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Indonesia Destination Information


The landscape of Bali, 'Island of the Gods', is made up of volcanic mountains, lakes and rivers, terraced ricefields, giant banyans and palm groves and, on the coast, bays ringed with white sandy beaches. The island lies a short distance from the eastern coast of Java, across the Strait of Bali. Although its total area is only 2095 sq km (1309 sq miles) the island supports a population of approximately 2.5 million. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the predominant religious faith is Hinduism, though in a special form known as 'Agama-Hindu'. Stretching east to west across the island is a volcanic chain of mountains, dominated by the mighty Gunung Agung (Holy Mountain) whose conical peak soars more than 3170m (10,400ft) into the sky. North of the mountains, where the fertility of the terrain permits, is an area devoted to the production of vegetables and copra. The fertile rice-growing region lies on the central plains. The tourist areas are in the south, around Sanur Beach and at Kuta, which lies on the other side of a narrow isthmus. Nearby Nusa Dusa is also a popular tourist area and has a number of reasonably priced resorts and hotels.
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The capital city of Jakarta retains much from the colonial Dutch and British periods, with many fine colonial-style buildings and the recently restored 'old quarter'. The National Monument towers 140m (450ft) above the Merdeka Square and is crowned with a 'flame' plated in pure gold. The Central Museum has a fine ethnological collection including statues dating from the pre-Hindu era. Worth visiting is the Portuguese Church, completed by the Dutch in 1695, which houses a magnificent and immense Dutch pump organ. The modern Istiqlal Mosque in the city centre is one of the largest in the world. There is an antiques market on Jalan Surabaya and batik factories in the Karet. Throughout the island, puppet shows are staged in which traditional wayang gotek and wayang kulit marionettes act out stories based on well-known legends; performances can sometimes last all night.
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13km (8 miles) from Yogyakarta is the Prambanan temple complex, built in honour of the Hindu gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, which includes the tenth-century Temple of Loro Jonggrang and said to be the most perfectly proportioned Hindu temple in Indonesia. At the temple there are also open-air performances of Ramayana ballet which involve hundreds of dancers, singers and gamelan musicians. Perched on a hill to the west of Yogyakarta is Borobudur, probably the largest Buddhist sanctuary in the world, which contains more than 5km (3 miles) of relief carvings. The Royal Mangkunegaran Palace in Surakarta is now used as a museum and has displays of dance ornaments, jewellery and 19th-century carriages used for royal occasions. Mount Bromo in the east of Java is still very active, and horseback treks to the crater's edge can be made from nearby Surabaya. During August and September Madura is a venue for a series of bullock races which culminate in a 48-hour non-stop carnival celebration in the town of Pamekasan.
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Only a 15-minute flight (or a ferry trip) away is Lombok, an unspoilt island whose name means 'chilli pepper'. Its area is 1285 sq km (803 sq miles). The island possesses one of the highest volcanic mountains in the Indonesian archipelago, Mount Rindjani, whose cloud-piercing peak soars to 3745m (12,290ft). The population of about 750,000 is a mixture of Islamic Sasaks, Hindu Balinese and others of Malay origin. The two main towns are Mataram, the capital, and the busy port of Ampenan; both are interesting to explore. The south coast is rocky. The west, with shimmering rice terraces, banana and coconut groves and fertile plains, looks like an extension of Bali. The east is dry, barren and desert-like in appearance. The north, the region dominated by Mount Rindjani, offers thick forests and dramatic vistas. There are also some glorious beaches, some of white sand, others, such as those near Ampenan, of black sand. At Narmada, reached by an excellent east-west highway, is a huge complex of palace dwellings, complete with a well containing 'rejuvenating waters', built for a former Balinese king. At Pamenang visitors can hire a boat and go skindiving, entering a clear-water world of brilliantly coloured coral and inquisitive tropical fish
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