Miri ~ Sarawak Borneo
Miri is the 2nd largest city in Sarawak and has a population of 300,000 people with a mixture of Chinese, indigineous tribes who have moved down from their native lands that have been logged, and Malays (mostly immigrated to Miri by way of government postings or from forefathers emigrating from Brunei).
Miri is Sarawak and Malaysia’s first Oil producing area. Oil was first officially recorded in 1882 by Claude Champion de Crespigny, the British Resident of the Baram district in Sarawak. The locals had been using this black substance long before, collecting it for medicinal use, for waterproofing of boats and for lighting oil lamps. It was not until 1910 when the first oil company moved in to exploit its wealth.
The Grand Old Lady
Sarawak Shell were given the sole rights to mining oil in Miri until 1954 when the onshore oilfields dried out and exploration turned to the rich oil wells located in the seedbeds. Today, the oldest Oil Well in Miri is a reminder of the humble beginnings of Sarawak and more appropriately, Malaysia’s dependence on this commodity that has made the country what it is. The oil well is affectionately called ‘The Grand Old Lady’ and is located on Canada Hill. According to local myth, the hill is named such because of a Canadian who relocated in the early years as a recruitment manager, recruiting local and foreign workers as hands at the oil wells that quickly sprung up around the area.
Miri is predominantly chinese so finding good food is normally not a problem
After a productive run with an estimated 660,000 barrels of oil drawn from the oil well, The Grand Old Lady was shut down in 1972. Next to the Grand Old Lady, the Miri Petroleum Science Museum exhibits the history and technicalities of the industry. Miri has not much else to do and so a visit to this museum would be pretty much the highlight of your stay. Imagine highlighting Curtin University as a major tourist destination in the ‘Visit Miri brochure’, that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel!
For those interested in parks and gardens, there are a total of 14 such locations around Miri locale. Miri also has their share of music festivals with its International Jazz Festival held May annually.
The other interesting place of visit is the tamu market called Tamu Muhibbah. It’s open daily and is located just a stone’s throw from the Tourist Information Centre. There are 2 sections to the market: the wet section where local and imported vegetable and meat produce are sold and the dry section where you can get local fruits like Buah Salak, durian, lime on sale here. Hill rice from Bario and Ba’Kelalan is also on sale here. The indigenous people bring their produce from the hills and jungles to sell here. However, it’s certainly more noticeable that compared to a decade ago, the variety in jungle produce has reduced greatly. The local people laments that it is not due to the weather conditions (Miri has been encountering strange weather conditions in recent years) but because there really isn’t much of a jungle for them to go to.
midin - jungle shoots local nangka or jackfruit species
beautiful red bananas paired with richly coloured roselle
turtle eggs are unfortunately still being sold freely in markets
Miri is more like a transit point for most tourists or travellers. From this city, travel out to :
Lambir Hills National Park, Niah National Park and Caves, Mulu National Park, Ulu Baram Area, Bario and Ba’Kelalan and Loagan Bunut National Park.
Some 45minutes drive away from the city centre will take you to the bridge connecting Miri with Brunei.
Miri - best time to go
Monsoon season hits Sarawak from October till February. The drier months will be from March till August. The best time to go would definitely be during the Baram Regatta which happens every 3years. The other time would be during the new year festival or the Gawai Festival. For those going off to Mulu National Park, bear in mind that the busiest season will be from July till September, so book you flights and accommodation way in advance
Miri - getting there
There are boats leaving for the Ulu Baram area from Kuala Baram jetty some 45minutes drive from Miri city centre. These boats are airconditioned and are relatively comfortable. There are daily departures to Marudi and Long Lama. For those wanting to take the boat to Mulu National Park, this is the jetty. Best would be to aim for the 7.30am boat to Marudi. Then you will be able to make the trip in one day into Mulu. If any later, you may have to spend the night in Marudi and leave the next morning on a connecting boat upriver.
The Miri Express Bus Terminal is located at Punjut Corner, off the main Miri Punjut Road and connects Miri with Kuching, Bintulu and Sibu . Biaramas (http://busasia.my), Suria Bus Express ( Tel:+6 085 430416) and Borneo Highway Express ply these roads. From the Bus Terminal, either take the intracity bus back into town or catch a taxi.