Easing into East Timor, Introducing Indonesia (Day 227)

Hey there.  So, what’s new?  That’s interesting.  How are things?  Glad to hear it.

What’s up with me?  Glad you asked.  Right now I’m holding down the fort in Indonesia.  But before this I visited East Timor (or Timor-Leste, as the locals say).  It has a violent history.  Only recently it was occupied by Indonesia, who left in 1999, but trashed the place on the way out.  It is still considered a “conflict” zone.  The UN has a VERY strong presence here.  In Dili, the capital, every 3rd vehicle is UN (always big SUVs).

All the UN workers here create pros/cons for the traveller.  One disadvantage is that the country is expensive, probably because of all the wealthy, foreign workers here.  But, if you are tired of Asian food, you will find pretty good western grub here.  As I’ve learned during my travels, where there are Western people living abroad, there are western establishments to cater to them.  In fact, my first night in East Timor I went to a great restaurant/bar, had ravioli for the first time in half a year, got wasted and had a blast.  Very unexpected.  It was the bar owner’s birthday.  People kept giving me shots but not taking my money.  I have this ability to end up in these scenarios.  Sometimes my timing is exceptional :)

I underestimated East Timor.  (I’ve been travelling for a while now, it’s weird how I can still have that happen).  I spent about 4 days in this little country, but I should have stayed longer.  It is a place of excellent diving.  I enjoyed it more than Thailand and The Philippines.  The visibility was far superior and, as my guidebook put it, the colours really “pop”.  East Timor also has beautiful, untouched beaches.  However, this country is very rarely visited.  Only 1500 tourists come here per year.  I am happy to be one of those.  Sometimes locals would ask me, “What do you do here?”  I reply, “Nothing, I am here for tourism.” I get a shocked look in return.

East Timor is one of the world’s newest countries:  it was born in 2002.  In human years, this country is just a fetus.   I think someday the world will discover East Timor.  And I’ll say I was there “back in the day.”  (I’ll try to say it in a way that tries to evoke some jealously, haha, just like when I hear travellers talk about how things were in Thailand back in the mid-nineties.)

The best picture I have of the East Timor coast line, taken from a moving vehicle.  Just trust me, there are miles of untouched beach

Housing in rural East Timor.  Makes that kitchen you want to re-model seem like not such a big deal, eh?

Gas station.  East Timor

After East Timor, I returned to Indonesia.  I had been moving around quite a bit, which is tiring, so I took another one of my patented “even travellers need vacations” vacations on an Lembongan Island, just east of Bali.  It’s amazing how good I am at wasting days away just hanging out on beautilful beaches, having dinner and beers with cool people by the sea, etc.  Let it never be said I don’t have any talents.
Back in Bali now, I did some surfing today.  I’ve done this before in Hawaii and Brazil, but it was a couple years ago.  Now I’m back on the wagon.  Surfing today reminded me of 2 things:

1.  how awful I am
2.  how much fun it is!

Surfing.  Damn, what a great idea that was.  To the inventor, I salute you.  The surfing scene is one of sun, sand, bikinis, hanging out on the beach, and riding the ocean.  Unfortunately, catching a wave is a struggle for me.  But, when I do, I feel like a champion!  I’m harnessing mother nature, woohoo!  My first time I raised my arms above my head in victory.  Then I crashed hard.  And then another wave beat me up… Mother nature reminding me who’s boss.

Kids playing soccer in the streets of Kupang.  When I was growing up, I played hockey in the streets.  Same same, but different.

The sound system in a “bemo” (a local van used for public transportation) in Indonesia.  Who needs a fancy stereo system when you can just wire-up a DVD player and throw it on the dash? Given all the stuffed animals on the dash and the paint on the top of the windshield, I have no idea how the driver saw the road…

It’s time for another “How To” video on the Unique Art of World Travel.  In this episode, I give some tips on eating with chopsticks.  This is something you may have tackled already in your home country.  But, if you haven’t, and you travel to some more remote parts of SE Asia, you will likely find yourself in dire need of this skill.  Now, I’m no expert.  There are much better chopstick users than me.  But, I have been travelling in SE Asia for about 5 months now and haven’t starved.  These are “chopstick survival skills” from yours truly.  Enjoy.


A few random things:

1.  Travelling makes me wish I spoke more languages.  I once met a Romanian girl that spoke 6 languages.  I am jealous.  Multi-lingualism is so cool.  An English girl I met said it better:  “If I could have any one superpower, I wouldn’t fly or be invisible.  I would speak all the languages of world.”  Awesome.

2.  As I’ve been touring the planet I’ve been making a list of reasons why I love to travel.  I would love to share it with you some time.  One of the reasons is the pure adventure of it.  Leaving your comfort zone, getting out there and seeing the world for yourself.  Dealing with all the twists of fates that come along with that.  Leaving behind your routine life.  Go and explore the world, it is out there waiting for you.  Trust me.  I recently read a book called “Travels” by Michael Crichton which alludes to this idea.  Leave behind your “closet full of clothes and fridge full of food.” Crichton quotes poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

Whoever you are: some evening take a step out of your house, which you know so well.  Enormous space is near…

I hope you venture “out of your house” today.  As for me, I’m going to try to climb a couple of Indonesia’s magnificent volcanos.

Good talk.

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