Dallas Smith's Blog


Jakarta, Borobudur, & Surubaya

I am currently on the island Bali as I compose this blog.  I will write a separate blog about Bali.  The photos in this blog's gallery are from the island of Java, Indonesia's most populous island.  The gallery's photos of from Indonesia's two largest cities:  Jakarta (11 million), Surabaya (3 million), and the world's largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur.

Indonesia is a resource-rich country.  Located on the "Ring of Fire," Indonesia has around 130 active volcanoes.  The volcanic ash from centuries of regular eruptions has resulted in very fertile soil which sustains the fourth largest national population in the world.  The Dutch and the English ruled Indonesia during the Colonial Era.  It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II.  It celebrates its indepence as a nation on the date immediately following Japan's surrender in 1945.

Indonesia has the largest Muslem population of any nation.  But Indonesia's Muslims are different from Middle Eastern/Arabic Muslims.  They are tolerant of religious diversity.  They are not authoritarian in enforcing strict religious adherence.  Every one of our local cruise excursion guides proclaimed the same thing: " Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation, but not a Muslim nation."  Indonesia is a presidential republic with an elected legislature which recognizes six major religions.  (For example, Bali is 95% Hindu.)  Its national motto is "Unity in Diversity."  As example  Indonesian Muslim encounters is a hijab-wearing woman approaching me, a strange man, to shake my hand.  A Muslim woman would never do this in a Middle Eastern Muslim country.

I was impressed by the general openness and congeniality of the Indonesians.  Consider the group photos in this blog's gallery.  As our cruise excursions toured museums, we encountered school classes of various aged students.  They consistently responded to our waves by waving back, at which point I took their photos.  Also, encounters with single individuals were similarly congenial. 

The Buddhist temple of Borobudur dates from ninth century.  It originally had approximately 650 Buddha statues.  However, in Buddhism's decline after Java's conversion to Islam, many of the statues' heads were stolen or destroyed.  The temple was abandoned and forgotten for several centuries, covered by layers of ash from nearby volcanic eruptions.  Borobudur's restoration was initiated by none other than Stamford Raffles, more famous for the glory of Singapore than for his work in Indonesia.  But Raffles oversaw the cleaning and restoration of Borobudur in his position as the British administrator of the island of Java.

Another outstanding excursion on our Viking cruise which yielded photos for the accompanying gallery was a trip to an outdoor architectural park near the capital city Jakarta.  This park contains outstanding examples of the different building styles in the housing of various ethnic groups comprising Indonesia.  One style is represented by ornately carved wooden houses from Java.  The Sulawesi Islands are a separate race of people with different architectural styles.  Besides its many small islands, Indonesia is comprised of large portions of the islands of Borneo and New Guinea.  The Jakarta park has one section devoted to the houses and customs of the Papua people, who are descended from the dark-skinned aboriginal natives of Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and many Pacific islands.

Finally, we were treated to much music and dance during our port visits in Indonesia.  The Viking line invited professional Indonesian performers to appear on the ship. Often the ship would be greeted by a music group playing as the ship docked.  I am not particularly familiar with Indonesian gamelan music.  Suffice it to say, Indonesian music is its own unique style.


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