Miri – Sarawak
Miri is the second biggest city in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, situated on the island of Borneo. Unlike peninsular Malaysia Miri is not Malay dominated but over 70% of its population is either local Dyak or Chinease. This gives it a totally different feeling than the towns you will find in mainland Malaysia. Added to this mix are many expatriates, giving it a round population of approximately 300,000 people, many of whom speak English.
Like many places in the world Miri has grown from a small fishing village to a metropolitan hub on the back of “Black Gold”. Oil was first commercially produced in 1910 by Royal Dutch Shell who remain there to this day under Shell Sarawak along with Petronas Carigali. Other industries include commercial logging and more lately palm oil production.
Unlike its counterparts of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, Miri has never been considered a tourist hub, however it is the gateway to Mulu National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a mecca for cave enthusiast, and has some interesting dive sites.
If you enjoy going local Miri has an abundance of food choices, varying form traditional Malay, Chinease, Indian, Iban and with the expat community has also come the usual Italian, Japanese and lately a few good fusion restaurants.
There is no real entertainment district with bars hotels and resteraunts smattered across the whole city. The bar scene is very lively but does tend to quiet down somewhat towards the end of the month, due to folks having no money left. With the introduction of a new area based around a proposed Marina many of the locals are now congregating toward the bars and eateries located there to the detriment of the more established city locales.
If arts and crafts are you thing there are many traditional stores selling the works of the local indigenous people, including baskets and artwork. More international wares are served by the two major malls situated at either end of the city (Bintang and Boulevard malls)
Miri boast accommodation for all budgets from the many hostels available for backpackers to the high end Marriot Resort and Spa, located on the outskirts by the beach.
Weekday’s city centre hotels can be full due to the ongoing oil activities but generally have rooms available at the weekends. Unless it is a public holiday in adjacent Brunei when many Bruneians will travel down to spend the weekend.
Travel to Miri is mostly from KL or the regional hubs of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Airlines served are Malaysian Airlines, Air Asia and Mas wings, which is the regional airline which fly’s to areas inland.
Although an industrial town Miri has its own vibe and with the avoidance of the tourist crowds it has a genuine authentic feel about it. Like most places in Malaysia the people are warm and welcoming provided you behave yourself and respect their local customs and traditions.
All in all well worth a stopover if travelling to the caves on onwards in Borneo.