Indonesia is a huge country. More than 240 million people live
there. It has thousands of islands, the largest being Java,
Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi. It is best known to Australians
for Bali, and all that goes with that. There are as you can
imagine hundreds if not thousands of places to visit in Indonesia,
I can tell you only about the few that I have been to lately.
Indonesia has around 300 ethnic groups each with cultural differences
which have shifted over the centuries. Many areas are a mixture
of Hindu, Javanese, Arabic, Chinese, Malay and Chinese culture.
The European influences can be seen clearly in many of the Dutch
style buildings in the government areas and even some Japanese
styles and ideas left over from their occupation in WWII. Many
Indonesians, particularly those in Sumatra harbor great hatred
for the Japanese as result of the wartime atrocities inflicted
A good summary of Indonesian culture can be found on Wikipedia.
Currently television and radio are the most common forms of
culture, but I am certain that every Indonesian, particularly
the Sumatrans can sing and sing well.
Indonesia is a predominately Muslim country, in particular it
is a Sunni Muslim country, where Christianity, Buddhism and
Hinduism are the other major religions. Indonesia’s form
of Islam is very different to the Sunni and Shi’ite Islams
practiced in the Middle East, it is close but different again
to that practiced in Malaysia or even Singapore.
Indonesian Islam is still cloaked in many layers of superstition
and you are more likely to find the locals seeking advice from
a type of witch doctor as they are from the Imam. In some places
the Imam plays both roles. Apparently this has a lot to do with
the influence of the Hindu's and the Sufi’s in Indonesian
Belief in natural medicines (home made) and ceremonies performed
to appeal to superstition are widely practiced.
So it is not possible to understand the practice of Islam or
the way in which people in Indonesia live their lives by merely
referring to them as Muslim, it's far more complicated and interesting
than that. Long time expats often say that the more you know
about Indonesia the less you understand it and the people. I
think those that take the time to learn the basic tenets of
Islam and the way in which it is practiced in Indonesia will
come closer to understanding these very hospitable, friendly,
interesting people. We in the west can learn a lot about tolerance
from them. Of course in all cultures there are malcontents and
extremists. Those of us who grew up in the 60’s &
70’s will remember that it is only in our lifetime that
Colonialism and the last vestiges of slavery were partly overcome
in Australia, South Africa and even the “Land of the Free”
where Blacks rode in the back of the bus, went to separate schools
and drank water from different taps. So lets remember our own
past before we point a sanctimonious finger at others.
The major cities in Indonesia are Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan,
Jogjakarta, Bandung, Bali is not a city but an island, Denpassar
is the main city in Bali, but it's only a short distance from
There is a very high level of education in Indonesia and many
young people can speak or at least understand English to a good
Indonesians are polite shy people who are kind and generous,
you will never go hungry or thirsty in Indonesia, they would
feel great shame if you complained that you were not offered
a glass of water or a meal, indeed you will most often be asked
if you have taken your breakfast, lunch or dinner, and to say
no is to be fed!
Reciprocation is not required as the gesture of the offer or
the giving is reward enough, enjoy their hospitality, you will
be a better person for it.
Link to recent photos