Dili is a city undergoing a rapid transformation. Burnt-out buildings are being torn down and replaced with the city’s first skyscrapers, and there’s now a cinema, shopping mall and an array of stylish restaurants catering to Timor-Leste’s new cashed-up elite and expat community. But the juxtaposition between haves and have-nots is inescapable. Throngs of unemployed men sit on the street gazing away while luxury Hummers speed past with tinted windows.
Dili is a good place to recharge batteries (literally) and base yourself for jaunts into the districts; it’s a chance to indulge in international food, buy supplies, learn about Timor-Leste’s history and meet some of the locals and the expats. Dili itself spreads from the airport, along the waterfront and all the way to the Christo Rei statue in the east. Most of the action occurs on the waterfront, or one or two blocks south of it. You’ll find travellers’ hubs at East Timor Backpackers and Castaway Bar.