Indonesia is an intriguing country with its rich tapestry of religions, traditions, cultures, languages and people. Each of its five main islands, that combined with 17,000 outlying islands go to make the world’s largest archipelago, has a rich identity and a distinct culture.
Bali has the most extraordinary sense of calm and tranquility about it. At the heart of Bali stands Ubud, nestled amongst terraced rows of paddy fields dancing in the sunlight. As you wander around, the soft smiles of the Balinese will enchant you. Everything has an air of elegance about it. The island is literally dotted with hundreds of Hindu temples, shrines and places of worship all decorated with bountiful offerings of flowers and food. For a really magical experience, visit the waterside Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Hindu-Buddhist temple in the centre of the island. However for many the beaches are the call of Bali – and these abound. Just take your pick.
Java is the centre for traditional art and culture and is home to two of Indonesia’s and South-East Asia’s greatest monuments. Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an 8th Century Buddhist temple and is truly inspirational. Its size mixed with the extraordinary attention to detail will leave you speechless. Perhaps built to rival this is the 9th Century, Hindu Prambanan Temple complex, said to be the most beautiful in Indonesia. To add to the theatre and the total experience, try and time a visit to coincide with a performance by the Ramayanna Ballet from May to October which involves dancers, singers and musicians.
Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an 8th Century Buddhist temple and is truly inspirational. Its size mixed with the extraordinary attention to detail will leave you speechless.
If you are really after a lateral diversion head to Indonesia’s least known province – Kalimantan. Venture into its deep, dark and mystical interior and you can discover orangutans, proboscis monkeys and bird life. There are also traditional tribes people here hidden deep in the mountains, forests and rivers.
Komodo Island, as the name may suggest, is home to the fearsome and famed Komodo dragons. They are the largest living species of monitor lizard and can weigh up to an incredible 70 kilos or more. Scared of creepy crawlies, this might not be the place to go.
In Sulawesi, divers may try for yourself and see if the dive site at Palau Bunaken and the Lembh Strait is amongst the best in the world. However, diving aside, the most popular attraction in Sulawesi is Tana Toraja. Truly unique, it is about cave graves, hanging graves and tau tau which are life sized wooden effigies. The island is also home to extraordinary traditional villages, unique architecture and a fascinating culture.
Indonesia is somewhere to take your time. Do one island in depth or spend longer, maybe a sabbatical, and start to understand this hugely rich and diverse land. It will be a deeply rewarding experience.