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Trip Report Six days in Timor-Leste

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I recently purchased a photo album that holds 200 photos. I printed a list of every country in the world and inserted the name of each country in my photo album. I then searched my photo albums and digital photos for a photo that I had taken in as many countries as I could find. Planning for a recent trip to South Asia, I decided to add Timor-Leste to my list of visited countries.

Using the website, Wikipedia, I found that Timor-Leste has one active airport in Dili, and when I researched the Dili airport, I found that they had flights from Bali, Indonesia, and Darwin, Australia. The flights from Bali were cheaper (about $250 round-trip) and I purchased the ticket on a website called, www.kiwi.com, with Sriwijaya Air from Denpasar.

I spent three days in Bali and was happy to see that Indonesia no longer has a Visa arrival fee. Timor-Leste does have a $30 arrival fee for residents of the United States. There is no arrival fee for Europeans. The airport in Dili has one gate and one metal detector that I was told doesn't work. The airport can accommodate the smaller Airbus and Boeing planes.

Timor-Leste using the American Dollar but has their own coins for smaller denominations. The taxi fee from the airport to downtown was $10. I stayed at the Dili Backpacker's hostel because I wanted to meet other travelers. The first night several of us when out for dinner. Unfortunately, there were ground bones in the beef and chicken, but the rice was good. There are several Burger King's in the area, and many people joke, for a good meal in Timor-Leste, go to Burger King.

With two friends from the hostel, we visited the Resistance Museum, which commemorates Timor-Leste's 24-year struggle with the Indonesian occupation. The museum is well-done and should not be missed. Timor-Leste became a county on May 20, 2002 after many lives were lost. The country has a population of 1,261,000 and the median age is 18 years so it is a very young country.

I hiked to the Cristo Rei of Dili, which is a 27 meter statue of Jesus. Timor-Leste is a Christian country, founded by the Portugese. There are some of the most beautiful beaches near the statue. Dili has a series of microlites, which are minivans that run on 12 different routes. When the one you want goes by, raise your hand, get in, and when you are ready to get out, tap a 25 cent piece and pay the driver. I enjoyed the ride back into town after the long hike.

I met serveral people at the hostel and five of us decided to take a bus trip to Baucau, the second-largest city of 16,000 people. We took a taxi to the bus station and as soon as we arrived the locals grabed our suitcases and wanted us on their bus. There were many 24-person buses and once every seat is filled, the bus takes off. Each bus had a driver and two attendants. The attendants would hang out the door or sit on the top of the bus during the drive. There were many washouts along the road and the 80 mile drive took about 3 hours. The male attendants smoked on the bus. Most men smoke in Timor-Leste.

Arriving in Baucau, we went out to eat and had a chicken dinner, which included fries, rice and one dried out chicken wing. After the dinner I ordered an omelette. The beers were good. I took the bus back to Dili the next day but my friends continued to the end of the coast.

Each Sunday, a large catamaran services the island Atauro. I purchased my ticket Saturday night and was told to be on the boat at 6:00 a.m. The boat left at 8:30 a.m. I found the locals to be very friendly and happy but was annoyed when I saw how they threw their trash in the ocean. The trip to Atauro took 2 1/2 hours. When I arrived on Atauro, I was able to purchase a ticket back to Dili for $6, four hours later. Arriving hungry, I purchased two fish and rice in banana leaves.

The morning I left the hostel to go to the airport, there was no water. This happens a lot and they have a water barrel in the bathroom to flush the toilet. Still, no shower before a flight to Bali, another flight to Singapore and another flight to Phuket, and I wasn't happy. The Internet worked half the time at the hostel and one night the power went out for two hours.

There was a Burger King near the airport and a duty free store in the aiport. The airline included a free small meal on the flight to Bali. I flew with Singapore Airlines from Bali to Singapore and with my Gold card I was able to use the lounge and get a shower, so things do work out.

I placed this in the Indonesia group since there is no area for Timor-Leste.

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