Indonesia’s republican form of government includes an elected legislature and president. Indonesia has 34 provinces, of which five have Special Administrative status. Its capital and country’s most populous city is Jakarta, which is also the most populous city in Southeast Asia and the second in Asia. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the eastern part of Malaysia. Other neighbouring countries include Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world’s second highest level of biodiversity. The country has abundant natural resources like oil and natural gas, tin, copper and gold. Agriculture mainly produces rice, palm oil, tea, coffee, cacao, medicinal plants, spices and rubber. Indonesia’s major trading partners are Japan, United States, China and the surrounding countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
The Indonesian archipelago has been an important region for trade since at least the 7th century, when Srivijaya and then later Majapahit traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders and Sufi scholars brought the now-dominant Islam, while European powers brought Christianity and fought one another to monopolise trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism starting from Amboina and Batavia, and eventually all of the archipelago including Timor and Western New Guinea, at times interrupted by Portuguese, French and British rule, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II.
Indonesian cuisine is one of the most vibrant and colourful cuisines in the world, full of intense flavour. It is diverse, in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands of the total 18,000 in the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 300 ethnic groups calling Indonesia their home. Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon indigenous culture and foreign influences such as Chinese, European, Middle Eastern, and Indian precedents. Rice is the main staple food and is served with side dishes of meat and vegetables. Spices (notably chili), coconut milk, fish and chicken are fundamental ingredients.
Some popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng, gado-gado, sate, and soto are ubiquitous in the country and considered as national dishes. The official national dish of Indonesia however, is tumpeng, chosen in 2014 by Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy as the dish that binds the diversity of Indonesia’s various culinary traditions. Another popular Indonesian dishes like rendang which is one of many Minangkabau cuisine, beside of dendeng and gulai. In 2011, rendang was chosen as the “Worlds Most Delicious Food” that has been announced by CNN. Rendang can be made from beef that is slowly simmered with coconut milk and a mixture of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chilies, then left to stew for a few hours to make it tender, flavourful bovine goodness. Another fermented food such as oncom, similar in some ways to tempeh but using a variety of bases (not only soy), created by different fungi, and particularly popular in West Java.
Indonesia is a rich country with more than 300 ethnic groups. Each of them has its own art, architecture and housing, cuisine, traditional dress, festivals, music, dance, tradition, ritual, myths, philosophy of life, even language. The cultural identities developed over centuries, and influenced by Indian, Arabic, Chinese, and European sources, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. The result is a complex and unique cultural mixture that different from the original indigenous cultures. The fusion of Islam with Hindu in Javanese Abangan belief, the fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism in Bodha, and the fusion of Hinduism and animism in Kaharingan. Traditional Javanese and Balinese dances, for example, contain aspects of Hindu culture and mythology, as do wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances.
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