Saturday, October 11, 2008

West Timor - Kupang and Soe - March 2008

Getting there:

I flew into West Timor from Darwin (Australia) to Kupang (West Timor) using Air North.  It's an excellent air-line, and a good option for Australian’s wanting to get to eastern Indonesia, or other people who want to travel along Indonesia then have a quick 1.5 hour flight down into Australia. The flight cost around AU$270.


I really liked Kupang. It’s a rough and ready place, but very vibrant and beautifully situated next to the sea. The art-work in the bemos is amazing. It must cost them about a year’s salary to decorate their vehicles (and put in the obligatory booming sound system, of course). I did have one confusing ride with American rap music blaring from the sub-woofers, "shake your booty, yeah, yeah, shake your booty..." whilst on the windows a large sticker of the Virgin Mary beamed down at me.  It's a good thing all the good Christian ladies of Kupang don't understand English! There might be a boycott of the bemos if they did.

Edwin’s bar, L’Avalon, is a great place to hang out. A few expats go there. It looks like it’s about to fall into the sea (as does a lot of Kupang), but the views and the vibe are great. Free broadband internet too, which is a rare thing in Indonesia. Edwin is very knowledgeable about the local area.

The best food I had was at the Timor Pantai, a big hotel along the beach-front. The restaurant has great views, and cheap, tasty food. However, I wouldn’t recommend staying at the Timor Pantai. The service is crap, and my air-con broke down twice in one night. My room got so hot I thought I’d have a cold shower, only to discover the water wasn’t on either. When I complained the next morning they insisted I pay full price for the room. (I had to wait in line behind all the other guests who were complaining too). 


I left steamy, humid, Kupang on a bus for Soe, which is three hours into the hills. The bus ride is lovely, taking you slowly into the hills, past traditional villages with the bee-hive shaped huts. On the way back, I caught a 6am bus and the views over the mountains as the night mist was lifting were serenely beautiful.

In Soe I stayed in a very neat little bungalow owned by the former king and queen of the area (at least, that’s how the only English speaker in town, their son, described them). I think it cost 60,000 per night. The family is lovely, and made me feel very welcome. I can’t remember exactly what it was called, but I think it was Nopes Royal Homestay. It’s listed in the LP guide books. There is only one bungalow, with a double bed. Here's a photo of the king and queen's grandchildren in front of the bungalow.

Soe itself is fairly dreary. If you need to use internet while you are there, head to the building connected to the telecom tower on the main street. The area around Soe is very rural, with a landscape fairly similar to Australia’s north – lots of gum trees!  The traditional arts and crafts in the area are really interesting. 

This is a photo of a local woman at the Soe market.

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