For first-timers in Miri, a visit to this beautiful Resort City will leave them awe-stricken by the wealth of jaw-dropping attractions in and around it. With 2018 being Visit Miri Year, visitors can also expect some great events they can partake in throughout the year, on top of all the interesting places to visit and the wonderful local fares to sample.
The people of Miri
Miri has a very diverse racial and ethnic makeup, with 19 out of about 28 main ethnic groups in all of Sarawak residing here. The Chinese make up the majority of Miri’s population, followed by the Iban, Malay, Melanau, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and other races. But in this diversity, there is unity and there is also harmony. These have long existed in Miri, just as they have long been a part of Sarawak’s culture as a whole. And it shows, especially in instances where people of different racial backgrounds converse in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak.
Miri’s ethnic miscellany is best witnessed during festive celebrations, such as Hari Raya, Gawai Dayak or Chinese New Year. It is during these festivities that people of different backgrounds go out to visit their friends’ homes in an age-old practice known as ngabang.
Some percentages of Miri’s population are expatriates, most of whom came to work for the oil companies here. Some are attached to the local hospitality industry, in some of the city’s hotels and resorts.
Though Miri is a modern city and many of its people have embraced Western cultures, a large percentage of Mirians still keep to their old practices. The Orang Ulu, for example, have done a great job of safeguarding their traditions, so as to ensure that their legacies live on. Part of this is the Sape, which is a traditional instrument of the Orang Ulu once unfamiliar to the rest of the world. Today, it is a celebrated musical device much loved for the enchanting sounds it produces when played, and the intricate motifs that make it stand out from all other instruments.
In places like Bario in the Kelabit Highlands, the people keep their traditions very much alive. The best time for visitors to bare witness to these traditions is during Pesta Nukenen, when this “Shangri-La,“ located over 3,200 feet above sea level, is transformed into a marketplace for unique ethnic food, traditional crafts and cultural showcases.
Although Miri is best known for some of the most astounding natural attractions in Sarawak, it also has a good list of man-made marvels. Located within the very borders of the city itself, some of these attractions represent Miri’s progress throughout the course of history. One such attraction is the ‘Grand Old Lady’, which began life back in 1910 as Malaysia’s very first oil well. The ‘Grand Old Lady’, now a must-visit landmark and an important piece of Miri’s history, is located atop Canada Hill, where oil was first struck by Shell Sarawak that very year. Measuring 30 metres in height, the oilrig was built by Shell and had churned out barrels upon barrels of oil until 1972.
Besides The Grand Old Lady, visitors can also visit the Petroleum Museum just next to it. Opened on May 20, 2005, the museum showcases the history of the petroleum industry not only in Sarawak, but Malaysia as well.
Meanwhile, Canada Hill itself is an attraction not to be missed. There are several stories behind its name, the most popular one being that it was named after the Canadian drillers that stayed there once. Another version told of a Canadian who once lived on the hill, who used to employ both local and foreign workers to work there. According to the third story, the place was so named in honour of a Canadian who was appointed to put up the Grand Old Lady.
Canada Hill, which is a limestone ridge that runs from Lopeng to Pujut, offers stunning views of Miri City and is frequented by local folks and tourists, who want to not only admire the view but also breathe in the crisp air and enjoy the cool breeze from the hill top.
See the outdoors
If your plan is to see the outdoors but somewhere not too far from the city, Luak Bay Esplanade is a good place to start. Sure, it is not full-on outdoors, seeing that it comes with parking lots, food stalls, children’s playground, picnic sites and all the necessities for a weekend outing with family and friends, but it’s what’s beyond the esplanade that pulls most of the crowd to this popular hotspot on the outskirts of the city, and that is the Luak Beach.
Luak Beach attracts scores of visitors, especially on weekends with its soft white sand, beautiful waters and cool breeze. But it is frequented most for its breathtaking sunsets. In fact, Luak Beach arguably has the best sunsets of all the beaches in Miri.
If, however, you prefer to rough it out in the wild outdoors, Gunung Mulu National Park is an absolute must. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 52,864ha park is the ultimate hotspot for adventure seekers. However, to get there one has to take a flight to Mulu either from Miri or via connecting flight from Kuching. Travelling by boat from Kuala Baram offers its own set of thrills and adventure.
The first National Park in Malaysia to be awarded a World Heritage status by UNESCO (back in 2000), Gunung Mulu National Park is most famous for its limestone cave systems. The most impressive of those systems are the Sarawak Chamber (the largest known natural chamber in the world), Deer Cave (the world’s largest cave passage) and Clearwater Cave (longest cave in Southeast Asia). Deer Cave and Clearwater Cave are the park’s main attractions, along with the equally impressive Wind Cave and Langs Cave.
For those who love mountain climbing, the challenging climbs up to the summit of the 2,376m Gunung Mulu is well worth the try. Meanwhile, on the upper slopes of Gunung Api, razor-sharp limestone formations as high as 50 metres form The Pinnacles, a spectacular feature that will leave those who gaze upon it … breathless.
Other activities available at Gunung Mulu National Park include a visit to a bat observatory, a walk across the 480-metre rainforest canopy skywalk – the longest of its kind in the world and a trek through a dense jungle via the Headhunter’s Trail.
Time to celebrate
With many events lined up in conjunction with Visit Miri Year, 2018 is a perfect time to visit Miri. From April to June alone, the calendar of events is packed with celebrations and happenings for all to experience and be a part of.
Interesting to witness is the Makan Tahun Perdana, which is a celebration of the Kedayan people in the District of Subis and is held in Bekenu this April. Organised by the Subis District Office and Subis District Council, the annual celebration is traditionally held to give thanks to God for a good harvest. Today, it is also aimed at promoting unity, sense of ownership and to expose the public to the culture of the Kedayan tribe.
From May 1 to 2, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the colourful cultures and traditions of the Dayak community, at the Miri Gawai Dayak Celebration. Organised by Gagasan Anak Dayak Sarawak Association and set to be held at Permy Mall Miri, it involves members of the Dayak community selling a variety of products, from food and clothing to handicrafts and little trinkets. Stick around to see cultural performances and be sure to sample some authentic food of the Dayak folks.
For avid anglers, the Miri City Deep Sea Fishing Tournament 2018 is something to look forward to. It is being held for the 11th year and will offer anglers the thrill of landing the big catch, with attractive prizes waiting to be won. The tournament is jointly organised by Miri Anglers Club, Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth & Sports Sarawak, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Sarawak Fisheries Department and Miri City Council. It is set to take place from May 10 to 13 at Marina Bay-Luconia.
One of the biggest festivals in Miri, the annual Borneo Jazz is not to be missed. It is organised by Sarawak Tourism Board and has been a major tourist draw since 2006. There will be exiting performances by international names in jazz, all taking place at Pullman Miri Waterfront on May 11 to 13. Purchase your tickets now to avoid disappointment.
Miri May Fest, held throughout the month of May, offers various entertainment programmes, along with trade fairs as well as sports, cultural, recreational and social activities. These will be organised not only by Government agencies but also NGOs, social clubs and commercial houses, and will take place in various locations in Miri.
Also happening throughout May and in different locations, Miri City Day celebrates Miri acquiring its city status on May 20, 2015. Various programmes have been lined up, which will attract not only locals, but foreign tourists as well.
Satiate your hunger
Fill up on some fabulous food. Miri is home to great varieties of food, from local favourites like Chicken Rice, Kolo Mee and Sarawak Laksa, to wonderful Western dishes like steaks, burgers, and barbecues. Miri has some pretty good dim sum too – some of the best being at the local hotels here, as well as Café 2020. Just ask the locals and they will point you in the right direction.
If you’re looking to try traditional food, some cafés in Miri offer authentic ethnic cuisines, particularly Kelabit food. Labo La’al Sinutug, Udung Ubih, and Nuba Laya’ are among must try Kelabit food when you’re here in Miri.
So pack your bags, book your flight, and get ready to discover these and many more, here in Miri, Sarawak’s beautiful Resort City.