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Fishing on the wild surf beach at Parangtritis, Central Java

The most developed island in the Indonesian archipelago, Java exhibits all the characteristics of an Asian society experiencing rapid transition: great wealth and equal squalor; beautiful open country and filthy cities; tranquil rural scenes and befouling snarls of traffic.

The Hindu-Buddhist empires reached their zenith on Java, producing architectural wonders such as Borobudur and Prambanan. Islam, following on after this, absorbed rather than erased local cultures, leaving Java with a mish-mash of historic influences and religions.

It's also certainly the most developed in the Indonesian archipelago, but is going through westernised puberty. It swings moodily and unpredictably between fast-food joints, shopping malls, satellite TV and back to an older more vibrant traditional culture centred not on the individual, but around the family, the village and religious piety.

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