The capital of East Nusa Tengarra is not even remotely like Paris, unless perhaps you are on acid and imagining Europe during the bombing raids. It is a noisy, grotty, weathered city, and unavoidable on our journey home. The irony of the enforced overnight stay is that it goes a way toward keeping our island home that little bit further from the world of Bintang singlets.
The taxi driver is not impressed with the extra stop at cargo to pick up our blinds, but another folded blue note lifts his spirits. Waiting for the Garuda flight to arrive, we have a lunch of rice, green beans and iced tea. In four hours I've gone from a soy latte and sourdough toast at Sea Circus, to a warung in a tin shed surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Mine is nothing less than a life of contrasts.
There is the odd expat male that likes the city, and I'll be frank here, it does have cheap women, cold beer and fresh seafood. I dread arriving and anticipate leaving, spending most of the time in a slightly detached state of being, trying not to analyze too much, look too closely, or dream of Paris. Cracked tiled walls, sheetless beds with rugs that have a questionable washing history, and mustard polyester curtains do little for a fragile female libido, and in ten years, the hit rate of success in a Kupang hotel is zero.
The city's main redeeming feature and a must-do on every visit, is dinner at the night markets. They are the heart any south-east Asian experience, where you pull up a plastic stool under a cold fluorescent light and devour a plate of gado-gado, or grilled tempeh with rice and firey chilli for less than $1.
The shopping strip hits fever pitch on sundown, and music thumps from the bemos as they lap the streets competing for coolest wagon on the beat. This is a mostly Christian city, and it is ironic that it is the Muslim women peddling underwear on the footpath. While Tom fancied the Superman jocks, we passed by in search of a battery charger and part for the blender.