Sarawak

Mesmerising Miri

More than just a gateway to Gunung Mulu and Niah National Park, Miri proves its own reputation to become travellers favourite destination and here’s why…

The Miri city signage located on top of Canada Hill. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

More than just a gateway to Gunung Mulu and Niah National Park, Miri proves its own reputation to become travellers favourite destination and here’s why…

Miri is mainly known to be the natural gateway to the world-class UNESCO World Heritage Site Gunung Mulu National Park, as well as Niah National Park.

But often travellers take it for granted and spend lesser time in Miri itself despite it being the second largest city in Sarawak.

My recent trip to Miri in conjunction with Program Jom! Kembara Miri organized by Tourism Malaysia Sarawak opens up to many astonishing discoveries, including one of the best love stories ever been told that made me think that you too should visit this charming city full of friendly locals, amazing culture and alluring food.

PEOPLE IN MIRI

Lun Bawang

‘Lun Bawang’ means people of the interior. This ethnic group can generally be found in the rural highlands of Central Northern Borneo.

But some of them now reside in parts of Miri as well. 

I visited the members of a community in Miri who proudly call themselves Sarawak Lun Bawang Association Miri Branch.

Miri Sarawak
The making of Nuba Laya. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Through them, I learned a great deal about their lives, from their presentable traditional attire, soothing music and folk songs, gentle-yet-meaningful dance moves, to exotic and unique culinary offerings. 

One that caught my attention is nuba laya’, a type of dish consisting of rice well-wrapped with itip leaf.

Lun Bawang is also known for kopi beras (rice coffee), a traditional drink made from aromatic adan rice, brought all the way from Ba’kelalan.

During the old days, the drink was made to replace the original coffee as it was hard to find on their land.

Kedayan

Miri Sarawak
The Kedayan people in their traditional attire. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Though Kedayan is one of the minority ethnic groups in Sarawak residing in Bekenu, Lawas, Limbang, Miri and Sibuti, the community is culturally rich, which is evident during my visit to Homestay Kedayan, Kampung Peliau.

Meeting them up-close taught me so much about their captivating culture, including their beautiful traditional attire, dance, silat (indigenous martial art), and the process of harvesting rice.

My favourite part is the cooking demonstration by the local community to prepare delicious dishes like ampap ikan kelapa (fish cooked till dry with coconut) and sayur keladi rebus (steamed yam).

Kedayan has a more popular yearly event called Pesta Makan Tahun, a thanksgiving occasion coinciding with harvest season that is equivalent to the Gawai Dayak celebration in Sarawak. 

EXPERIENCES AND SIGHTSEEING IN MIRI

Piasau Nature Reserve

Just five kilometres from Miri city centre, travellers are recommended to visit Piasau Nature Reserve mainly to greet a legendary pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills named Jimmy and Juliet.

The team and I were so lucky that we got to meet them as soon as we stepped out of the bus!

To understand more about the endangered species and the nature reserve as a whole, travellers should visit its interpretation centre.

It is an eye-opening experience to discover that the nature reserve itself is based upon solidarity with Jimmy’s ex-partner, Faridah, which was killed by a slingshot.

The Malaysian Nature Society, with strong support from the locals, urged the place to be gazetted as a nature reserve – it all paid off when it was granted so on 31 December 2013 under the supervision of Sarawak Forestry Corporation. Faridah’s remains are also kept here.

Faridah’s death was revolutionary history, but Jimmy was ultimately sad. Their love story had been known to many; some also witnessed Jimmy’s saddening and endless call for Faridah.

Piasau Nature Reserve
One of the participants watered the plant during the tree-planting activity. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Some also predicted that Jimmy might not survive due to loneliness since hornbills are known to be loyal to their partner.

It was a relief that Jimmy later found a new love in Juliet and continue to breed for the survival of its species. 

There is no entrance fee to visit Piasau Nature Reserve. But we recommend travellers experience the Hornbill Watch Guided Tour which takes around an hour.

It is one of the best ways to spot these two lovebirds in their natural habitat and it only costs MYR20 (for a group of one to five people) and MYR30 (for a group of six to 10 people).

Another programme that can be carried out at the nature reserve is tree-planting activity. Among the trees planted are dabai (canarium odontophyllum), engkalak (litsea garciae), keranji (dialium indium), and terap (artocarpus odoratissimus). 

Miri Giant Signage

Erected on top of the famous Canada Hill since 2022, this signage is in close proximity to the other two attractions: Miri Petroleum Museum and The Grand Old Lady.

The 18-metre tall and 37-metre long signage adds up as another must-visit spot in Miri, on top of being the place for recreational activities such as jogging and trekking, including picnicking and chasing the sunset.

Sape Movement

Garry Sudom Raymond
Garry Sudom Raymond playing the sape at Sape Movement. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

From a pure interest and dedication towards bringing Sarawak’s iconic traditional instrument, sape, to a higher level, Sape Movement was established in 2017 and continues to organise events and classes today. 

Sape Movement’s office in Bandar Baru Permyjaya, Miri, not only serves as a gathering spot for sape enthusiasts but also as a class for those interested in learning and playing shape.

Many of their students have achieved outstanding achievements such as performing on the main stage of the world-prestige Rainforest World Music Festival 2022 where Nikita Sarna played sape with Alena Murang.

Sape Movement
Dance performance at Sape Movement. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

According to one of its founders, Garry Sudom Raymond, the sape class is open to all and so far, the age range of its students is between seven and 50 years old.

Good to know: Sape is a stringed solo traditional instrument known for producing soothing sounds. It used to be played during healing rituals and surrounded by taboos, for example, sape cannot be played by women. Today, however, the instrument and music can also be played by women since it is now used for entertainment and cultural performances.

Coco Cabana

Coco Cabana
Coco Cabana is where locals and travellers can enjoy the stunning view of the sunset. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Especially on weekends, this place is packed with locals, be it family, friends, or couples. This beach is not open for swimming, but it is indeed one of the best spots to witness that million-dollar sunset. It also has facilities like bicycle rental and a children’s playground.

EATING IN MIRI

Wireless Walk

Wireless Walk
Some of the restaurants and cafes along Wireless Walk. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

This 500-metre length walk runs along Jalan North Yu Seng, characterised by a row of restaurants and cafés serving various food and beverages that are divided into three zones: Zone A, Zone B and Zone C.

It is best to visit during the night as some of them would bring out buskers and street performers to make the atmosphere livelier.

The Kitchen BBQ & Steamboat Miri

The Kitchen BBQ & Steamboat Miri
The Kitchen BBQ & Steamboat Miri is best visited with family and friends. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Travellers are spoilt for choice as there are abundant food options ranging from chicken, meat, lamb, seafood, and vegetables. Served in buffet style, travellers can first choose their food and then take it to their table to be grilled or put into the hot pot. Considering the generous food portion, including other choices such as fried rice, fried kuey teow (flat noodles), and desserts like ice cream and ais batu campur (bean ice), the price is affordable and best visited with family and friends.

Yi Hah Hai Seafood Restaurant

Yi Hah Hai Seafood Restauran
Some of the delectable dishes are served at Yi Hah Hai Seafood Restaurant. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Best for seafood, this restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from Miri Waterfront. Be it fish, prawn, crab, or squid, you can choose how your seafood is prepared. This is the place for you to hold a huge feast with family and friends!

SHOPPING IN MIRI

Miri Handicraft Centre

Miri Handicraft Centre
One of the shops at Miri Handicraft Centre. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Launched in 2018, this centre is best for travellers who wish to buy souvenirs to bring back home like clothes, accessories, wooden handbags, keychains, and mats.

It basically has all specially handcrafted products from Sarawak’s ethnic groups including Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and Kelabit.

Tamu Muhibbah

Tamu Muhibbah
Various types of local rice can be bought at Tamu Muhibbah. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Located opposite the central bus station, this place is another haven for shoppers who want to buy handcrafted local products, including fruits, vegetables, and even rare findings like the fragrant Bario rice, at slightly cheaper prices since it is a favourite stop for locals.

STAY IN MIRI 

Pullman Miri Waterfront

Pullman Miri Waterfront
The facade of Pullman Miri Waterfront. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Pullman Miri Waterfront has long stood as one of Miri’s best hotels, both for leisure and business.

Located just minutes away from various attractions and landmarks, this five-star hotel has one of the best sunset spots in town, especially from its exclusive Executive Lounge located on the 24th floor.

Some rooms offer a view of the Miri River and parts of the town. What’s more, its well-furnished rooms come with state-of-the-art facilities, on top of an infinity swimming pool, gymnasium, spa, and three dining outlets: Pullman Kitchen, The Chamber, and Le Café. 

The sixth floor, which houses seven function rooms that are equipped with up-to-the-minute technology, is meant for events and meetings.

Mercure Miri City Centre

Mercure Miri City Centre
One of the rooms at Mercure Miri City Centre. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Opens to its guests in April 2023, Mercure Miri City Centre is strategically located in the heart of Miri, offering as many as 172 well-appointed rooms.

The design and decoration – inside and outside – of the hotel are largely inspired by local cultural elements blended in with functionality and convenience.

It has three dining outlets called Belian, Atoti, and Cavakita, aside from other facilities such as a gymnasium and swimming pool.

There are two floors that are dedicated to conferences and banquets, including Terabai Grand Ballroom, perfect for events and meetings. To make it more business-friendly, the hotel even has a co-working space called Ruai.

Tim’s Seaside Hideout Resort

Tim’s Seaside Hideout Resort
Travellers can relax at the beach at Tim’s Seaside Hideout Resort. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Tim’s Seaside Hideout Resort is owned by Fatimah Mustapha, an avid traveller who incorporates her own experience into building the resort.

Operational since 2015, the resort has had 15 chalets and beach houses beside a campsite.

Located around 30 minutes from the city centre, the resort comes recommended for travellers who want to unwind and relax by the beach, enjoy the soothing breeze, and witness the sunset from the South China Sea, which makes this place popular.

Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Malaysia Sarawak for organising this trip and making the writer’s visit to Miri smooth sailing.

This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 18.1.

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