David and Lili's World Tour


April 2014 - Timor Leste (East Timor)

Nobody said it was going to be easy... Timor Leste became a country just 12 years ago after a devastating war for independence from Indonesia, and they stil have much to rebuild. But progress is on the march. There are no more refugee camps, but there are road construction crews. There are no more U.N. soldiers, but there are foreign NGO workers and teachers. We saw zero tourists, but we did meet a few backpackers at the country's one hostel (in Dili). Interestingly, almost all of them were hard-core adventurers (one couple arrived by motorcycle from the UK, another guy arrived by bicycle from Turkey, et cetera). Timor Leste has great beaches and world-class snorkeling, but it is not quite ready for tourism.

We went to the far end of the island and back by local bus (and by foot), which was quite challenging, but the local people were universally friendly and helpful. Timor Leste has two official languages; most people speak Tetum, but we could always find someone to talk to because the other language is Portuguese (which many old people speak fluently and children must study in school). Having a language in common with local people always makes our adventures more fun and interesting.

Compared to Australia, Timor Leste is quite cheap, but compared to West Timor (Indonesia) it is expensive. Timor Leste uses U.S. dollars.

Timor is one island with two distinct identities, so it makes sense that it should be divided into two countries. The languages, food, and religious traditions are different (the whole island is predominatnly Christian, but the East is Catholic while the West is Protestant). Timor Leste reminded us of the poorest parts of Brazil, but West Timor is undeniably Asia (crowded and busy with ubiquitous food options and motorcycle traffic)...

The good news is that we found Timor Leste to be a peaceful and friendly nation, looking forward to a prosperous future. The land is fertile, and the local sea has not been overfished. Also Timor Leste has oil (people say this is why the West intervened in the war). Once they get their bad roads fixed and add a few hotels, this country should become a shining star on the tourist map. Timor Leste is a diamond in the rough.

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