Indonesia is a country with great size and diversity. The Indonesian archipelago encompasses in excess of 13,500 islands and stretches a greater distance from east to west than North America. Indonesia is home to more than 220 million people representing more than 300 ethnic groups and speaking more than 250 different languages. While located entirely in the tropics, mountains in Irian Jaya have snow on their peaks. Moist regions in the west give way to drier and even arid areas in the east. The Asian and Australasian geological plates are juxtaposed in Indonesia, and this is an important reason for the great differences in flora and fauna between east and west, and a major reason for Indonesia possessing some of the greatest biodiversity among nations. Legend crowding the scientific spirit; political compulsions and historical obligations jostling each other; nationalism challenging tradition, tradition withstanding assault; practicalities defeating ambition; determination outrunning frustration. Over all hope, like a banyan tree with its wide branches casting forth fresh roots into the ancient soil.
Levels of development also vary markedly, generally declining in an easterly direction, and the sophistication of parts of Jakarta, the capital, contrasts heavily with the traditional lifestyles still found in parts of Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. Thus for a mix of reasons based in both physical and human phenomena, the landscapes of Indonesia are diverse. It is this diversity of both natural and cultural features that constitutes a rich resource for tourism.
Much of this tourism has been mass tourism in “sea—sun—sand” settings, but cultural and other natural features have played strong supporting roles.
Tourism is now third behind textiles and wood products as a non-oil generator of foreign exchange, and is projected to rise to first place by the year 2000. Thus when viewed from a national perspective, the recent rapid rate of growth of international tourism can be viewed as a great success.
If the scale of analysis is changed, one finds that this level of success should be qualified in a number of ways. As with economic development as a whole, tourism in Indonesia is extremely unevenly distributed. Roughly a quarter of international travelers visit Jakarta, the capital, but many of these are primarily on business. Jakarta is situated on the northwest tip of Java facing into the Java Sea. Its harbor is Priok, or Tanjung Priok, a name synonymous with congestion and insecurity so far as shipping is concerned, but when we first arrived the wharves seemed only mill-run, dusty, bustling, hot.
Another quarter visit Bali, and a growing number of short-stay visitors are entering Indonesia from Batam in neighboring Singapore. While there are a substantial number of other established international tourist destinations, and also a growing domestic market, most areas of Indonesia have yet to be modified greatly by tourism, although this is beginning to change.
However, where tourists are concentrated, as in Jakarta where the landscape is dotted with high-rise hotels, and in Bali where tourism, along with agriculture, dominates the economy, its effects are becoming increasingly visible. The remainder of this chapter will concentrate on the case of Bali, Indonesia’s premier tourism destination, and will discuss the creation of new landscapes in Bali which meld the traditional and the modern.