Indonesia: Overview

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Updated: 2017-03-10.

Indonesia is an island country located in southeastern Asia. It is an archipelago made up of over 18,000 islands, and it is a large part of the Malay archipelago, the largest archipelago in the world, by number of islands, with about 30,000 islands. The Malay archipelago stretches a vast distance east to west, and if New Guinea is included, it spans 6,400 km (4,000 mi), equivalent to the distance from eastern Spain to western China or from eastern California to western Iceland. It shares a border with Malaysia, Singapore, Palau, and the Philippines to its north, Papua New Guinea and East Timor to its east, and Australia to its south.

Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world, with almost one-quarter of a billion people. It is as diverse as it has countless islands, and more than 700 living languages are spoken within its boundaries. The official one is Bahasa Indonesa, which is derived from Malay. On top of that, there are over 3,000 different ethnic groups in Indonesia. Indonesians may be different from area to area, but there is no shortage of cultural influences to be had, no matter where one travels.

The country is rich with history dating back thousands of years. It is perennially considered to be one of the most majestic and romantic countries to visit, as well. From the paradise-evoking beaches to the seductively-sinister threat of the hundreds of active volcanoes, to the tropical rain forest environments throughout, it should meet the demands of most any traveler.

Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia, with over 10 million people. It is located on the northwestern coast of the island of Java, which is the most populated island in the world, with nearly 140 million inhabitants.

Food in Indonesia is quite diverse, thanks to its many islands, ethnic groups, and outside influences. Spices from India and the Middle East are a big part of most dishes, and there are influences more recently from Europe, most notably the Dutch, who controlled the country until it gained independence in 1945. Rice is a staple of almost every meal eaten, no matter the socioeconomic class or region. Coconut milk, soybean, peanuts, and chili peppers are other staple ingredients throughout the vast cuisines of Indonesia.

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