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I’m handed a coconut shell filled with a runny, canary-yellow liquid that looks less than appealing. My Indonesian guide nods her head encouragingly. A little crowd has gathered around the rickety market stall where I stand, a lone farang [foreigner] in the depths of the market.
They gawk at me, waiting for me to drink the potion. I dart a look at the little old lady whose expertise has rewarded me this treat and she grins slyly, a rotten arch of teeth rocking in her gums. What the hell, I think, and knock back the liquid as if it were a long, bitter shot of tequila.
This was my first introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Jamu (Indonesian traditional medicine) – 1300 years of herb-smashing and pestle-pummeling passed down the generations through hand-scrawled recipes and candle-lit exorcisms (well, that’s how I imagine it at least).
There is no doubt about it – the best snorkeling and diving in the world is in Raja Ampat.
This west Indonesian archipelago contains more marine bio-diversity than anywhere else in the world – more fish, more corals.
In 2002, The Nature Conservancy conducted a scientific survey of the Raja Ampat Islands to collect information on its marine ecosystems, mangroves and forests. The survey brought Raja Ampat’s total number of confirmed corals to 537 species — an incredible 75 percent of all known coral species.
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