Table of Contents
- Indonesia Interesting Facts
- 1. Ketchup Issue
- 2. Only strong massages
- 3. Everyone owns a motorbike
- 4. Mythology, Superstitions and Black Magic
- 5. No good coffee!
- 6. Alcohol is expensive!
- 7. Smoking is out of control!
- 8. Unity in Diversity
- 9. Food is Spicy!
- 10. Biggest Buddhist temple in the world
- Check out Interesting Travel Facts about other countries!
The time has come for Indonesia interesting facts. Let’s see if I managed to surprise some of you with my observations.
Some of you may know that a few months ago I was in Indonesia. I loved my stay there, especially in the West Papua, but about that in another post.
As you know, I travel to observe, to learn and to make my mind about places I visit and from that attitude my Things You didn’t Know series was born.
Side note to locals – Indonesian people: Please note this article is not meant to offend Indonesian culture, heritage or reality. All those facts come from my amusement as a European/Polish Girl travelling in your country.
Indonesia Info/ Indonesia Interesting Facts
Indonesia Capital: Jakarta
Indonesia Currency: Indonesian Rupiah IDR
Indonesia Languages: Indonesian and over 700 local languages
Indonesia Population: 267,438 millions
Indonesia Religion: Sunni Islam
Indonesia Flag: simple bicolour with two equal horizontal bands, red (top) and white (bottom). It was introduced and hoisted in public at the Indonesian Declaration of Independence on 17 August 1945 in Jakarta.
The flag’s colours are derived from the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire. However, it has been suggested that the red and white symbolism can trace its origin to the older common Austronesian mythology of the duality of Mother Earth (red) and Father Sky (white).
Indonesia Map/ Where is Indonesia located?
Indonesia is located on the Asia continent. It shares land borders with 3 countries: Malaysia, Timor-Leste and Papa New Guinea.
Indonesia shares maritime borders across narrow straits with Singapore,
Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Palau to the north, and Australia to the south.
Indonesia Interesting Facts
1. Ketchup Issue
Yes, Indonesia has a little, odd ketchup issue. If you are a fan of this beloved by many table sauce be careful because Indonesians have their “ketchup”.
If you ever gonna ask for ketchup, they gonna bring you their “kecap” which is a sweet soy sauce.
Kecap manis which is the most popular and common sauce in Indonesia is totally delicious. I fell in love with it. So I kept asking all the waiters for “kecap”.
Made of the fermented paste of boiled black soybeans, roasted grain, salt, water and palm sugar. It has a dark colour, a thick syrupy consistency and a unique and sweet flavour.
You can’t go wrong with it; it works with all kind of dishes. But if you want ketchup just ask for a tomato sauce.
2. Only strong massages
If you are like me, you will be in love with Indonesian deep tissue massage. Otherwise, it may be a quite painful experience as Indonesians use all parts of the hand, including the knuckles, to knead and massage the muscles. Be sure to talk with your masseuse before you commit to anything.
From all Asian massages the Indonesian one is the most robust, yet the best for your body in the long run, in my humble opinion.
Before visiting Indonesia, I have tried many massages all over Asia and the whole world. I didn’t think it will ever get better than a message I once got in Cambodia at the Seeing Hands Massage Center, but it did.
It was so good that for the rest of my trip I was plotting how to kidnap Indonesian massagist and bring him/her home with me.
Disclaimer: Most of the other people that attended this massage with me left the room in tears.
3. Everyone owns a motorbike
An official data of the Indonesian National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas Polri) says there are more than 100 million motorcycles registered in the country, which make for 82% of all vehicles. That seems insane but very accurate if you ever saw a street anywhere in Indonesia.
Nobody seems to be walking in Indonesia. You must see the surprised faces of locals when foreigners are walking along the road or trying to pass to another side. Hillarious!
4. Mythology, Superstitions and Black Magic
Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, actually, the biggest Muslim country in the world when it comes to population.
Yet old animistic mythology, superstitions, paranormal beliefs and black magic cross the cultural and religious barriers and sit easily alongside a faith in Muhammed, Christ and the Hindu Gods.
Actually, Indonesians created their own version of Islam, Hinduism and other religions, they rather adapt religions to Indonesian animistic religions than otherwise.
As a person who wanted to undertake religious studies, I take great interest in the wild spectrum of beliefs we call faith or religion.
And maybe I would leave Indonesia without educating myself about all of this if not two lovely ladies I met in Yogyakarta in the Phoenix Hotel.
They explained to me that Indonesian people are very superstitious, everyone from traditional farmers to modern businessmen. Beliefs such as facing toward the South when grinding spices.
My favourite example was a mysterious Queen of the Southern Sea. Apparently, you shouldn’t wear green when you go to the South as you will be taken by her or it will anger her and will bring misfortune on you, as green is her sacred colour.
There is even a hotel, the Samudra Beach Hotel where they keep a room permanently reserved to Nyai Roro Kidul (Queen of the Southern Sea) and all decorated in green.
People are so superstitious that they believe Asian tsunami back in 2004 was evidence that the Gods are not happy with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
5. No good coffee!
I know it may come as a shocking among Indonesia interesting facts, but in my experience, there is no good coffee in Indonesia. Or at least I didn’t find one. And I’m not talking about hipster spots which treat coffee as their religion, but basic coffee served around most places.
Indonesia which is the 4th coffee producer in the world – the country from where the most expensive coffee – kopi luwak comes from, doesn’t have good coffee.
I don’t know why is that. I’m a total coffee addict, can’t start a day without a cup of this black gold so you can imagine my excitement about this trip. I was thinking divine coffee, spicy food and good weather. What more does one need in life?
Maybe it has sth to do with preparation or with a high humidity and my taste buds failing me or just being spoiled European but most of the time coffee was way too acidic in a bad acidic way.
Maybe I should try the infamous “kopi luwak” but my concerns about animal cruelty and sustainable kopi luwak almost being an oxymoron, I decided to skip it.
Who is volunteering to educate me about Indonesian coffee on my next visit? Any takers?
6. Alcohol is expensive!
There are many reasons for alcohol being expansive in Indonesia, but it is mainly caused by high taxation and restriction.
First of all, there is no drinking culture in the country and there is a big pressure from religious parties to totally ban the sale, production and consumption of alcohol in Indonesia, that happened in 2012. It was changed in 2013 in the wake of the harmful effects on the tourism in the country.
Second, since 2015, alcohol has an import tax rate of 150%, so imagine a simple bottle of wine from France which costs in 20euro back at home is at least 50euro in Indonesia.
And to be honest there is no good wine anywhere, even in the luxurious hotels, how weird is that, this one is the most painful among all Indonesia interesting facts for me, a huge wine lover.
Except for big tourism hubs, alcohol is not easily accessible. Indonesian government banned alcohol from minimarkets and small shops through the sale are allowed in supermarkets, restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels.
Being from Poland I found 5$ beer extremely expansive, but I did stick to high prices and hotels as there is really a lot of illegal alcohol in Indonesia and deaths caused by it are not uncommon, even among foreigners.
7. Smoking is out of control!
It came as a surprise to me that Indonesia is so harsh on alcohol but do nothing about smoking.
Indonesia is one of the very few countries in the world that hasn’t signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
This means cigarettes are still extremely cheap (about 1$ a pack) and cigarette advertising is not forbidden.
That is the most shocking among Indonesia interesting facts. The ads are on Television, in newspapers and magazines, and plastered on trees lining the roads.
It really surprised me! I do not remember times when I have even seen cigarette ads in Europe.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has recently launched a fierce campaign against narcotics and made the execution of drug dealers a priority, which is, of course, good in some sense but the double standard hard seems a bit insane.
Indonesians smoke all the time, even very young kids on the streets, not only on the videos on Youtube. I was told that Indonesia is one of the biggest tobacco markets in the world.
And we all know that cigarette companies are powerful, and politicians easily corruptible. And that seems to be a case in Indonesia. Rather a sad fact about Indonesia.
8. Unity in Diversity
I have been addressing ‘Indonesian people’ in this article but I’m well aware that there is no such term and that Indonesia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies.
Indonesia consists of 1,300 ethnic groups with at least 95% native to the archipelago.
Indonesia’s motto “Unity in Diversity'” signifies the country’s myriad of cultures and ethnicities with all its people living together largely in peace.
There are many things I love about Indonesia. The beauty of the country is out of this world. The food is spicy and delicious. The wildlife is rich and omnipresent. But the diversity of people, cultures and heritage are its biggest selling points in my opinion.
Generally, people in Indonesia are smiley, friendly, helpful, patient, polite and very humble. I really loved everyone who I met on my Indonesia trip.
9. Food is Spicy!
Food in Indonesia is delicious! Sweet. Salty and hot as fire. If you love spicy, like me, you are in for a treat! But if you don’t, stay away from most of ‘sambals’, as many Indonesians told me, only the brave should sample their chillies.
Rice, coconut, banana, peanut and soya bean are the five pillars of Indonesian cuisine, and it is almost impossible to find a meal that does not include at least one of these items.
Indonesian food is strong in flavour, with a great array of fish, unusual vegetables and fruits, and minimal meat. And believe me, even food that isn’t considered spicy by Indonesians can burn an untrained tongue.
Indonesia is famous for the ‘death noodles’ that have 100 bird’s eye chillies crushed together. Giving it a Scoville rating of 20 million – compared with hot Tabasco which is just 5,000 on the scale. That is one spicy case among Indonesia interesting facts.
10. Biggest Buddhist temple in the world
Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, but it holds the biggest Buddhist temple in the whole world – Borobudur, which I had a pleasure to visit and watch a sunrise there.
Borobudur was built in the A.D. 9th century and abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam.
It ranks with Pagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia as one of the great archaeological sites of Asia.
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