Indonesia – Interesting Facts


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.

I have written about quirky, unusual and unknown facts about Iran, Azerbaijan, Oman, Benin, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and more.

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 Flag - Indonesia Interesting FactsIndonesia 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 Map - Indonesia Interesting Facts

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

Kecap - 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.

Strong Massage - Indonesia Interesting Facts

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.

Motorbikes - Fun Facts about Indonesia

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!

Fun Facts about Indonesia

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.

Luwak - Indonesia Interesting Facts

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?

Fun Facts about Indonesia

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.

Smoking - Fun Facts about Indonesia

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.

West Papua - Fun Facts 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.

Spicy Food - Indonesia Interesting Facts

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.

Borobudur - 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.

Check out Interesting Travel Facts about other countries!

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And do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions about Indonesia. More than happy to chat!

Cheers, Marysia


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74 thoughts on “Indonesia – Interesting Facts

  1. Ben

    Thank you for writing this very useful post for visitors who are going to Indonesia.

  2. Despite mountains of garbage, Indonesia is something magical. Never felt so peaceful (in remote islands) and uplifting as in this country. As soon as you leave Indonesia, you want to come back again!
    Can’t stop exploring this beautiful corner of the World! :)
    Thank you Marysia.

  3. Arisa

    Well, I think you should try traditional Indonesian coffee. There are so many region with their own signature traditional coffee like Java and Sumatra. I personally love the Torajan! Matter fact, not many Indonesian drink kopi luwak since it’s expensive (the real ones, not the one in touristy ‘plantation’). Or, maybe it’s just a matter of taste since Indonesian love strong flavour in anything (just like our food hehe). Ah, and about the flag, I never heard of the Austronesian thing. The basic meaning of the color is red = brave and white = pure.

    • Hey Arisa, the flag story is a story I have been told and you are right about the colour meanings, we have the same meaning of the same colours in our flag as well. As for coffee, I love the strong coffee as much as I love your spicy food, maybe I just didn’t get a chance to drink a good one!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 249My Profile

  4. Love this! Planning on visiting Indonesia next year so this will be very helpful! The massages sound like my kind of thing – I often go for physio but I think these deep tissue massages will do the trick! Also, I’m not happy to hear about the coffee – I a coffee fanatic so really hope I manage to find good coffee when I’m there!

  5. bangladeshtourist

    Excellent Post. It’s So Great to Know.

  6. bangladeshtourist

    Your article is so informative I like your article.

  7. umiko Silalahi

    Interesting facts about my country, Indonesia. Some are true, and a few I just heard for the first time from your post. Like the flag, I never heard about the Austronesian fact. All I know until today, some heroes tore the blue part of the Netherland’s flag. I heard a bit about it being derived from Majapahit Empire, but there’s no legit prove. It’s just a suggestion. The country shares land border with Brunei Darussalam, not Malaysia. Brunei is a country, not part of Malaysia. About the coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but for my friends and family who are, Indonesian coffee is the best. They prefer the traditional way to make a cup of coffee. The ones with coffee maker, that’s not coffee. Yes, you can say generally Indonesian are sweet, especially to foreigners. This is also the first time I heard about death noodles. Interesting. Anyway, thank you so much for writing about Indonesia and hopefully it will bring more tourists to the country!

    • Thank you for your comment and it is interesting what you say about the flag and I will research this info online, it would be a great story with ripping the blue from a Dutch flag.

      As for coffee, I would love to try this traditional way of coffee making but not sure I had a chance, I tried coffee in simple and fancy places and it was always rather bad.

      The land borders: here I have to disagree with you, actually Brunei, which I know is a separate country, is totally surrounded by Malaysia and has no land border with Indonesia.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 208My Profile

  8. Matt D.

    When you say interesting, I see you weren’t kidding. I wonder if they export their ‘kecap’ anywhere…

  9. Irem

    This is an accurate article.
    I used to think the same thing about the coffee, until I tried coffee from Toraja in Sulawesi. Ever had that one? It is actually delicious!
    If you go back to Indonesia you should also try Kecap Pedas. The spicy version of the kecap, very awsome for spicy lovers.

    • Thanks for the tips about coffee, will try it for sure, and oh my spicy kecap seems like my kind of thing!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 208My Profile

  10. Awesome place! Indonesia is on my bucket list

  11. Great post. I might struggle with the lack of good coffee. I’ve just spent a few years in New Zealand and Australia and the coffee here in NZ is amazing! I did just spend 6 months in Thailand and very rarely found good coffee. FYI – it was a place with top Baristas called Ristr8o in Chiang Mai :)

    • Layla, I have to disappoint you, in Asia, it is hard to find a good coffee in general so I never have my hopes high but Indonesia having such a great coffee image I thought will be different, well I guess they just export their best coffee…I tried coffee in many exclusive hotels and coffee bars but nothing good. As I said I didn’t want to drink this luwak coffee and maybe this one was good…
      Marysia recently posted…Indonesia – Interesting FactsMy Profile

      • I agree with you regarding the ethics of not trying Kopi Luwak. It’s safe to say Asia is the land of many amazing things, but not great coffee! Let me know (or visit my site) if you ever decide to come to New Zealand, I can direct you to the most amazing coffee shops :)

  12. Nicky

    I didn’t know many of these facts. I love spicy Indonesian food. When I was young, my parents took us to a restaurant that served a traditional rice table. Delicious!

  13. I didn’t know most of this, so it was such an interesting read! It’s fascinating how they combined elements of different religions!

    • Yes, it is really interesting and quite refreshing that it is all peaceful coexistence!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  14. Hahah, spicy food-definitely my place to be! I’ve yet to visit SE Asia and really needa get started asap!!

  15. This was so interesting! I’ve never been but now I’m itching to go!

  16. This was really interesting! I absolutely love massages, but I’m not sure I could handle an Indonesian one – sounds like it might be a little too robust for me! But this has definitely gotten me interested in visiting; it seems such a fascinating, friendly country.

    • It is people are so extremely friendly and polite! And don’t be scared, I’m sure you gonna love the massage!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  17. It’s always good to know interesting things about other countries. Indonesia is high up on my list but now that I know that I can’t get a hot cup of coffee there…ummmm…what about tea? I’m a caffeine addict, you know 😀

    • They have great tea :) And maybe you will find great coffee, it as just me, maybe I’m spoiled European haha
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  18. This is an interesting and funny list indeed! Haven’t been to Indonesia yet but it’s so high on my bucket list!

  19. Cherene Saradar

    Really enjoyed this and will check out your other posts as well. I agree with these except I did have good coffee but only at a nice hotel that offered coffee from Java or Sumatra, etc. I would never try that horrible abused animal coffee either!

    • I have been staying in extremely nice hotels and coffee was bad… but as I say it might be only my experience…and this luwak coffee is a big no-no for me, especially that I can see they keeping animals in cages now…
      Marysia recently posted…Indonesia – Interesting FactsMy Profile

  20. I absolutely loved your blog post, it is so interesting to read. I spent 6 weeks in Indonesia lasty year and I totally agree with all your points.

    • Haha so happy to hear that, I’m always a bit stressed when publishing those interesting facts articles as observations are always so personal!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  21. Wow, you have listed down some of the unique facts about Indonesia. I had no idea about Indonesians being so fiercely superstitious. A tourism hub with no good coffee is a surprise for me! Thanks for sharing such amazing things!

    • The coffee was a surprise but I have managed without somehow, expect the coffee the country is fabulous!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  22. I have never visited Indonesia and would absolutely love to go? How is the food scene for vegetarians? By the way, it’s so surprising that coffee is not common there. I would have simply assumed that in Indonesia. It may be a regional thing like in India.

    • If you are a vegetarian you gonna love Indonesia, I’m not one but didn’t eat any meat for a whole stay. Food in Indonesia is fabulous! And yes coffee was a surprise, maybe they just export the best coffee and are left with not the best one…
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  23. Pascale

    Very informative post! Never thought they were so much into smoking. But we learn something new every day! Nevertheless, it is an amazing country!

    • It is an amazing country, that goes without saying, I loved it! But indeed this smoking thing is disturbing!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  24. Abbie Synan

    700 different languages! I have been to Bali but you’ve explained a lot about the country that I hadn’t learned. Thanks for the great history/geography/cultural lesson :)

    • Balinese have their own language, I think 4th or 5th biggest in Indonesia. I have been all over Indonesia but it is such a big country that it is hard to generalise :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  25. Loved this article! Being in Indonesia right now I recognize many off these points. Thanks for sharing!

  26. I am a ketchup friend, so thanks for the head’s up! Haha! :)

  27. Masha

    I think Indonesia might be next on my list!! I’m no excited about the ketchup, wary of the massages, and sad about the coffee!

    • I know, coffee was a sad thing but Indonesia is so amazing that it compensate this little thing million of times :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  28. Christine

    Thanks for sharing this. Kecap sounds very interesting, I can’t wait to try it when I go!

  29. Loved this facts, especially the one how superstitious people in Indonesia are. Really interesting reading. :)

    • Glad you liked it Dear, and yes I really loved learning about all the superstitions and beliefs as well!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  30. Hi there! What a super interesting post. I was in Bali, Indonesia first time this year and you were still able to surprise me. The fact that they really have 700 languages is insane, and so is that tax percentage of alcohol. What comes to food I definitely agree that they’re using quite much spices but it was super good in my opinion! And I actually liked the local massages as well but probably I had good luck with them.

    • Glad you liked my post, how did you like Bali? As for me I loved massages in Indonesia and food is out of this world. So delicious!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  31. Natalia

    Interesting facts and you highlighted a few new things for me. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Helpful facts to know especially knowing to ask for tomato sauce for ketchup. And I do love a deep tissue massage, but it sounds like they may have their own version of what that means. Thanks for the heads up!

    • I loved the massages, every single one of them, but indeed it can be too much for most people!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  33. I’ve never heard of death noodles! I’m not sure I would be brave enough to try those. Good tip about ordering ketchup, that must have been confusing the first time it happened!

    • It was rather funny, someone at the table ordered ketchup and they brought kecap, I love those kinds of quirkiness. As for the noodles, I would try but I doubt I would manage to finish the dish!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  34. Michelle M

    These were so many interesting facts about Indonesia! I was surprised about the susperstitions and the smoking. One day I hope to visit that large Buddha too!

    • I was the most shocked about kids smoking, found it kind of crazy! Borobudur is amazing and best visited at sunrise :)
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair 207My Profile

  35. Amy

    Great post! These facts are so interesting! I never knew they had their own ketchup over there! It’s so great to know!

  36. Pia

    Wow, these are indeed some interesting facts. I never was in Indonesia yet. But one day, I will visit.

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