At the heart of Dili, Timor Leste’s capital, and the country’s largest city is a dense concentration of public spaces and buildings. Although the country has shifted sovereignty numerous times, from Portuguese roots which established a strong Christian faith, to Indonesian occupation and genocide and finally to independent rule, traces of the past abound, including the unusual naming of the country, which translates to “East (Malay) East (Portuguese)”. My first stop of the day was to the Resistance Museum, a very detailed unfiltered chronology and story telling of Timor Leste’s extended struggle for independence. I walked away marveling at the luck and determination by President Xanana in gaining sovereignty. I applied this new lens to appreciate the students next door at the National University of Timor Leste as they bustled through the halls and classrooms, gaining knowledge to rebuild the country while I searched for a specific food vendor that sold a unique, simple but flavorful rice with meat leaf wrap. After wandering through the neighborhood, I found a modern styled coffee shop with wifi and coordinated to meet with an American traveler whom I met at my first hostel to rendezvous at the Timor Plaza mall so I could see the area and also to help with an ATM withdrawal and money exchange. Applying lessons learned from yesterday’s bus schedule, we made it back to the city center. With sunlight left to spare, I decided to buy some fruit near the Lita supermarket and also ended up catching the sunset at the Novo Turismo Resort & Spa’s pier.
Exchanging money with fair exchange rates is a great way to make friends and save money. Most travelers do not have ATM fee free cards so they tend to withdraw too much money and will have extra that they are happy to trade, or they have too little and don’t want to get more because of the high ATM fee. Make sure to update your currency/FX app’s rates regularly.