Indonesia History

July 24, 2023

Paul Kay

Are you looking for Asian vacation ideas? We have fun facts about Indonesia in this post. Since you are a traveler, you are probably looking for destinations or vacations. Indonesia is home to over 17,000 islands and over 150 volcanoes. Indonesia is one of the world's most biodiverse countries, housing a significant portion of Earth's plant and animal species. It boasts rainforests, coral reefs, and the renowned Komodo dragons on Komodo Island. Indonesia is culturally diverse with more than 300 ethnic groups. If you love coffee, the country is famous for it. Are you intrigued yet? As a fellow traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Indonesia.

Indonesia is an archipelagic nation made up of over 17,000 islands. Some of the larger and more well-known islands include Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, and Papua. These islands, along with many smaller islands, make up the largest island nation in the world, and provide a rich and diverse landscape for Indonesia's population of over 270 million people. Indonesia is the largest island nation in the world with over 741,000 square miles of land. The next largest island nation is the Philippines with over 7,000 islands and a land mass over 115,000 square miles.

Indonesia has a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years. The prehistoric era of Indonesia is between 2 million BC to 1 AD. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited by early humans as early as 2 million years ago. The Austronesian people later migrated to the islands around 2000 BC and established a series of complex societies and cultures, including megalithic cultures, Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, and Islamic sultanates.

Austronesian migration into Indonesia

The Austronesian people are a group of people who originated in Taiwan and dispersed throughout the islands of the Pacific and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. They are believed to have migrated to the region around 2000 BC and established complex societies and cultures. The Austronesian people are known for their seafaring abilities and their spread throughout the Pacific, which is considered one of the largest human migrations in history. They brought with them various cultural elements, such as the Austronesian languages, which are now spoken by over 400 million people across the Pacific and Southeast Asia. The Austronesian people are diverse and have a rich history and culture, including traditional music, dance, and intricate tattoos and textiles.

Majapahit Empire Indonesia

Indonesia was home to several Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and maritime empires. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced during the 7th century AD. This period was characterized by the growth of trade, the spread of religion, and the development of sophisticated cultures and societies. The Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced to the Indonesian archipelago and were adopted by many local rulers. Major Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms emerged, such as the Sailendra and the Majapahit, which controlled large territories and established trade networks throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.

The growth of maritime trade was a major factor in the development of Indonesian society during this period. Indonesian ports, such as those in Java, Sumatra, and Bali, became major centers of trade, connecting Southeast Asia with the Indian Ocean and China.

Panorama of Buddhist temple Borobudur near Yogyakarta city, Central Java, Indonesia

The Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of this period produced some of the most sophisticated and advanced cultures in Southeast Asia, with achievements in areas such as literature, architecture, and the arts. The Borobudur temple in central Java, for example, is one of the largest Buddhist structures in the world and is considered a masterpiece of Javanese architecture.

The Dutch East India Company Trade Routes

In the 16th century, the Portuguese and the Dutch arrived in Indonesia and established colonies. The Dutch East India Company ruled the archipelago for over 300 years and established a monopoly over the region's trade.

The Dutch and Portuguese had a significant influence over Indonesia during the colonial period, which lasted from the 16th to the mid-20th century. The Dutch established the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th century and gradually gained control over the Indonesian archipelago, ruling it as a colony for over 300 years. During this time, the Dutch imposed a centralized administrative system and introduced a cash-crop based economy, which had a profound impact on Indonesian society and the economy. The Dutch also introduced Christianity and suppressed traditional Indonesian cultures and practices.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Indonesia, in the 16th century, but their influence was limited compared to that of the Dutch. The Portuguese established a colony in parts of eastern Indonesia and introduced Catholicism, but their control was eventually overtaken by the Dutch.

First President of Indonesia Sukarno

After World War II, the Dutch tried to re-establish their colonial rule, but a successful independence struggle led by figures such as Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta resulted in Indonesia's independence in 1949. The Dutch ceded control of Indonesia to the newly independent Indonesian government in 1949. The process of decolonization in Indonesia was a long and complex one, marked by political struggles and armed conflict between the Dutch colonial authorities and Indonesian nationalist groups. The transfer of sovereignty to the newly formed Republic of Indonesia on December 27, 1949.

This transfer marked the end of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia and the beginning of a new era of independence and self-determination for the Indonesian people. Despite the challenges and difficulties of the post-colonial period, Indonesia has since become one of the largest and most populous nations in Southeast Asia, with a rich and diverse cultural heritage and a rapidly growing economy.

General Suharto Indonesia President

Sukarno became Indonesia's first president, and he was in power from 1949 to 1967. He played a key role in the country's independence struggle and was known for his charismatic leadership and vision for a non-aligned and socialist Indonesia. After a period of political instability and economic turmoil, Sukarno was replaced by General Suharto in 1967. Suharto ruled Indonesia for over 30 years and introduced a period of authoritarian rule, characterized by political repression, human rights abuses, and economic growth.

A great movie about Indonesia during Sukarno’s rule is “The Year of Living Dangerously.” It won an Oscar for Linda Hunt, and it also was the first big movie role for Mel Gibson. It is set in 1965 and you can feel and see what it was like to be living in Indonesia during authoritarian rule.

In 1998, Suharto was forced to resign following widespread protests and a political crisis. This marked the beginning of a period of political and economic reforms, known as Reformasi, which led to the establishment of a more democratic and pluralistic political system.

The country has since undergone a democratic transition and has become one of the largest and most populous democracies in the world. Despite some ongoing challenges, Indonesia has made significant progress in areas such as human rights, press freedom, and the fight against corruption in recent years.

Indonesia has a diverse economy. It is one of the world's largest producers of palm oil, rubber, and other agricultural commodities. Agriculture remains an important part of the Indonesian economy, providing livelihoods for millions of rural residents and contributing to the country's exports and overall economic growth. Indonesia has a rapidly growing manufacturing sector, particularly in the fields of textiles, electronics, and consumer goods. The country is well positioned to benefit from the growing demand for manufactured goods in the region and around the world.

Balinese style female dancer costume dancing traditional temple dance Bali Indonesia

From a tourist’s point of view, Indonesia is home to some of the world's most stunning natural and cultural attractions, including the island of Bali, the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, and the Komodo National Park. Tourism is a major contributor to the Indonesian economy, providing jobs and income for millions of people and supporting the country's trade and services sectors.

Madeline and I have been to Bali twice. Both of us thought that the song Bali Hai from the musical South Pacific was a reference to Bali. In fact, Bali Hai was based on the real island of Ambae (formerly Aoba Island) located in Vanuatu. Ambae is visible on the horizon from Espiritu Santo island, where James A. Michener was stationed in World War II. Michener referred to the island in his book, Tales of the South Pacific. It’s a wonderful book and its scope is much larger than South Pacific. It was Michener’s first novel which was published when he was 40 years old. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948, and they turned it into a bestselling Broadway musical and Hollywood movie. Not bad for your first novel.

Bali is known for its spirituality. If you have ever watched the movie Eat Pray Love or read the book, the last place the author goes to is Bali. Bali is also known for its traditional culture, including traditional dances, music, festivals, and ceremonies. The traditional Balinese dances and music performances, such as the Barong dance, are a major draw for tourists.

Besides Bali, Indonesia has many other places that attract tourists.

Panorama of Buddhist temple Borobudur near Yogyakarta city, Central Java, Indonesia

  • Borobudur Temple is massive Buddhist temple complex in central Java, dating back to the 8th century AD.

Prambanan Temple in Yogyakarta Indonesia. UNESCO world heritage in Indonesia. the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia

  • Prambanan Temple is a complex of Hindu temples in central Java, dating back to the 9th century AD.

Three Komodo Dragons in the wild at Komodo Island, Indonesia Komodo National Park

  • Komodo National Park is a protected area that is home to the unique and endangered Komodo dragon, as well as other species of marine life and wildlife.

Lake Toba landscape in Tuktuk, North Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Lake Toba is a large volcanic lake in northern Sumatra that is surrounded by stunning scenery and is a popular tourist destination.

Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo Indonesia with a baby orangutan and his mother during the afternoon feeding at Camp Leakey

  • Tanjung Puting National Park is a large protected area in central Kalimantan that is home to some of the world's last remaining populations of orangutans, as well as other species of wildlife and lush tropical forests.

Aerial view of the Mount Bromo, is an active volcano and part of the Tengger massif, in East Java, Indonesia

  • There are 147 volcanoes in Indonesia and 76 of them are active volcanoes. They are spread along the islands of Sumatra, Java, Celebes, and Lesser Sunda. One of the most popular volcanos for tourists is Mount Bromo. It is in eastern Java that is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, due to its stunning views and easy accessibility. There is a great movie on volcanoes called Fire of Love which shows Mount Cono (Una Una) erupting.

Aerial view with Gili islands and ocean. Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan islands

  • Gili Islands: A group of three small islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, known for their stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.

  • Jakarta: Indonesia's capital and largest city, which is known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and bustling modern atmosphere.

  • Java, which is home to the ancient temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, as well as the active volcanos of Mount Bromo and Mount Cono. Java is also the location of the capital city of Jakarta, which is a major center of business and culture in Indonesia. Madeline and I have been to Indonesia twice and we will definitely go back. Our favorite place is Bali right now but I’m sure we will venture to new places as well. We highly recommend Indonesia – we think you’ll really enjoy the people and the culture.

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