The Many Faces of Indonesia

The Many Faces of Indonesia


Made up of 17,500 islands and 33 provinces that span 2 hemispheres, it’s hard to argue that Indonesia is one of the most diverse and culturally rich countries in the world.

And with 300 languages spoken, six government-recognised religions practised and an estimated 300 different ethnic groups, the true scale of Indonesia’s many faces is utterly spellbinding.

As somebody fascinated by culture and people across the world, there’s no doubt travelling to Indonesia was for me, like stumbling upon an anthropological treasure trove!

Related Posts

This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.

My time in Indonesia was kindly sponsored by, but, as always, all views are my own.


Rich in Diversity

And it’s easy to feel the same, for just hopping between Indonesia’s 3 main islands of Java, Sumatera and Bali, will immediately give you an incredible glimpse into the many faces of this country.

From the indigenous Batak communities around Lake Toba to the traditional Islamic communities of Padang, the Javanese people in Yogyakarta to the Hindu devotees of Bali – you don’t need to go far off the beaten track in Indonesia to discover a richness and wealth of culture and communities matched by few other places in the world.

But of course, if you do want to get away from the crowds, then from the Asmat people of West Papua to the Mentawai rainforest communities, there’s even more to discover.

And that’s not to mention the Chinese, Malay and ex-pat populations that mix imperceptibly with modern office workers and street hawkers in the bustling capital of Jakarta.

Yes, in every way, Indonesia is a feast for the senses and the soul.

And if you’re a traveller like me, perpetually interested in how cultures mingle, manifest and merge around the world, then there’s few places on earth more exhilarating than Indonesia.



I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which I’ve used throughout my travels in Indonesia and beyond.

Light, compact and sturdy, it’s the perfect companion to adventuring around the world and snapping memories to last you a lifetime.



Strength in Unity

But perhaps what I enjoyed more than the many different faces of Indonesia (if it’s possible) was the unity of this country’s people.

For despite its many diverges, Indonesia honestly seems a country with a unified sense of pride and purpose amongst its population.

And while this can be described on paper as the “Pancasila” – the five principles that come from age-old traditions and are said to define Indonesia’s nationhood; for me, as a traveller at least, the unifying quality of the people of Indonesia was their impeccable hospitality.

I’ve travelled across East Africa, I’ve travelled across the Middle East and I’ve been lucky to experience a sense of hospitality that blew my western mind!

But nothing could have prepared me for the kindness and consideration of the Indonesian people.

No matter where you travel in this country, I can almost guarantee that as a visitor you will be treated as royalty.

Nothing is too much trouble, you can’t be welcomed more earnestly and honestly (and perhaps most amazingly for me) you can’t interact or take peoples’ photos enough either.

For while Indonesia provides the traveller with a great richness in its diversity, it provides perhaps an even better experience thanks to the unifying quality of its peoples’ generosity of spirit and unending openness.


Get Your FREE Checklist Now!

Just enter your details below and I'll email it you - simple!

Information will be sent to the email provided above



Snapping the Sunshine

And the hospitality and happiness shines through.

In peoples’ faces across Indonesia, the sunshine so often bestowed on their country from above, equally radiates through their smiles too.

It is a national face of sunshine.

For someone who isn’t a portrait-photographer by nature, I was absolutely under the spell of the many faces of Indonesia from the moment I arrived.

I honestly snapped more pictures of people here than I ever have before and despite the beauty of the scenery, it’s the faces of this country that become the landscape of Indonesia for me, the map of this magical land, the compass and the quest.

Snapping people in Indonesia became a way to connect and share, as selfies were swapped, permissions were asked, smiles were exchanged and sparks of conversation began to fly.

I loved nothing more during my time here than getting up early and hitting the streets before breakfast.

As the sun came up, people came out into the world and the cities around me came to life, I almost become addicted to enjoying this time away from the other tourists to soak in the natural and new feeling of each wonderful day in this magical land.

From street sellers setting up their business to kids playing before school, old men smoking in doorways, or veiled ladies hurrying back from prayers, capturing the many faces of Indonesia became a real privilege for me, a hushed secret I shared with just a few strangers each morning.



If you’re travelling off the beaten path or for an extended period of time, then I always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads as the best option for coverage and peace of mind.

With an easy, online claims process and the ability to buy or extend a policy when you’re already overseas, I’ve used this company throughout my time in Indonesia and beyond.



Photographer’s Dream

So if you are a portrait photographer and have not been to Indonesia, then you are missing out.

The sheer friendliness of the people – the brightness of their faces and colours around them – makes this whole country unbelievably captivating.

It really is a land where the ancient meets the modern, the traditional meets the new and nowhere is this better displayed than in the stories told by the people.

The stories told through the lines on their cheeks and the smile in their eyes.

Just walking the streets of Indonesia to discover everyday life here will bring you into contact with a cultural vibrancy few others places in the world can rival and as you lean in over steaming street food stalls, sit on pavements next to groups of kids or peer into open doorways to discover what lies in the shadows, the faces of Indonesia will sear their way onto your memory card and into your heart.



There’s no doubt that the many faces of Indonesia were the element of this country that captured me most… and is the element already pulling me back to explore more of this diverse and delightful land.


2 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Indonesia

    • Steph says:

      Thank you so much Sarah. I’m honestly wondering if this is the country with the most photogenic people in the world?! It was literally impossible for me to stop snapping!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.