After settling into our hostel, we decided to explore Dili city for the first couple of days. Dili is a relatively laid back and lazy sea-side city with a dark history. After Timor Leste gained a bloody independence in 2002, this small city was suddenly a capital.
Further Reading: Read more about how I had a scary landing in Timor Leste to begin with.
The Avenida Almirante Americo Tomas, where our hostel was located, was like a central vein running through the city, beginning from the airport road and leading all the way to the famous Jesus statue of Dili. But sadly, this road is also chaotic. While it did have a specific street side quality to it, I will have to blog about it some other time. For now, will cover another important road – the Avenida Portugal or the Beach road of Dili.
There are 2 main sights that you will see almost throughout this road. Assuming that you are walking towards the city of Comoro, on your left hand-side you will see an endless plethora of embassies, government buildings and various NGO buildings. A tumultuous history has ensured that there is a lot of help coming into Timor from International quarters, so don’t be surprised to find the rare foreigner. But rest assured, 9 out of the 10 foreigners you may come across in Timor, are not there for tourist purposes.
And on your right side, you will see one of the most beautiful beaches for a capital city. When you think about the main beach in a capital city, your first thought is that it is probably going to be very dirty. But there is very little activity here, that it is almost impossible to get this beach dirty. At least, not yet.
Begin your walk at the Farol lighthouse. A lucky break for us again, because this lighthouse was undergoing painting works when we visited it. And while the access to the top is usually restricted, the really nice painter let us go all the way to the top. No easy climb, I can tell you. The spiral climb gets smaller as you go higher, and it may appear that they hired dwarfs to get on top of the lighthouse.
Walking further along the Avenida Salazar, we reach the Dili Port. But not before we had to pass a bewitching monument along the beach. The Santa Cruz memorial monument, shown below, had surprisingly no inscription around it to clarify what the monument was all about. I had to google for a good 10 minutes to find out what it symbolized. I am not a huge fan of dark histories, and I choose not to go to the Dili cemetery nearby, which was where the famous massacre actually took place.
By this point, we had already crossed from Avenida Portugal to Avenida Salazar, and were finding ourselves accustomed to a growing rumbling in the tummy. We had to find food. And fast!
Not far from the monument was the Dili port, and the only restaurant that we could find in the area. So, we settled in for a while. There was Nasi Padang and Bintang beers. Not cheap for South East Asian standards, as a meal and a beer cost me 7 USD. And yes, the preferred currency here, is USD. For small change, they will return in Timorese centavos.
After lunch, we turned back to explore the other side of the Farol lighthouse. We passed by local fishermen selling fresh fish that they had just caught. It was evening already, and we also figured out that most offices operated only till 5 PM, given that suddenly we could see a handful of foreigners with laptop bags, walking along. And soon enough, there were evening jogging groups too, along with kids playing football.
At the end of the walk, we reached the Dili Beach hotel around 7 pm. A full day of walking had ensured that we were dead-tired, so there was no time wasted in getting a few chilled beers. And thankfully, there was a pool table and some foreign diplomats. So, we settled in, challenging the members of an American outreach group to a game of 9-ball. That ensured the night wouldn’t end early.
Further Reading: Take a ride from Dili to Aileu, another Timorese town in the highlands.
This post is part of my stories about Timor Leste. Click here to check out other amazing travel stories from Timor Leste.
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