…what to do, what to do???
We had a total of 6 days in Timor Leste with 3 days in Dili and 3 days on Atauro Island. For us this was the perfect length to fill our days with an enjoyable mix of exploring and relaxing. And of course enough time for some food and drinks (the shark loves his food, yet never gains a pound – lucky fish!!!). So what should one do with 3 days (or technically 2.5 days once you deduct the traveling times) in Dili?
Let’s start with the obvious! When in Dili…
… You HAVE to visit the Cristo Rei of Dili statue, probably Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemers statues little brother! Since Dili is situated along a bay you can pretty much see the statue from most angles from the esplanade proudly overlooking his territory!
We were advised to go at sunset to get the best views. Due to internal logistics we opted however to go in the early afternoon since we wanted to make the most of the two beautiful beaches at the bottom of the statue. The walk up was about 10 – 15 minutes with some great view points. Best of all – there were NO other people around, so we had the entire statue and views all to ourselves. Clearly Dili is a little less popular than Rio!
The beaches below couldn’t have been more beautiful with only a few locals around so we went for a dip (the shark had to mind the bag – he isn’t allowed in the sea!).
We took one of the Microlets (mini buses) back into the city since we didn’t see too many taxis around. That’s how you end up traveling with a chicken or other livestock!
When in Dili…
…You should really visit the Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum amrtimor.org
I would highly recommend to read up on the basics of Timors history before you get there (or at least once you get there…like we had to!). It is a sad and violent history which happened all in our lifetime (unless you are millennial, you are too new). I won’t go into detail, but in a nutshell throughout their history East Timor has been colonised by the Portuguese, during the Second World War the Japanese wreaked some havoc until in the 1970s the country endured a very brutal and long-lasting invasion by Indonesia, which wiped out a large portion of the Timorese people. That is all not really a long time ago and you can still see remnants of the violent past in the streets passing destroyed houses and desolate public spaces.
The Museum gives a pretty detailed run down on the events from the colonisation of the Portuguese to the declaration of Independence in 2002. I would strongly recommend to set an hour aside during your stay to pay a visit to the museum. The entrance only costs 1 USD, which surely won’t impact the travel budget too much.
When in Dili…
… You should take a stroll around the city and beach esplanade! Apart from the beautiful views over the bay you also get a pretty good idea of how the majority of locals live. It is pretty obvious that a big portion of the population live in poor conditions. There are quite a few public parks and monuments remembering the resistance. It really gives you a bit of a feel for the place. Just be careful with the heat – stay hydrated, my friends!
When in Dili…
… You need to get a coffee! If you are anything like the Shark you’ll need a good cup of coffee before anything happens in the morning!
Café Letefoho: We stumbled across this great and surprisingly hip looking place close to the embassy strip! They serve great coffee and have good views over the bay. Food-wise they offer little sweet snacks like Portuguese tartlets and Banana bread (depending on availability as we found out). They actually roast their own coffee which you can buy there as well to take home. It seems to be a popular expat hangout! They don’t have a website, but you can visit them on Facebook!
Hotel Timor: Situated right opposite the port, we were told it supposedly serves the best coffee in Dili! If you fancy a good aircon and Western atmosphere and snacks this is the place to be. There is also a nice souvenir shop attached to the hotel if you are looking for some Timorese goodies to take home for family and friends. The Resistance Archive and Museum is just a short walk away! www.timortur.com
When in Dili…
…You surely needs to eat! And we ate well, I have to say! The Timorese cuisine is simple, but delicious. I can’t say that we had a bad meal there once.
Caravela: Now that was a bit confusing! We had read on TripAdvisor about a place called Diza right by the beach that had some great food! So we sat off to find Diza, but the place Google Maps was adamant should be Diza was now called Caravela! It seems they changed the name, but no one has updated anything online. So if you would like to find this place – look for Diza! The place was absolutely stunning, right on the beach and it looked like a mix of Greek island style meets Ibiza beach club vibe! Very pretty and the food was amazing! Super fresh and tasty! They specialise in seafood, but if that’s not your thing you can get chicken and other meats! We had fish, got some beers, enjoyed the amazing views and the very friendly service! Comes highly recommended!
Rolls N Bowls: If you like Vietnamese cuisine this is the place to be! Phó, Banh Mi, Vermicelli Salads, Rice Paper Rolls – they have it all and it’s delicious! The prices are pretty good between 4.5 USD and 6 USD! Value for money and delicious! You can find them on Facebook or Tripadvisor for more information!
The Spa: Some of the probably nicest food we had was at The Spa which indeed is a proper spa, but it has a cafe attached to it. They do a very good Western breakfast and coffee. They also serve some great pita breads and sandwiches. Check it out when you are in the area, it was delicious food that even felt pretty healthy! Combine it with a little pampering and Bob’s your uncle (as they say)! Once again they don’t have a website or Facebook, so you can find them on TripAdvisor.
When in Dili…
…You should definitely have a drink…or two! Hopefully you are fond of beer, because wine is hard to come by. Beer however is readily available and will set you back 4 USD on average!
Hotel Esplanada: This one came recommended by a local and it is a nice place. Close to the embassy strip it looks pretty unassuming. Inside there is a very inviting looking pool in the garden. That however is (understandably, but unfortunate for us) only for hotel guests. The bar area is upstairs with an open and airy feel looking out onto the sea! Definitely worth spending a bit of time and to cool down with a frosty bad boy! They do serve food as well, so you can go for lunch or dinner! www.hotelesplanada.com
Moby Dick – Legends never die!: Yes, this is the full name! And wow, what a place. If you are Australian and you miss home – this is where you come to! It will catapult you right back into some probably outback-ish small town pub. If you are not Australian and you haven’t been exposed to any Aussies, you can treat this as an educational drink. The owner is probably Moby Dick himself – he is a big boy! The patrons were probably all the Australian expats in town. Australians would probably call it a bit bogan (as a translation let’s go with “unsophisticated”). Beers are good, we had a pizza which was surprisingly delicious and if you like a sports bar, this should do it for you. I have no doubt that it does get pretty loose there, we however were good little sharks and left before it got out of hand!
Well, we hope you enjoyed this little piece of insight. Our next and last part on Timor Leste is going to be on Atauro island! What a little gem this island is! If you are interested to hear some more on what to do there, stay tuned!
Thank you and see again next time!
S. & M.