Monday, 4 October 2021

The Best Asian Discovery

It sprawls across Asia in a glittering geographical garland of 17,500 beautiful islands that stretch from sophisticated Singapore in the north to sunbaked Australia in the south. It is a crucible of the oldest religions and cultures in human history; with Hindu, Buddhist and Christian traditions enduring amidst the largest Muslim and animist communities in the world – yet its government is decidedly secular and its thriving business-world fully materialistic. Its 265 million people belong to 350 different ethnic groups and speak 530 unique languages, yet are remarkably united in national identity. The character of this amazing nation is grounded in local community, yet its outlook is increasingly global. It is a gorgeous cornucopia of colourful cultures, creeds, cuisine and crafts, and it welcomes the world with wide-open arms. This is Indonesia - The Best Asian Discovery for travel and leisure.

In a crowded and competitive travel-industry, what makes Indonesia stand out? First of all, the nation’s sheer size and strategic location ensure that ancient cultures and traditional crafts thrive in our modern technological world. Modern houses have intricate ethnic d├ęcor, and high-powered deals are finalised by tycoons in traditional batik shirts. Sleek imported sedans vie for traffic-space with horse-drawn carts, and satellite-dishes relay telecasts of ancient dramas in authentic detail. In Indonesia, culture is alive and handicraft is part of daily life. Secondly, the fact that most of the islands in this vast archipelago were relatively remote from each other in ancient times results in art, architecture, culture and cuisine being very different from place to place. This gives Indonesia a powerful ‘pull-factor’ in tourism: it is an excellent destination for repeat visits.

Indonesia is probably the world’s last great ecotourism frontier, with its varied geography and unimaginable biodiversity. Try figuring out 28,000 known species of local flowers! From the giant Rafflesia that can weigh over 10 kg, to exquisite tiny orchids as rare and as precious as any gem, Indonesia is a flowering paradise of seductive scents and sensations. Bird-watchers from all over the world fly here to spot as many of the 1500 native species that they can, mindful of the fact that Indonesia has more endemic species than any other country on the planet. There are also over 3500 species of wild animals, from ferocious carnivores like the terrifying Komodo Dragons and the mysterious Sumatran Tiger to furry friends like the appealing little Slow Loris and the gentle and intelligent Orang Utan. And still on the topic of ecotourism, we haven’t even begun to describe the underwater wonders awaiting discovery in some of the most varied and spectacular dive-sites ever known!
There are enough websites and publications that extol every detail of this great nation's tourism attractions. For us at answers!, however, one special quality stands out here - and this is the warmth and love of the Indonesian people. From the most luxurious international hotel to the humblest native dwelling, hospitality in Indonesia is spontaneous and thoroughly sincere. The harried street-hawker hustling in a traffic jam, the musical Batak troubadour at your dining-table, the busy village mother with child on her waist, the tattooed tribesman in his jungle domain, the multi-lingual European-educated boutique owner, the tired farmer trailing his buffalo home across the rice-fields - every single Indonesian you meet will give you a smile and a beaming welcome. The hospitality and friendships that await the visitor can only be experienced personally - and that, alone, should be reason enough for YOU to head for Indonesia, the Best Asian Discovery in travel!

(All pix by Andrew Ponnampalam unless otherwise stated)