Known as the Northern Gateway to Sarawak, Miri is one of the state’s important tourist attractions. It boasts to be surrounded by four world-class national parks, which are Mount Mulu National Park, Niah National Park, Lambir Hills National Park and Loagan Bunut National Park. Besides that, its exotic coral reefs also make it become a more attractive destination lately.
Miri is a city in northern Sarawak on the Malaysian island of Borneo and it is home to a population of about 300,000 people. Thus it is the second largest city in Sarawak. At Miri, breathtaking national parks, spectacular diving paradises, frequent festivals and international events, multiracial and multicultural festive seasons, and a lot of delicious food are the things that you can expect to have.
Miri serves as a transport hub for northern Sarawak, where interconnecting flights to the rural hinterlands of Borneo is very important and available mainly from Miri. Besides that, it is also the gateway to the Gunung Mulu National Park which is a World Heritage Site, the Kelabit Highlands of the interior of Sarawak and the Niah Cave which contains one of the oldest human remains in South East Asia.
As the place of birth of Sarawak’s and Malaysia’s petroleum industry, Miri remains the major industry of the city. Malaysia’s first oil well was dug here in 1910, and is currently a state monument and one of Miri’s tourist attractions, namely The Grand Old Lady. It is the Miri Oil Well No.1 situated at Canadian Hill. According to the old folks, there was one Canadian who lived there and his main business was to recruit foreign and local workers to work in the oil fields around this mountain, hence it was called Canadian Hill. The Petroleum Museum, next to the Grand Old Lady, exhibits photographs and information on the petroleum industry. The Grand Old Lady is about 30 meters high. Situated on top of Canada Hill overlooking Miri, it attracts even locals to enjoy the scenery or jog on the well-designed path.
Miri has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It hosts many expatriates from all over the world. There are many ethnic groups of people live in Miri, which consists of Chinese, Malay, Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Kelabit, Lun Bawang and others. Almost all the locals are able to speak English or Mandarin but the main language is the Sarawakian language, which is similar to Malay but with local slangs.
Why Not Go
You shouldn’t go to Miri for holiday as there is not much to see, to play and to enjoy. Differ from catty Kuching and swanlike Sibu, Miri is sadly lacking in animal analogies, probably because it is too casually urban for any to spring to mind.
The main charm of Miri is its functions as the gateway to four world-class national parks in Sarawak. The Gunung Mulu National Park is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site. It boasts the world’s largest natural cave chamber, the Sarawak Chamber. Besides that, the Niah Caves in the Niah National Park are the crucial archaeological and historical site as one of the oldest human remains in South East Asia was found here. On the other hand, Lambir Hills National Park contains various species of flora and fauna. It is ranked as the 12th mega-biodiversity site in the world. However, the Loagan Bunut National Park has Sarawak’s largest natural lake with diverse species of birds. And there is also a recently gazette national park, named Miri-Sibuti Marine National Park which has one of the region’s most beautiful coral reefs and diverse marine life.
Miri is also famous with its parks and garden. It has 14 public parks and recreational grounds which include Miri Bulatan Park (a lake garden), Luak Bay Esplanade (a park at the sea front), Taman Selera (family picnic spot), Taman Awam Miri (a theme Park) and Miri City Fan are the more popular parks among residents as well as visitors. The Miri City Fan, a 10.4-hectare park right in the heart of the city, has been designed as a multi-racial and multi-cultural theme garden. It was accorded Malaysia’s best landscaped city park in 2001. The unique fan-shaped urban civic park is designed to create civic consciousness by the embodiment of several symbolic parks. For instance, the Chinese Garden is planted with weeping willows, which can be associated with gardens and lakes in China. Therefore visit the Miri City Fan is a must.
Miri is also known as a shopping paradise among Malaysians and Bruneians. There are a few modern shopping malls in the city centre, which include the Bintang Plaza (also named as Bintang Megamall), Boulevard Shopping Complex, Imperial Shopping Mall, E-Mart, Miri Plaza, Wisma Pelita Mall and many others.
In addition, Miri is also popular with its fine handicrafts, especially the bead products. Among the favorite tourists and locals destinations are the handicraft shops along Jalan Bendahara, Brooke Road and the Miri Handicraft Centre at the junction of Merbau Road and Brooke Road.
Best Time to Visit
There are no restrictions for you to visit Miri at any time as you like. If you are going for shopping, it is advisable to make your way there at the mid or the end of the year as there might be some carnivals or sales promotion being held.
Where to Stay
For the budget backpackers, it is highly recommended to stay at the Minda Guesthouse, which is a brand new guesthouse with free breakfast, laundry facilities, free wifi, rooftop garden and two lounges with flat screen, mini library and etc.
For big family, it is advisable to stay at Dillenia, which is a family-run guesthouse with a “home away from home” atmosphere. It offers safe, clean and air conditioned rooms with a selection of dormitories, twin-sharing, family and honeymoon rooms. Free internet access at lobby and free wifi at both lobby and rooms, free continental breakfast and many others are all available at reasonable price.
For luxury, it is best to choose Dynasty Hotel if you like chinese dishes very much. The Chinese restaurant there is very famous with its delicious dishes.
Where & What to Eat
If you go to Miri, you must try the Chicken Chop, Nasi Briyani, Nasi Lemak and Mee Kolok at Cafenika & Catering. It serves local HALAL Malaysian dishes and various Western cuisines at affordable price.
Located in the hub of the city center next to the Chinese wet market, Chinese Hawker Center offers the best local food every day and night. For breakfast, you must have the milk tea. You also shouldn’t miss out the curry rice, fried rice noodles, dried noodles and laksa (spicy rice noodles). For dinner, the porridge and dried noodles with steamed chicken are the must-eat.
Besides that, you also must try Laksa at Ming Cafe which is very delicious and is comparable to the Laksa in Kuching.
For drink, you are advised to try the Sarawakian authentic rice wine, namely ‘tuak’. ‘Tuak’ is normally served during festive seasons, especially during Gawai (the Harvest Festival celebrated by the Ibans).
Miri has always been known to have a livelier nightlife compared to other towns in Sarawak. One of the hotspots in Miri is called Cherries Berries. At there, live music is played all the time and it is usually crowded especially during the weekends. The pub has two floors and there is a balcony on the second floor, where ideally a place to escape the smoky room.
For those looking for fun, nice food and quality hangouts at night, the entertainment outlets, restaurants (for both Muslims and non-Muslims) and road-side cafes along South Yu Seng and North Yu Seng Roads are some of the ideal and popular night spots.
My to do List
– Visit the Grand Old Lady
– Have a walk at the Miri City Fan
– Go to the Esplanade Beach
– Visit the San Ching Tian Temple (Largest Taoist temple in South East Asia)
The best way to get to Miri for a first timer is by airplane. From Peninsular Malaysia, frequent flights are available from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru on Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. The Miri airport is also connected to all major destinations in Malaysian Borneo, including Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
Please note that:
i) To/From Kuala Lumpur:
Malaysia Airlines flies between Kuala Lumpur and Miri four times a day, with two stopping over at Kuching. AirAsia also flies direct non-stop three times a day.
ii) To/From Johor Bahru:
AirAsia flies on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday only.
iii) To/From Kuching:
Malaysia Airlines flies three flights a day and AirAsia flies only one flight a day.
iv) To/From Kota Kinabalu:
Malaysia Airline and AirAsia each flies twice daily. Others than that, MASWings also puts on a Fokker flight on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.