15 Fun, interesting and surprising facts about Indonesia
Recently I spent four weeks traveling through Indonesia. Unfortunately, I ended up in an Indonesian hospital with Dengue fever and didn’t get to see half as much of this large and diverse country as I hoped. But, I learnt a lot about Indonesia and wanted to share some interesting, useful and sometimes surprising facts about this unique archipelago.
Indonesia Fact #1: The Country
Indonesia is the largest country in the world comprised solely of islands.
Indonesia is huge! With around 18,000 islands (nobody knows the exact number) covering approximately 1,919,440 square kilometers, it takes over 12 hours to fly from one end of the country to the other.
Of all of Indonesia’s islands, only around 6,000 are inhabited.
Indonesia Fact #2: Population size
Indonesia has a population of around 250 million people, making it the fourth most populous country in the world (after China, India and the USA).
The island of Java, home to about 60% of the country’s population, is the most populous island in the world.
Indonesia Fact #3: The economy
Roughly half of Indonesia’s population lives on less than $2 USD a day.
The country’s economy centers around agriculture and oil, with approximately 90% of the population involved in agriculture.
Indonesia Fact #4: Religion
The Indonesian government only recognizes six religions: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism. Every citizen must officially subscribe to one of these religions, regardless of what he or she may actually believe. Two individuals with different religions are not allowed to marry, unless one of them converts.
Indonesia is home to approximately 12.7% of the world’s Muslim population. That makes it the world’s largest Muslim country, with over 87% of the country’s population identifying themselves as Muslim.
Indonesia Fact #5: A young population
Indonesia has the largest ‘young’ population in the world with around 50% under the age of 30. Only 6% of the population is aged over 65 years.
Indonesia Fact #6: Flora & Fauna
Indonesia is home to thousands of different flora and fauna, making it the country with the second highest level of biodiversity in the world (number 1 is Brazil).
Some of the flora and fauna are truly rare, such as the Sumatran tiger, the Javan rhinoceros, and the Rafflesia – the world’s largest flower which weighs up to 7 kg (15 pounds). Its petals grow to 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) long and 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick.
Some animals, like the Komodo dragon, are endemic only to Indonesia. The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world, growing up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length.
Indonesia Fact #7: Frogs’ legs
Now this I’m sure you didn’t know: Indonesia is the world’s leading exporter of frogs’ legs. During the last decade, Europe alone imported 4,600 tons annually, with France, Belgium, and The Netherlands being the main importers.
Indonesia Fact #8: Cat poop coffee
Indonesia exports the world’s most expensive and without a doubt most unique coffee: Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak is coffee made from coffee beans eaten and defecated by an Indonesian cat-like animal called the palm civet. Allegedly the action of the civet’s stomach enzymes gives the coffee an unrivaled richness of flavor without any of the usual bitterness. As a result, Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive beverage, costing around $1,000 per pound.
Indonesia Fact #9: Volcanoes
Indonesia is home to some 400 volcanoes. They make great tourist attractions but the country does experience around one volcanic eruption per year and a total of 127 volcanoes are active, which is about a third of all the world’s active volcanoes.
Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. The lake’s supervolcanic eruption 70,000 years ago was the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it killed most humans living at that time.
Indonesia Fact #10: Headhunting
Headhunting; the practice of taking and preserving a person’s head after killing the person… apparently it hasn’t died out completely yet!
The Indonesian side of Timor is said to be home to some of the last-remaining headhunting villages.
The Korowai, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Irian Jaya, live in tree houses, some nearly 40 metres high, presumably as protection against a tribe of neighbouring headhunters, the Citak.
Indonesia Fact #11: Traffic jams
Capital city Jakarta is known as a major global city but it still has no high-speed railway system. Its population of over 10 million people rely on private cars and busses to traffic around the city – resulting in some of the worst traffic jams known to man.
Indonesia Fact #12: Bali
The small Indonesian Hindu population mostly lives on the island of Bali. Balinese Hinduism is rich with ancient superstitions. One that endures to this day is not letting a baby’s feet touch the ground for the first six months. It’s done to prevent the devil entering the child and as a result, infants are continuously passed from relative to relative.
Another fun fact about Bali is that a large number of people in Bali has had their teeth filed down. The practice is rooted in the belief that the six vices (anger, confusion, jealousy, drunkenness, desire, and greed) all enter the body through the top six teeth. By filing away the demonic ends, the vices are easily thwarted.
Indonesia Fact #13: Corruption
According to the 2004 Global Corruption Report, former Indonesian President Suharto, holding the office for 31 years until his resignation in 1998, was the most corrupt leader of all time, embezzling between 15 billion and 35 billion USD.
Corruption is still widespread in Indonesia. In January 2012 it was reported that the country had lost as much as US$238.6 million to corruption in 2011. A study conducted by Indonesia Corruption Watch said that embezzlement accounted for most of the money lost and that government investment was the sector most prone to graft.
Indonesia Fact #14: Gold
The Grasberg mine, located near Puncak Jaya, is the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world.
Indonesia Fact #15: Buddhist temple
The Borobudur temple on the island of Java is the largest Buddhist monument in the world, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. It resembles a nine-tiered “mountain,” rising to 113 feet (34.5 m) tall. It is said to have taken 75 years to complete.
For more information about (traveling to) Indonesia:
- 10 Things Not to Miss When Traveling to Indonesia
- The Ultimate Indonesia Travel Guide
- Things to Do in Yogyakarta
- Things You Can Only Do in Indonesia
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Featured image source: universtravel.al