Treasures of Indonesian Culture
Indonesian culture is heavily influenced, as is any culture, by its geography. It lies along ancient trade routes that connected the Far and Middle East. Religions, practices, traditions, cuisine, and tastes traveled with the ships and traders and created a rich, vibrant culture. In some pockets, indigenous culture lives on as it has for thousands of years. Home to over 300 ethnic groups, 700 languages, and some 240 million people, the Indonesian archipelago is as diverse as its 6,000 islands.
Some treasures of Indonesian culture:
- Baliem Valley. Located on the second largest island and nestled in the mountains is a 70 km long, 20 km wide valley. Undiscovered by the western world until the 1940s, this area has remained lush, fertile, and incredibly beautiful. Wamena, the main city of the valley, features life the way it has been lived for thousands of years. Some tribes, including the Dani, interact with visitors who are willing to make the journey by air, since Wamena is not accessible via road. For those who do, the reward is a glimpse into living history. In August, Wamena hosts the Baliem Valley Festival, complete with dances, pig races, feasts, music, and a mock tribal war presentation.
- Borobudur Temple. Constructed in the 8th or 9th century, this Buddhist temple has a pyramid-like structure, five square terraces, circular platforms, a grand stupa, reliefs, and other architectural embellishments. It is the single largest Buddhist structure in the world, and all the more stunning because active volcanos form a dramatic backdrop. Of special note is the Vesak Festival, honoring Buddha’s Birthday. Held on the night of the full moon in May, the multi-day festival draws pilgrims from across the world. Tranquil yet vibrant, the festival offers great insight into Indonesian and Buddhist culture.
- Palembang. This is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia, and it features a number of historical sites and attractions. What is remarkable about Palembang is that it blends contemporary and ancient cultures. You also have the chance to sample another aspect of this culture: its food. Try Pempek, a true Indonesian dish. It is a fried fish cake in a sweet vinegar soup with noodles or diced cucumber. Watch out for the chili paste!
Indonesia is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world; from contemporary cities to ancient villages, from Islam and Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, from mist-shrouded mountains to smooth sandy beaches, the archipelago and its people offer a fascinating study of contrasts.