Indonesia Fun Fact #1.
Indonesia is huge. Composed of 17,508 islands covering approximately 1,919,440 square kilometers, it takes over 12 hours of flying time to get from one end of the country (say, Northern Sumatra) to the other end (West Papua Guinea).
Thanks to its geographical span, the country covers three time zones.
Indonesia Fun Fact #2.
Of its 17,508 islands, only around 6,000 are inhabited by people.
Indonesia Fun Fact #3.
“Indonesia” was first used by the British in the mid-19th century. The word comes from the Greek word nesos, which means ‘island’, and the Latin name Indus which means land beyond the Indus river.
Dutch colonists preferred to call Indonesia the Dutch East Indies or the Malayan Archipelago and so the name was adopted by the anti-colonial movement in the early 20th century.
Indonesia Fun Fact #4.
Indonesia is home to thousands of different flora and fauna, making it the country with the second highest level of biodiversity in the world (Brazil is #1).
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.
Some animals – like the Komodo dragon – are endemic only to Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia is the only place in the world to see a Komodo dragon in the wild. And Sumatra is the only place outside of Borneo to see orangutans in the wild.
Indonesia (Not so) Fun Fact #5.
Indonesia is very rich in natural resources – its oil reserves alone make it the only South East Asian member of Nato and it is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. But despite being one of the G20 group of leading economies, roughly half of Indonesia’s population lives on less than $2 USD a day.
Indonesia Fun Fact #6.
Indonesia is extremely culturally diverse. In fact, there are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with their own customs, traditions, and dialects.
Indonesia Fun Fact #7.
Although Bahasa Indonesia is the national language of Indonesia, there are over 700 indigenous languages. Most Indonesians speak their indigenous language as their mother tongue and Bahasa Indonesia for school and careers, making most Indonesians bilingual.
Bahasa Indonesia is strikingly similar to Bahasa Malay, which is no surprise since Bahasa Indonesia is a variant of Malay developed in the 1920s by nationalists and adopted as the official language of Indonesia after independence.
Indonesia Fun Fact #8.
Indonesia is strict when it comes to…religion. The government only recognizes six religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism – and every citizen must officially subscribe to one of those 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 Fun Fact #9.
Did you know that Indonesia is home to 12.7% of the world’s Muslim population? That also makes Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim country, with over 87% of the country’s population identifying themselves as Muslim.
Indonesia Fun Fact #10.
Indonesia has a massive population of over 238 million people, making it the fourth most populous country in the world – right after China, India and the USA. The island of Java, with over 140 million people, is the most populous island in the world.
Indonesia Fun Fact #11.
Indonesia exports 3,000 tons of frogs’ legs to France each year. Bet you didn’t know that.
Indonesia Fun Fact #12.
Yet another strange Indonesian export involves the Asian palm civet and coffee berries.
To be more specific, these small, cat-sized mammals are fed coffee berries. After they defecate, their feces is collected, washed, and used to make kopi luwak. If that sounds gross to you, you should try it – 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 Fun Fact #13.
The equator cuts straight across Sumatra, Sulwesi, Kalimantan as well as a few other small islands that make up the middle part of Indonesia. If you have the chance to visit, do! – it’s a fun, albeit overdone, photo-taking opp.
Indonesia Fun Fact #14.
Indonesia is one of the most geographically and geologically interesting countries in the world. The islands of Indonesia are stretched out between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plate, making Indonesia one of the most changing geological areas in the world. Every day, the country experiences three vibrations and at least one earthquake.
Indonesia has a fiery side, too. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to around 150 volcanoes. They’re mostly not a threat – and make great tourist attractions – but the country does experience around one volcanic eruption per year. Occasionally, the eruption is a big deal – case in point, the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815 on the island of Sumbawa was and still is the largest observed volcanic eruption in recorded history.
Indonesia Fun Fact #15.
Speaking of volcanoes, Indonesia is home to the world’s largest volcanic lake. Lake Toba is situated in Sumatra is the site of a massive super-volcanic eruption that is estimated to have occurred around 69,000 to 77,000 years ago. It marks the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years.
To make things even more interesting, a new island has formed in the center of Lake Toba, called Pulau Samosir. It now serves as the cultural center of the Batak tribe – former headhunters who are now mostly Christian.
Indonesia Fun Fact #16.
Speaking of headhunters, the Indonesian side of Timor is known to be home to the last-remaining headhunting villages.
Indonesia Fun Fact #17.
Indonesia is a country rich with myriad cultural influences from outsiders. This is apparent in the language, which has absorbed many loanwords from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and various other Austronesian languages.
The borrowing goes both ways in some cases – some English words you take for granted have their origins in Malay-Indonesian roots. One great example is the phrase ‘run amok.’
Amok originated from the Indonesian word mengamuk which roughly translates to “to make a furious and desperate charge,” but comes from deeper spiritual beliefs. Amok was believed to be caused by hantu belian, an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused one to do heinous acts. As a result of this belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated and dealt with the consequences of the act with no ill will towards the doer of the act.
Indonesia Fun Fact #18.
Indonesia was a regional superpower before it was colonized by the Dutch. The Sri Vijaya and Majapahit Empires spanned the entire Indonesian archipelago, even including the present-day Malaysia and even the southern islands of the Philippines.
Indonesia Fun Fact #19.
Speaking of colonialism, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, was known as Batavia during the Dutch colonial period.
Jakarta is now 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 busways to traffic around the city – resulting in some of the worst traffic jams known to man.
Indonesia Fun Fact #20.
While the majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, the small Indonesian Hindu population mostly lives on the island of beautiful Bali. On the beautiful island, you’ll be able to catch a performance of the Wayang Kulit, or shadow puppets, as well as beautiful dance performances and Hindu-influenced sculpture.
The irony of this, however, is that there is no word for ‘art’ in Balinese.
Indonesia Fun Fact #21.
Speaking 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 of the infant’s life. It’s done to prevent the devil entering the child and as a result, infants are continuously passed from relative to relative.
Indonesia Fun Fact #22.
Another fun fact about Bali is that almost everyone 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.