Monday, November 11, 2013

Travel: Betano, East Timor

     Betano is a village located in the southwest of Manufahi District in East Timor. During the former times, Betano was a traditional Timorese kingdom. Local language is Tetum but most locals can understand and speak Bahasa (Indonesian language) as well as Portuguese. Only few locals understand English in Betano area so it is wise to learn a few conversational phrases or better yet bring a local colleague with you.
     Local currency being used is the United States Dollar (USD) but they have their own coins. It would be practical to break your hundreds into smaller bills while you are in the capital (Dili) to make it easier to transact while in Betano. No ATM machines are available in Betano as well as in Same, the capital of Manufahi District.
     Cellular phone communication is possible as the local provider has roaming agreements with most major cellular phone company of other countries. Because this will cost you much, it is advisable to purchase a local SIM or phone. As of this writing major player is Timor Telecom but there is two new mobile networks coming in to the market, one of which is telkomcel. Internet connection is not available also, but you can go to Timor Telecom sales center in Same where they have wifi connectivity and computer terminals that you can rent. Additionally, you can purchase a USB modem from them to get mobile connectivity. Local time is TLST (UTC +9:00).

     Primary point of entry to East Timor is trough the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (IATA Airport Code: DIL). This is located in Dili, the capital of East Timor. Formerly, this airport was known as Comoro International Airport. This airport serves the following airlines: Airnorth (Darwin, Australia - Dili), Air Timor which is being operated by Silk Air (Singapore - Dili), Merpati (Jakarta, Indonesia - Dili) and Sriwijaya Air (Jakarta, Indonesi - Dili).
     From Dili it is a six to eight hours of road trip. It is about 140 kilometer of travel up and around the mountains. Travel time mostly depends on weather, road conditions and driver's ability. There is also an airstrip near Same about 24 kilometers from Betano. But there are no regular flights to this airstrip. You have to arranged chartered flight from Dili on which availability will depend also on the weather conditions.
Marker of the Dili International Airport
Beach Side Hotel, Dili
Location: 8° 31' 58.96" S, 125° 36' 55.15" E
     This hotel is about thirteen kilometers from the airport. It is located right on the beach front of Branca beach hence its name. Facilities are okay and you can always have a relaxing drink by the beach or take a swim at the warm water. They don't have wifi or wired internet connection so it's good if you have the local USB modem.
     The Christo Rei, quite similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro is just a walking distance from this hotel. It is very nice to go jogging to the statue during the morning. For more information about this hotel, visit their website here.

Room of Beach Side Hotel


Hotel California, Dili
 Location: 8° 32' 37.18" S, 125° 36' 39.30" E
      This hotel is located also near the beach and about eleven kilometers from the airport. It is also conveniently located near some restaurants. Room is average sized but I really love the soft king sized bed as well as the pillows. They also provide a wired internet in the rooms. Their restobar is elevated and provides a wonderful sunset view of the beach.
Room of hotel california
Umaliurai Hotel, Same
Location: 9° 01' 10.78" S, 125° 39' 11.26" E
     This hotel is located in Same, about twenty two kilometers from Betano. I would say that this hotel is the best in the entire Same area. But you have to consider that this is not the same quality as with those you can find in Dili. They have a standby generator but they only run it until eleven in the evening, so if power does not come back during that time, you have to sleep in total darkness. There are airconditoned rooms and some are provided with a ceiling fan but for me its not so important as nights are quite cold in this location. They also don't have any wifi or internet connection. Warm water for bath is available when there is electricity. The best here is the food. I would say they have the best food quality in Same.
     This is a family run business. The owner of this hotel is a very kind Australian man who have married a Timorese. They are very hospitable and makes you feel home away from home.
Umaliurai Hotel
Room of Umaliurai Hotel
     There is not much in particular to visit in Betano. It's more of an eco tourism site. You can go around the town and enjoy the beauty of nature. Betano's beach is also very beautiful. But be wary that the mangroves near these beaches are home to the salt water crocodiles. From time to time they can wander to the beaches. These can give you also the chance to observe a crocodile in its natural habitat. Just make sure to watch it from a distance.
     The six hour travel to Betano is in itself a very rewarding experience. The road goes trough the mountains wherein you can see some small waterfalls. Most of the time the roads are foggy and temperature are a bit cold. At the highest point of the trip you will be rewarded with a majestic view of towns below. The rolling hills of green grass is also very refreshing to look at.
Stop over on the way to Betano
Amazing greenery
Betano beach view

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