This is not a story from the “I’ve been everywhere girl’ travel style memoir, this is a truly riveting and fascinating look into a country and culture that almost defies itself by its difference from Island to Island, with its history, religion, trade and truly spectacular landscape. This is a rich and in-depth look at just what goes into making Indonesia, Indonesia.
The first and perhaps most interesting fact is that Indonesia, with all its little islands, 130,000 in fact, placed in line will stretch from London to Tehran which is only the beginning of the fascinating insights offered by and shown to Elizabeth in her sojourn in this wonderful Nation packed full of contrast.
This may come as shock to the many who know Indonesia from their visits to Bali, Lombok, Java and Sumatra that these well known Islands are just four of the many Island that go to make up this incredible part of the world known collectively as Indonesia. As well as being known for the warmth and welcome of the people, the islands have also long been known for the spices and their very accepting lifestyle, their vast differences and the stark contrast of life, modern and traditional, which sits side by side in the everyday modern lifestyle that is now commonplace.
Indonesia, per se, has been invaded by the Dutch, Spanish and British as well as the Japanese, Chinese and an few other passers bye, in their desire to own the spices or the traditional trade routes or both. Each culture was dealt with and seen off and as the years went by the country slow came back under its own rule as recently as 1946, just after the Second World War.
Under the leadership of Sukarno an attempt was made to meld all the various Islands into one cohesive force, succeeding to some degree but not without some serious objection from some of the other Island nations.The country has always had a somewhat violent past as well as a colourful cultural past, which in today’s active touting for the tourism dollar is often swept under the rug and hidden from public sight.
Elizabeth Pisani has spent many years in and out of Indonesia, firstly as a foreign correspondent, and then ten years later as an epidemiologist, building up a love of the lifestyle and people over many years. She has also seen firsthand the incredibly contradictory manner in which the country is run, and the way so little seems to change, but somehow so much does change.
If you are not an Indonsian-phile, have never been there but are more than curious about a delightfully contradictory nation and its people enjoy the journey as you open the first page of Indonesia etc, it’s a fascinating one.
If you are one of the many who have fallen in love with the exotic ‘spice islands’ and their lovely people, take a read of Elizabeth’s year long journey in an attempt to understand the people and the lifestyle she loves to call her own. You will find her story, lovely and warm-hearted and generous, just like the people of the nation she enjoys calling ‘home’.