Timor-Leste. Also known as East Timor. Also known as Timor. Also known as the tiny country attached to Indonesia people often seem to have no idea even exists.
For such a tiny part of the world, it is one that has been fought over for decades, and the wounds of previous invasions are still fresh. East Timor was first colonised by Portuguese settlers in the 16th century and was known as Portuguese Timor until the mid 1970’s. It was at this time that the Timorese people first gained independence thanks to the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN).
However, 9 days after the independence of the territory was announced, Indonesia invaded. For two decades the small territory was war torn and known for the violent conflicts ensuing between FRETILIN and the Indonesian military. Indonesia occupied East Timor until late 1999, when the United Nations supported an act of self determination. Timor-Leste officially became an independent country in 2002.
Gaining independence has been just the beginning for one of Asia’s youngest countries and the country has a lot of steps yet to be taken to ensure that it survives as an independent sovereign state. Timor-Leste is one of the most oil dependent nations on Earth and also consistently ranks as one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia. Poor health outcomes run rampant and sustainable local businesses are few and far between.
I visited Timor-Leste in January this year and while I had some amazing experiences, I also had some not so nice ones.
This post contains descriptions of physical assault. Please do not read on if this is a trigger for you.
This blog is about solo travel and all that comes with it. The world is an amazing place and I firmly believe that travelling is the best way to fully understand that. However, in life, things go wrong and bad things happen regardless of whether you are at home or on the road and regardless of whether you are alone or surrounded by people. Fact.
Life cannot exist without risk and I want to stress that travelling solo does not increase the risk that something bad may happen to you, it just changes the potential settings for such things to occur.
If you are looking for a Timorese adventure, there are only a few entry points into the capital of Dili. There are regular flights from Bali and as it happens, regular flights from my home base in Darwin with the airline Air North.
When I flew into Dili from Darwin, there was only one other passenger on the flight! This was my first hint that I was heading to significantly less visited land than I am used to. Even my flights in and out of Greenland were more full than this.