two hours east and west

Felix and I have taken two quick weekend trips this month — New Year’s was a night in each Com and Baucau, both east from Dili along Timor-Leste’s north coast, and last weekend was two quiet nights in Liquica, about an hour west. Both trips were lovely and low-barrier, and I’d recommend each for Dili newcomers or mainstays wanting some time away from the city without the logistics of a more complex trip.

Com

Our time in Com was organised by a friend — we stayed for one night, New Year’s Eve, at the lovely beachside guesthouse called Katis, which is on the main road that gets you into town. We ate the best fish I’ve ever had, made espresso martinis on the verandah, kept an eye out for crocodiles while swimming in the ocean, and celebrated the end of the year with friends and our feet in the sand. Com’s a small and quiet town good for lazy beach time and good food — we only left quickly because there was a city to visit and a pool to play in.

Com is about four hours east of Dili; just under two hours further east than Baucau, and is a good stopping point on a trip to Jaco Island (on day one, stop in Baucau for lunch, then stay the night in Com, and head to Tutuwala the next morning for two nights near Jaco, before driving the whole way home in a day). The road past Baucau is slow-going but not terrible, and we made it in a sedan.

Guesthouse Katis is lovely, with a big communal dining room directly by the sand, and attentive and helpful service. Rooms have fans but no air conditioning and cost $25 per night; dinner and breakfast cost extra. I’d stay again, and stay for a second night.

Baucau

I love Baucau and have visited several times, always staying in the same place; this short trip was no exception. We arrived in the early evening and stayed for one night at Tato Toti, the three-storey guesthouse behind the roundabout that sits between the pousada and the piscina. It’s not the cheapest place in Baucau — $35 for one night — but that’s a large and air-conditioned room with an en suite, and the price includes breakfast.

There’s a lot more to do in Baucau than we did this time. Drive down the winding road to spend an afternoon at the brochure-worthy Watabo Beach; visit the lush Na Terra permaculture farm; hunt for wild mushrooms with Baucau’s own Cesar Gaio; pay 50c to spend a lazy morning swimming in the historic swimming pool Piscina Baucau; eat the best chocolate mousse of your life in the tranquil grounds of the sobering Pousada Baucau — the former colonial governor’s accommodation turned Indonesian torture prison turned refurbished tourist destination. Sobering, but important to know. And on your way home, by as much local produce as you can afford: it’s always good to spend money at the markets, but Baucau soils are particularly good and the produce is cheap and excellent.

Liquica

Every time I go to Liquica I try to leave Dili on the Friday night, because the drive’s so short and it’s lovely waking up in the place where you plan to holiday.

This trip, we stayed in a new-to-me guesthouse behind the market, about a kilometre up the road into the mountains — the nicest guesthouse I’ve ever stayed in (also the most expensive, at $45 per night, but I think worth the price). It’s run by a young woman named Ana, who studied in Hawaii around the same time as Felix — she speaks excellent English, if you need it, and is a generous and hospitable host. We had the whole house to ourselves, including the kitchen, and I spent most of the weekend very peacefully with my book on the verandah.

Liquica is a small-ish town, and I don’t have too many attractions to recommend. The nearby town of Maubara is tourist-friendly and fun, with the old Portuguese Maubara Fort, the markets where the ladies sell beautiful hand-woven baskets and accessories, and that little blue cafe right next to the market, with excellent coffee, juice and biscuts. And both towns sit immediately on the ocean’s edge, so whenever I wasn’t reading, I was swimming.

On the way home to Dili we stopped for a boozy lunch at Lauhata Beach Escape — a Bali-resort-style hotel and restaurant where the food takes a while but you can swim while you wait. A perfectly lazy, hazy end to a peaceful weekend away.

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