Just west of the centre of Dili, past the line of embassies is the aptly named Ocean View Beach Hotel Restaurant, an impressively wide platform that perches on stilts across the beach and serves excellent calamari, prawns, tuna sashimi and the ubiquitous catch of the day, all while a great live band plays.
Those after a more down-at-heel experience should sample a beachside warung; about HK$20 buys a charcoal-grilled trigger fish, and a mere HK$8 gets a tasty tuna skewer.
VISIT THE DILI TAIS MARKETGet crafty: the Dili Tais Market (above) sells traditional woven tais (below left) and other patterned cloth (bottom).
What’s on sale in the supermarkets of Dili depends greatly on what the last container ship brought with it, but even in this import-based economy, it’s possible to buy a wholly Timorese-made souvenir. The tais (a traditional woven patterned cloth in bright colours and intricate designs) comes in many shapes and sizes, from cushion covers and shoulder bags to T-shirts and wallets. All are on sale within the walls of the ramshackle Dili Tais Market, a quiet and unassuming place that is easy to walk around without being hassled (unlike tourist markets in most of the world). You’ll see the blazing colours not only of tais, but of the striking red, yellow and black Timor-Leste flag emblazoned on baseball caps, scarves and T-shirts. Handwoven tais cost about HK$80, and you can see the weavers at work, too.
STAY BESIDE A TRANQUIL WHITE SAND BEACH
Though not many tourists get to Dili, this bustling international city is one of the few capitals with fabulous beaches within its boundaries. The best is Areia Branca, a 10 minute taxi ride east down the coastal Rua Cristo Rei from the city centre, though the last mile or so is worth walking; a tarmac path winds past chilled-out beachside cafes and restaurants, as well as some pristine mangrove forest and lonely trees.
Timor-Leste is a country of fishermen, and from Areia Branca, locals walk to the coral breaks with spears at low tide, or stand under trees on the shoreline to shelter themselves from the scorching sun while fixing nets.
Show of sands: Areia Branca beach is a great place to base yourself.
Areia Branca is great place to base yourself (try the Beachside Hotel at HK$660 per night, beachsidehoteldili.com) while in Dili, and there are few better Timorese experiences than a cold coconut or locally produced coffee (one of the country’s few exports) at Caz Bar, which has tables on a tree-studded white sand beach out front. Go during the week, and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. A dip in the calm, clear tropical sea is a must.