Having been to East Timor thrice and staying there for relatively long period of time, I was recently asked what is there to do in the country.
So in this post, I would like to recommend some of the more “touristy” places to you.
1) Cristo Rei
Yes, this is an almost exact replica of the Jesus Christ statue that you see in Rio de Janeiro.
This Cristo Rei of Dili is about 27 meters tall and the one in Rio de Janeiro is 30 meters high. That makes it a mere three meters difference. Both are equally magnificent.
This is a place that never fails to amaze me and it is the must go destination in East Timor. Excellent place to catch the sunrise and sunset in this young nation.
This place is located in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. It is by the main beach so you can just say that you are going to Cristo Rei and the taxi driver will drive you up. The cab fare isn’t expensive and it is definitely worth it. Going to Cristo Rei is a bit physically challenging. It is akin to climbing a mountain, just that there are well-cut steps along the way. The taxi driver can only drop you at the car park and you will have to make your way up the mountain. It is not recommended to walk up the entire mountain by yourself from the beach without taking a cab as we have tried it and we were all so exhausted. The roads were winding and super tedious! And it was around 7.30pm, we couldn’t see any cabs at all. We were so desperate that we tried hailing UN vehicles along the way, hoping that they could give us a lift. Nevertheless, their vehicles are not used for this purpose.
So, take the cab. Drop at the car park and start climbing. If you notice that there aren’t any cabs on the mountain, offer to give your taxi driver an additional $5USD. He will be able to wait for you at the car park so that you will be able to make it back to town. Timorese are really agreeable people. If you speak to them politely, most of them would be more than willing to help you.
From the car park, it takes about 30 mins walk to finally see the Jesus Christ statue up close. There were some in my group who weren’t feeling well and decided to just rest at halfway mark. No matter what, none of us regretted heading there.
This is the place where you can sit down and rest and admire the beautiful scenery!
There are loads of goats around. They are very good mountaineers and they are super tame too! So I just started snapping photos of them. And I think they seem to enjoy the attention. Getting nearer and nearer to you and giving you the welcoming look.
Location: Dili Beach
Recommended time to head there: 5.30am (if you are going to catch the time lapse of the sunrise)
Time to leave: 8.30am
Alternatively for the sunset: 6pm
Time to leave: Latest by 7.40pm (Make sure that you have a cab waiting for you)
Duration of stay: Around 3 hours, including climbing up the mountain
2) Tais Market
This is another place that tourists must head to. It is where you can get to bring home souvenirs for family and friends. There are around 20 stalls over there, filled with accessories made of Tais cloth, a form of their traditional weaving.
These shops can take orders for the color and the name of the person that you want them to weave on the Tais. They will give you a notebook where you can write down the names and then pay them the money. You will be able to collect it back after 3-5 days, depending on the complexity and the number of Tais ordered. It costs around $5USD for each custom made Tais (bargaining allowed). I did make a few since you don’t get to see it in Singapore.
Location: Kolmera, Dili, East Timor
Suggested time to head there: After 2pm
Duration of stay: Less than an hour