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Backpacking Information on East Timor

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					Population: 857,000 (UN, 2005)
 Capital: Dili
 Area: 14,609 sq km (5,641 sq miles)
 Major languages: Tetum and Portuguese (official), Indonesian and English
(working languages)
 Major religion: Christianity
 Life expectancy: 56 years (women), 54 years (men) (UN)
 Monetary unit: 1 US dollar = 100 centsThe Democratic Republic of Timor-
Leste is one of a few countries who have not always had it easy, and to
this moment still remains shaky. Overshadowed by the repute of
neighbouring countries, Timor-Leste neither suffers nor benefits from the
international media, and with a freshly self-determined nation and
underdeveloped tourism industry, the new republic has a rocky but bright
road ahead. East Timor is the first new sovereign state of the 21st
century. After having been assaulted with violence and control by
Indonesia for almost a quarter of a century, Timor-Leste has definitely
seen better days.What remains hidden to the world's eyes is East Timor's
rich cultural heritage from tens of thousands of years of civilizations
and culture, enriched and given more depth and flavour by 4 centuries of
Portuguese colonial occupation. The Land of Discovery, Timore-Leste just
400 miles to the north of Australia, is an inviting peace of secretive
mystery with lots of treasures in store on land and sea. Instituted as a
nation just of late in 2002, the people struggle with a lower than middle
income economy with billions of oil dollars in the bank that have not
been mostly utilized and disseminated to rebuild it.Within decades of
resistance from Indonesian military, slaughter of a third of the
population is one of the worst brutalities that nearly wiped out a nation
the world has seen in the 20th century. True, it was the best of times,
it was the worst of times. But the real story is how splendid and
refreshing an escape Timor-Leste is now because it is a land too far out,
too far gone.GEOGRAPHYTimor-Leste (8 50 S, 125 55 E) is the largest of
the Lesser Sunda Islands with an area of 14,874 km2. The terrain is
basically mountainous, especially to the north and east. The Paitchu
Rnage and Iralalaro are easternmost, the latter being possibly the last
of tropical dry forest within the country home to extraordinary flora and
fauna and top priority for conservation. The north coast features
abundant coral reef systems. The highest mountain is the Tatamailau with
an altitude of 2,963 metres above sea level. The lowest point is the
Timor Sea that separates Australia from the country. It is rich in
petroleum, natural gas, and gold.CLIMATEThe climate in these parts is
tropical with a mean temperature of a roasting 30 °C, quite like the
countries nearby with 2 seasons of hot and wet, but the pattern is rather
screwed up. The hot and dry season is through the months of June to
October, what is to most SEA countries the rainy season, and the wet and
rainy season is from November through May. The onslaught to nature of a
slash and burn agriculture does very little comfort in the heat or the
flooding.PEOPLEBut as a nation of a people with a deep sense of
community, always helping each other one out in times such calamities
strike, the Timorese are the country's real treasures. It is that one
place where you'll enjoy more the company of locals than the place
itself. And East Timor has a population of 1,131,612, that's a million
times the hospitality and smiles. Back then, journalists are not welcome
in Timor-Leste, but the tiny nation is slowly but surely opening up to
the world and tourism.RELIGIONEast Timor is also one of just two nations
in the South East that are predominantly Christian (Roman Catholic, 97%
and Protestant, 1%), the other being the Philippines. On the other hand,
Muslims constitute 1% of the population, Hindus, 0.5%, and Buddhists,
0.1%. The Timorese are mostly Austronesians and Papuans, while a small
enclave of Chinese form the minority. Christianity unfortunately is one
of the main catalysts to violence of Indonesian Muslims toward the
Timorese such as the mass murder of 1999 in Suhai and kidnapping of
thousands of children in 2002 to indoctrinate Islam.LANGUAGETETUM, an
Austronesian language, and PORTUGUESE are the two official languages of
the state. At present, there are more than 25% of Timorese and growing
proficient in Portuguese for purposes of communicating with the world
outside. The form more widely used is Tetun-Dili, apparently the Tetum
learned by Portuguese colonizers in DIli which has evolved to have
immense Portuguese influence. ENGLISH and INDONESIAN are considered as
trade languages, significant as vehicles to business, education, and
foreign matters. As a sum, there are around 16 indigenous languages
spoken all over the island.ATTRACTIONIndeed Timor-Leste is a small land
with big offerings. With its sort of reversed climate, this country makes
a great getaway when all else in Asia is cloudy and wet. Even with a
backtracked but budding tourist infrastructure, there's just enough magic
and beauty to compensate for the butt-painful road travel especially for
the adventurous, without undue travail. Timor-Leste is an underground
paradise, an underwater surprise teeming with an eclectic range of marine
life and pristine coral reefs.First off, there is Dili where the
country's best beaches are in holed up, much like the ghost pipe fish,
leaf scorpion fish, and angler fish. In the North Coast, on the other
hand, from Tutuala to Liquisa to the west, are superior shore-diving in
the world with reefs plotted as near to the shore as possible 10 metres
near like Bubble Beach where marine life is rare like barracudas,
octopuses, and critters. Atauro Island, however, is a snorkelling
hotspot, no doubt. Same and Ermera's large coffee plantations are also
worth the visit.To the east of the country is the Nino Konis National
Park-one of the last surviving tropical lowland rainforests in the world
where the traveller can go trekking, diving, and bird-watching (Timor
Bush Warbler-distinct endemic bird species). The park has been well
protected in part to the country's ECOTOURISM agenda with its rich
coastal environment. In Timor-Leste, a tenner a day is beyond a
possibility.FOODTo most outsiders, Timorese cuisine is a blank page, and
there is some truth to it. With an economy and agriculture that's way far
from developed to sustain and supply an entire nation, and almost half
the population below the poverty line, food to the Timorese is mostly
consumed to get by. Nonetheless, the most innovative creative cuisines
come from the ingenuity of a group of people who have close to nothing.
Rice is a staple but in the absence of, there are sweet potatoes,
cassava, taro and corn. There isn't much insight to a national dish as of
yet, but the common Timorese meal is one with rice, meat, and spices,
closely resembling Indonesian cuisines of "rice and spice". There are
Western foods served in restos and cafes in the urban Timor for the more
affluent foreigners who live and work there.Timorese gastronome is an
amazing fusion of Malay/Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese
influences. Fish, specifically fried fish, is among the most popular
dishes here the cuisine of fish termed as pepes, while curries, like
chicken recipes, are a famed fave, but Indonesian food is very close to
the Timorese' heart and stomachs if not for proximity and influence.
Fresh dessert is characteristically Timorese which could be anything from
bananas, mangoes, papayas, and watermelons. Fruits can be eaten during or
after the meal because dessert per se is not a culinary concept in Timor-
Leste. Dessert can also mean snack like pudim de coco or the Portuguese
custard tart creme caramel. And they eat dog too, sometimes. Nowhere has
the saying "danger is what makes life worth living" been more true than
Timor-Leste where people are not shy of optimism and forgiveness.

				
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