The most invisible country in the world

Children in Indonesia

I overhead an Australian and a South African talking on the beach in Bali the other day: they were wondering whether Indonesia is as big as Thailand. They had been travelling in both countries yet had no idea that Indonesia is almost four times as big as Thailand.

Indonesia has been famously described as ‘the most invisible country in the world’.

One in every 30 humans on the planet is Indonesian yet about half of the 13,466 islands (according to a recent UN survey) are uninhabited. Mile-for-mile it very probably represents the country with the most mind-bogglingly kaleidoscopic cultural diversity. Yet surprisingly few people know it even exists.

From the tip of Aceh (known as the Veranda of Mecca) it stretches 3,231 miles to West Papua – a land where black-skinned tribesmen hunt kangaroos with bows and arrows. Imagine the culture-shock of a trip from London to Khartoum or from Los Angeles to Panama City.

Now imagine the excitement and diversity emphasised by the fact that you are on a trail of islands, threaded like jewels along the incomparably spectacular landscapes of the Ring of Fire and peopled some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on the planet.

This is the greatest island nation in the world and, as such, there is really no better way to explore than by boat. With the sails billowing overhead and the warm teak deck under your feet, you really feel that the world’s most invisible country is yours to explore.

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