Hmm.. not even sure if this is worth a blog post to be honest.
Firstly; I only came here to visit a friend… whom isn’t here at the time I said I’d be arriving.
My yogic mind told me that I’m supposed to be here and that my friend’s invisibility was for a bigger, better reason. That became evident only on day 2.
Staying at Timor Top Cottages through Air BnB, I discover that my neighbours, Julian and Ame are the people that helped organise my residence. They’re not the owners of Timor Top Cottages (David and Mena are) but are implanting themselves into the community really well after only 3 months.
They have looked after me as if I was one of their own, and for that I can’t fully express my gratitude. They’ve given me detailed directions, fed me numerous times, allowed me to practice teaching them yoga, taken me on excursions and chatted with me like long lost friends.
Had I actually caught up with my so-called friend, I wouldn’t have had the absolute pleasure of my new friends’ company.
Ame, Mena and Mena’s granddaughter
Proof that everything happens for a reason.
There’s a possibility I’ll be back here to open up a relaxation retreat well before this place takes off as a tourist destination. And boy, does Timor Leste have a long way to go.
It’s EXPENSIVE! Using USD – due to back in the day when the UN/NGOs were helping with the retrieval of the land from Indonesians and Japanese and only had USD to pay with… now that situation has changed, but the prices haven’t reduced and they still use one of the most expensive currencies around.
Hiring a scooter to ride yourself: $30 per day – which I’ve been warned against due to tourists on motorcycles being targets for robbery.
To hire a self drive car: $100 per day
Small Bintang: $3.50
1 day snorkelling trip $130
Ferry ride to Atauro Island range between $4 and $45 – dependent on which day or mode you select.
Dragon Star ferry runs every day from 7:30am for $15 (tourist class) and is the fastest option (usually takes 1 hour). Dragon Star is actually a river boat that’s out in the rough seas… what could possibly go wrong here? And how many people need to barf before the captain gives up?
The main ferry only runs on Saturday $4
Compass divers water taxi $45
Kayak hire $10 p/h (for those that know my paddling prowess, I was a long way from shore when it started sinking)
A 2.4gb sim at the airport $10
A 14gb sim on the street, that is surprisingly legit, $10
Peanut butter $4.50
Have I mentioned that it’s all USD??!?!
I’ve come here from other asiatic countries that are a quarter of this pricing… so it was a big shock to me.
Accomodation prices are maaaad! For the simplest of places – a stone built cottage, with cold shower that is as weak as a fly punching the air, leaky roof (because I bring rain to every country I visit, even when they haven’t seen it for 9 months), LOADS of mutant roaches and a toilet with ill fitting seat = $70 AUD per night plus $28 cleaning fee.
Timor Top Cottages – simple accommodation
A three star accommodation would set you back around $180.
Even a shared backpackers dorm will cost you $30 USD per night.
A microlet – communal mini bus – is only $0.25 per trip. And they love their music LOUD! Huge sub-woofers under the bench seats in the back, whilst riding along the occasionally tarred roads makes for a vibrational ride. I wonder if I can convince them to stop playing “Despacito” and play something from Queens of the Stone Age instead?
Caz Bar has western food, a pool table and AFL, plus it’s walking distance from Timor Top… surrounded by the best beach in Dili that I’ve seen so far. Sadly, western food doesn’t mean good food. Order what the locals know how to cook properly… Nasi goreng or mi goreng. Apparently if you find the right places to shop you can locate Portuguese delicacies like decent bread and cheese.
Caz’s gentle dawg
Atauro Island – accomodation is REALLY difficult to organise due to lack of internet and people not answering calls, emails or texts.
The only businesses willing to respond – Compass Diving and Belio Resort on Atauro replied and tried to make my trip worthwhile with different options. Unfortunately due to my quick exit their options didn’t work for me.
My kind neighbours took me on the Dragon Star Ferry, across 36kms of high seas, to Atauro Island for the Saturday market. Turns out this river ferry is kinda flexible in the rough sea, but had to have some fixing done upon her return. Glad I wasn’t on that return trip.
I’m with you Sweetie – get me off this rollercoaster
A big shout out to TravelCalm, ginger (and Ashy for being my dealer in Bali). For someone that gets motion sickness from snorkelling, I truly love these little ginger gems and shared them with my ill friends. Only 4 tabs left… someone needs to visit me and bring more, please!
Note to self… stop taking ferries! No, really, just stop it.
Atauro Island is really simplistic with a beautiful eco feel, which is a wonderful start. Barry’s Place, looked the best accomodation option and apparently he does a lot to preserve the island… but he doesn’t like responding to calls, texts, emails or new visitors it seems.
All the locals from Dili catch the larger ferry over on Saturdays to pick up fresh, organic produce to bring back to the mainland and sell for triple the price.
It’s quite picturesque here… I even stalked the local vendors for photos. In return I was asked to pose for photos with the locals.. ahh, I feel like I’m back in India.
It appears that Timor Leste is yet another place that is screaming for tourism, but in a gentle way. I know locals aren’t a fan of change, but truly, I think Timor Leste and Atauro could use some financial help from tourists.
There really is a huge untapped market for something extraordinary here tourism wise, but the prices are completely off putting. From my understanding there’s a big wig guy from USA government (specialising in tourism) here to fund tourism in Timor… starting with creating a proper starring system. 5 Star here equates to 2 Star in Aus, and just about every other country I’ve visited. But he has an open cheque book and the knowledge on what needs to be done.
Do I jump on board the Timor train before it becomes popular? It’s the currency that is making me decide not to, but I’ve got the feeling I’ll regret this decision in the not too distant future.
And how do the locals afford to live here on their average wage of around $150 USD per month? No wonder they only eat rice and are lacking nutrition.
It’s the most dilapidated Asian country I’ve visited, with a price tag that belongs in New York.
I’m surrounded by corrugated iron and natural palm thatched roofs that look like they came from Soweto in South Africa. The main beaches and streets are sadly shrouded with rubbish… mainly single use straws, plastic bags and water bottles. It’s really sad and, quite frankly, offensive.
The most bio diverse reefs in the world, with happy coral.. it’s a diving haven, but so hard to find your way around, especially for the budget conscious.
Land. Ocean. Beaches. Mountains. Very few inhabitants. What more could one ask for?
Look at that water <3
I tried to give this place a chance, but instead of staying 14-30 days I’m outta here after only 7.
Maybe it’s harder because I’m a solo female traveller, but at this stage I’m not willing to risk too much in order of adventure. Yeah, I’m disappointed in myself as well. I can’t believe I sound so negative, especially after the whole yogic experience, but, fuck me! Bye Timor Leste!
I’m not your usual traveller that enjoys being a pretentious Aussie in these cheaper countries, but to be brutally honest, I feel sapped of positive energy. Maybe I feel the negative energy surrounding the recent turmoil.. maybe I’m getting old.
Naaaah! I’ve met Rose, an Aussie from Perth who is 72 and has been travelling on her own on and off since 1993… life goals right there. She’s employed by the Aus govt and has seen so many countries. Rose is fit, a knowledgeable chatterbox, soooo well travelled, inspirational and full of life! What an incredible enigma to have the pleasure of meeting.
I want to love this country. I wish I’d given it more of a chance. I want it to be successful. I want the people to be happy… oh, yeah, they already seem happy. Whenever I smile at them they grin with the widest smile showcasing gorgeous white teeth contrasted against their pristine brown skin. But there’s something lacking. Are they still recovering from years of trouble? The country’s soul seems to missing in action and it appears to have stolen some of mine.
It’s about education or the mind, body and spirit… and not letting negative energy affect you.