Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indonesia: An abundance of wonders and beauty

Indonesia has a national motto which reads in Bahasa Indonesia - Bhinneka Tunggal Ika; translated to English it means Unity in Diversity. For anyone in Indonesia this is familiar but for those less familiar with this country it is an interesting insight into the aspirations of the nation. The word ‘diversity’ is a particularly good representation of this country. It is a country with remarkable diversity.

That diversity manifests itself in a wealth of wonders and beauty that are the product of a varied range of natural environs and social and ethnic groups and their cultures. It is something of a cliché to think of Indonesia as a string of thousands of islands and the world’s greatest archipelago; a person could spend a lifetime island hopping here and be consistently amazed or impressed.

Some of Indonesia’s more renowned tourist destinations are a good place to start in appreciating this country. Java is, it is reasonable to state, the foremost of Indonesia’s islands both historically and in terms of the concentration of the nation’s population. Within Java there are a significant number of tourist destinations of repute.

The string of volcanic mountains that line Java presents numerous natural wonders to be seen and explored, but perhaps the most dramatic of the mountain regions is Bromo in the east of the island. This range of mountains creates stunning vistas and combined with the vast ‘Sea of Sand’, that sits in the area too, makes an area for rugged trekking and appreciation of and awe at the might of nature.

The Indonesian archipelago is noted as one of the more volatile regions of the world for seismic and volcanic activity and so visits to the likes of Bromo sometimes have to be timed to coincide with less active periods in the life of the volcanoes. Even during a relatively calm period care may be needed as the stench of sulfur pouring up from the craters can be quite overpowering.

But the stunning views and wonder of viewing the Earth’s steaming, bubbling and smoking essence is an experience to be remembered. Not so far away from Bromo, but in Central Java, are more peaceful wonders that were created long ago by human hands and today represent wonders of world heritage. The temples at Borobudur and Prambanan are places of religious and spiritual importance.

Borobudur is quite simply staggering to behold in its beauty and scale. This hill-like Buddhist temple seems to be covered from top to bottom in statuary and relief carving. The numbers at Borobudur are staggering to behold – there are more than 2,500 panels of relief carving and over 500 statues of the Buddha. It all amounts to a wealth of craftsmanship and a day’s visit can never be enough.

Meanwhile, the nearby Prambanan temple is Hindu in origin and like Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Prambanan is quite different to Borobudur though. Prambanan is a series of towers that when built must have been the skyscrapers of that time. The tallest central one reaches up to near 50 meters in height.

Borobudur and Prambanan stand as exemplars of Indonesia’s diversity. Indonesia is so often referred to as the country with the biggest Muslim population and this is true but here stand two of the world’s greatest Buddhist and Hindu shrines.

The rest of the world is familiar with another Hindu part of Indonesia – namely Bali – and often this jewel of an island is mistakenly thought of as separate to Indonesia. Bali is though one small part of this great nation. Destinations abound and are abundant in what they have to offer to the traveler. Simon Marcus Gower, Contributor, Jakarta Post

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