Indonesia, Insulinde, Nusantara. The East Indies
13,677 sun-drenched tropical isles. “girding the qeuator like a string of emerald.” More than 160 million people speaking hundreds of distinct tongues – an ethnic mosaic of kaleidoscope proportions.
Collectively, these island constitute one of the most exciting and rewarding travel destinations on earth.
Today’s visitor to Indonesia joins a long line of distinguished voyagers. The intrepid Chinese monk Fa Hsien was the first to pen travelogue to these isle, after being shipwrecked off Java in 412 AD on his way home from India. Marco Polo sojourned along the northeastern shores of Sumatera in 1992 en route back Italy. Ferdinand Magellan plotted his historic round the world voyage in 1520 specifically to reach the eastern Indonesian island of Maluku. And in 1770, Captain Cook sailed into Batavia (Jakarta) harbour for repairs, having charted the little-known coasts of remote New Guinea (Irian Jaya).
The discoveries continue. Though arriving now in ever-increasing number, modern visitors from abroad have absolutely no need to fear that all has been seen and done here before. This archipelago today contitutes one of world’s largest nations, and the potential for personal exploration and adventure is truly limitless. Superimposed on a map of North America, Indonesia stretches from Oregon all the way to Bermuda. On a map of Europe, the island extend from Ireland to the Caspian Sea.
Found along the way is a breathtaking variety of landscapes: smoul-dering blue-grey volcanoes, verdant rice paddies, azzure seas, dazzling white beaches, teeming coral reefs, pristine rain-forests, rolling mead-ows, dense mangrove swamps and lush, cool hill country.
This is the land of Krakatau and kretek, of the Borobudur and batik, the metropolitan urbanity of Jakarta juxtaposed with the “Stone Age” tribes of Irian Jaya, the proud nobility of the Central Javanese court with the magic ritual of a Balinese peasant villages, and the primeval ‘dragon’ of Komodo with the brightly-plumed ‘Bird of Paradise.’ All tahe their special place in the cornucopia that is Indonesia.
Indonesia’s diversity owes much to tis long history and spectacular geography. But above all, it owes much to the hundreds of tribes and ethnic gorups who today call themselves Indonesians – the inhabitants of proud and independent nation whose motto, quite understandably, is Bhineka Tunggal Ika – “Many are One.”
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