I've long had a "thing" for the bits and pieces of the former Portuguese empire. During my years in Asia (1997-2016), I made a point of visiting as many of them as I could. I managed to get to the Portuguese sites on the western and southern coasts of Sri Lanka, Melaka (Malacca), Ayutthaya and Bangkok in Thailand, and Macau. Sadly, I haven't yet made it to Goa, Daman, and Diu, nor indeed anywhere in India. The last former Portuguese outpost I visited was East Timor (henceforth Timor Leste), which is now a proudly independent nation sharing the island of Timor with its former occupier, Indonesia. I was there in May, 2015.
The long struggle for independence is commemorated in an excellent museum in the country's capital, Dili.
After the Portuguese abandoned Timor in the wake of 1974's Carnation Revolution, the East Timorese proclaimed their independence. It turned out to be short-lived. Their neighbour Indonesia, which occupies the western half of the island of Timor, promptly launched an invasion and annexed the fledgeling nation. The Indonesian occupation continued until independence was finally achieved in 2002, when Timor Leste became the first new sovereign nation of the 21st century.
One sign of Timor Leste's hard won independence is the coinage.
Another is the government palace on the Dili waterfront.
Not to mention the distinctive flag, affixed in the photo below to the handlebar of a motorcycle.
My trip was short, just 5 days, but by basing myself at the Tibar Beach Retreat about 20 minutes outside of Dili, I was easily able to check out the major sights of the capital while having a convenient jumping off point for excursions along the north coast to the provinces of Liqueca and Maubara.
The Tibar Beach Retreat was lovely. Pictured below is the view from the hotel's terrace overlooking Tibar Bay.
The north coast is stunning and hardly visited. I saw no other foreign tourists anywhere I went.
The owner of the hotel personally drove me to the old Portuguese-built prison at Aipelo and also to see the 17th century Dutch fort in Maubara. I'm going to write separate posts about each of these places, but here's a pic of a Dutch cannon facing seawards to tide you over.
By complete coincidence, I happened to be in the country during its national day celebrations. Everywhere I went I was met with bright smiles, and offers of souvenir flags. I didn't buy any, but now I wish I had.
As mentioned, I'm planning posts about the prison and the Dutch fort, but also one about Dili, plus a review of the Tibar Beach Retreat. Please check back regularly in the coming weeks to read them. Tip: If you like and follow the Lotus & Persimmon page on Facebook, you'll get updates delivered to your newsfeed.