Formerly known as the Spice Islands, Indonesia stands at the crossroads of trade between Asia and Australia. The nearly 14,000 islands that make up Indonesia stretch 3,200 miles along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. These tropical islands are home to many types of wildlife including tigers, elephants, tropical birds and komodo dragons. Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world. The majority of the population lives on Java and Bali where the land is fertile. Coffee, tea and rice are grown on the islands; rubber and palm oil are also cultivated. Indonesia is the 10th largest oil producer and the third largest tin producer in the world. Although nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s people are Muslim, they represent a variety of ethnic groups, including Malay, Japanese, Chinese and Indian. Maintaining unity in far-flung diversity is the greatest challenge for Indonesians. Escalating tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities have resulted in increased violence in some areas of Indonesia. Batik, a traditional Indonesian handicraft, is made by creating designs on cloth with molten wax. When the cloth is dyed, the wax preserves a white pattern.
Men and women may wear a batik sarong, a long cloth wrapped around the waist, on formal occasions.