May 2013: As part of a 2week trip that included Bali, Komodo island, and the Northern Territories of Australia, I visited Timor-Leste for 2 days with my friend Dan.

Besides South Sudan, Timor-Leste was the 2nd newest country in the world-2011. It is a country located in one of the Indonesian archipelagos and is Portuguese speaking after years of being a Portuguese colony. The last 70 years of the country’s history have been tumultuous with the Japanese invasion in WWII, independence from the Portuguese and then an invasion of Indonesia that resulted in a war that saw approx. 200,000 dead. The international community including the United States was slow to react to the Indonesian invasion of Timor-Leste under Suharto because Suharto, a dictator, was an ally with the west against the Soviet Union in a part of Asia where many other countries turned to communism.

During the time of my visit, Timor-Leste was in a transition and much of the capital, Dili was still in unrest and considered lawless and I was advised to stay in safe Districts and to avoid walking around at night. UN peacekeeping forces were still commonplace in Dili and throughout the country. Timor-Leste with its newfound oil reserves and strategic importance being close to Australia and Indonesia is actively being courted by China and Australia in effort to gain access.

 

 

Location of Timorleste

Dan and I decided to stay outside of Dili along a large beach that leads all the way to a giant statue of Jesus, Timor-Leste’s answer to Brazil’s Corcovado. The locals were very friendly and engaging and we shared some beers on the beach with a group of young college aged kids and they let us drive their motor bikes to drive up and down the beach road.

Dan on a motorbike

Me sharing a beer with a new friend

Our new Timor-Leste friends took us to the Christ statue for free and just wanted to show us around. The statue had a great view of a much wilder beach that was empty of people and development. When I asked why I was told the local people believe there is a giant man-eating squid that comes in from the ocean at night and my immediate thoughts were this was something I definitely wanted to see if it was real.

Christ Statue

On the most part we lounged around the beach drinking Caipirinha and coconuts and eating from beach side food venders. With Portuguese speaking people around us on the beach it just felt like I was back in Brazil.

Dan at the beach

Beach where our hotel was located

Beach where the giant squid is believed by locals to inhabit

We took a taxi around Dili at night and went to a raucous local bar but the taxi driver pleaded with us to not enter for our safety and so we went to another place that was much safer, but it was full of foreign aid workers and UN types with very few Timor-Leste people, but the food and drinks were good, so we stayed before retreating to our hotel. The next day I continued my trip on to Darwin, Australia where I rented a car and explored Kakadu national park.

 

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