The Lakes of Peace in Tasitolu

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It’s easy to overlook this part of Dili. With stunning beaches in the east, visitors flock the other side closer to the city centre and where accommodations are available. No wonder I was the only foreigner (not that there are many tourists in Dili) in Tasitolu Beach when my friend showed me around the area.

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“Tasitolu” means “three seas” in Tetun. The three salt lakes are guarded by hills and ocean waves and surrounded by simple houses of Tasitolu villagers. It is near the border between Dili and Liquica and a quiet escape from the city centre. In 1989, Pope John Paul II visited Dili and now there’s a statue and a chapel built in 2008 on top of the hill to commemorate his visit. My friend told me that there’s no regular mass there but those who can afford choose this location for weddings.

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Fish thrive in the lakes. I saw children with sticks and buckets fishing from them. Migratory birds also arrive here annually adding charm to this beautiful landscape during the winter season in the northern hemisphere.

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Behind its natural beauty, Tasitolu hides a tragic story below its placid lakes. During the Indonesian occupation, the military disposed the bodies of its victims here.  It is now the resting place of probably thousands of Timorese who resisted the military regime of Soeharto, Indonesia’s then president, and fought for Timor-Leste’s independence.

Ironically and because of these, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao planned to develop it into a Natural Reserve and Peace Park but plans were stalled. Nevertheless, it remains to be a painful reminder of the past, a peaceful refuge from the city today, and most importantly, a glaring example of what needs to be done.

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11 thoughts on “The Lakes of Peace in Tasitolu

  1. Hy tanks for sharing such a lovely pictures and your article is really inspiring for those who never visited there yet. I remember i visited there before my new york sightseeing day trips with my family. We had so pleasant memories there. According to my point of view this is one of most ideal destinations for nature lovers, and we also enjoyed there, and wildlife sightseeing as well at some spots. People were so simple there.

  2. We were told that during the pope’s visit, the guerrilla fighters left their hiding places deep in Timor’s jungles. That was probably the only time when both the fighters and the Indonesian military were in the same place without battling each other. Clearly it is a special place in the nation’s history and it deserves a better management and treatment.

    • Wow, that’s an interesting story. Religion indeed cuts both ways. It can cause war but can also unite people. Thanks for sharing that information, Bama. It makes it more necessary to be treated better.

  3. I remember seeing these three lakes when we landed and took off from Dili – they looked especially beautiful from the air. Is Tasitolu one of the main venues for independence celebrations each year?

    While in Dili we noticed that some of the sites related to the struggle for independence had been recently renovated/extended – most visibly the Resistance Museum and Xanana Gusmao Reading Room. I wonder when it will be Tasitolu’s turn to see similar changes, as the lakes are obviously a place of national significance. Thanks for taking us there through your words and photos!

    • I’m not entirely sure, James but most probably.
      It’s true that there’s so many renovations within Dili. I hope they prioritize also the basic infrastructure like roads. I just got back from Jaco Island and will share my story about that trip soon. :)

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