Dili, Timor Leste (East Timor)

wpid-20131017_115016.jpgTimor Leste completes the South East Asia bucket list. I’m happy to say I’ve a passport full of stamps for all 11 countries now, thanks to a slight obsession with Lonely Planet’s SEA on a Shoestring.

Like all places slightly left field of the radar, this trip was definitely the best thing to come out of the basement of Singapore’s People’s Park Center. You have to book flights in person, with the pleasant, but unheard of, Sriwijaya Air – one of the last remaining airlines to offer you hard boiled sweets upon take off. Retro.

IMG_3888Named the first new country of the 21st Century, Timor Leste has had a rough time of it. Its 134th on the Human Development Index, and UN presence only pulled out as recently as 2012. The capital, Dili, could be straight out of Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s Dirty Havana Trilogy – A beach front city where everyone lines the scruffy malecon and stares out past the oil tankers, out to sea. It’s rough and ready. The handful of tourist cafes are full of NGO workers, Darwin riggers on R&R, and visa-runners from Indonesia. As one sign proudly confesses “we’re not Kuta!”

Three East Timor facts; 1) Starbucks buy 90% of their coffee from here 2) There’s still no postal delivery system. (Post still sometimes gets re-directed via Portugal!) and 3) It’s a spectacular place to do your PADI scuba diving qualification! (After backpacking for 2 years I had to succumb to it eventually)

IMG_3917So, 5 highlights of the PADI: Open Water Course include….

1) A few hours of classroom theory, AKA watching cheesy Ozzy ‘how to dive’ videos modeled by what look like the 1988 cast of Home and Away.

2) Flashbacks to GCSE Maths as your asked to calculate nitrogen narcosis equations. Although technically you can’t really call it a final ‘exam’ if you get to sit it in in a hammock :)

3) Pool skills, weight belts and oxygen tanks. You come away with a new respect for Cuba Gooding Jr in Men of Honor. Also; weightlessness and buoyancy. You come away with a new respect for Sandra Bullock in Gravity.

4) Emergency practice drills of loosing your oxygen supply and removing your eye mask for a minute 10 meters underwater. Followed by the hand symbol for ‘okay’ – even though you’re secretly crying about the salt water in your eyes!

5) Just remember girls, no matter how scared you are – always dive with boys. At 18 meters their oxygen runs out way before yours!

And finally, calm down, remember to breath, and enjoy it – here’s why it’s all worthwhile. And if you still think scuba’s scary, check out Freediving!

The dive sites we visit are a mixture of reef and mud-diving shore dives at Dili Rock West, Dili Rock East, Dili Pier & Tasi Tulo. We see rare nudie fish, gobbies, and even a Dugong!

IMG_3873As for the rest of Dili and Timor, sightseeing is a little sparse. Apart from a couple of museums, local food markets and handcraft centers, diving or charity work is still definitely the main attraction for the moment. However you have to admire a country for this little gem – the very Rio De Janeiro-esq Cristo Rae statue. Bravo for giving it’s fellow Portuguese speaking cousin Brazil a run for it’s money!

Getting Here: There are direct (but pricy) flights from Darwin/Singapore. Alternatively fly via Bali/Denpasar with Sriwijaya Air & Air Asia for only $450 SGD return to Singapore.

Where I stayed: Dive Timor Lorosae is not only a fantastic dive school but is also voted #1 for accommodation on Trip Advisor. From $40 USD a night.

PADI Open Water: $450 USD. Prices are more on par with Fiji prices, so slightly more expensive than Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, but maybe worth it to not follow the crowd. French/Australian instructors – Stephanie and Dana are both brilliant! 

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

April 2020

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 186 other followers