Malaysia's first oil well was drilled here in 1910, and petroleum has continued to drive the city's economy and development ever since. Sarawak Shell Berhad and Petronas Carigali are headquartered here. As a result, Miri has a cosmopolitan whiff as it hosts expatriates from all over the world. These expats work in many of the multinational oil and gas giants that are headquartered in Miri.
Visitors stop for transit here to change planes heading onward to Gunung Mulu National Park or the famous Kelabit Highlands.
Miri boasts a diversified population, which consists of Chinese, Malay, Kedayan, Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Kelabit, Lun Bawang and many other ethnic groups. International students from a foreign university campus based here and expatriates from international corporations add much spice to Miri as well.
Almost all locals speak a tiny smattering of English, along with Mandarin. The main language is the Bahasa Sarawak which is a local Sarawakian language; it is similiar to Malay but with local slang.
The people are quite helpful when it comes to direction or any help needed. A visitor's information centre located near the public bus stand is available for any further enquiries.
Miri City Fan
Miri City Fan (Jln Merpati/Jln Kipas) is an award-winning urban park complex comprising a variety of theme gardens, including a Botanical Garden and an Islamic Garden. It is also home to Miri City Library, a Public Swimming Pool, and a large Amphitheatre where concerts are frequently held. The City Fan is popular with locals for strolling, jogging or just chilling out.
Airport Road Outcrop
Amateur geologists will be fascinated by the Airport Road Outcrop, a raised outcrop of layered laterite and other soft rocks that clearly illustrate how the surrounding land was formed and how Miri rose from the sea over the last 10-15 million years.
Lying at an altitude of about 3,500 feet above sea level in the north-eastern corner of Sarawak is the famous Bario Highland, a Kelabit territory, one of the minority Orang Ulu tribes of Sarawak.Bario means ‘Wind’ in Kelabit language. (the correct pronunciation is ‘Bariew’).
It is affectionately known as the ‘land of a hundred handshakes’as this is how friendly locals will greet you as you wander around the community.
Bario proper is the gateway to the Kelabit highlands, thanks to its airport and a small network of roads leading to some of the nearby villages. About thirteen villages are located in & around Bario area and Kampung Bario Asal is the first.This is a must-visit longhouse where one can see the ancient timbers of the unique kitchen darkened by the constant smoke of generations of cooking fires.
Most of the area’s accommodation is found in and around Bario, and it is the main starting point for treks throughout the area. One can go kayaking or immerse in the historical tales of the monoliths that dot the area. The place has incredible organic food such as the famous Bario rice and pineapple. One of their annual events is the internationally known Bario Food Festival also known as ‘Pesta Nukenen’, held in July each year.
Mountaineers can tackle Gunung Murud (2,424m, reasonable going) or the famous Batu Lawi (2,043m, very tough) located within the Kelabit Highlands area. However, these are both serious expeditions and guides and porters will need to be hired in Bario or Bakelalan. For Batu Lawi, mountaineering equipment and experience is also necessary.
About 1 hour drive from Miri and situated near Kampung Bungai in Bekenu is Bungai Beach. Bungai Beach is popular with beachgoers who appreciate its pristine beach, clear waters, and the beauty of the untouched surroundings. Its relatively secluded and a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Bird Watching in Sarawak
Sarawak, the legendary land of headhunters and hornbills, is Malaysia‘s largest state, occupying the northwestern portion of the great island of Borneo. Here, the ever-wet rainforests reach unparalleled diversity and are home to a dizzying array of tropical wildlife. A great portion of Borneo’s 650 bird species have been recorded in the state, including most of the island’s endemics such as the bizarre Bornean Bristlehead. With the highest number of national parks and nature reserves in the country (over 600,000 ha of totally protected areas), Sarawak offers superb birdwatching opportunities. These range from balmy lowlands and shorelines to cold mossy forests at the summits of the higher mountains. The map on page 7 shows Sarawak’s most important protected areas, representing excellent birding sites, as well as other Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
Brighton Beach / Tanjung Lobang
Brighton Beach, also known as Tanjung Lobang, is an ideal spot for watching the sunset. The city’s oldest recreational park, it is still popular with joggers, anglers, Tai Chi enthusiasts and children. Two small, beautiful piers here extend out to the ocean and offer excellent views of the coastline and nearby Miri Marina’s unique seahorse lighthouse (the seahorse is the city emblem of Miri). A food centre, Taman Selera, is located here, offering meals over fresh seafood accompanied by marvelous sunset and sea breeze.
Canada Hill is a limestone ridge overlooking the town and offering excellent views of Miri and the surrounding area. The historical Oil Well No. 1, known as the “Grand Old Lady”, is situated on top of Canada Hill. It was here that oil was first struck by Sarawak Shell in 1910. Nowadays the site also houses a very well designed and interesting Petroleum Museum, which traces the history and technological development of the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.
Hawaii Beach is located at Kampong Bakam, a 15 minute drive from Miri. The entrance is in the village next to the bus stop, and a wooden footbridge leads to the palm-fringed beach. Picnic and barbecue facilities can be provided for a small charge.
Diving in Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park
Miri is a popular dive destination due to an abundance of pristine patch reefs. The Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park, lying at depths ranging from 7 to 30 metres has an average visibility of 10 to 30 metres. There are also some interesting wreck dives. The nearest dive site is a mere ten minutes from the marina bay jetty. One can land in Miri and be in water two hours later. Local dive operators offer certification programme as well. Water temperature at the start of the season is normally 26 to 27ºC but can be as low as 23ºC at depth, as the NE monsoon still brings in cold water from the northern Pacific. By May the water temperature reaches the more normal 29 to 30ºC. The best time to dive is from late March through November each year. The diversity and accessibility of corals and other marine life on the reefs is amongst the best in the region.
Council Negeri Memorial
The Council Negeri Memorial in the town centre commemorates Sarawak’s first State Legislative Assembly meeting, which was held in Bintulu on 8th September 1867.
Cruising to Sarawak
Sarawak has become a favourite port of call for many cruise ships plying the South China Sea offering her passengers a unique adventure in this part of Malaysian Borneo.
In Kuching, the tour programme consists of the Kuching City Tour, get up close with the Orang Utans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Center, appreciate the Heart to Heart Orang Utan Rehabilitation programme at the Matang Wildlife center, get a snap shot into the life of the main ethnic groups of Sarawak in the living museum of Sarawak Cultural Village and a real Bidayuh longhouse experience at Annah Rais.
In Bintulu, the shore experiences are the town tour, a visit to the native market, the Chinese temple, a site visit to one of the largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in the world, Taman Tumbina – a wildlife park and Similajau National Park
From Bintulu, you may choose to fly to Mulu via Miri to marvel at some of the largest cave complex and formation in the world. Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Among the cruise ships that have called on Kuching and Bintulu were MS Columbus (Germany), Pacific Venus (Japan), MV Orion II (Australia), MS Albatros (Germany), Spirit of Adventure (UK), MS EUROPA (Germany) and MS CALEDONIAN SKY (UK).
Lio Matoh is one of the long houses you will encounter in the Kelabit Highlands if you participate in week-long trail to the Upper Baram (with overnight stops in the rainforest). However, please ensure that you have experienced local guides for your treks.
Miri Crocodile Farm
The Miri Crocodile Farm at Kuala Baram, 24km from Miri, is home to more than 1,000 estuarine crocodiles and false gharials. It also features a snake house and a small zoo. The farm is fully CITES registered.