Boti’s reputation as a village determined to cling to its traditional ways is well known in Timor. Government attempts to bring the village into the modern era have so far been politely rebuffed. Thanks but no thanks to the offer of modern style housing and no to electricity, not even a generator. It’s not that the villagers are scared of change; they’re just happy as they are, clinging to their ancestral beliefs and simple, peaceful lifestyle sustained by their land, community and a deep sense of connection.
It’s hardly surprising then that Boti, deep in the mountains of Kei country, is regarded as one of the most authentic traditional village in West Timor. They are direct descendants of the Dawan (Atoni Metu), Timor’s first indigenous tribe. The king and the extended royal family of the Boti kingdom still reside in the village, occupying a modest royal complex of Ume Khubu and Lopo, traditional conical thatched huts and structures of the Timorese.
Behind the kings lopo, is the larger meeting hall where the king and other village leaders meet to discuss important village affairs, such as the Boti adat, the traditional laws and customs that guide every aspect of their lives. It’s based on an ancient animist belief call Halaika, which centres on two rulers of life; Uis Pah, the mother who watches over and controls the universe and all its creatures and the father, Uis Neno who rules the afterlife and determines who will go to heaven or hell.
The 350 odd Boti villagers all practice Halaika. To not do so is a violation of the village rules and result in expulsion from the village. An outsider marrying into the village is expected to adopt Halaika and relinquish all other outside influences. Similarly, one in two children in the village is sent to school to receive an outside education. They may return but only if they similarly relinquish those outside influences to which they’ve been exposed. For the children who stay, their lives and their destiny has already been predetermined by thousands of years of culture.
Boti Village is located about 30km east of Soe as the crow flies but, it’s a rather long 3 hour drive to reach it. The saving grace is that the route closer to Boti is particularly scenic, affording wonderful views of the surrounding highlands, narrow valleys and other traditional villages. The route also passes by the village of Oinlasi which hosts a traditional market on Tuesdays; well worth dropping into if you can time your visit to coincide.
From Soe, head 28km (30min) east along the main road to Niki Niki, then turn south towards Boti village some 27km and 2-2.5 hours away. The market village of Oinlasi is a little over halfway from Nikin Niki to Boti. If you get an early start you could manage Boti as a daytrip from Soe but consider staying overnight in the village’s one and only homestay. Expect to pay around 100.000Rp per person per night including dinner made from village grown produce but you’ll also get to experience more of Boti’s culture and peaceful village atmosphere. You should be able to arrange car or ojek transport and a guide-interpreter (almost essential) in Soe.