Oelolok

Oelolok

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Oelolok, a weaving village 26km from Kefa by bus and a further 3km by bemo, is home to Istana Rajah Taolin, a massive beehive hut with a huge outdoor patio and carved beams dangling with corn from decades of harvests. Royals have lived here for five generations, and its current residents are more than happy to share the myths and legends of their culture and kingdom. Ask about the power of the ‘sword with seven lines’.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/oelolok

Boti

Boti

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Hidden out of sight on an isolated mountain ridge 12km from Oinlasi, and accessible only by a degrading mountain road that’s often impassable without a 4WD, is the traditional, almost orthodox, village of Boti, where the charismatic kepala suku (chief), often referred to as the last king in West Timor, has vowed to maintain the strict laws of adat. He’s also the only king we’ve ever heard of who works the fields side by side with his people.

The Boti people have maintained their own language, lived off their own land (they grow bananas, corn, papaya, rice, pumpkin, coconuts and a cash crop of peanuts) their own way (they live by a nine-day week and always rest on that 9th day), and have steadfastly refused government assistance of any kind. Their autonomy was given an early assist when the Dutch colonial powers never found Boti. Neither did the head hunters before them, which allowed them to live peacefully in an isolated corner of Timor, unmolested, for centuries.

Villagers wear shirts, ikat sarongs and shawls made only from locally grown and hand-spun cotton thread coloured with natural dyes. Men are encouraged to marry outside the village and bring their new wife back into the fold. After marriage the men must let their hair grow long. Similiar to Rastas, their hair is viewed as their connection to nature. Their head is like the mountain, they say, and their hair, like the trees. Cutting their hair-trees is considered a bad omen and carries a fine, payable to the… well, to the king.

Women, on the other hand, are forever shunned if they marry outside the village, and children are only allowed to attend primary school. High school is forbidden, as it is considered by elders to be the key to unhappiness, which may sound familiar. The Boti people also use their own brand of plant-based medicine to treat illness, infection and disease. Boti’s 316 villagers (70 families) still follow ancient animist rituals, though another 700 neighbouring families who live in Boti’s geographical sphere of influence have adopted Protestantism and attend public schools.

They have been hosting guests since 1981, but see less than 300 visitors per year. Make sure you’re one of them. This place is magical. On arrival you will be led to the raja’s house, where, in keeping with tradition, you will offer betel nut to the chief as a gift. It’s possible to stay in the leafy, cool, charming village, in your own lovely lontar guesthouse, and sleep on soft beds swathed with local ikat. All meals are provided for 100,000Rp per person, and for another 100,000Rp the wives and mothers will play their early days gamelan and sing a haunting tune. The king will strum his indigenous ukelele and young women will twirl in the village courtyard before the young men demonstrate their war dance. Day-trippers are expected to contribute a donation, as well (25,000Rp should work).

The Boti king requests that you do not visit independently; bring a guide from Soe conversant with local adat. But you won’t need mosquito repellent. Somehow there are no mosquitoes here.

Temkessi & Around

Temkessi & Around

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Accessible through a keyhole between jutting limestone cliffs, 50km northeast of Kefa, is one of West Timor’s most isolated and best-preserved villages. The raja’s house overlooks the village. That’s your first stop, where you’ll offer gifts of betel nut, make a donation and pay your respects. After that you can shoot pictures of the low-slung beehive huts built into the bedrock and connected by red clay paths that ramble to the edge of a precipice. If you drop something, don’t pick it up. Let local villagers do it, lest you bring bad vibes into your life. Oh, and about that vertical rock on the left. At least once every seven years, young warriors climb its face, sans rope, with a red goat strapped to their back. They slaughter the animal on top and can’t come down until they roast and eat it in full. This Natamamausa ritual is performed to give thanks for a good harvest or to stop or start the rain. Very little Bahasa Indonesia is spoken here, so a guide is essential.

Regular buses run from Kefa to Manufui, about 8km from Temkessi. On market day in Manufui (Saturday), trucks or buses should run through to Temkessi. Otherwise, charter an ojek in Manufui or hike over limestone ridges with Oecussi sea views.

Maubesi is home to the Kefa regency’s best textile market. You’ll find it 19km from Kefa on the road to Temkessi. Market day is Thursday, when goods are spread beneath riverside shade trees. Sometimes cockfights break out. Maubesi Art Shop has a terrific selection of local ikat, antique masks, statues, and carved beams, reliefs and doors from old Timorese homes. Prices are quite low. Look for the plain yellow-and-black ‘Textile’ sign. It can also organise traditional war dances (1,000,000Rp) with advance notice.

Kefamenanu

Kefamenanu

Kefamenanu

A former Portuguese stronghold, Kefamenanu was just another quiet hill town as recently as 2007, but with a manganese boom in full effect, commerce has arrived along with new construction and a fair bit of clear-cutting in the leafy outskirts. It remains devoutly Catholic and has a couple of impressive colonial churches. There’s a decent choice of rooms in town, though with a mining boom comes a certain variety of night commerce, and all hotels provide shelter for such transactions. Still, it is the jumping-off point to Temkessi, one of West Timor’s ‘can’t miss’ villages. Known locally as Kefa, it lies at the heart of an important weaving region. Prepare to haggle with the ikat cartel.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/kefamenanu

Soe

Soe

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About 110km from Kupang, the cool, leafy market town of Soe (800m) makes a decent base to explore West Timor’s interior, which comes dotted with ubiquitous ume kebubu (beehive-shaped hut) villages that are home to local Dawan people. With no windows and only a 1m-high doorway, ume kebubu are cramped and smoky. Government authorities have deemed them a health hazard and are in the process of replacing them with cold concrete boxes, which the Dawan have deemed a health hazard. They’ve built new ume kebubu behind the approved houses, and live there.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/soe

Kupang

Kupang

Kupang

Kupang is the capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and despite the city’s scruffy waterfront, its sprawling gnarl of deafening traffic, and complete lack of endearing cultural or architectural elements, this is a place you can get used to. Chalk it up to Kupang’s easy-to-navigate but still vaguely chaotic public transport system; the romantic, ramshackle Lavalon bar with its incredible oceanfront perch; and its funky, bass-heavy bemo fleet which ferries Kupang’s young, diverse student population. Kupang is a university town, after all. It’s also a regional transport hub, so you will do some Kupang time. Just don’t be surprised if between trips to the interior, Alor or Rote, you discover that you actually dig it. England’s Captain Bligh had a similar epiphany when he spent 47 days here after that emasculating mutiny on the Bounty incident in 1789.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/nusa-tenggara/kupang

– West Timor

West Timor

West-Timor

With rugged countryside, empty beaches and scores of traditional villages, West Timor is an undiscovered gem. Deep within its mountainous, lontar palm–studded interior, animist traditions persist alongside tribal dialects, and ikat-clad, betel nut–chewing chiefs govern beehive-hut villages. Hit one of the many weekly markets in tribal country and you’ll get a feel for rural Timor life, while eavesdropping on several of some 14 languages spoken on the island. In West Timor even Bahasa Indonesia is often a foreign tongue. Except in Kupang, its coastal capital and East Nusa Tenggara’s top metropolis, which buzzes to a frenetic Indonesian beat.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/nusa-tenggara/west-timor