Getting around Indonesia by Boat

Post 7956

Getting around Indonesia by Boat

“this is an article sent in by Sally Thomas ”

Getting around Indonesia by Boat

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Whether you’re a tourist or a native, one of the very best ways to explore and travel around Indonesia is by boat. So much of the culture of the region focuses on water vessels, with fishing being one of the most significant industries in the area, and many of the larger islands in the group are connected by regular car ferries. As an archipelago made up of over 17,000 islands, it would be near-impossible for tourists to explore the incredible beauty of the region without travelling by boat. Here are a few hints and tips for getting around Indonesia by boat and making the experience as safe and enjoyable as possible:

Think Safety First


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It is important that if you choose to travel around Indonesia by boat, you ensure that the boat you are traveling in is well maintained and has adequate insurance protection, to keep you as safe as possible. Although boating accidents in Indonesia are not a daily happening, they do occur relatively regularly and it is important to minimise your risk of involvement.

Just last week, an accident lead a tourist boat in Bali to explode (the result of a battery malfunctioning above the fuel tank) leading two tourists dead and eighteen tourists to be injured as a result.

Last year an incident which occurred just off Bali lead to 25 tourists being injured when a fire broke out on the fast ferry between the islands which was carrying more than 120 passengers.  Water vessels in Indonesia historically do not have a great safety record, and this is largely due to poor maintenance: a good rule of thumb is that if a vessel looks unsafe or poorly maintained then you should not get on board. You may also wish to consider the time of day at which you travel, as during the busiest periods the boats are crammed full, with passengers in every available space, including on the deck, the stairwells, the passageways that you might normally expect to be left clear.

Enjoy the Experience

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Taking a ferry in Indonesia is an experience unlike any other, and considering your journey a part of the adventure of your vacation will enhance how enjoyable you find it. Many visitors suggest you haven’t really visited Indonesia until you’ve been out on the water! Enjoy the experience and try to get as much as possible out of it. Don’t be afraid to choose a smaller, private boat, particularly if you don’t want to travel to one of the larger ferry-bound islands or have a specific journey in mind.  Remember that it is OK to negotiate the price that you pay: the price offered to locals is often different to the price offered to tourists. If possible, try to find out what the local price is for the journey you want to take, and use that as the starting point for your negotiations: whilst it is unlikely you will get that low local rate, you are likely to negotiate a better deal if that is your opening offer. As in much of the region, negotiation is expected and should be seen as part of the fun.

Take Advice on the Weather

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Storms at sea can kill, particularly if you’re travelling in a fairly basic vessel, or travelling during rainy season. The local people are often best-placed to predict the weather and let you know if it’s safe to travel: take advice from a native third party who has no financial or vested interest in your onward journey to ensure that you will enjoy smooth sailing. There is nothing more incredible that watching the sun go down whilst you’re on the sea, so pick the right weather to enjoy the experience to its fullest. Whilst boat and ferry rides in Indonesia can be a lot of fun, it’s important to remember that the increased popularity of air travel means that it is often more convenient and affordable to journey between the region’s main island by air. If the weather is bad, visibility is poor, and the travelling conditions simply aren’t favourable for a journey by boat then consider reassessing your transportation mode, and enjoy that boat ride at a later date instead.

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Torajaland – South Sulawesi – Indondesia: The Land That Time Forgot

Post 3218

Torajaland: The Land That Time Forgot

Jesse Lewis, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor – Sep 24, 2012 09:41 AM ET
Thank you so much to Jesse Lewis for the beautiful Pictures and Story. (Yappy)
Step into Torajaland
Step into Torajaland
Credit: Jesse Lewis
The strangely shaped island of Sulawesi looks like someone squished a giant spider on the map of Indonesia. Squashed between Borneo to the west and the small islands of Muluku to the east, adrift between the continents of Asia and Australia, it is a place where land and water, species and cultures blend and converge.

Here, in the southern highlands of Sulawesi is a place known as Torajaland. Visiting these misty mountain valleys is a little like walking into an anthropology lesson in unusual customs and ritual. The people of Torajaland build jutting “tangokonan” houses that vault out like ships from the snaking rice fields. But it is the ownership of water buffaloes, not houses, that indicates wealth and prestige in Torajaland.

Most distinct though are the elaborate funeral ceremonies that the Torajans are famous for. Huge, week-long events include dancing, poetry, music and hundreds of animal sacrifices to prepare the deceased for the afterlife, a journey to the stars.

Tectonic collisions

Tectonic collisions

Credit: Jesse Lewis

To ward off car sickness, I try to close my eyes and zone out as the battered jeep rattles around looping hairpin turns that come one after another. An enormous bag of rice takes up my leg space so I sit cross-legged. A young mother and four small kids crowd beside me, falling into my lap, and a screaming, bound pig in the back makes the zoning-out part tricky. This is overland transport Toraja-style.

Formed by crustal fragments of the Asian and Australian Plates that collided, central Sulawesi is rugged and mountainous. Streaked by several fault lines it is also highly prone to earthquakes, and several active volcanoes on the island keep things lively.

Covering an area of 67,413 square miles (174,600 square km), Sulawesi is the world’s 11th largest island. Roughly divided into four large peninsulas, a mountainous backbone straddles the interior cutting off each peninsula from one another. With such challenging geography, it is often easier for people to travel to different regions by sea than by land.

Evolution's laboratory

Evolution’s laboratory
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Over time, the bizarre geography of Sulawesi created ideal conditions to create equally bizarrely evolved species. With large peninsulas separated by rugged mountains, plant and animal populations evolved in isolation. Because of this the whole island is a bit like a living laboratory for studying evolution today, much like the evolutionary wonder of the Galapagos.

The isolation of the island from other landmasses also makes it unique. Sulawesi sits in the heart of Wallacea, a biogeographical region that separates the flora and fauna of Asia from that of Australia via deep water straights. On one side are species from Asia, on the other those from Australia, with Sulawesi sitting in the middle; a transitional zone mixing species from both, and others found nowhere else.

So far 127 mammal species have been documented in Sulawesi, of which 62 percent (79 species) are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. Anoas (dwarf buffalos); tusked, hairless pigs called babirusas; and tiny primate tarsiers all call these forests home, along with a menagerie of birds, fishes, insects and plants. Indeed, the whole island is a global biodiversity hotspot, barely understood and documented but already critically threatened.

Growing eden
Growing eden
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Stumbling, dizzy and a little nauseous from my “Indiana Jones” jeep ride, I welcome the cool, fresh air of the mountains with relief. Looking over the landscape, I see rice paddies march up the hillside in terraced snaking designs. Stands of coffee, cacao and banana border the paths where ducks and pigs wander. Tall stands of bamboo jut out like islands from the watery fields, dimpled with so many green rice stalks.

This lush, Eden-like landscape is both wild and cultivated and represents a complex agroecological system. Monsoon rains nourish the rice fields that are the staple of Torajaland and much of Southeast Asia. Snails, small fishes, slippery eels and innumerable insects thrive in the paddies. Ducks eat these creatures while buffaloes and pigs root in the mud, all adding fertilizer to the system in the process.

Between the rice paddies, dense patches of forest contain fruit trees, lumber and enormous bamboo galleries used for all number of things, including building houses. Perhaps most notable though are the lush coffee bushes that thrive in the cool mountain air producing some of the finest java in the world, touted as better even than that from neighboring Java.

Land of the water buffalo
Land of the water buffalo
Credit: Jesse Lewis
As I’m finding out in Sulawesi, exotic cultures are almost as numerous as the exotic species that thrive here. That being said Torajan culture is unique. Living in the interior, people in upland Torajaland often grew up in isolation from one another and developed elaborate cultural and belief systems governed by interwoven kinship relations.

Each village is a closely related family clan where kinship is reciprocal. This means marriage between distant cousins is common, helping to strengthen bonds and create unity. Likewise, family clans work together to share work, property and wealth communally.

And in Torajaland, water buffaloes are wealth serving as labor, food and the means to pay off debts. Lazing in the mud, grazing by roadsides, or being bartered for in the markets, I saw these beasts adorned and adored everywhere I traveled. The most revered animals are rare albino buffalos that can be worth a fortune.

Aluk todolo
Aluk todolo
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Torajans are gifted artists and the unusual designs of their work catch the eye and kindle the curiosity. Geometric shapes depict harmony, natural images represent fertility, while the ubiquitous water buffalo symbolizes prosperity and wealth Torajan-style.

Historically Torajans practiced a form of animism tied to nature and ancestor worship known as aluk todolo. Aluk was and is more than a belief system, though; it is also a common law that governs social life, rituals and planting times.

When Dutch missionaries arrived in the early1900’s, Torajan animist beliefs combined in unusual ways with Christianity. Discouraged from practicing traditional spirit worship, many customs became incorporated into Christian ceremonies, including the renowned Torajan death rites. Today the fusion of these influences, part animist and part Christian, symbolizes the unique heritage of Torajaland — the water buffalo juxtaposed with the cross.

Credit: Jesse Lewis
Vaulted, split-bamboo roofs jut out like Viking ships over my head. On the ceilings, psychedelic red, yellow and black designs swirl together in intricate designs. Buffalo horns march up pillars stacked one upon another from generations of funeral sacrifices representing this village’s history.

Traditional Torajan ancestral houses like these are called tongkonan. These iconic structures lie at the center of Torajan social life, linking ancestors to living and future kin. What are the origins of this unusual architecture though?

According to myth, the first tongkonan were said to be have been built in heaven on four poles with a vaulted roof of Indian cloth. However, ethnographic research by some anthropologists suggests the Torajan people migrated to Sulawesi in boats from mainland Southeast Asia and this architecture symbolizes those origins in the shape of boats. Still others believe they represent space ships, literally linking Torajans to their mythical heavens — in a sense, a gateway to the cosmos.

Journey to the stars
Journey to the stars
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Torajan culture is probably most famous for its elaborate funeral ceremonies. The richer and more powerful the deceased, the larger is the funeral. These giant social events can go on for days and thousands of people have been known to attend. Often the family of the deceased saves up money for years to pay expenses for the funeral ceremony. This is the most important event of a person’s life as the body is prepared for a mythical journey to the stars.

For the living it is quite a party, complete with dancing, chanting, poetry, many animal sacrifices and subsequent feasting. At the one I visited, hundreds of people were in attendance with water buffalo and squealing pigs being sacrificed by the dozen.

It is not for the faint of heart, though sitting around a rante funeral site watching the festivities with Torajan families starts to feel oddly like a family reunion after a while. Minus the visceral animal sacrifices and colorful, exotic ceremonies, Torajans are simply paying tribute to their elders as we all do. In Torajaland the deceased are celebrated and honored in a spectacular way.

Gaze of the tau tau
Gaze of the tau tau
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Water drips on my head and my hand recoils as something scurries away in the darkness. As I stumble deeper, following my guide’s weak light through a narrow passage, the cave opens up and there, illuminated in the lantern light are coffins. Holed away in the rock, this cave is a macabre tomb filled with recent, and half-rotten caskets spilling over with skulls and human bones.

In Torajaland the dead are buried in caves, hung suspended from cliff walls, or sheltered in stone tombs carved out of the numerous karst rock formations that dot the landscape. Such unusual burial rites embody the living culture and traditions of Torajaland, while offering a glimpse into the deep cultural past.

For the higher status deceased, stone graves are sometimes carved out of cliffs like these where spooky wooden effigies called tau tau guard the graves. Often many generations worth of tau tau sit shoulder to shoulder, looking eerily down on trespassers.

Songs of the ancestors
Songs of the ancestors
Credit: Jesse Lewis
As my pupils adjust to the bright afternoon light following the cave darkness, I shuffle slowly back along a cliffside path. Bamboo platforms hold ancient coffins in the rocks above while an assortment of human scapulas, femurs and skulls litter the ground at my feet. Small offerings like flowers, bottles of water and clove cigarettes intermingle with the bones.

Ahead on the trail a small boy holds up a skull and carefully places it on a rock. As I watch, he collects bones stacking them neatly in piles and tidying up the trail. He looks up and smiles as two other boys arrive to play. Their relaxed demeanor seems odd at first here in this place of death, but then I realize it too is a place of life. After all, this boy is probably tending the bones of a great-grandparent, maintaining a long tradition and serving as a lifeline to the ancestors.

Like emerging from the cave darkness, exploring Torajaland is like emerging back from a journey into the deep past. A place where dreams and reality mix and intermingle, where life and death have little distinction, where the songs of ancestors still ring over the hills.

Brief History of KRI DEWARUCI

Brief History of KRI DEWARUCI

Built in 1952 by H.C. Stulcken & Sohn Hamburg, West Germany, and Launched on January 24, 1953. The Ship was sailed to Indonesia by the Indonesian naval officers and Cadets.
Ever since, the ship has been utilized as training ship in the Indonesian Naval Academy based in Surabaya, for which she has cruised both inland waters and overseas.


About The NAME
Most of Javanese Philosophies of life follow the Hindu epic, Ramayana and Mahabharata, former from India. The epic always render good and evil characteristics of people and considered as guidance of life. However, the Javanese have their own versions, which are some sort of sub stories of the epic, written according to their own value system. One of such is episode of Dewaruci, as performed in the shadow-puppet play.

Dewaruci is the God of truth and courage. The play conveys a deep philosophy of the life, represented by a good character called Bima or Bratasena, the second of the five brother of Pandawa from Amerta Kingdom. Bima’s cousins from Astina Kingdom, the one hundred Kurawa’s brothers, representing the evil, are always jealous of the Pandawa who exceed them in all aspects. Both families, the Pandawa and Kurawa have one Guru ( the man who hold position as a spiritual advisor and teacher), the great priest Dorna. Since Dorna live in Astina, the Kurawa has stronger influence on him than the Pandawa and request him to give an imposible assignment to Bima to find “Tirta Amerta”, because Bima always strives for the best of all human beings.
Being obedient to his Guru, Bima start searching for the “Tirta Amerta”, the water of life. In his journey, when he is about to faint after fighting a gigantic dragon, he sees Dewaruci and tell him that he has been ordered by Guru to find “Tirta Amerta”.
He has to enter dewaruci’s body that is very small compared to his own. Finally, within the body of Dewaruci, Bima found the truth, which is Dewaruci himself. Dewaruci is, in fact, the transformation of Sang Hyang Wenang, the Supreme God.
In his strive for truth, Bima has to over came an enormous number of barriers, but because of his devotion and courage, he can achieve what he searches for.
By using the name Dewaruci, for the Indonesian Navy training ship, the crew and cadets would, wishfully, follow the noble character of Bima.

KRI Dewaruci’s Overseas sailing has a mission of :
1. Avenue for sea training of theIndonesia Naval cadets.
2. An Ambassador of goodwill in tourism, culture and information about Indonesia.
3. International Relationship.


Type : Barquentine.
Sail : 16 Sails, area 1091 m2.
Foremast (35.25m).
1. Flying jib.
2. Outer jib.
3. Middle jib.
4. Inner jib.
5. Royal sail.
6. Top gallant sail.
7. Upper top sail.
8. Lower top sail.
9. Fore sail.
Mainmast (35.87m).
1. Main top gallant sail.
2. Main top mast stay sail.
3. Mai stay sail.
4. Main top sail.
5. Main sail.
Mizzenmast (32.50m).
1. Mizzen top sail.
2. Mizzen sail.
• Dimension Length : 58.30 meters.
• Propultion : One 986 HP Diesel Engine 4 blades propeler.
• Beam : 9.50 meters.
• Draft : 4.50 meters.
• Speed Engine : 10.5 knots.
• Weight : 847 tons.
• Under Sail : 9 knots.
• Crew 81 and sailors, in addition, she carries a total 75 cadets.

Wunderbar !! KRI Dewaruci exhibits her beauty at Sail Bremerhaven in Germany
Wunderbar ! Toll…Super…exclaim the Germans when they saw the Dewaruci on the first day of the Sail Bremerhaven (Wednesday 25/8). The enthusiastic German crowds were lining up for a chance to see RI’s grand ship up close.
The KRI Dewaruci may be smaller than other vessels in the event, yet her capability and illustrious history, not to mention her crew’s competence in sailing the grand old ship through such a distance, were enough to lure the crowd to see the Dewaruci with their own eyes, even when they had to stand in line from morning till night. 

Kapal KRI. Dewaruci

The night before arriving, KRI Dewaruci had to wrestle strong wind and storm on her journey from Amsterdam to Bremerhaven. At the event, besides showing off their pride and joy, the crews were also on hand in putting on an amazing show of Indonesian arts and culture. They performed the Rampak Kendang and Saman dances that wowed the crowd from Bremerhaven, Bremen, Hamburg and other German cities.

The courtyard in front of Radio Bremen was suddenly swamped with an enthusiastic crowd attracted by the live music and the awesome sight of cohesiveness and dynamism of the dances performed before their own eyes.

My Favorite Indonesian Tall Ship KRI Dewaruci
Seeing such a euphoric response has convinced Eddy Pratomo, the Indonesian Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany, that KRI Dewaruci’s success in cultural diplomacy in past sailing events will again be repeated in Germany. (source: The Indonesian Embassy in Berlin).

My Favorite Indonesian Tall Ship KRI Dewaruci

Crew of the Indonesian Tall Ship KRI Dewaruci

Crew of the Indonesian Tall Ship KRI Dewaruci

Indonesian Philately

Centenary of Muhammadiyah (above)

Muhammadiyah Organization (Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah) was founded by KH Ahmad Dahlan in Kuman Village, Yogyakarta on 8 November 1912 H/18 Dzulhijah 1330. Muhammadiyah was established to support the efforts of KH. Ahmad Dahlan in purifying the Islamic teachings that were considered to be heavily influenced by mystical things. At first, the acivity also had a base of da’wah (missionary endeavor) for women and young people in form of recitation of Sidratul Muntaha. Muhammadiyah also had a role in education by establishing primary and secondary schools, known by Hooge School Muhammadiyah ( nowadays, known as Madrasah Mu’alimin for men, located in Patangpuluhan, wirobrajan sub district and Mu’allimaat for female, in Suronatan Yogyakarta.

During the leadership of Ahmad Dahlan (1912-1923), Muhammadiyah had limited influence, it was around Yogyakarta. In 1925, Abdul Karim Amrullah brought Muhammadiyah to the West Sumatra by founding a branch in Sungai batang, Agam.

Within a relatively short time, the current wave of Muhammadiyah had spread throughout West Sumatra, and started from this area, Muhammadiyah was spreading out to all over Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan. In 1938, Muhammadiyah had been spreading out to all over Indonesia.

The main objective of Muhammadiyah is to restore all of the deviations in the process of da’wah. These deviations often cause mishmash between Islamic with the habits in certain regions for the adaptions reason.

Muhammadiyah movement is charaterized by the spirit of building up more advanced and educated social order and public education. Muhammadiyah is not only representing Islam as a personal and static religion, but also as a dynamic religion and a system of human life in all aspects. It also shows a tendency to do such an extreme action.

Over a century persyarikatan Muhammadiyah has been led by 14 Chairman, namely: KH. Ahmad Dahlan (1912-1923), KH Ibrahim (1923-1932), KH Hisham (1932-1936); KH mas Mansyur (1936-1942); Ki Bagoes Hadikusumo (1942-1953); Buya AR Sutan Mansur (1953-1959); HM Yunus Anis (1959-1962); KH Ahmad Badawi (1962-1968); KH Faqih Usman (1968-1971); KH AR Fahruddin (1971-1990); KHA Azhar Basyir (1990-1995); Amien Rais (1995-2000); Syafiii Ma’arif (2000-2005); Din Syamsudin (2005-until now).

Stamps Issue Series 05 Juni 2010

Environmental Care

In 2010,UNESCO has handed over the sertificate of Batik, Wayang and Keris as intangible of Cultural Herritage of the world to Indonesian government. As the country that its heritage included into world intangible culture, Indonesia is bounded by the obligation to conserve the culture and it is our duty to participate in conserving the cultural heritage by learning them.

Wayang (puppetshow) is an Indonesian traditional art that developed particularly in Java and Bali islands. The powerful influence of Hindu and that time influenced many wayang stories that absorbed from Indian Hinduism tradition. There is a version of Wayang played by man wearing costumes known as Wayang orang, the other version is a number of puppets played by a puppeteer. There are two kinds of Wayang played by puppeteer, i.e. leather puppet and marionette. The story narrated in puppet show ussually from Mahabarata and Ramayana. Wayang in Indonesia has been known since about 11th centuries.

The book of Kakawin Arjuna Wiwaha by Mpu kanwa (1030) which lived at Dharmawangsa Airlangga administration (year 1009-1042) in Kadiri Kingdom, gave the explanations, that at that periode, the leather puppet show had been known for ritual necessity. At 15th centuries, Islam started to develop, puppet show was used as a media to spread Islam by presenting story of Panji and story of Menak (Islamic stories).

Stamps Issue Series

6 February 2010


According to Chinese history, Chinese astrology was introduced on year 2637 BC on the period of Huang Ti Emperor, The first cycle of Chinese calendar starts on his 61st administration. Different to West astrology that determines the astrology based on planets rotation to wards the Sun, Chinese astrology determines the astrology based on moon rotation. One year  period statrs on the end of January until the middle of February and the assignation of the initial year depends on the date of the new moon fall, The cycle of Chinese calendar in one period is 60 years which is combination between Heavenly Branches (          ) and Earthly Branches (      ). There are 10 kinds of Heavenly Branches that are clarified by five elements: woods, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element rotates in 2 years and bring positive characters (Yang) and negative character (Ying) by turns. Earthly Branches represent 12-animal cycles Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

TheYear of 2010, according to Chinese calendar, is the positive metal of Year of The Tiger and the upcoming new years will be fallen on February 14, 2010 or Year of 2561 based on Chinese calendar.

Based on Chinese traditional believe, The positive metal of The Tiger zodiac signs of power, bravery, courage, and freedom. People that are affected by the zodiac are classified as active, competitive, hard worker, no hesitation in achieving their goals. The thing is, they have too strong desire in things in the same time, so that, they frequentlymiss their targets, Even so, the Tiger people are optimistics, efficient, wide perspective people and they are always ready for the new challenges.

The issuance of Year of The Tiger zodiac stamp series is to commemor are the Chinese New Year 0f 2561 which will be issued on February 6, 2010 and it is the third series of the issuances planning of 12 Chinese Zodiac special stamp.

Stamps Issue Series

18 December 2009


Al Markaz Mosque, Makassar

The biggest and grandiose mosque in Southeast Asia, Al Markaz Al Islami Mosque is the pride of Makassar resident. Its beautiful architecture is influenced by Masjidil Haram in Mecca as well as Masjid Nabawi in Medina. Ir. Achmad Nu’man, the designer, also adds architecture elements of Katangka Mosque in Gowa as well as Bugis-Makassar traditional house. Initiated by General M.Jusuf, the building started on 8 May 1994 and finished on 12 January 1996. Located at Mesjid Raya Street Makassar City, this three floor building looks lovely with a green  color nuance. Beside its main functions as praying place, this mosque serves as an education center of Islam. Al Markaz Mosque is dedicated to become one of centers of Islam study and development is eastern part of Indonesia.

Stamps Issue Series

28 October 2009


Singa Ambara Raja statue is the landmark of Singapore city, at the northern part of Bali. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah or “Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park” is a recreational spot with splendid cultural highlights of the grandeur of Indonesia in Jakarta. Merlion, an imaginary creature with appearance head of lion and body of fish is a famous icon of Singapore. Sentosa, literally means peace and tranquility, is a very popular island resort in Singapore.


17 August 2009

Indonesian Postage Stamps 1986 (above)

Sampul Hari Pertama/ First Day Cover

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Souvenir Sheet

First Day Cover

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Prangko Makanan

SHP Makanan



Prangko Borobudur

SS Borobudur

SHP Borobudur

Prangko Presiden SBY

Prangko Banten

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Prangko Banten

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Further detail please visit

Obtain to Order :

Wesel Pos / Postal Order : Kantor Filateli Jakarta Jln. Pos No.2 Jakarta Pusat 10710 Indonesia

Transfer Bank BNI, Payment with Credit Card : Cash 2%,

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INDONESIA, My Beautiful Country


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Republic of Indonesia

Republik Indonesia 

Flag Coat of arms
MottoBhinneka Tunggal Ika  (Old Javanese)
Unity in Diversity
National ideology: Pancasila[1]
AnthemIndonesia Raya
(and largest city)
6°10.5′S 106°49.7′E / 6.175°S 106.8283°E / -6.175; 106.8283
Official language(s) Indonesian
Demonym Indonesian
Government Unitary presidential republic
 –  President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
 –  Vice President Boediono
Independence from the Netherlands 
 –  Declared 17 August 1945 
 –  Acknowledged 27 December 1949 
 –  Land 1,919,440 km2 (16th)
735,355 sq mi 
 –  Water (%) 4.85
 –  2009 estimate 229,965,000[2] (4th)
 –  2000 census 206,264,595 
 –  Density 119.8/km2 (84th)
312.7/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 –  Total $962.471 billion[3] 
 –  Per capita $4,156[3] 
GDP (nominal) 2009 estimate
 –  Total $539.377 billion[3] 
 –  Per capita $2,329[3] 
Gini (2002) 34.3 
HDI (2007) ▲ 0.734[4] (medium) (111th)
Currency Rupiah (IDR)
Time zone various (UTC+7 to +9)
 –  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC)
Drives on the Left
Internet TLD .id
Calling code +62

Indonesia (pronounced /ˌɪndoʊˈniːziə/ or /ˌɪndəˈniːʒə/), officially the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesian: Republik Indonesia), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia comprises 17,508 islands. With a population of around 230 million people, it is the world’s fourth most populous country, and has the world’s largest population of Muslims. Indonesia is a republic, with an elected legislature and president. The nation’s capital city is Jakarta. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. Other neighboring countries include Singapore, Philippines, Australia, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indonesia is a founding member of ASEAN and a member of the G-20 major economies.

The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the seventh century, when Srivijaya and then later Majapahit traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders brought Islam, and European powers fought one another to monopolize trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II. Indonesia’s history has since been turbulent, with challenges posed by natural disasters, corruption, separatism, a democratization process, and periods of rapid economic change. The current nation of Indonesia is a unitary presidential republic consisting of thirty three provinces.

Across its many islands, Indonesia consists of distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The Javanese are the largest—and the politically dominant—ethnic group. Indonesia has developed a shared identity defined by a national language, ethnic diversity, religious pluralism within a majority Muslim population, and a history of colonialism including rebellion against it. Indonesia’s national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity” literally, “many, yet one”), articulates the diversity that shapes the country. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world’s second highest level of biodiversity. The country is richly endowed with natural resources, yet poverty remains widespread in contemporary Indonesia.[5]

See The Map Below during The Era of Majapahit Emperor :

Majapahit was a vast archipelagic empire based on the island of Java from 1293 to around 1500. Majapahit reached its peak of glory during the era of Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked by conquest which extended through Southeast Asia, including the present day Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand, the Philippines, and East Timor. His achievement is also credited to his prime minister, Gajah Mada.

Majapahit was one of the last major empires of the region and is considered to be one of the greatest and most powerful empires in the history of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, one that is sometimes seen as the precedent for Indonesia’s modern boundaries [3]. Its influence extended beyond the modern territory of Indonesia and has been a subject of many studies [4]. German orientalist Berthold Laufer suggested that maja came from the Javanese name of Indonesian tree [5].


The name Indonesia derives from the Latin Indus, and the Greek nesos, meaning “island”.[6] The name dates to the 18th century, far predating the formation of independent Indonesia.[7] In 1850, George Earl, an English ethnologist, proposed the terms Indunesians — and, his preference, Malayunesians — for the inhabitants of the “Indian Archipelago or Malayan Archipelago”.[8] In the same publication, a student of Earl’s, James Richardson Logan, used Indonesia as a synonym for Indian Archipelago.[9] However, Dutch academics writing in East Indies publications were reluctant to use Indonesia. Instead, they used the terms Malay Archipelago (Maleische Archipel); the Netherlands East Indies (Nederlandsch Oost Indië), popularly Indië; the East (de Oost); and even Insulinde.[10]

From 1900, the name Indonesia became more common in academic circles outside the Netherlands, and Indonesian nationalist groups adopted it for political expression.[11] Adolf Bastian, of the University of Berlin, popularized the name through his book Indonesien oder die Inseln des Malayischen Archipels, 1884–1894. The first Indonesian scholar to use the name was Suwardi Suryaningrat (Ki Hajar Dewantara), when he established a press bureau in the Netherlands with the name Indonesisch Pers-bureau in 1913.[7]


Main article: History of Indonesia

As early as the first century CE Indonesian vessels made trade voyages as far as Africa[citation needed]. Picture: a ship carved on Borobudur, circa 800 CE.

Fossilized remains of Homo erectus, popularly known as the “Java Man“, suggest that the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited two million to 500,000 years ago.[12] Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population, migrated to South East Asia from Taiwan. They arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE, and as they spread through the archipelago, confined the native Melanesian peoples to the far eastern regions.[13] Ideal agricultural conditions, and the mastering of wet-field rice cultivation as early as the eighth century BCE,[14] allowed villages, towns, and small kingdoms to flourish by the first century CE. Indonesia’s strategic sea-lane position fostered inter-island and international trade. For example, trade links with both Indian kingdoms and China were established several centuries BCE.[15] Trade has since fundamentally shaped Indonesian history.[16]

The nutmeg plant is native to Indonesia’s Banda Islands. Once one of the world’s most valuable commodities, it drew the first European colonial powers to Indonesia.

From the seventh century CE, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished as a result of trade and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism that were imported with it.[17] Between the eighth and 10th centuries CE, the agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in inland Java, leaving grand religious monuments such as Sailendra’s Borobudur and Mataram’s Prambanan. The Hindu Majapahit kingdom was founded in eastern Java in the late 13th century, and under Gajah Mada, its influence stretched over much of Indonesia; this period is often referred to as a “Golden Age” in Indonesian history.[18]

Although Muslim traders first traveled through South East Asia early in the Islamic era, the earliest evidence of Islamized populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra.[19] Other Indonesian areas gradually adopted Islam, and it was the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences, which shaped the predominant form of Islam in Indonesia, particularly in Java.[20] The first Europeans arrived in Indonesia in 1512, when Portuguese traders, led by Francisco Serrão, sought to monopolize the sources of nutmeg, cloves, and cubeb pepper in Maluku.[21] Dutch and British traders followed. In 1602 the Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and became the dominant European power. Following bankruptcy, the VOC was formally dissolved in 1800, and the government of the Netherlands established the Dutch East Indies as a nationalized colony.[21]

For most of the colonial period, Dutch control over the archipelago was tenuous outside of coastal strongholds; only in the early 20th century did Dutch dominance extend to what was to become Indonesia’s current boundaries.[22] The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation during World War II[23] ended Dutch rule,[24] and encouraged the previously suppressed Indonesian independence movement.[25] Two days after the surrender of Japan in August 1945, Sukarno, an influential nationalist leader, declared independence and was appointed president.[26] The Netherlands tried to reestablish their rule, and an armed and diplomatic struggle ended in December 1949, when in the face of international pressure, the Dutch formally recognized Indonesian independence[27] (with the exception of The Dutch territory of West New Guinea, which was incorporated into Indonesia following the 1962 New York Agreement, and the UN-mandated Act of Free Choice of 1969).[28]

Soekarno, Indonesia’s founding president

Sukarno moved from democracy towards authoritarianism, and maintained his power base by balancing the opposing forces of the Military and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).[29] An attempted coup on 30 September 1965 was countered by the army, who led a violent anti-communist purge, during which the PKI was blamed for the coup and effectively destroyed.[30] Between 500,000 and one million people were killed.[31] The head of the military, General Suharto, out-maneuvered the politically weakened Sukarno, and was formally appointed president in March 1968. His New Order administration[32] was supported by the US government,[33] and encouraged foreign direct investment in Indonesia, which was a major factor in the subsequent three decades of substantial economic growth.[34] However, the authoritarian “New Order” was widely accused of corruption and suppression of political opposition.

In 1997 and 1998, Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the Asian Financial Crisis.[35] This increased popular discontent with the New Order[36] and led to popular protests. Suharto resigned on 21 May 1998.[37] In 1999, East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia, after a twenty-five-year military occupation that was marked by international condemnation of often brutal repression of the East Timorese.[38] Since Suharto’s resignation, a strengthening of democratic processes has included a regional autonomy program, and the first direct presidential election in 2004. Political and economic instability, social unrest, corruption, and terrorism have slowed progress. Although relations among different religious and ethnic groups are largely harmonious, acute sectarian discontent and violence remain problems in some areas.[39] A political settlement to an armed separatist conflict in Aceh was achieved in 2005.[40]

[edit] Government and politics

Main article: Politics of Indonesia

Indonesia is a republic with a presidential system. As a unitary state, power is concentrated in the central government. Following the resignation of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesian political and governmental structures have undergone major reforms. Four amendments to the 1945 Constitution of Indonesia[41] have revamped the executive, judicial, and legislative branches.[42] The president of Indonesia is the head of state, commander-in-chief of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, and the director of domestic governance, policy-making, and foreign affairs. The president appoints a council of ministers, who are not required to be elected members of the legislature. The 2004 presidential election was the first in which the people directly elected the president and vice president.[43] The president may serve a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.[44]

A session of the People’s Representative Council in Jakarta

The highest representative body at national level is the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). Its main functions are supporting and amending the constitution, inaugurating the president, and formalizing broad outlines of state policy. It has the power to impeach the president.[45] The MPR comprises two houses; the People’s Representative Council (DPR), with 560 members, and the Regional Representative Council (DPD), with 132 members.[46] The DPR passes legislation and monitors the executive branch; party-aligned members are elected for five-year terms by proportional representation.[42] Reforms since 1998 have markedly increased the DPR’s role in national governance.[47] The DPD is a new chamber for matters of regional management.[48]

Most civil disputes appear before a State Court; appeals are heard before the High Court. The Supreme Court is the country’s highest court, and hears final cassation appeals and conducts case reviews. Other courts include the Commercial Court, which handles bankruptcy and insolvency; a State Administrative Court to hear administrative law cases against the government; a Constitutional Court to hear disputes concerning legality of law, general elections, dissolution of political parties, and the scope of authority of state institutions; and a Religious Court to deal with specific religious cases.[49]

 Foreign relations and military

Main articles: Foreign relations of Indonesia and Indonesian National Armed Forces

In contrast to Sukarno’s anti-imperialistic antipathy to western powers and tensions with Malaysia, Indonesia’s foreign relations since the Suharto “New Order” have been based on economic and political cooperation with Western nations.[50] Indonesia maintains close relationships with its neighbors in Asia, and is a founding member of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.[46] The nation restored relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1990 following a freeze in place since anti-communist purges early in the Suharto era.[49] Indonesia has been a member of the United Nations since 1950,[51] and was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).[46] Indonesia is signatory to the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement, the Cairns Group, and the WTO, and has historically been a member of OPEC, although it withdrew in 2008 as it was no longer a net exporter of oil. Indonesia has received humanitarian and development aid since 1966, in particular from the United States, western Europe, Australia, and Japan.[46]

National flags at the site of the 2002 terrorist bombing in Kuta, Bali

The Indonesian Government has worked with other countries to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of major bombings linked to militant Islamism and Al-Qaeda.[52] The deadliest killed 202 people (including 164 international tourists) in the Bali resort town of Kuta in 2002.[53] The attacks, and subsequent travel warnings issued by other countries, severely damaged Indonesia’s tourism industry and foreign investment prospects.[54]

Indonesia’s 300,000-member armed forces (TNI) include the Army (TNI–AD), Navy (TNI–AL, which includes marines), and Air Force (TNI–AU).[55] The army has about 233,000 active-duty personnel. Defense spending in the national budget was 4% of GDP in 2006, and is controversially supplemented by revenue from military commercial interests and foundations.[56] One of the reforms following the 1998 resignation of Suharto was the removal of formal TNI representation in parliament; nevertheless, its political influence remains extensive.[57]

Separatist movements in the provinces of Aceh and Papua have led to armed conflict, and subsequent allegations of human rights abuses and brutality from all sides.[58] Following a sporadic thirty-year guerrilla war between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian military, a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2005.[59] In Papua, there has been a significant, albeit imperfect, implementation of regional autonomy laws, and a reported decline in the levels of violence and human rights abuses, since the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.[60]

 Administrative divisions

Main articles: Provinces of Indonesia and Administrative divisions of Indonesia






Provinces of Indonesia

Administratively, Indonesia consists of 33 provinces, five of which have special status. Each province has its own political legislature and governor. The provinces are subdivided into regencies (kabupaten) and cities (kota), which are further subdivided into subdistricts (kecamatan), and again into village groupings (either desa or kelurahan). Furthermore, a village is divided into several citizen-groups (Rukun-Warga (RW)) which are further divided into several neighbourhood-groups (Rukun-Tetangga (RT)). Following the implementation of regional autonomy measures in 2001, the regencies and cities have become the key administrative units, responsible for providing most government services. The village administration level is the most influential on a citizen’s daily life, and handles matters of a village or neighborhood through an elected lurah or kepala desa (village chief).

The provinces of Aceh, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and West Papua have greater legislative privileges and a higher degree of autonomy from the central government than the other provinces. The Acehnese government, for example, has the right to create an independent legal system; in 2003, it instituted a form of Sharia (Islamic law).[61] Yogyakarta was granted the status of Special Region in recognition of its pivotal role in supporting Indonesian Republicans during the Indonesian Revolution.[62] Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, now West Papua, was granted special autonomy status in 2001.[63] Jakarta is the country’s special capital region.

Indonesian provinces and their capitals – listed by region
(Indonesian name in parentheses if different from English)
† indicates provinces with Special Status



Lesser Sunda Islands



Maluku Islands

Western New Guinea

Principal Ethnic Groups of Indonesia

Written by The Library of Congress


For centuries the many thousands of islands and mountainous terrain have separated groups of people in the Indonesian archipelago from each other. The result of this is huge variations in culture and languages across the nation. The exact number is not clear, but approximately 300 ethnic groups live here, which speak 365 languages and a large number of dialects.

Most people descend from Malay origin, spread into Indonesia during many thousand years. The darker Melanesians in East Indonesia (Irian Jaya) is the other major group. The many groups were not “Indonesian” before 1949, when the border around the archipelago was drawn, but despite all this diversity, Indonesia is surprisingly unified. Much because of the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, which makes communication possible between the many groups. A majority of the inhabitants today identify themselves with their nation, flag and language.

A third group is the Chinese, which is a minority, but nevertheless have had a larger impact in the country than most other ethnic groups. In Indonesia the concept of ethnic minorities is often discussed not in numerical but in religious terms. Although the major ethnic groups claimed adherence to one of the major world religions (agama) recognized by the Pancasila ideology– Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism–there were millions of other Indonesians in the early 1980s who engaged in forms of religious or cultural practices that fell outside these categories. These practices were sometimes labeled animist or kafir (pagan). In general, these Indonesians tended to live in the more remote, sparsely populated islands of the archipelago. Following the massacre of tens of thousands associated with the 1965 coup attempt, religious affiliation became an even more intense political issue among minority groups. 

Principal Ethnic Groups by Island, 1983

Northern Sumatra
Acehnese Angkola Batak Dairi Gayo Karo
Kluet Alas Mandailing Pak-pak Simlungen Singkil Toba
Central Sumatra
Kerinci Melayu Minangkabau Rejang    
Southern Sumatra
Javanese Komering Lampung      
Islands southwest of Sumatra
Simeulue Nias Mentawai Enggano    
Javanese Sundanese  Betawi Baduy Samin  
Tengger            Bagelen


Nusa Tenggara
Alor Abui Kabola Kafoa Kelon Kui
Woisika Babar Flores Ende-Li’o Kedang Lamaholot
Manggarai Ngada Palu’e Riung Sikka Leti
Lombok Balinese Sasak Pantar Blagar Lama
Nedebang Tewa Roti Sawu Sumba Anakalang
Kambera Kodi Laboya Mamboru Wanukaka Weyewa
Bima Sumbawa Timor Atoni Galoli Kemak
Makasai Mambai Tetum Tukudede    
Northeastern Kalimantan
Apokayan Bajau Dusun Kenyah Modang Murut
Punan Tidung        
Central Kalimantan
Bakumpai Biatah Bukar Sadong Dohoi Iban Jagoi
Kahayan Kapuas(Ngaju) Katingan Kendayan Lara’ Maanyan
Mbaloh Melanau Merau Ot Danum Siang Silakau
Singgie Tunjung        
Southern Kalimantan
Ancalong Banjar Dayak Kutai Lawangan Melayu
Meratus(Bukit) Ngaju Dayak Pasir Tenggarong    
Northern Sulawesi
Bintauna Bola’ang Mongondow Gorontalo Kaidipang Minahasa Mongondow
Tombulu Tondano Tonsawang Tonsea Tontemboan  
Central and Southern Sulawesi
Bada Balantak Balesan Bugis Bungku Dompelasa
Dondo Kaili Kasimbar Mamuju Mandar Mori
Pamona(Bare’e) Saluan Sama Tolitoli Tomini Toraja
Maluku Islands
Ambonese Aru Kola Ujir Wokam Bandanese
Biak Buru Halmahera Galela Kalabra Loloda
Modole Pagu Sahu Tehit Tobaru Tobelo
Kai Makian Seram Alune Geser Hitu
Manusela Nuaulu Sepa-Teluti Watubela Wemale Sula
Taliabo Tanimbar Ternate Tidore    
Irian Jaya
Asmat Boazi Dani Dumut Ekagi Kemtuk
Kilmeri Kwerba Marind Mekwei-Gresi-Kansu Mianmin Moni
Ngali Nimboran Ok Papasena Sempan Wodani
Sentani Taikat Tanamerah Tor Uhunduni Waris
Yotafa (Tobati) Saberi (Isirawa)    

The major islands and island groups in this list are arranged geographically, generally from west to east. The category of Coastal Malays, which includes various groups listed in this table, are people found in northern and southern Sumatra, and the coast of Kalimantan. Ethnic Chinese are found in all major cities throughout Indonesia

Source: Based on information from Stephen A. Wurm and Shiro Hattori (eds.), Language Atlas of the Pacific Area, Canberra, 1981-83, 38-45; Frank M. LeBar (eds.), Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia, New Haven, 1972-75, various pages; and Indonesia, Department of Education and Culture, Directorate of History and Traditional Values, Petu suku bangsa di Indonesia (Geographic Distribution of Ethnic Groups in Indonesia), Jakarta, 1991, various pages.


Main article: Geography of Indonesia

Indonesia consists of 17,508 islands, about 6,000 of which are inhabited.[64] These are scattered over both sides of the equator. The five largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea), and Sulawesi. Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia on the islands of Borneo and Sebatik, Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea, and East Timor on the island of Timor. Indonesia also shares borders with Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines to the north and Australia to the south across narrow straits of water. The capital, Jakarta, is on Java and is the nation’s largest city, followed by Surabaya, Bandung, Medan, and Semarang.[65]

At 1,919,440 square kilometers (741,050 sq mi), Indonesia is the world’s 16th-largest country in terms of land area.[66] Its average population density is 134 people per square kilometer (347 per sq mi), 79th in the world,[67] although Java, the world’s most populous island,[68] has a population density of 940 people per square kilometer (2,435 per sq mi). At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft), Puncak Jaya in Papua is Indonesia’s highest peak, and Lake Toba in Sumatra its largest lake, with an area of 1,145 square kilometers (442 sq mi). The country’s largest rivers are in Kalimantan, and include the Mahakam and Barito; such rivers are communication and transport links between the island’s river settlements.[69]

Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo in East Java. Indonesia’s seismic and volcanic activity is among the world’s highest.

Indonesia’s location on the edges of the Pacific, Eurasian, and Australian tectonic plates makes it the site of numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Indonesia has at least 150 active volcanoes,[70] including Krakatoa and Tambora, both famous for their devastating eruptions in the 19th century. The eruption of the Toba supervolcano, approximately 70,000 years ago, was one of the largest eruptions ever, and a global catastrophe. Recent disasters due to seismic activity include the 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 167,736 in northern Sumatra,[71] and the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006. However, volcanic ash is a major contributor to the high agricultural fertility that has historically sustained the high population densities of Java and Bali.[72]

Lying along the equator, Indonesia has a tropical climate, with two distinct monsoonal wet and dry seasons. Average annual rainfall in the lowlands varies from 1,780–3,175 millimeters (70–125 in), and up to 6,100 millimeters (240 in) in mountainous regions. Mountainous areas—particularly in the west coast of Sumatra, West Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua—receive the highest rainfall. Humidity is generally high, averaging about 80%. Temperatures vary little throughout the year; the average daily temperature range of Jakarta is 26–30 °C (79–86 °F).[73]

Biota and environment

Main articles: Fauna of Indonesia, Flora of Indonesia, and Environment of Indonesia

The critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan, a great ape endemic to Indonesia.

Indonesia’s size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography, support the world’s second highest level of biodiversity (after Brazil),[74] and its flora and fauna is a mixture of Asian and Australasian species.[75] Once linked to the Asian mainland, the islands of the Sunda Shelf (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Bali) have a wealth of Asian fauna. Large species such as the tiger, rhinoceros, orangutan, elephant, and leopard, were once abundant as far east as Bali, but numbers and distribution have dwindled drastically. Forests cover approximately 60% of the country.[76] In Sumatra and Kalimantan, these are predominantly of Asian species. However, the forests of the smaller, and more densely populated Java, have largely been removed for human habitation and agriculture. Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku—having been long separated from the continental landmasses—have developed their own unique flora and fauna.[77] Papua was part of the Australian landmass, and is home to a unique fauna and flora closely related to that of Australia, including over 600 bird species.[78]

Indonesia is second only to Australia in terms of total endemic species, with 26% of its 1,531 species of bird and 39% of its 515 species of mammal being endemic.[79] Indonesia’s 80,000 kilometers (50,000 mi) of coastline are surrounded by tropical seas that contribute to the country’s high level of biodiversity. Indonesia has a range of sea and coastal ecosystems, including beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds, coastal mudflats, tidal flats, algal beds, and small island ecosystems.[6] The British naturalist, Alfred Wallace, described a dividing line between the distribution and peace of Indonesia’s Asian and Australasian species.[80] Known as the Wallace Line, it runs roughly north-south along the edge of the Sunda Shelf, between Kalimantan and Sulawesi, and along the deep Lombok Strait, between Lombok and Bali. West of the line the flora and fauna are more Asian; moving east from Lombok, they are increasingly Australian. In his 1869 book, The Malay Archipelago, Wallace described numerous species unique to the area.[81] The region of islands between his line and New Guinea is now termed Wallacea.[80]

Indonesia’s high population and rapid industrialization present serious environmental issues, which are often given a lower priority due to high poverty levels and weak, under-resourced governance.[82] Issues include large-scale deforestation (much of it illegal) and related wildfires causing heavy smog over parts of western Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore; over-exploitation of marine resources; and environmental problems associated with rapid urbanization and economic development, including air pollution, traffic congestion, garbage management, and reliable water and waste water services.[82] Deforestation and the destruction of peatlands make Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.[83] Habitat destruction threatens the survival of indigenous and endemic species, including 140 species of mammals identified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as threatened, and 15 identified as critically endangered, including the Sumatran Orangutan.[84]


Main article: Economy of Indonesia

Using water buffalo to plough rice fields in Java. Agriculture has been the country’s largest employer for centuries.

Indonesia has a mixed economy in which the government plays a significant role.[85] It is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and a member of the G-20 major economies.[86] Indonesia’s estimated gross domestic product (nominal), purchasing power parity aside for 2008 was US$511.7 billion with estimated nominal per capita GDP was US$2,246, and per capita GDP PPP was US$3,979 (international dollars).[87] The services sector is the economy’s largest and accounts for 45.3% of GDP (2005). This is followed by industry (40.7%) and agriculture (14.0%).[88] However, agriculture employs more people than other sectors, accounting for 44.3% of the 95 million-strong workforce. This is followed by the services sector (36.9%) and industry (18.8%).[89] Major industries include petroleum and natural gas, textiles, apparel, and mining. Major agricultural products include palm oil, rice, tea, coffee, spices, and rubber.

Indonesia’s main export markets (2005) are Japan (22.3%), the United States (13.9%), China (9.1%), and Singapore (8.9%). The major suppliers of imports to Indonesia are Japan (18.0%), China (16.1%), and Singapore (12.8%). In 2005, Indonesia ran a trade surplus with export revenues of US$83.64 billion and import expenditure of US$62.02 billion. The country has extensive natural resources, including crude oil, natural gas, tin, copper, and gold. Indonesia’s major imports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs.[90]

Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and the country’s largest commercial center

In the 1960s, the economy deteriorated drastically as a result of political instability, a young and inexperienced government, and economic nationalism, which resulted in severe poverty and hunger.[91] Following President Sukarno’s downfall in the mid-1960s, the New Order administration brought a degree of discipline to economic policy that quickly brought inflation down, stabilized the currency, rescheduled foreign debt, and attracted foreign aid and investment.[92] Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s only member of OPEC, and the 1970s oil price raises provided an export revenue windfall that contributed to sustained high economic growth rates.[93] Following further reforms in the late 1980s,[94] foreign investment flowed into Indonesia, particularly into the rapidly developing export-oriented manufacturing sector, and from 1989 to 1997, the Indonesian economy grew by an average of over 7%.[95]

Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the East Asian financial crisis of 1997–98. Against the US dollar, the rupiah dropped from about Rp. 2,600 to a low point of 14,000, and the economy shrank by 13.7%.[96] The Rupiah has since stabilised in the Rp. 8,000 to 10,000 range,[97] and a slow but significant economic recovery has ensued. However, political instability, slow economic reform, and corruption at all levels of government and business, have slowed the recovery.[5][98] Transparency International ranked Indonesia 143rd out of 180 countries in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.[99] The rank rose to 111st out of 180 in 2009[100] GDP growth, however, exceeded 5% in both 2004 and 2005, and is forecast to increase further.[101] This growth rate, however, was not enough to make a significant impact on unemployment,[102] and stagnant wages growth and increases in fuel and rice prices have worsened poverty levels. As of 2006, an estimated 17.8% of the population was living below the poverty line, defined by the Indonesian government as purchasing power parity of US$1.55 per day (household income). According to the 2006 estimates, nearly half of the population was living on less than US$2 per day.[103] In recent years, the strongest growth rates since the Suharto years have helped the unemployment rate decline to 8.46% in 2008,[104] and in comparison to its neighbours, Indonesia has been less affected by the recent global recession.[105]


Main articles: Demographics of Indonesia, Languages of Indonesia, and Religion in Indonesia

The national population from the 2000 national census is 206 million,[106] and the Indonesian Central Statistics Bureau and Statistics Indonesia estimate a population of 222 million for 2006.[107] 130 million people live on the island of Java, the world’s most populous island.[108] Despite a fairly effective family planning program that has been in place since the 1960s, the population is expected to grow to around 254 million by 2020 and 288 million by 2050.[109]

Balinese children. There are around 300 distinct native ethnicities in Indonesia.

Most Indonesians are descended from Austronesian-speaking peoples whose languages can be traced to Proto Austronesian (PAn), which likely originated on Taiwan. The other major grouping are Melanesians, who inhabit eastern Indonesia.[110] There are around 300 distinct native ethnicities in Indonesia, and 742 different languages and dialects.[111] The largest ethnic group is the Javanese, who comprise 42% of the population, and are politically and culturally dominant.[112] The Sundanese, ethnic Malays, and Madurese are the largest non-Javanese groups.[113] A sense of Indonesian nationhood exists alongside strong regional identities.[114] Society is largely harmonious, although social, religious and ethnic tensions have triggered horrendous violence.[115] Chinese Indonesians are an influential ethnic minority comprising less than 1% of the population.[116] Much of the country’s privately owned commerce and wealth is Chinese-Indonesian-controlled,[117] which has contributed to considerable resentment, and even anti-Chinese violence.[118]

The Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral in Central Jakarta. Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims

The official national language, Indonesian, is universally taught in schools, and consequently is spoken by nearly every Indonesian. It is the language of business, politics, national media, education, and academia. It was constructed from a lingua franca that was in wide use throughout the region, and is thus closely related to Malay which is an official language in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. Indonesian was first promoted by nationalists in the 1920s, and declared the official language on the proclamation of independence in 1945. Most Indonesians speak at least one of the several hundred local languages (bahasa daerah), often as their first language. Of these, Javanese is the most widely spoken as the language of the largest ethnic group.[90] On the other hand, Papua has over 270 indigenous Papuan and Austronesian languages,[119] in a region of about 2.7 million people. A significant fraction of the people who attended school before independence can speak Dutch to some extent.[120]

Although religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution,[121] the government officially recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.[122] Although it is not an Islamic state, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, with 86.1% of Indonesians declared Muslim according to the 2000 census.[90] 8.7% of the population is Christian,[123] 3% are Hindu, and 1.8% Buddhist or other. Most Indonesian Hindus are Balinese,[124] and most Buddhists in modern-day Indonesia are ethnic Chinese.[125] Though now minority religions, Hinduism and Buddhism remain defining influences in Indonesian culture. Islam was first adopted by Indonesians in northern Sumatra in the 13th century, through the influence of traders, and became the country’s dominant religion by the 16th century.[126] Roman Catholicism was brought to Indonesia by early Portuguese colonialists and missionaries,[127] and the Protestant denominations are largely a result of Dutch Calvinist and Lutheran missionary efforts during the country’s colonial period.[128] A large proportion of Indonesians—such as the Javanese abangan, Balinese Hindus, and Dayak Christians—practice a less orthodox, syncretic form of their religion, which draws on local customs and beliefs.[129]


Main article: Culture of Indonesia

A wayang kulit shadow puppet performance as seen by the audience

Indonesia has around 300 ethnic groups, each with cultural identities developed over centuries, and influenced by Indian, Arabic, Chinese, Malay, and European sources. Traditional Javanese and Balinese dances, for example, contain aspects of Hindu culture and mythology, as do wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances. Textiles such as batik, ikat and songket are created across Indonesia in styles that vary by region. The most dominant influences on Indonesian architecture have traditionally been Indian; however, Chinese, Arab, and European architectural influences have been significant.

Sports in Indonesia are generally male-orientated and spectator sports are often associated with illegal gambling.[130] The most popular sports are badminton and football. Indonesian teams have won the Thomas Cup (the world team championship of men’s badminton) thirteen of the twenty-five times that it has been held since 1949, as well as Olympic medals since the sport gained full Olympic status in 1992. Its women have won the Uber Cup, the female equivalent of the Thomas Cup, twice, in 1994 and 1996. Liga Indonesia is the country’s premier football club league. Traditional sports include sepak takraw, and bull racing in Madura. In areas with a history of tribal warfare, mock fighting contests are held, such as, caci in Flores, and pasola in Sumba. Pencak Silat is an Indonesian martial art.

A selection of Indonesian food, including Soto Ayam (chicken soup), sate kerang (shellfish kebabs), telor pindang (preserved eggs), perkedel (fritter), and es teh manis (sweet iced tea)

Indonesian cuisine varies by region and is based on Chinese, European, Middle Eastern, and Indian precedents.[131] Rice is the main staple food and is served with side dishes of meat and vegetables. Spices (notably chili), coconut milk, fish and chicken are fundamental ingredients.[132] Indonesian traditional music includes gamelan and keroncong. Dangdut is a popular contemporary genre of pop music that draws influence from Arabic, Indian, and Malay folk music. The Indonesian film industry’s popularity peaked in the 1980s and dominated cinemas in Indonesia,[133] although it declined significantly in the early 1990s.[134] Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Indonesian films released each year has steadily increased.[133]

The oldest evidence of writing in Indonesia is a series of Sanskrit inscriptions dated to the 5th century CE. Important figures in modern Indonesian literature include: Dutch author Multatuli, who criticized treatment of the Indonesians under Dutch colonial rule; Sumatrans Muhammad Yamin and Hamka, who were influential pre-independence nationalist writers and politicians;[135] and proletarian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most famous novelist.[136] Many of Indonesia’s peoples have strongly rooted oral traditions, which help to define and preserve their cultural identities.[137]

Media freedom in Indonesia increased considerably after the end of President Suharto‘s rule, during which the now-defunct Ministry of Information monitored and controlled domestic media, and restricted foreign media.[138] The TV market includes ten national commercial networks, and provincial networks that compete with public TVRI. Private radio stations carry their own news bulletins and foreign broadcasters supply programs. At a reported 25 million users in 2008,[139] Internet usage was estimated at 12.5% in September 2009.[140]