The only capital city where you can see the stars

Trip Start Oct 03, 2012
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Trip End Nov 28, 2013


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Flag of Timor-Leste  , Dili,
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The stars are bright over Dili which is probably a reflection on how this place is looking to the future now that the recent (and long history) of troubles have rescinded. As Kirst pointed out there's not many capital cities in the world where sleek 4x4 tinted vehicles pass side-by-side with goats tethered to roadside poles and chickens endlessly running around the capitals streets. The beauty of Dili is that it doesn't have any street lights, therefore the light pollution is non existent so the stars shine brightly with a very star filled sky. Utterly beautiful.

Dili is dusty, hot and is different to Indonesia with a pronounced Portuguese feel not only in pockets of architecture and a 'Mediterranean feel' to the sea front, but also in the Portuguese spoken predominantly by the swathes of young people and students swarming around the city. It seems almost the cool thing to do to speak Portuguese, whilst the older generation stick to variations of Tetun.

First day in Dili and we chose to explore. Checking out the local prices we spotted a UD$22 15 Inch pizza - hmmmmmm not cheap. Initially, in search of the 'Kebab Club' to discover a turkish place listed in the guidebook- (humus isn't available in too many places through Indonesia) we discovered the Grand Palace and the Gusmao art gallery. Lunch beckoned and with our search for the Turkish option turning-up a blank we discovered the Eastern Burger Restaurant. A bit hungry after a long walk from our hostel this place was the answer to our prayers - it had aircon and was cheap too. SWEEEEEEET!

We decided an important place to visit after some lunch given Timor-Leste's recent history was the the Chega! exhibition North of the city on Estrada de Balide. It wasn't obvious to find and involved a few convoluted discussions with Aid agency security staff who didn't really speak much English. Eventually after a lot of wandering and asking an Official from the Timor Leste Finance Ministry who knew enough English to point us to a UN enclosure further down the road.

The exhibition is called Chega! and is Portuguese for 'No more, stop, enough'. It is also the title for a report by 'CAVR' the Timor Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. It's a long and complex document that covers the appalling Human Rights violations committed between 1974 and 1999 reported on by thousands of ordinary Timorese. The exhibition was setup up to educate both a national and international audience as well as promote adoption of the report and the upholding of it's meaning and values into the future.

The exhibition is poignantly positioned inside the building that housed many of the horrors inflicted on the Timorese by the Indonesian military. Although smaller in size the building had many similarities with S-21 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The exhibition covers the content of the report with multi-lingual and graphical explanations to the events that occurred chronologically. There is a heavy International involvement with what happened and continues to happen in Timor Leste. Now that the International involvement is more positive in nature it is hard to comprehend how a lot of those same countries allowed (even promoted) some of the past very negative historical events suffered by Timor Leste. (Britain amongst a long list of other developed countries didn't come out shining from the report).

History lesson over and it was time for the fortnightly Tuesday evening pub quiz at the Beach Hotel Bar - US$5 to enter per person with the proceeds going to school equipment like books, pens and pencils schools in Oecussi. Oecussi is an enclave of Timor Leste in West Timor which was the original Portuguese colonial seat of power back in the 17th century. It was moved to Dili only when the Portuguese regained power from the local chiefs who they had let run the place and get out of control.

Anyway, the portion of chips was large and to die for literally! The East Timor Backpackers contingent completed the Timor Telecom team. In a lively packed-out pub quiz and as one of the smaller teams we came second from last - not bad given the competition! Great night out and topped off and really good day in Dili.
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