An archipelago of over 17,000 islands of which only 6,000 are inhabited, Indonesia remains a destination that cannot be covered in one or two brief trips. For those wanting to escape the popular hub of Bali, Indonesia provides plenty of less-travelled roads. In Northeast Sulawesi, one can find the city of Manado renowned for its exotic delicacies ranging from bat soup to dog or rat meat for the especially intrepid traveller. For those sticking to a safer diet of local nasi ("rice") and delicious rendang (a local curry dish), there remains plenty of adventure in this diverse archipelago that lies within the Ring of Fire.
The overland and undersea volcanoes are responsible for the vibrant biodiversity found above and underwater. Some of the most paradisiacal reefs are available to those who trek to Lembeh and Bunaken or harder to reach destinations such as the Togean Islands and Raja Ampat. Natural wonders such as Lake Toba, Mount Bromo or the multi-coloured lakes of Flores are highly recommended alongside famous temples such as Borobudur and the nightlife of Jakarta for those looking for a social scene. For surfers there is plenty to choose, from Bali all the way down the coasts of Java and Sumatra you will find plenty of waves. Culturally Indonesia is as diverse, with Dayak tribes in Kalimantan, the Hindu culture of Bali, the Torajan funeral practices on Sulawesi and the stone-age hunter-gatherers that inhabit far flung Papua.
For those looking to immerse themselves in local language and culture, it is highly recommended to observe local customs and venture onto local buses to less-travelled getaways. The full immersion required for one of these rides limits this recommendation only to hardy travellers willing to endure the probable obstacles (linguistically and in terms of reaching the correct destination) that may arise. For those who reflect local customs such as eating food with one's fingers, it is easy to gain the surprise, curiosity and respect of locals.
Highlights from Indonesia
- Beautiful rice paddies, Hindu temple and a swaggering nightlife on Bali
- Paradisiacal diving in Bunaken, Pulau Weh, and Derawan
- Experience Batak culture in Lake Toba, or watch the elaborate funeral ceremonies of the Torajans in Tana Toraja
- Trek to breathtaking Mount Bromo
- Catch the early sunrise at the Borobudur Temples
- Spot Orangutans at Tanjung Puting National Park near Pankalan Bun on Kalimantan
- Visit the fabled Spice Islands around Ambon for historical forts, diving and some delicious sea-food
- Dive otherworldy Raja Ampat
- Hike the Baliem Valley in Papua and make friends with penis-gourd wearing locals
- There be dragons on Komodo and good diving too
Hints and Tips for Indonesia
- Most travelers must pay US$25 upon arrival for the 30-day visa (entry day counts as 1, not 0)
- The more secluded the destination, the less available ATMs will be--make sure to bring emergency funds
- Be prepared to face head-on traffic when taking the roads
- Monkeys look cute, but be careful not to face their wrath as bites and scratches can land you in the hospital
- Dress tends to be modest, especially in temples. More touristy destinations such as Bali are more lax in showing skin.