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South East Asia Wonders

Charms of an Unexplored Gem

TIMOR-LESTE | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [353] | Scholarship Entry

What time back? The fisherman gestured. I drew a clock face on the sand; he smiled as he understood when he had to return for me. The next moment, I realised I was left deserted, with white sand and waves of blue waters surrounding me.

Upon crossing to Timor-Leste’s, one can feel a mixture of Indonesia and Portuguese influence. As the rain poured, oblivious to my waiting, a customs official yelled out “Menina bonita, they going to Dili!” "Obrigada!" I replied, rushing out under the rain, anxiously knocking on the car window. The window winds down to reveal a puzzled, smiley catholic nun. The car was packed as more of her companions soon entered. I felt embarrassed as taking me was equivalent to taking 2 people- including my 15 kg backpack. It didn't take long before the "sisters" invite me to stay at the convent.

Walking along the streets and among villages, I was often greeted with smiles, waves and Portuguese and Tetum greetings of “Bom diaz”, “Boa tarde” and “Diak ka lai?” (How are you?). My daytime were spent mingling with children, getting invited into homes, venturing into plantations, spectator at local football matches and gatherings with families who would spend the evening watching Indonesian dramas. Striking up conversation is as easy as asking about football and mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo. Music plays an essential part of the culture. It is common to see local kids sitting around with their guitars, self-made drums and breaking into songs which attract more “singers” and “percussionists” to join the impromptu band.

Unless one has a strong stomach, travelling on it half empty might be a better idea as most roads are bumpy and barely developed, which I easily forget as this country serves the most natural raw beauty one can ever set their eyes on. Travelling along the breathtaking coastal roads, with mountains and lake views, I soon feel one with nature.

Further hiking eastwards along villages and jungles, revealed another hidden treasure as tints of blue lay out before my eyes. The fishermen carefully took me across the rough sea in his matching blue plastic boat to Jaco island, (part of the Nino Konis National Park) as I find myself in awe with the clear blue waters and white sand beach that would give Maldives a run for their money.

And I soon realised, it’s the warm hospitality of Timorese, the blend of Portuguese and Asian culture and its untouched nature that give Timor-Leste its charms of being an unexplored gem of South East Asia.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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