A day in Dili: Timor Leste

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A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by Jimbob » Mon Sep 04, 2017 2:41 pm

Recently I took a cruise from Singapore to Cairns. The ports of call included Dili in Timor Leste which influenced me into choosing that particular cruise. My travel insurance didn’t cover Timor Leste but I still went ashore avoiding any risky ventures and just doing minimal spending. However that was not to be.
It started with the Timorese government gouging $40 US tourist visa for only a few hours stay. Then, the bank dockside booth for a currency exchange had a charging rate of $AUD 0.64c to the US dollar instead of a more international rate of $0.75 to the US dollar. Yes, $US dollars are the local currency. (A couple of blocks away black marketeers on street corners were flashing cash in US and Aussie dollars at a better rate. At least you don’t have to worry about re-exchanging your dollars. It’s always good to have US dollars in the back pocket.)
Some people commented that the wharf buildings looked like they had civil war damage From 18 years ago. No. More likely lack of government funds for maintenance which is evident on poor roads and infrastructure. There was building construction going around the town mainly by Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese governments and businesses vying for diplomatic influence and trade opportunities through building warehouses and hotels.

I heard there was a hop-on hop-off/shuttle bus service from the dock to around the town. Some ports put on such services for free. Actually I did not know I was supposed to pay $80 US for this service but no one asked for my ticket, the guide just stuck the wristband as I boarded the bus. The little buses were normally used for trips to outlying villages. They are colourfully fitted out with EPL regalia the window tinting made a tall guy like me difficult to see forward. First stop was ‘Christ the king’ statue further up the coast then the route looped across town to various stops then back to the wharf. Interesting that in many places minimal guard rails separated the beach side road and a two metre drop to the beach. Away we went along the beach front for a few kilometres to the headland statute of Christ the King: arms out stretched like an important goal had been scored. I hopped off the bus and I climbed the 500 odd steps up to the statue. Ah, there’s a loo near the top but it’s locked! There was nothing around the back so around the back I went.

The hop-on hop-off/shuttle bus service was a disaster. Something like a 1000 people had arrived in Dili off the ship and the shuttle service was overwhelmed. Stops soon got crowded with people who did just hop on and off almost straight away. Thank god I didn’t pay. I had to scramble on board the next bus back from the statue and just stayed on as it meandered past markets slums, government buildings and the university. It struck how the young the population was in Dili.
A lot of road traffic was big white 4WDs and SUVs cruising around, their vehicle staff looking comfortable in their A/C, driving among the poor on motor bikes. Oh no, the dreaded UN and NGO’s were very evident. Agencies to me meant that better facilities and services in the city had jacked up prices.
Wherever there was shade in the city parks, guys were lounging about. The very high unemployment contributed to that. At nights parks are gangland territory. I did talk to some cute local girls who would be soon going to Darwin on Mango fruit picking visas. It’s about an hour and twenty minutes flight to Darwin from Dili.
I eventually alighted in the one large mall in Dili looking for wi-fi, a meal and a drink being a quiche and a coffee from locally grown coffee. Sit down cafes were dominated by fat cats in suits as many embassies and NGO offices were nearby. Portuguese influence had permeated local cuisine over the 400 years or so of Portuguese rule and now Portuguese is the official language.
Dili have a two-tier cab system. Blue cabs were metered and rare to find and yellow cabs which are free enterprise or unregulated were plenty. Nearly all yellow cabs would have failed any other Asian MOT even those in Africa. Some drivers were holding their doors shut as they drove. With another ship-bound couple I eventually negotiated for a yellow cab that looked road worthy although once on board I was sure that every suspension part was due for replacement.
Once back at the wharf I ventured out for a walk around the block. I noticed a red sliding gate open leading to gardens and a walled courtyard and invited myself in. Despite the cool look from NGO patrons that I had invaded their oasis, the staff were welcoming and I settled for a nice bottle of Portuguese ‘Sangre’ beer: $2.50, and of course some Portuguese style pastries. (Beer is more expensive if I had walked into a local café as a visitor.)
Timor Leste is an adventure destination, not a tourist destination. I think it will be some time before it reaches acceptable standards suitable for the western tourist.
Now that the seafloor boundary dispute is settled between Timor and Australia that should ensure oil and gas royalties will help Timor improve living standards.
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Christ the King headland statue
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viewfrom yellow cab
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PeteC
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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by PeteC » Thu Sep 07, 2017 1:27 am

Interesting report Jimbob, although not a place high on my list of "to do's". Isn't the country where the detention camps for the boat people trying to get to Oz are located? Pete :cheers:
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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by Bluesky » Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:26 am

PeteC wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 1:27 am
Isn't the country where the detention camps for the boat people trying to get to Oz are located? Pete :cheers:
I think the only offshore immigration detention/processing facilities currently in use by the Australian government are Nauru, Manus Island, (Papua New Guinea) and Christmas Island (Australia, although in saying this it is actually located much closer to Java than Australia.)

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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by Jimbob » Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:53 pm

PeteC:A camp are also at Christmas island, (not that far from Timor), which is usually the people smugglers aiming point. then they are transferred to Manus Isalnd. People at Manus are soon being moved onto PNG mainland and hopefully some will be accepted by USA but thats a whole different story. Timor Leste tribes sheltered some Australian guerilla fighters from the Japanese during WW@ ar great risk hence there is some affection/respect in Australia for the east Timorese. My nephew was there in 1999 with the army and told me lots about the mountain people. Life there is basic. I also called into to Komodo island and the people there also piss poor.

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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by migrant » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:28 pm

it's always interesting (to me anyway) to hear about out of the way places.

Thanks Jimbob!!
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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by PeteC » Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:21 pm

^ Like Bang Saphan Noi? :laugh: Honestly though I've had a huge urge for a cigar over the last few days, or anything to smoke. :shock: If I was down there I'd look you up and partake of your private stock. :wink: Pete :cheers:
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Re: A day in Dili: Timor Leste

Post by migrant » Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:52 pm

PeteC wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:21 pm
^ Like Bang Saphan Noi? :laugh: Honestly though I've had a huge urge for a cigar over the last few days, or anything to smoke. :shock: If I was down there I'd look you up and partake of your private stock. :wink: Pete :cheers:
Just wrestled a new shipment through customs yesterday!! You are welcome anytime!! But Bang Saphan Yai, Noi is the wilderness!! :cheers:
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