A tall stilted spirit house

Timor-Leste, Land Of the Dawn - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 7th October 2019

Facts and Factoids

  • Timor-Leste, literally East-East (or East Timor) occupies half the island of Timor. It is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
  • It is the only Asian country to be located completely in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • It's only 600 kilometres from Darwin to Dili, the capital. The Japanese came very close to Australia, when they invaded during World War II
  • It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in South-east Asia, the other being the Philippines.

Getting into East Timor

It was relatively easy to get a visa on arrival in Timor-Leste. There are regular flights from Darwin. I've come from the Ghan train.

A Brief History of East Timor

  • Timor was colonised by Portugal in the sixteenth century, (the incentive being sandalwood). Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty, in which Portugal ceded the western half of the island, leaving East Timor..
  • During World War II East Timor was partly occupied by first Dutch and Australian troops and then the Japanese, despite Portugal’s declared neutrality. The island was the scene of some bitter fighting and many Timorese lost their lives in the process.
  • The country was known as Portuguese Timor until 28 November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) declared the territory's independence. Nine days later, with the encouragement of the USA, it was invaded and occupied by the Indonesian military, and was declared as that country's 27th province the following year. The Indonesian occupation of East Timor resulted in a highly violent, decades-long conflict between separatist groups and the Indonesian military.
  • In 1999, following a United Nations-sponsored referendum, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the twenty-first century on 20 May 2002.

What's in a Name?

  • In Indonesia, East Timor is usually called Tim Tim (Timor Timor). Timor means East in Indonesian.
  • This is the only country in the world with a properly hyphenated name. Others have hyphenated add-ons to distinguish them from neighbours - like Guinea-Bissau or Congo-Brazzaville.

Is Timor-Leste a Poor Country?

East Timor continues to be one of the world's poorest countries, Over half the one millon population are unemployed. The main export is oil (a developing industry), followed by coffee.

Is Timor-Leste Safe for Tourists?

There are very few tourists in Timor-Leste. There is little infrastructure and the roads are terrible. So it's uncomfortable rather than dangerous for the most part. Though the levels of poverty mean that travellers always have to be wary of crime, including gang-related violence, robbery (in some cases armed), and assault.

Where Am I Visiting In Timor-Leste?

  • I'm spending time in the capital Dili and the beautiful beaches around
  • I had planned to visit the island of Artauro, where the snorkelling is said to be sublime, but the ferry has been cancelled. They say it's bad weather. I'm not convinced.
  • I also spend 6 days travelling clockwise round Timor-Leste. I get to do some snorkelling at Jaco Island. The spirit houses are the most interesting sight, the scenery varied (mountains, villages, paddy fields and beaches) the, roads are terrible, the accommodation hugely variable and the people friendly.

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