near the southern tip of Bali, the Oberoi offers a secluded village of luxurious thatched-roof villas, set in beautiful tropical gardens.
Hotel Majapahit, Surabaya
Originally built in 1910 by the famous Sarkies brothers, the hotel was later renamed after the kingdom of Majapahit. Set among manicured gardens, this classical colonial-era building has 143 luxurious guestrooms and suites.
WHAT TO EAT
Indonesian cuisine is diverse: influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and Europe. Nasi goreng, or fried rice flavoured with spices, is a well known dish, and often served with salted dried fish throughout the country.
SET YOUR COMPASS
Borobudur temple, Java: Easily visited from the cultural centre of Yogyakarta, the ninth-century Buddhist sanctuary of Borobudur was founded by a king of the Saliendra dynasty.
Mount Bromo, Java Walk: to the rim of the old crater and down into a stunning caldera, before crossing the sulphur rich sand-sea to the smoking crater of Bromo for some superb views of the surrounding countryside. Ascend to the village of Pananjakan to watch a spectacular sunrise over the mountains.
Ubud, Bali: ubud has a rich cultural and historical heritage dating back to the eighth-century: traditionally the island’s centre for art, dance and music, ubud was once a haven for European artists and bohemians.
Lombok: While the island of Lombok may not have the nightlife and infrastructure of neighbouring Bali, the white sand beaches of Senggigi, snorkelling from the Gili Islands and a dramatic volcanic interior make for a memorable visit.
Wildlife: The thick jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) are refuges for the world’s last remaining Sumatran tigers, orang utans, pygmy elephants, and Sumatran rhinos. Take a cruise in the Lesser Sunda Islands to see the legendary Komodo dragons.