Indonesia straddles the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the north as well as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, it also neighbors Australia to the south, and Palau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand to the north, India to the northwest. (from http://wikitravel.org/en/Indonesia)
The Gay Scene
The gay scene in Bali and Indonesia in general is open and growing. There are many gay owned and managed hotels, guesthouses, bars, pubs, spas and tour companies.
Indonesia is the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia. With 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the world. With almost 240 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world — after China, India and the USA — and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world.
Indonesia markets itself as Wonderful Indonesia, and the slogan is quite true, although not necessarily always in good ways. Indonesia’s tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil, and are being logged and cut down at the same alarming speed. While the rich shop and party in Jakarta and Bali. After decades of economic mismanagement 50.6% of the population still earns less than US$2/day according to figures compiled by the World bank in 2009. This had come down by 6% in the 2 years between 2007 and 2009.
Indonesia is home to no less than 167 active volcanoes, far more than any other country. Some of the more accessible for visitors are in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and the Ijen Crater in East Java, Mount Rinjani in Lombok and perhaps easiest of all, Mount Batur in Bali.
Hardly surprisingly in the world’s largest archipelago, beaches are significant attractions. Aside from the obvious like Bali, there are wonderful beaches in off-the-beaten-track locations in Maluku, Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi. In a nation of 18,000+ islands, the options are almost endless.
Indonesia has some of the largest remaining tracts of tropical forest anywhere in the world, and these support any incredibly diverse wildlife from Orangutans and other primates to critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros and Tigers, and an extraordinarily wide range of bird species. Forest areas recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, and three huge parks in Sumatra, which together comprise the Tropical Rain Forest Heritage of Sumatra: Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Gunung Leuser National Park and Kerinci Seblat National Park.
Further east, Komodo Island is the home of the remarkable Komodo Dragon and a very diverse marine life. Close the very eastern limit of Indonesia, the remote Lorentz National Park in Papua has a permanent glacier, and is the single largest national park anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Historical and cultural attractions
Borobudur in Central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist monument, dating from the 8th century, and nearby Prambanan is a remarkable Hindu monument dating from just a few years later. Those two, together with the charm of Yogyakarta, make for a popular cultural combination in Central Java.
Also in Central Java, the Dieng Plateau is home to the oldest extant temples in Indonesia, predating Borobudur by some 100 years, and just north of Solo, the early man archaeological excavation at Sangiran is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In such a vast archipelago it is hardly surprising that there are some very distinct and unique cultures, often contained in relatively small areas. Bali has a unique Hindu culture, descended from the great Javanese Majapahit Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. The whole island is adorned by beautifully kept temples (pura), and there is a seemingly endless procession of colourful ceremonies. Some of the better known are the mother temple at Besakih, Pura Ulun Danau Bratan, and Pura Uluwatu.
Further east, Sumba is home to one of the few remaining megalithic cultures anywhere on earth. In Sulawesi, the Tana Toraja region is famous for spectacular animist burial rites. Visiting the vast hinterland of Papua in the far east of the country requires considerable planning, an awful lot of money, and a tolerance for extremely challenging conditions. However, for those who want a true wilderness experience and the opportunity to witness first-hand cultures that have had very little contact with the outside world, it is hard to think of a better option anywhere on earth.
Indonesia has some of the best scuba diving in the world, and this is a major draw for tourists with places like Bunaken in Northern Sulawesi and Wakatobi in South East Sulawesi known worldwide. While diving off Bali can be a little mediocre, Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands offer excellent recreational diving, as well as being important teaching centres.
Visiting a spa is a very popular activity for all types of visitors. These vary from simply constructed huts to lavish so-called “wellness centres” in the grandest of five star hotels. There is usually an option to suit just about every budget.
If massage is your thing, there are few places anywhere which offer such high quality for such low prices. Again this could be at a five star hotel or it could be under coconut tree on a quiet beach.
Indonesia is a premier destination for travelling surfers.
The Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra feature dozens of world class surf spots. Chartering a private boat for up to two weeks is the most popular way to access the island chain, however there is a public ferry from Padang. Just to the north Nias is equally popular amongst hard-core surfies.
Further east, Bali and tiny Nusa Lembongan have some great waves, the south of Lombok likewise, and for the more adventurous, Sumbawa offers world class surfing.