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East Timor

East Timor Travel Guide

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste is a country of around 15,000 square kilometres, in South East Asia. The area is surrounded by the Bandor and Timor Sea and is home to around 1 million people, mostly of Malay and Papuan decent. East Timor’s prosperity lies in areas such as coffee, oil, natural gas and rice production and supplies major trade partners including Australia and Portugal. Its capital Dili is one of Asia’s major business centres with a well-educated workforce of mixed Roman Catholic and Protestant origin.

Back in the 16th century, Portugal started doing business with the island of Timor and soon came to populate the region during the mid 16th century. Fighting eventually broke out between the Portuguese and the Dutch, and in 1859, a treaty was signed for Portugal to surrender the western sector of the island. East Timor gained independence from Portugal in 1975 but was overrun by Indonesian military only 9 days later, with the country integrating into Indonesia by 1976. A conciliation campaign soon began and lasted for around 20 years, in which many people fought and died. In 1999, the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia, causing further random violence from Indonesian armed forces until 2001. On the 20th May 2002, East Timor finally became an internationally recognized, independent country.

Exploring the country’s coastline, visitors will see some really nice beaches, particularly between the capital of Dili and the town of Baucau, where the sand is soft and the sea is calm. Snorkellers and divers will also be in for a treat at Pantemakassar, where the waters are clear and many varieties of colourful fish can be spotted. Those tourists looking for total physical exertion should head off into the mountains, to Gunung Tatamailau, Timor's highest summit at a huge 2963 metres. Short distance explorers though, should go into East Timor’s capital of Dili. A laid back city filled with holiday homes, beaches and plenty of history including the town’s 1627 old barracks. Dili was attacked in 1999 and each building that remains, has some sort of war wound or another associated with it. There are many churches in Dili, due to the people being of Catholic religion and the humongous statue of Christ, perched on a hill, brings Rio de Janeiro to mind!

There’s lots of ways to get about East Timor with the many bus, mikrolets (minibuses), private hire and taxi services. Car and mountain bike hire is also a good idea as the roads are very well maintained and the drivers are quite placid. Getting to East Timor is another thing, as the flights into Dili's Comoro airport are limited. There are direct flights from Australia, but everyone else will need to fly to Bali then take a Denpasar to Dili flight into the country. The other thing to remember is to go when the weather is good, which means in the dry season from May to November. Those wanting to see a festival or two though will need to arrive during December through April, the wet period…so bring a brolly!

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