Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Hong Kong festivals

Stanley Dragon Boat Association

Ferocious drumming and firecrackers galore always make Chinese festivals exuberant occasions. While Hong Kong’s biggest celebrations are without doubtChinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, being in such a culturally rich metropolis, there are tons of other special occasions that you might not be familiar with. If you’ve ever wondered where to witness Chinese festivals up close and personal, you’ve come to the right place.

Guide to Hong Kong festivals:

Chinese New Year (Jan or Feb):

There’s no doubting the significance of Chinese New Year. Like most festivals here, it’s an amalgamation of commercialism and culture – think the Cathay Pacific Parade and the more down-to-earth Victoria Park Flower Market. Nevertheless, you can head to Wong Tai Sin Temple for a somewhat more tranquil way to ring in the new year, with incense sticks and praylers to pave the way for an auspicious year ahead.

Image: istolethetv/Flickr

Ching Ming Festival (Apr):

Ching Ming Festival, otherwise known as Tomb Sweeping Festival, isn’t your regular solemn sacrificial ceremony but a joyous occasion that welcomes the arrival of spring. On this day, people head to cemeteries to sweep their ancestor’s graves and provide offerings of fresh food, flowers and incense. Afterwards, you might see people flying kites, picnicking and simply enjoying the outdoors. After all, Ching Ming Festival also represents the coming of the new season.

Image: Bailey Cheng/Flickr

Buddha's Birthday:

For this celebration, Buddhists head to temples and pour water over statues of Buddha, a ritual to cleanse their soul. You’ll also see a plethora of lit lanterns around Hong Kong symbolising enlightenment as well as altars adorned with offerings and incense. Wong Tai Sing Temple is the place to be on this day but pop along to Victoria Park for an even bigger event, with meditation classes, vegetarian food, carnival games and a flower show dedicated to Buddha.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (Apr or May):

Paper effigies, scintillating costumes and a massive tower covered in buns – these are just some of the highlights of the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Every year on Buddha’s Birthday, thousands of worshippers make a pilgrimage to Cheung Chau for this boisterous Taoist celebration. The buns represent peace and harmony and the famous bun competition remains the pinnacle of the festival.

Tin Hau Festival (Apr or May):

Relatively unknown outside of Hong Kong, Tin Hau Festival celebrates the birthday of Tin Hau, goddess of the sea. It falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month. For the city’s most honoured deity, worshippers young and old head to Tin Hau temples – there are more than 70 in the city – to join in colourful parades with kung fu troupes, marching bands and lion dances. These festivities ensure calm seas and abundant fish stocks for the coming year.

Dragon Boat Festival (May or Jun):

While other festivals force you to eschew your diet, this one requires a lot more calories if you go all-in and join a competitive team. The event sees dragon boat races taking place all over Hong Kong. The origins of the festival start with the suicide of Chinese scholar Qu Yuan some 2,000 years ago. Locals attempted to save him by paddling down into the river he drowned in – hence the dragon boats.

Hungry Ghost Festival (Aug or Sep):

Burning incense and ritual offerings aren’t unusual in Hong Kong, but as it gets closer to Hungry Ghost Festival, the sight becomes a lot more common. Legend has it that around this time the gates to hell open, unleashing ghosts to wander the streets. People try to appease these ghosts and honour their ancestors with offerings of paper replicas of iPhones, money and designer accessories. All kinds of taboos surround this fest, from not swimming at night (because a ghost might drown you) to not leaving your clothes out to dry in case a ghost tries them on.

Mid-Autumn Festival (Sep or Oct):

In Chinese culture, the moon symbolises unity and love. Mid-Autumn Festival – which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is at its fullest – embodies just that. Before the big day is even close, you’ll be bombarded with millions of mooncake ads everywhere. Come the day itself, all kinds of festivities commence around town, most notably the Victoria Park Lantern Display and the extravagant Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance featuring a 220ft-long dragon, 300 performers and 70,000 incense sticks and firecrackers.

Chung Yeung Festival (Oct):

Often confused with Ching Ming Festival, Chung Yeung Festival occurs in autumn rather than spring and is a commemoration for people’s ancestors. On this day people visit the graves and columbaria of their families to pay their respects. It’s also believed that picnicking or hiking to the city’s highest points will help bring about good luck.

Halloween (Oct 31):

The celebrations for All Hallow’s Eve seem to get bigger and bigger each year. While trick-or-treating is not really part of the culture here, if you’re keen on keeping your spirits (pun intended) up, you might want to visit Disneyland or Ocean Park, which host chilling, hair-raising experiences every year. Think haunted mansions, villainised rides and creepy characters roaming the streets. For a more adult affair, strut down Lan Kwai Fong and show off your risqué costume. Bars and clubs will usually have special deals – and freaky décor – so keep an eye out for those.

Christmas (Dec 25):

While not a Chinese festival, Hong Kong has fully embraced the craze of Christmas. During this time, the city looks a little more magical than usual, especially in Statue Square where a giant Christmas tree always stands. There are shopping sales, New Year’s Eve fireworks to look forward to and even more festivities in theme parks and shopping malls across town. Head down to Central Harbourfront for the regular AIA Great European Carnival for fun winter-themed rides and game stalls.

By Karl Lam

Source: Timeout.com





Sunday, 18 October 2020

OlaleOne: Nigerian Musician

OlaleOne


Biography:

Olalekan Azeez Oduntan aka OlaleOne was born (26/05/1964). He is a Song Writer, Composer, Griot, Xylophonist, Percussionist and an Entrepreneur. He started his artistic carrier at age twelve gathering his peers together back then and teaching them drama and music with his little level of understanding and knowledge. It was also at that young age that he was reciting poetry for Nigerian Radio and Television stations. He used to travel from Lagos to other states of Nigeria to recite poetry at the weddings, burials and coronation ceremonies depending on the invites.

OlaleOne with his Xylophone

After his secondary education, he joined the then Center for Cultural Studies University of Lagos, Nigeria as an associate member (now Creative Art Department) taking part in drama, music and cultural productions. It was there that he met the late Professor Akin Euba who was the head of the Center. He performed in the Professor's Band called Akin Euba and the Elekotos. Series of programmes were recorded for radio and television by the band and some albums were recorded too. Because the Cultural Studies was a place of learning, he was also participating in stage drama productions by Professors Bode Osanyin and Uwa Hunwick. It was there that he learnt how to play the Xylophone from Nigerian ace Xylophonist Late Ede Nwigwe. An instrument he plays so well today.

OlaleOne

Also at this department, he met and performed with Music Professors like Laz Ekwemen, Alaja Brown and Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko. He was a member of Joy Nwosu's band that was performing all over Nigeria and within the University of Lagos back then. And Joy Nwosu's band also recorded some albums for Decca Records. He was the Xylophonist for the band. He has done sound tracks for stage and movie productions.

OlaleOne

CAREER:

OlaleOne recorded his very first album in the year 2014 entitled Abracadabra. The album consists 6 tracks like Abracadabra, Orente, Iyawo, Ore, Orente Instrumental and Ore Acappella. The album shows the musical prowess and dexterity of his capability to handle different genres of music at the same time. And the track Orente topped the Reverbnation Nigerian Afro Hip hop Chart as #1 for more than four times that year. And thereafter, it started shuttling between #1 and #3 on that same Reverbnation Chart.

He dropped another 6 tracker album number two in 2016 entitled Mama Afrika. The album consists of tracks like Mama Afrika, Peace Song, Ojumo Mo, Enu, Ololufemi and Peju Sweetie. Again, the track Peace Song has been topping the Reverberation Nigerian Afro Hiphop Chart as #1 for the past four years. At a time in between those years, Peace Song nearly topped the world music chart!!! Because it was either #100 or #120 in the world chart. Presently, the track Peace Song is currently in #2 on Reverbnation Afro Hip hop Nigerian Chart.

OlaleOne's number three album was dropped in 2018 entitled Afrikan Jazz. This project involves the Afrikan wooden Xylophone leading other western instruments to make good music. And the project is very successful. It is musical marriage of the local instrument and modern musical instruments like guitar, keyboard etc coming together to make rhythmic sound but the local instrument Xylophone dominating the whole musical arrangement. The album consists of 6 tracks like Nnenekwo, Dedebi, Ayangayanga, Akoi Wata Geri, Ero Oja Olowo and Olusegun. This musical project is completely instrumental and that is why it is being referred to as Afrikan Jazz.

OlaleOne's fourth album was just released three weeks ago. It is a musical project put together during the stay at home Pandemic Covid-19 period. The album is entitled The Message and it consists of 6 tracks like The Message, Omolara Babie, Eko Ile, Aye, Shake Ur Body and Ina Fe e Ran. Just as the title of the album implies, the whole tracks of the album are all loaded with messages. In the album, the musician deals with issues affecting the world at large and our society in general. The album, the message is indeed a musical message for this messed age!!!

Discography:

Title                                      Album Details

Abracadabra                       Released 8 March 2014

Mama Afrika                       Released 6 December 2016

Afrikan Jazz                        Released 4 June 2018

The Message                      Released 8 September2020

His Contact

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1hv6ZaJElF0rz1ZF8WYWhg

+2348173190077

+2347026496440

East Timor Holidays and Festivals

Though still a relatively young and recovering country, East Timor holidays and events include a number of cultural celebrations, including Christian and Islamic celebrations, as well as observances related to the long struggle for independence.

Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste:

Held early in the year (March), the annual Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste aims to share the Timorese culture with the world. Expect traditional dances, music, and many other forms of entertainment, enhanced by good eats.

Independence Restoration Day:

Observed May 20 as a public holiday, this day in 2002 marked the UN’s transfer of sovereignty to the newly elected East Timor government. Festivities take place nationwide with Mass at church and tributes paid to those who fought for freedom.

Festival for Peace (Festa ba Dame):

Held in June, the Festival for Peace is a series of shows and exhibits performed and organized by the youth who attend intensive art, multimedia, dancing, and music lessons at Ba Futuru. It aims to promote personal growth and improve the life of those living in conflict-prone areas of Dili, as well as those who are impacted directly or indirectly by violence.

Ramelau Cultural Festival:

Named after the country’s highest peak, the Ramelau Cultural Festival is the biggest cultural event held outside of the capital in East Timor. It is based in the Ainaro district and held late in the year usually in October. The three-day event of cultural pride honors Mount Ramelau, a symbol of Timorese pride and unity.

National Youth Day:

November 12 marks the anniversary of the massacre of Santa Cruz, which occurred in Dili in 1991. A public holiday, this tragic day saw peaceful, pro-independence protesters massacred by Indonesian military forces.

National Heroes’ Day:

Observed on December 7, this public holiday pays tribute to the country’s many heroes in the fight for independence while also remembering the day of the 1975 invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.

Source: Itap-world.com


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

OlaleOne: Nigerian Contemporary Musician

BIOGRAPHY:

OlaleOne on Marimba


OlaleOne

OlaleOne

Olalekan Azeez Oduntan aka OlaleOne was born (26/05/1964). He is a Song Writer, Composer, Griot, Xylophonist, Percussionist and an Entrepreneur. He started his artistic carrier at age twelve gathering his peers together back then and teaching them drama and music with his little level of understanding and knowledge. It was also at that young age that he was reciting poetry for Nigerian Radio and Television stations. He used to travel from Lagos to other states of Nigeria to recite poetry at the weddings, burials and coronation ceremonies depending on the invites.

After his secondary education, he joined the then Center for Cultural Studies University of Lagos, Nigeria as an associate member(now Creative Art Department) taking part in drama, music and cultural productions. It was there that he met the late Professor Akin Euba who was the head of the Center. He performed in the Professor's Band called Akin Euba and the Elekotos. Series of programmes were recorded for radio and television by the band and some albums were recorded too. Because the Cultural Studies was a place of learning, he was also participating in stage drama productions by Professors Bode Osanyin and Uwa Hunwick. It was there that he learnt how to play the Xylophone from Nigerian ace Xylophonist Ede Nwigwe. An instrument he plays so well today.

OlaleOne

OlaleOne First Album Abracadabra

Also at this department, he met and performed with Music Professors like Laz Ekwemen, Alaja Brown and Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko. He was a member of Joy Nwosu's band that was performing all over Nigeria and within the University of Lagos back then. And Joy Nwosu's band also recorded some albums for Decca Records. He was the Xylophonist for the band. He has done sound tracks for stage and movie productions.

CAREER:

OlaleOne Second Album Mama Afrika

OlaleOne recorded his very first album in the year 2014 entitled Abracadabra. The album consists 6 tracks like Abracadabra, Orente, Iyawo, Ore, Orente Instrumental and Ore Acappella. The album shows the musical prowess and dexterity of his capability to handle different genres of music at the same time. And the track Orente topped the Reverbnation Nigerian Afro Hip hop Chart as #1 for more than four times that year. And thereafter, it started shuttling between #1 and #3 on that same Reverbnation Chart.

He dropped another 6 tracker album number two in 2016 entitled Mama Afrika. The album consists of tracks like Mama Afrika, Peace Song, Ojumo Mo, Enu, Ololufemi and Peju Sweetie. Again, the track Peace Song has been topping the Reverberation Nigerian Afro Hiphop Chart as #1 for the past four years. At a time in between those years, Peace Song nearly topped the world music chart!!! Because it was either #100 or #120 in the world. But presently today, the track Peace Song is in #2 on Reverberation Nigerian Afro hop Chart.

OlaleOne Fourth Album The Message

OlaleOne's number three album was dropped in 2018 entitled Afrikan Jazz. This project involves the African wooden Xylophone leading other western instruments combining together to make good music. And the project is very successful. It is musical marriage of the local instrument Xylophone and modern musical instruments like guitar, keyboard etc fusing together to make rhythmic sound but the local instrument Xylophone dominating the whole musical arrangement. The album consists of 6 tracks like Nnenekwo, Dedebi, Ayangayanga, Akoi Wata Geri, Ero Oja Olowo and Olusegun. This musical project is completely instrumental and that is why it is being referred to as Afrikan Jazz.

OlaleOne's fourth album was just released three weeks ago. It is a musical project put together during the stay at home Pandemic Covid-19 period. The album is entitled The Message and it consists of 6 tracks like The Message, Omolara Babie, Eko Ile, Aye, Shake Ur Body and Ina Fe e Ran. Just as the title of the album implies, the whole tracks on the album are all loaded with messages. In the album, the musician deals with issues affecting the world at large and our society in general. The album the message is indeed a message for this messed age!!!

Discography:

Title                                      Album Details

Abracadabra                       Released 8 March 2014

Mama Afrika                       Released 6 December 2016

Afrikan Jazz                        Released 4 June 2018

The Message                      Released 8 September 2020

His Contact:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1hv6ZaJElF0rz1ZF8WYWhg

+2348173190077

+2347026496440

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

8 Major Chinese Holidays & Festivals To Learn About

The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of harvests or prayer offerings. The most important Chinese holiday is the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), which is also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. All traditional holidays are scheduled according to the Chinese calendar (except the Qing Ming and Winter Solstice days, falling on the respective Gregorian calendar).(wikipedia)

If you are interested in Chinese culture & traditions then it goes without saying that you should spend a little time getting to grasp with the major holidays. There are 8 major Chinese holidays, namely 除夕, 春节, 元宵节, 清明节, 端午节, 中元节, 中秋节, 冬节 that you can’t go wrong with. Do you know them all?

1. 除夕Chúxì:

Chinese New Years Eve

The Chinese New Year’s Eve is called 除夕and is the most anticipated night during this period. On this night Chinese families 欢聚一堂 (gather happily under one roof) to 庆祝 (celebrate). Each household celebrates by eating a 年夜饭 (New Year’s Eve dinner). When the meal is over the whole family will sit, chat and play games until midnight when they will 守岁 (stay up to see in the new year).

In recent years however, watching 春节联欢晚会 (Spring Festival Gala) has become a new tradition. The Spring Festival Gala is a 4 hour-long program shown on China’s CCTV, it includes an assortment of performances such as singing, dancing and 相声 (Comic dialogue, crosstalk).

In recent years however, watching 春节联欢晚会 (Spring Festival Gala) has become a new tradition. The Spring Festival Gala is a 4 hour-long program shown on China’s CCTV, it includes an assortment of performances such as singing, dancing and 相声 (Comic dialogue, crosstalk).

2. 春节 Chūnjié ( Between 21st Jan and 20th Feb):

Spring Festival

Learn Chinese Festivals and Holidays - Spring festival春节 (Spring Festival) is the longest and most 隆重 (ceremonious) holiday for the 中华民族 (Chinese people). The most significant aspect of the Chinese New Year is to be able to reunite with family members. Most Chinese people work far away from their hometowns and usually only get to return home a couple of times a year.

3. 元宵节 Yuánxiāo jié (15th of 1st lunar month):

Lantern Festival

This holiday is of major importance to the 汉族 (Hànzú) Han ethnic group in china. It is said that the Lantern festival was the time when 汉文帝 (Hàn wéndì) Liu Heng 纪念 (jìniàn) commemorated 平吕 (píng lǚ) the removal of the Lǚ clan.

4. 清明节 Qīngmíng jié (功力 5th April):

Tomb Sweeping Day

Qingming or Pure Brightness Festival (清明节) is the second most important festival after Spring Festival (春节).

It is important because it is not just a festival for gathering together, enjoying oneself and eating good food, but because it is a time for commemoration, a day to 纪念 remember and 祭奠 pay respects to one’s ancestors.

5. 端午节 Duānwǔ jié (31st May):

Dragon Boat Festival

端午节 Dragon Boat Festival (also known as Double Fifth Festival) falls on June 2 this year (2014), which is the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional lunar calendar. The holiday starts from May 31 to June 2 and has been held annually for more than 2,000 years in China. This festival celebrates and commemorates the patriotic poet 屈原 Qu Yuan (340-278 BC). 

6. 中元节 Zhōng yuán jié (15th July):

Ghosts Festival

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival. The seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), when restless spirits roam the earth.

On this month Ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Activities include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning items for the visiting spirits of the ancestors.

7. 中秋节 Zhōngqiū jié(15th of the 8th lunar month):

Mid-Autumn Festival

Also known as “Moon Festival”, Mid-Autumn festival is a harvest festival that falls on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The Mid-Autumn festival was so named because of the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of autumn season, a time when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

A popular tradition of Mid-Autumn Festival is to eat 月饼 (mooncakes), thus you may also hear this festival referred to as “Mooncake Festival”.

8. 冬节 Dōng jié:

Winter Solstice

This is another important traditional Chinese festival, it falls between 22nd of December and the 5th of January. Chinese people managed to figure out the Winter solstice using ancient equipment over 2500 years ago during the Spring-Autumn period (770-476 BC).

Winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. It is traditional for people to eat 饺子 and 汤圆 during this period, while we will be looking forward to a nice roast turkey.

Source - luvlanguages.com





Sunday, 11 October 2020

OBASE ABOLI: The Cameroonian Musician With Style

Biography:

Obase Aboli. © Olalekan Oduntan

Masango Obase-Aboli Namolongo (19 May 1991) is a Cameroonian born Chromatic (double 22 keys) Xylophone Virtuoso, Contemporary Pan African musician, motivational singer, song writer, composer, and musicpreneur. Unlike a lot of musicians, he wasn't born into music family because he was more of a footballer than a musician through out most of his childhood. 

Obase Aboli. © Olalekan Oduntan

Obase Aboli. © Olalekan Oduntan

He later moved to Bishop Rogan Minor Seminary where he was introduced to and taught classical music as a subject. Obase-Aboli was still more of a footballer than a musician but was soon discovered in his fourth year as a Xylophone virtuoso. He became the number one Xylophonist for the school and music prefect for the remaining part of his years. It was during this time that he composed his first classical piece and got his first musical award for the best conductor in an all catholic schools choral competition. While in the university, Obase-Aboli continued with his choral/classical music prowess and was music director for several choirs. 

CAREER: 

Obase-Aboli later moved to Abu Dhabi where he got the opportunity to take an Introductory Course in Jazz at the New York University Abu Dhabi. This piqued his interest in jazz music which he has gone ahead to exploit. During the same period, he was asked to act as a French - English translator for the Xylophone maestro  Fode Lasanna Diabate from Mali, who had visited NYUAD with the Kronos Quartet on their "50 for the future" collaboration. This was a turning point in his career. 

Obase Aboli. © Olalekan Oduntan

He plays Jazz along side several genre of music from the African continent including, Amekoko, Makosa, Agbadja, Rhumba and many more.

While in Abu Dhabi, Obase-Aboli was a member of the Blue Fever Jazz A Capella and the Abu Dhabi National Symphony Ochestra. Obase-Aboli was invited to give a Ted talk at the 2015 TedX NYUAD (which clashed with his concert where he had to do a vocal back up for Andrea Bocelli) where he spoke about his musical Journey. He was also invited to play percussion at the 2015 National Autism Day Abu Dhabi and has then been a self proclaimed ambassador to kids suffering from Autism and other difficult complications. 

Obase Aboli. © Olalekan Oduntan

With great ambition to exploit African Rhythms,  he later moved to Ghana in 2016 where he has been exploiting Ghanaian High life and other African genre of music. 

In May 2017, he released his first album titled "Etapo" 

He launched a massive five face project in 2019 titled the  "Ujhasuma Africa" project which included;

1. Ujhasuma Africa Album (2nd Album) 

2. Ujhasuma Africa Music Festival  

3. Ujhasuma Africa Arts Project

4. Ujhasuma Africa Book Launch

5. Ujhasuma Africa Poetry/Spoken Word 

Apart from the Xylophone, Obase-Aboli plays the Acoustic Guitar, Piano, the Atentebe and other African Percussion Instruments. Obase-Aboli has worked with Salif Keita and Les Ambasadeur du Hotel Bamako from Mali, the Kronos Quartet, Just a Band from Kenya, Lassana Diabate from Mali, Amboley Jedu Blay, Bessa Simons, and Aka Blay from Ghana and many more. 

Discography:

Title:                                 Album Details              

Etapo:                               Released May 19 2017

Ujhasuma Africa:           To Be Released 29 May 2021

In conclusion, Obase Aboli is a talented young man full of a lot of musical prowess and ideas. And he is an artiste to watch out for because the heaven is his limit. Hopefully, we wish to do a musical collaborative project together in the years to come. Here is wishing Obase Aboli a very successful carrier in his chosen artistic journey.

His Contacts:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/obaseaboli?s=09

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf1XG1WT0lj0EpaQnc04ISA

Copyrights: © Olalekan Oduntan 2020

Saturday, 10 October 2020

East Timor: A Country Since 2002

View of rear of Christo Rei Statue towards hills and beaches outside of Dili, East Timor. Richard Collette photos.

A Journey Across East Timor, one of the Youngest countries on Earth:

Local kids in Baucau, East Timor.

East Timor. The name of South East Asia’s newest nation conjures images of division, under development and conflict.

That’s if the name conjures any images at all. This is a country that few people know, that few people understand and that anyone who isn’t an aid worker is unlikely to have visited.

Knowing little of the country or its people, I arrived in the capital Dili unsure what there was to see on the eastern half of the divided island of Timor, where I could travel to or how as I traveler, I would be greeted.

Road near Baucau: This part is in good condition......

I soon found that all of the images I had of East Timor were, in some way or shape, unfortunately true.

The nation occupies just half of a long-divided island, it’s a country that only gained independence in 2002, that suffered decades of occupation under Indonesian rule and centuries of colonization under the Portuguese.

Welcomed Everywhere:

It is undeveloped, it lacks basic infrastructure and the average East Timorese citizen earns very, very little.

Santa Cruz Massacre Memorial Dili.

But, while all of this is true, East Timor never failed to surprise me. Traveling across this small nation was difficult, but while the people are poor, they never failed to welcome me into their homes for coffee when it was raining. The roads might be broken and potholed but the natural scenery remains some of the most untouched I’ve ever seen in Asia.

Before I visited, the images I had of East Timor were of protests and conflict. After the trip, I now equate East Timor with white sand beaches, rugged mountains and stoic people trying to make their island home a better place to live.

If there was ever a last frontier for tourism in Asia, I found it in East Timor.

The Journey Begins In Dili:

Coastal scenery near Baucau on road from Dili, East Timor.
My journey across East Timor began in the nation’s capital, Dili. The city sprawls along the coast, the sea on one side and the rugged, mountainous interior of Timor on the other. It’s the type of city where you are never more than a few kilometers away from a sandy beach, and the Presidential Palace, government buildings all look out over the harbor front where in the cooler evening temperatures people stroll in the sea breeze.

It’s an unexpectedly picturesque setting for a capital, but rather than going to the beach, my first stop in Dili was at the at the Timorese Resistance Archives and Museum.

This is a museum dedicated to the country’s recent struggle for independence from Indonesia, and to their long colonial history with the Portuguese.

A spearfisherman and his wife in East Timor.

East Timor only gained independence in 2002, and for many in the country, the decade’s long struggle is still very much fresh in their memories. When the Indonesian army left East Timor in 2002, they destroyed much of the infrastructure on their way back across the border to West Timor.

As I would soon experience on my journey across the country, East Timor is still very much struggling to recover.

Jaco Island. Local fisherman collecting me from the beach before the storm rolls in.

Christo Rei:

At the eastern end of the city, along the sandy shoreline and where the mountains begin to rise is Christo Rei, a towering statue of Christ the Redeemer. East Timor is a Catholic nation. The Portuguese colonized the country for almost 500 years, while the Dutch colonized the west half of the island, which ultimately led to today’s division of Timor.

The Portuguese legacy is still very much apparent in Dili and across the country. Portuguese is an official language, while Tetum, the main local dialect is full of Portuguese loan words. The colony was hardly developed by the Portuguese though, and the real lasting legacy of hundreds of years of Portuguese rule is the religion.

I walked the steep staircase that leads to the top of the Christo Rei statue, and from there I could see Dili sprawling along the coast for miles to the west. I was going to head east though, over the mountains and further into the country.

Baucau: East Timor’s Second City:

Public swimming pool in Baucau, East Timor.

East Timor isn’t exactly set up for tourism. Finding information on transport, schedules and even things to do and see can be a challenge. In Dili, I struggled to even confirm if there would be a bus to Baucau, just 125 kilometers to the east and the country’s second-largest city. There might be, there might not.

There might not be enough passengers, the journey could take 12 hours if the road was even passable. The answers were as varied as they were vague and in the end, I simply rented a motorcycle and decided to go it alone.

This was the moment that I began to realize just how underdeveloped East Timor’s transport infrastructure is. The road conditions were unpredictable. For the first few miles out of Dili, the main highway connecting the country’s two main cities was tarmacked, but beyond that, I was lucky when I found gravel or dirt.

The waterfront in Dili, East Timor.

In places, the road simply disappeared, replaced by rocks from landslides that had never been cleared. 125 kilometers did indeed take me almost 12 hours, but as dilapidated and treacherous as the road conditions were, seeing the coastal scenery and rolling green hills were almost worth dying for.

Covered in Mud:

I finally rolled into Baucau covered in mud, oil and drenched from a tropical downpour just as the sun set. The next morning, I explored East Timor’s second city, admiring colorful Portuguese era colonial buildings and driving alongside the city’s beaches.

Baucau’s unusual and locally popular tourist attraction is the large, outdoor swimming pool that’s fed by natural spring waters from the mountains. Finding crocodile warning signs all along the beaches, I decided to take a safe dip in the pool rather than the ocean before tackling the next part of the road, further east towards a place called Los Palos.

Rain and Crocodiles in Los Palos:

East Timor experiences very distinct wet and dry and seasons. I was visiting at the end of the rainy season, and so far had been spared any huge downpours but as I drove into the town of Los Palos in the far east of the island after another rocky, bumpy ride, the clouds burst in the late afternoon.

In the town center locals had gathered under the shop fronts to escape the rain, and I parked up quickly and ran under with them. Soon enough people were passing around hot cups of Timorese coffee, asking me where I was from, where I was going to and which aid organization I worked for.

The beach at Jaco Island, shot by a drone.

I said I was just a traveler, and that I was going to Jaco Island, a tropical, deserted and sacred place not far from Los Palos. When the rain finally stopped an hour  later I was waved down the road and warned to watch out for the crocodiles.

Downtown Dili.

Timor is an island that is home to huge populations of saltwater crocodiles, and in fact, they play an important role in local legends and customs – the whole island even vaguely resembles a crocodile from above. Just down the road from Los Palos was a huge, sacred lake, notorious for being the site of many crocodile attacks.

The locals fish in the shallows and local belief says that only ‘bad people’ are ever taken by a crocodile. Unfortunately, the sacred lake has one of the highest densities of crocodiles in the country.

While this raises many moral questions – who is a bad person? If you don’t get eaten, are you a good person? – I didn’t share this confidence, or perhaps I’m just not a good person, and with the road to Jaco Island running close to the lake and heavy rain potentially causing flooding and unpredictable crocodile movements, with trepidation I sped off down the rough road to get past the lake before sunset.

The Deserted Paradise Of Jaco Island:

After navigating the waterlogged roads and passing far too close to the huge, sacred lake I arrived at the village of Tutuala just as the sun was going down. Tutuala is perched on a high cliff top, the last village in East Timor.

This though wasn’t my last stop, and I still had to make a steep ascent down to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs to spend the night in a local homestay.

Eventually, in the pitch black with only dim headlights to guide me I made it to the ramshackle beachside bungalow where I could spend the night. In the morning, I awoke and I walked to the empty beach as the sun rose over Jaco Island, just a few hundred meters off the coast.

This was my end goal in traveling across East Timor, to reach Jaco Island, although really, the journey itself was the motivation to travel here. Jaco is a literally deserted paradise. It’s a small island, sacred to the locals.

That means that no one is allowed to live there or even to stay overnight.

The sand is pure white, fringed by palm trees and the coral in the clear water is colorful and full of marine life. Local fishermen took me across the short to Jaco and I finished my journey across East Timor on the sands of a deserted island, forgetting for at least a moment that I still had to make the long journey all the way back to Dili again the next day.

•By Richard Collette

•Culled from www.gonomad.com






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