‘A trip to Atambua‘ is a guest post by Shanti Norita.
Atambua is the city located in Timor Island and takes three hours using a direct flight from Jakarta. Not so many people know the location of this city, however, if you grew up in the 90’s, you might be familiar with this city. It is famous because it is located in the border area (Belu Regency) with Timor-Leste.
A couple of years ago, Indonesian government held a referendum to give options for the Timor-Leste people, whether they wanted to be independence or still be a part of Indonesia. We all know the final decision. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became a new country since 2002. The people who didn’t agree with the referendum result, chose to stay in Atambua or other areas in the Indonesia.
Surprisingly, Atambua has some potential tourism locations. I had the chance to visit Atambua to do some voluntary work in December 2016. And when I was there, the local committee from a local school teachers asked me and other volunteers, if we want to go to visit Fulan Fehan, waterfalls, and the Indonesian border’s office with Timor-Leste. Of course, we – me and the other 23 others friends, said YES! But due too bad weather, sadly we couldn’t visit the waterfall.
Where to go in Atambua?
I understood that to get to Fulan Fehan, we need at least a 4-wheel-drive car or a motorcycle, but do you know what vehicle we used to go to Fulan Fehan? We used a military truck (tronton) haha! At first, I thought … oh no, it’s going to be a stressful journey! We passed a small and winding road, and then up to the hill. Sometimes we went through a bumpy road, not to mention that the driver might think that we were military officers and get used to a bumpy road haha.
However, the beautiful and awesome scenery along the way to Fulan Fehan made me forget the anxious feeling. On our way there, we could see the Atambua city from above and the row of hills with its green colors, which gave a contrast color with the blue sky and white clouds.
Finally … Fulan Fehan!
The journey from Atambua City Center to Fulan Fehan was approximately 1 hour.
The area of Fulan Fehan has a huge savanna area with green grass. Sometimes you could see so many wild horses running around. It just felt that we jumped into Teletubbies world and some people might say that it looks like in New Zealand. Well, I don’t blame them, as this place is visually attractive.
(Note from Timo: This reminds me with the road to Tarimbang beach in Sumba. If you haven’t read the blog post, here it is: The long and winding road to Tarimbang)
There area some horses on the savanna area. Then some of us were excited and ran towards the horses, but apparently, they just only scared the horses and they ran away. Meanwhile, myself and the other friends, just approached the horses silently and took some pictures from a safe distance. I even could see one of them breast feeding the foal.
Just a reminder to you, there are plenty of horse droppings or even from cows in the savanna. You don’t need to step carefully, as whichever direction you take, you could easily step on the droppings haha.
From above here, we can actually see Timor-Leste area. Basically, what separates Indonesia and Timor-Leste area is only a river. But in the dry season, there will be no water in it.
Indonesia and Timor-Leste borders
From Fulan Fehan, we went back to Atambua to go to our next destination, which is The Border of Indonesia and Timor-Leste!
To reach the border from the city center, it took about 30 minutes with no bumpy road. The nearby area is still a village, where we can see wild boars running happily on the street. The village itself is an area where the refugee from Timor-Leste lives.
There are two main things that you can get, if you visit the borders between Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
The image of Indonesia
It is said that before our President Jokowi visited Atambua, the border office of Indonesia’s appearance was kinda dull compared to Timor-Leste’s. So he instructed the staff to improve the border’s facility. I could say that our timing was perfect, as the border’s facility has been improved and ready to be inaugurated by President Jokowi. The border’s entrance to Indonesia has a brand new design that represents the image of Indonesia by placing the design of the rooftop from the traditional house of East Nusa Tenggara, which is called Saota Musalakitana.
The sunset view
When others were busy taking pictures on the border, my friends and I were attracted to something else. A breathtaking sunset and a rainbow.
The border is located at a nearby beach with its black sand. There is no restaurants or café nearby, so what I did, was just sit down on the beach and enjoyed the sunset.
‘Wait … an airport? What should I do at the airport?’
The Atambua Airport is not as busy as Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. After the last flight, the airport will be closed, and some people will be able to enter the runaway for jogging or even enjoying the sunset view from the runaway. Even though we stayed there until 6:30PM — and there was no light at the runaway, we can still see the orange color from the sunset and the hill as the background.
Do you know that we did this in one day?
It was sad though, that we could only explore the city only for a day. We skip the waterfall too *sad*
But that’s okay, as we already had a plan to visit this place again haha!
If you visit Atambua, don’t forget to buy a woven fabric at the city market. It would only cost you about IDR50,000 for a scarf, or if you bring plenty of money, you could buy a woven fabric for IDR1 million.
Where to stay and eat?
We stayed at a decent homestay called Liurai, which is near the city square (alun-alun). The rooms at the homestay are quite basic with no television, but able to accommodate up to 4 persons. In the morning, they provided doughnut and hot tea/coffee for breakfast. If you want a different breakfast, just go outside of the homestay and you will find 3 hawkers with carts that sell nasi kuning (a set of yellow rice with some dishes) and porridge.
Across the homestay, there is a soccer field and jogging track, while there is a market nearby the homestay with lots of food kiosk that open until the evening.
I think if you want to explore the area near the homestay, there are some ojeg taxi nearby. I think that’s the only decent public transportation if you want to explore Atambua.
Oh, and do you know that there was Jamrud’s concert during our stay in Atambua, and we can watch the concert for free! Haha.
Shanti Norita is a consultant on one of the consulting firms in Jakarta and she loves to travel. We were colleagues, and now we have become travel buddies on our several trips. I think, she has travelled to more countries than I have, plus she holds a dive certificate too! So sometime, she just went to a place to do some dives.
Connect with her on Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/shantinorita/