Venilale (formerly Vila Viçosa ) is a town located about 30 km south of Baucau. It is the capital of the Venilale Subdistrict in Baucau District, East Timor. The subdistrict has a population of around 16,000 people and has an area of 151.37 km. It comprises 8 sucos (villages): Bado-Ho'o, Baha Mori, Fatulia, Uailaha, Uai Oli, Uatu Haco, Uma Ana Ico, Uma Ana Ulo. Local Languages spoken include Midiki, Makasae and Tetun. Portuguese, English and Bahasa Indonesia are spoken by some people in the area.
Venilale has been a popular destination, even in the Portuguese colonial era, known for its cooler temperatures, natural attractions such as hot springs and a natural bridge and the striking Escola do Reino de Venilale. More recently it has become famous for its caves, built by the Japanese during World War Two and for being used as a hiding place for FRETLIN freedom fighters during the Indonesian occupation.
However it is important to respect and acknowledge the cultural significance of some of these sacred sites, make sure you have the permission of the locals and the Xefe suku before exploring the area. A tourism information centre has been set up in the old police station which is a striking raised structure in the centre of town. Guides from this tourism centre are available to translate, show you around and get permission to explore the area. Also accommodation arrangements can be made through the tourism centre or directly with the Salesian Madres who run a guest house out of their secondary college, Eskola Teknika Profesional Santa Maria Mazzarello.
The economy of the area is mostly rural, based on rice grown in terraced fields worked by water buffalo, or in some cases by rotary hoes or tractors. Other crops are bananas, peanuts, coffee, copra, corn and vegetables, and there are pigs, goats, chickens and a few cows and horses. Most people are subsistence farmers and they face many obstacles: low crop yields, lack of access to clean water, poor infrastructure and inadequate market access as well as low literacy and education levels.
A market is held in Venilale twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday), and there is also a Friday market in the Bercoli village. These markets form a focus for the economic and social life of the sub-district and many people walk for hours to bring their produce for sale. Apart from these markets there are a few family owned kiosks stocking a variety of goods.
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