The province consists over 550 islands, but its dominated by three main islands namely Flores, Sumba and Timor. The arid landscape of eastern and southeastern Nusa Tenggara is the result of hot, dry winds blasting in from Australian continent. In fact, in many coastal areas not a drop of rain falls during the most of the year. Flores is a Pourtuguese name which means “flower”, and ideally described the beauty of this place.
These long islands between Sumbawa and Timor are crowded with volcanoes and mountains, dividing it into several regions with distinct languages and traditions. Predominantly Catholic and heavily influenced by the Portuguese, there are many examples of strong European cultural heritage, like the Easter procession held in Larantuka and royal regalia of the former king in Maumere. Formerly known as Sandalwood Island, Sumba is now famous for its horses and it superb style of ikat cloth. West Sumba is famous for its enormous megalithic tombs and traditional thatched and peaked huts raised on stilts.
Timor is the principal island in the province in terms of population and it is here that the provincial capital of Kupang is located.
Kupang as the provincial capital serves as the gate from Darwin (Australia) twice a week. Regular shuttle flights from Bali, Makassar and Surabaya provide excellent transportation links. There are PELNI ships calling at Nusa Tenggara Timur that regularly sail from Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Makassar, Biak etc.
It was the Portuguese that first made this place into importance. Before their arrival in 1512, this place was an out of the way place and foreign people seldom made a visit. Portuguese also gave the names to Timor and Solor, and brought Christianity missionaries along with them.
In 17th century, Dutch tried to take over but little was done to this area. After all these centuries, the wildlife remains nearly unchanged and for those who prefer rugged, exotic terrain, or an adventure, this might be the place for you.
Sea food is naturally one of the specialties here. Freshwater fish is considered a delicacy and you might want to try gurame asam manis (sour and sweet fish known in the Latin name as Osporonemus gouramy). Sasak cuisine is considered quite spicy so you might want to ask before ordering dishes, if you prefer bland food. Sauteed vegetables are also popular here. Try pelecing kangkung, this sauteed green, leafy vegetable is tasty to be eaten hot with steamed rice.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Pasola Jousting Ceremony in Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara. “Pasola” is west Sumba’s most exciting ritual. Scores of colorfully arrayed horsemen riding bare back, battle with lances. During these mock wars, riders charge one another flinging blunt spears. The ceremony is held during February in the Lamboya and Kodi Villages and March in Gaura and Wanokaka. It begins several day after the full moon and coincides with the yearly arrival of strange multihued sea worms (called nyale) of the region’s shore.
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