Indonesia is not your typical tropical paradise populated by smiling friendly poeples. It is much, much more. Indonesia can indeed claim to be the only nation on erat to span such a broad spectrum of world history and human civilization – from its ancient Hindu – Javanese temples to its modern luxury hotels, and from the Stone Age lifestyle practised by some highland tribes in Irian Jaya to the modern metropolis that is Jakarta.
It will come as no surprise, the, that travelling in Indonesia yields eye opening and sometimes startling constrasts – a fascinating juxtaposition of East and West, rich and poor, old with new, the familiar and the exotic. This can be an exciting experience; it can also be as disturbing one.
Most of all, however, it is a chance to learn – to observe the intricacies of traditional culture, and to see how they are adapting to the modern wolrd.
Many have come to see and learn already. Anthropologists, artists, musicians, writers and statesmen have visited the archipelago for decadeas. Since the late 1960s, tourism has also come in 1984 some 600,000 foreigners visited Indonesia. While this is not a substantial figure by international standards, it is one that has quadrupled over the last decade and is growing steadily.
Moreover, the government has announced recently that it is giving high priority to tourism development in an attempt to boost foreign exchange earnings. In Bali alone, several new hotels were opened the early 1990s.
The Impact of Tourism: All of this, fortunately, does not mean that Indonesia is being overrun. Far from it. Unlike many other tropical tourist destinations, Indonesia is a huge country, both in terms of population and land are. Foreigners constitute an almost in significant presence in most parts of the archipelago.
Even Bali, the small island which absorbs more than half the nation’s foreign visitors, has three million inhabitants of her own – a people whose ancient and resilient culture has withstood several foreign “invasions” in the past. Even here, outside of those very narrow areas where they tend to congregate, Westerners are still a novelty.
Keep in mind, as you plan your itinerary, that there are many Indonesias. Many visitors stick to the tried and truced tour route leading from Jakarta through Yogyakarta (Central Java) and on to Bali; and they do so not least of all because of the superb sights and excellent transport services that encourage this itinerary. Other sizeable, but lesser known islands are equally fscinating, if lessaccessible to the average visitor.
Travel services and facilities are rapidly improving – convenience and comfort are becoming less and less the exception. Today every provincial capital and major city within the nation has at least one first class air conditioned hotel and a range of other comfortable accommodations.
Daily air conditions have brought all the islands within a few hours of each other. This complex air network provides an easy first step into seldom – visited corners of the archipelago, so that the door to some truly adventurous travel is now open. In the more heavily populated regions, the local network of buses, jitneys and taxis is both fast and inexpensive. Language, too is no longer a problem – you can find more and more Indonesians who are able to speak English and who will gladly act as guides or otherwise assist you in making travel arrangements.
As a result of all this, more visitor are venturing out from the “core” tourist areas on Java and Bali to more remote regions such as South Sulawesi’s, Tanah Toraja, North Sumatra’s Lake Toba, bali’s neighbouring, Lombok, and tiny Komodo Island. Even within Java and Bali, many people are finding accessible, and, more importantly, exciting alternatives to the conventional tourist fare. Literally hunderds of other islands and destinations are just waiting to be discovered; this book shines a little more light on them so as to help you on your way.