Another 'Xanana' republic

Trip Start Oct 27, 2004
Trip End Aug 17, 2005

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Flag of Timor-Leste  ,
Thursday, June 2, 2005

We came to Dili on a visa-run, intending to spend as little time there as possible. We left begrudgingly as our East-Timorese visa expired and vowed to come back to this little country as soon as possible.

Travel throughout Asia can often become tiresome, mainly because of touts and the 'same-same' -ness of all of the main tourist haunts. It can also be really difficult to meet genuine locals who wish to befriend you because of the barrier between tourists and locals. Tired? Come to Timor Leste.

The only way I can describe this story is through a little anecdote...

Our visa had been filled out incorrectly by immigration. They have only been issusing their own visas for a couple of months, so its understandable. The heading of the form is "application for a 30 day visa", like all visa fors there is a little bit about 'intended duration of stay', which in most countries means nothing. Unfortunately the guys at the border were not aware of this and allowed us only 14 days in the country. We realised this in Dili and went to immigration. The flat answer was no, we could not extend it. Bummer. We asked to see the boss and we were immediately taken to the 'supreme commander' of immigration. Once again a flat no, but pretty cool that we got to sit in the big-man's office almost straight away.

A few days later, sat in Edwin's (Edwin is a travellers legend in this neck of the woods, just look in the 'thankyou' section at the start of the Lonely Planet guidebooks) cafe in Kupang, West Timor, we met our friend Ricardo. Ricardo had been staying in the Dili guest house with us and was due to leave about a week after we were unceremoniously told to bugger off with our visas. Just before he left Dili he had been in conversation with Neil, another guest house long-termer who was trying to put together a documentary on the country. Apparently Neil had been in an interview with the Minister of Immigration the day after we left and mentioned our problem, the Minister told Neil we should come to his office to have our visa sorted out. When told that we had already left, the minister asked "Why didn't they come to see me?".

What a cool country!
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