DILI (Reuters Life!) - Dili is the capital of East Timor or Timor Leste, one of the world’s newest nations, and is slowly beginning to attract tourists nearly nine years after gaining independence.
Though a bit on the rough side, the city has much to offer. There are plenty of hotels but tourism is still new and standards can be low, meaning unusual experiences are the norm.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you get the most out of a short stay.
6 p.m. To make the most of this waterfront city stroll along the beachfront to watch the sun set over the Dili Harbour.
The Castaway Bar and Restaurant on Avenida de Portugal Motadel is one of many great locations to have a drink. Here you can catch the evening breeze as night falls on the city.
7 p.m. For authentic Timorese dining, try the Sari Pali on Estrada de Balide. The beef stew served with papaya flower/kangkong side salad or red meatball soup with ramen noodles are a popular choice amongst locals.
For the less adventurous and less-traveled tourist there’s always Hotel Timor. Its restaurant offers a tamer opportunity to sample the culinary delights of Timor-Leste, a strong Portuguese influence enriched with local seasoning.
9:30 a.m. To get a real appreciation of the Timorese people and a sense of what the country has been through in the last 30 years, visit the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, Chega Exhibition, at Rua Balide. The former prison now serves as a monument to the recent struggles and chronicles the history and hardships faced by the Timorese people during Indonesia’s occupation.
12 p.m. Dili lies on the edge of the Wetar Straits. On weekends families have picnics along the shore enjoying the breathtaking views. It’s easy to while away a few hours strolling along the waterfront watching the local fishermen sell their catches, which they display from a piece of string hanging from a tree, while the men and boys play soccer — typically in their bare feet on parched ground.
2 p.m. The Beach Cafe on Embassy Road offers a great respite from the afternoon sun and an opportunity to taste mouth-watering, authentic Burmese food. Enjoy dishes like Yangon chicken or beef curry, snake beans dressed in oil and sesame seeds, and prawns in coconut beans.
4 p.m. A few hours at the Tai Market will provide an opportunity to meander through the 30 or so stalls all selling Tais, hand woven clothes made and used by the Timorese for generations, along with simple coral jewelry, hats and model Timor-style traditional houses.
7 p.m. The Caz Bar and Restaurant lies on the beachfront in Areia Branca, making it a great location to enjoy another sunset and meet locals and expats for a great night out. Barbecued prawns are a specialty.
The relaxed atmosphere of the early evening changes tempo as midnight draws closer and the music is turned up, with the place turning into a “nightclub.” If you’re fortunate enough to be there during a full moon party, the party is moved to the beach and swimming and dancing continue on the sand.
9 a.m. Whether you are religious or not, attending a Catholic service in Dili and listening to the local choir can be a very pleasant experience. The Motael Church, built by the Portuguese, lies on the shores of Dili Harbour.
East Timor is 90 percent Catholic so the city becomes very quiet on Sundays and spending an hour or two at a service gives you a real appreciation of their faith and hope.
11:30 a.m. Cafe Aroma is a great spot to have morning tea. Tucked away at the back of a lane at Bidau Lecidere, the outdoor area under the shade of a blossoming mango tree makes it a great place to take a break.
Cafe Aroma is run by an Australian family who help rehabilitate former street girls, providing a safe environment for their training and education. All profits go back into the community to help continue the work.
12 p.m. If you fancy a bit of shopping. You can combine a bit of retail therapy and play your part for women’s rights at the Alola Foundation on Rua Bispo de Mereiros, Mascarenhas. Alola is a not for profit organization founded by former first lady Kirsty Sword Gusmao. The foundation helps to nurture women leaders and is an advocate for women’s rights. The shop located beside the Dili office sells products made from woven cotton cloth made by Timorese women.
2 p.m. If you are lucky enough to get a seat, lunch at the Kebab Club on Rua Belarmino Lobo Lecidere is excellent. The Turkish owner relocated from Sydney and brought his baker from Turkey to cook authentic Turkish kebabs.
3 p.m. Take a $2 taxi ride to the eastern end of Dili Harbour to visit the statue of Jesus which watches over Dili. A set of steps will take you to the top, though be prepared for a steep climb.
Enjoy the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sunshine lying on the golden sandy beach below and snorkeling in the crystal clear water before departing.
Editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Casciato