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.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track