If you haven’t already seen across my social media channels, I am currently visiting family in Timor Leste (formerly known as East Timor) which is a 65 minute flight from Darwin, Australia. Despite having travelled quite a bit in my life time, I have to admit seeing the shacks on the side of the roads, stray dogs, chickens, goats and poverty really hit home that it’s a third world country.
As Timor Leste is not high on many travellers lists, there is not much of a tourism rush which in a way is a good thing as it’s virtually untouched. The beaches are simply beautiful and the locals are very friendly. Every morning on my holiday I’ve done a 6km walk and you’d find most of the locals would greet you with ‘Bondia’ which means hello and the young children especially would love to see foreigners or ‘Malae’ (not a derogatory term as some of the Asian countries have like Falang in Thailand). The kids would love to give you high fives, as to the, it would be a sign of goodluck.
When you think about third world countries you don’t normally associate wining and dining with them. However the heavy Portuguese influence in Timor Leste means that there are some darn good Portuguese wines coming into the country alongside wines from all over the world. The main problem with the wine however is storage. With a lot of supermarkets being open air with no air-conditioning means the wine is stored in hot muggy rooms which is not ideal.
However there are a few gems to be had, which is of course what I have loved on my trip. Plus I’ve been taken too some absolutely delicious places to eat in and around Dili which I just had to share with you all. Who knows, Timor may even make it to your travel bucket list after reading this!
Wine Shopping in Dili
Pateo Supermarket – Possibly the better of the lot as it’s air-conditioned and even has a few wine fridges for the good stuff. Mostly Portuguese wines and some wines can reach up to US$500. Nice selection of fortifieds too plus spirits and good variety of beers are also available.
Lita Supermarket – Right on the foreshore opposite the fruit market and beside the Prime Ministers residence. Very hot, no air con would opt to buy your slabs of Bintang for $30 here instead of wine.
Leader Supermarket – Right beside the Timor Plaza. Wide range of spirits moreso than wine. Caught sight of a few Aussie and Kiwi wines as well as some very interesting bottles of Portuguese wines, however no air-conditioning which means you can’t be guaranteed of quality. Another good spot to buy your beer slabs.
Cheers Shop – This is a speciality liquor and tobacco shop in the Timor Plaza. I have heard from sources you can even get your longlife milk in there too. Good spot to buy half and full dozens of your favourites, like Giesen Sauv Blanc. A lot more Aussie and Kiwi wine. Plus a good selection of cigars for the cigar aficionados out there.
Kmanek Supermarket – Limited selection of wine however it does have air con. You can find a few treasures here and it’s also good for frozen NZ meat.
Restaurants in Dili
Little Pattaya – Located on the foreshore at the eastern end of the Dili township this is an absolutely fantastic wee dinner or lunch spot. The cuisine is a mix of Thai and Lebanese. They have quite a decent drinks and food menu. My faves were the Gin Fizz cocktails and the papaya salad. Great service food and drinks. Mains, like my green curry were around the US$5 mark.
Indian Restaurant – This has to be one of my favourite spots so far. It’s a tucked away little gem with fabulous service and food. Between 4 of us, we had a couple of rounds of beers, water, 2 starters to share and then 5 curries, 2 rice and parratha bread all for a tidy $65. Extremely full by the end of it, but absolutely delicious the eggplant and prawn dishes were my picks. And the samosas need a mention too, divine!
Panorama – This is the rooftop restaurant and bar at the Timor Plaza. We went here for the Christmas Eve set menu. Lovely setting and view. Service was a bit slow and I was asked if I wanted coke with my tequila sunrise which I thought was a bit strange. But the drinks were good, the meal was lovely and service top-notch. We had a couple of wines with the meal, which were about US$30-40 per bottle. View the Timor Plaza Facebook page for more info.
Food L Do – This is out near the main car park out the back of Timor Plaza, opposite Burger King and near the cinema. We specifically went here for a beer tower, we went for the Tiger tower which held 7 bottles in and came with free nachos (which were pretty good!) for US$24.
Castaway Bar – The hotspot in Dili for a lovely brekkie overlooking the ocean. The pineapple and mint juice for US$3.50 was amazing!! I was also very happy with my potato rosti with smoked salmon, sour cream and chives for $12 despite it coming out after all the others had finished their meals. And Mr. Spittoons pancakes with maple syrup, lemon juice & sugar we’re fantastic value for $8!
Black Rock Restaurant – This spot is not in Dili, but about a 45 minute drive around the coast to the west in the township of Liquica. This is a beautiful little spot, right on the weathers edge and they have the best sangria I have had in a long time, US$12 a jug!! The meals were good and I loved the big bottles of Bintang being served up in old Veuve Clicquot jackets! While you’re out this way I would also recommend stopping to see the old Portuguese jail pictured below, simply stunning!
Happy Hour in Dili
Panorama – There is a happy hour every night of the week at Panorama from 5-7pm and 5-8pm on Fridays. There’s 50% off selected drinks. As mentioned above, decent drinks, gorgeous setting but service is a touch slow. View the Timor Plaza Facebook page for more info.
Novo Turismo Resort & Spa Dili – This is a rather new hotel in Dili, fairly close to Lita Supermarket. Gorgeous pool and swim up bar. Every Friday & Saturday from 3-7pm you can buy 2 drinks and get 1 free, all beverages on the menu are included. It also claims to be the longest happy hour in town.
Discovery Inn Dili – Happy hour takes place on the deck which is undercover but open air. Happy hour is every day from 5-7pm. Plus you also get small canapés to munch on while you’re enjoying your drink. The G&Ts are very good. Wine list is quite extensive, but they were out of stock of many when we went.