Tucked between Australia and China lies a mess of islands amidst the Indian Ocean. Right in the middle of it all is Indonesia, a tropical nation that just so happens to be the next stop on our Top 10 journey across the globe. We’ll uncover the history, local culture, and incredible people that make up this beautiful country with these top 10 amazing facts about Indonesia! As the locals say… uh… Saya harus berlatih Bahasa Indonesia saya.
10. Tropical Wildlife
9. Cuisine of Indonesia
8. The Fame of Indonesia
7. Indonesian Attractions
6. Volcanoes of Indonesia
5. Indonesian Islands
4. World Records of Indonesians
3. The Monsters of Indonesia
2. Early People of Indonesia
1. Gaining Independence
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As you could probably guess, Indonesia didn’t start out as its own independent country. In fact, it was only within the last 75 years that it secured sovereignty over itself. On August 17th, 1945, shortly after the Japanese surrendered to the Allied forces and were pushed out of Indonesia, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta took the opportunity to divide their country from its current rule under the Dutch. The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was presented by Sukarno and instigated the Indonesian National Revolution, a four-year conflict between nationalists backed by Japanese volunteers and the Netherlands. Early in the conflict, the United Nations urged the Netherlands into negotiations to end the fighting, but it wasn’t until August 23, 1949 that the two sides convened for a roundtable conference. By December 27th, sovereignty was transferred to a new federal state known as the United States of Indonesia, which then dissolved in less than a year to form the Republic of Indonesia.
Early People of Indonesia
They may not have been the Frodos of their time, yet in 2003 on the island of Flores, researchers discovered signs of an early settlement of tiny humans in the Liang Bua cave. Due to their small stature, the new species of human, Homo floresiensis, was given the nickname of “hobbit” hominin. Originally thought to be the remains of “diseased” modern humans, the small fossils were later attributed as an evolved form of Homo erectus, who underwent island dwarfism after reaching Flores. Predating the Hobbits even earlier, however, was a new species of miniature man discovered at Mata Menge on Flores in 2014. The new remains, which give little indication of whether they’re a direct descendant of floresiensis, was dated as being over 650,000,000 years old.
The Monsters of Indonesia
Every country has its alleged monsters, and no, we’re not talking about some deep philosophical meaning of the word. We mean living, breathing creatures like Orang Pendek, the Sasquatch-like “short man” said to live on the island of Sumatra. With as many unexplored regions and hidden islands as it has, it’s no wonder Indonesia is brimming with cryptids and unexplained monsters. Local tales can be heard about Ahool, a giant winged creature in the jungles of Java; Murray, a bipedal amphibian with a slender tail, large legs, and a long neck; the giant snake Nabau located along the Baleh River in Kapit; and Orang Gadang, a Sumatran cryptid similar to the concept of Bigfoot.
World Records of Indonesians
Sometimes finding out which Guinness World Records a country has achieved takes a little bit of digging, but Indonesia makes it a pretty simple task with Muri, its very own World Records Museum. Included in some of the boasted records could be the ones for the most participants in a fingerprint test, most people in a centipede procession, the most populated island – which goes to Java and its count of 136 million people as of 2010 - and the tallest cake, measuring at 108 feet or roughly 33 meters. The fun museum also showcases the school with the largest LEGO and plan collections, most apples eaten by a group of people, and largest bamboo bird’s nest.
If you thought 150 volcanoes sounded like a lot, then brace yourself for the estimated count for the number of islands under Indonesia’s control. Depending on which agency you go with, Indonesia has anywhere between 13,466 islands to just over 18,300. Surprisingly, while that is an incredible number, Canada and Finland beat Indonesia for having the most islands. Of the vast amount of land scattered throughout the ocean, over 8,800 have names and just under 1,000 are inhabited. Keeping track of these islands is no easy feat, especially since they are often categorized as island chains comprised of one main island province and, as seen with North Sumatra, hundreds of smaller lands.
Volcanoes of Indonesia
Peuet Sague, Talakmau, Marapi – these mountainous complex volcanoes stretch over 9,000 feet or roughly 2,700 meters into the airspace over Indonesia, and they’re only three of the multitude of formations that are scattered all across the Indonesian islands. Set on the Ring of Fire, Indonesia boasts around 150 volcanoes, most of which are active and have experienced an eruption within the past century. In the summer of 2016, the stratovolcanoes Rinjani, Gamalama, and Sinabung began their latest eruption, adding to the growing list of over 1,000 recorded eruptions in Indonesia. In 1815 and 1883, the region suffered its worst volcanic eruptions, with the 1815 eruption of Tambora being one of the largest known in recorded history.
With the islands being some of the greatest things you can see in Indonesia, it’s a little easy to forget that there are some manmade wonders and fun little nuggets spread throughout the country. For tourists, spots like the Buddhist temple Borobudur, Hindu temple Prambanan, the Ubud Monkey Forest Hindu temple complex, the Indonesia National Monument, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, and the National Museum of Indonesia bring to life the history and culture of the region. To glimpse nature’s untouched beauty, Komodo National Park serves as a great way to spot the Komodo Dragon while Mount Bromo and Mount Batur line the horizon beautifully.
The Fame of Indonesia
If you’re not from Indonesia and are trying to come up with local celebrities on your own, the task may prove to be a little challenging. While a slew of actors hail from the islands - such as Lukman Sardi, Yoshi Sudarso, Titi Kamal, Laura Basuki, and Oka Antara – they don’t quite have the same worldwide fame as, say, Famke Janssen, who is said to be ¼ Indonesian. If you’re a foodie, you may know Candace Nelson for her judging on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars while music aficionados may recognize singers Agnes Monica and pop band Coboy Junior or CJR. Looking to get your fix of Indonesia on YouTube? Check out channels such as Edho Zell, Raditya Dikaame and Rezaoktovian.
Cuisine of Indonesia
Every country seems to have its own standard set of ingredients and, wouldn’t you know, Indonesia is no different! From lemongrass to palm sugar, Indonesian food is brimming with flavors found in tropical environments. Common local cuisine includes sambal, a chili-based sauce; soto, a meat soup with localized ingredients; gado-gado; and Indonesia’s national dish, nasi goring, which is a take on fried rice made with soy sauce, acar, carrots, and pickled cucumbers. As an alternate to nasi goreng, there’s nasi gila, or crazy rice, which is made with a mess of different meats, even including sliced hot dogs.
When you look into a tropical ecosystem, you’re bound to come across an eclectic mix of wondrous wildlife, from exotic birds to slithery reptiles to oversized insects! The country of Indonesia is brimming with over 180 species of mammal, just under 120 species of bird, 32 species of reptile, 140 different types of fish, and 32 amphibians. Among some of the more exotic – and sadly endangered – wildlife to look for is the Halmahera Bird-of-Paradise, Spectral Tarsier, the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle, and the massive Raja Laut, also known as the Indonesian coelacanth. The most striking creature, however, is the oversized Komodo Dragon. Growing up to 10-feet or roughly 3-meters long, the Komodo is indigenous to the Lesser Sunda Islands and is known for its venomous saliva.