Northern Sarawak’s main town, Miri is a handy base for numerous day-trips like a drive to the Gunung Mulu and Lambir Hills National Parks.
The main town in northern Sarawak is a great jumping-off point for the spectacular natural attractions that surrounds it. Tourists tend to spend only a night here before or after a trip to the deservedly famous Gunung Mulu National Park. However, Miri is actually a handy base for numerous other day-trips.
A short drive away to the Lambir Hills National Park reveals rainforests rich in plant and animal species, six waterfalls and numerous trails of all grades. The forest trails at the Niah National Park are also worth exploring although it is its limestone caves that draw visitors to archaeological and geological treasures. Meanwhile, the many dive sites off Miri – including wrecks – are worth exploring for their coral and marine life.
Miri itself is small and laid-back. Its few attractions are related to local markets and handicrafts and the oil and gas industry on which it was built and depends. That industry continues to draw an international community, which has translated into good infrastructure and cosmopolitan supermarkets and restaurants. Meanwhile, the city's proximity to Brunei keeps fuelling the growth of shopping malls and hotels.
Miri is hot and sunny all year round. October-December are traditionally the wettest months. July-September is the peak tourism season.
Passports must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry. Generally, no visas are required for citizens of Commonwealth countries for stays of up to three months, and for citizens of ASEAN countries for stays of up to one month. Check the Immigration Department website (www.imi.gov.my) for details.
The Malaysian ringgit (RM) is divided into 100 sen. Bank notes come in units of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100. Coins are 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen. The largest number of banks and money changers are in Miri. Credit cards are widely accepted. For ATM withdrawals, banking networks include MEPS, Maestro, Cirrus and Bankcard.
The Miri Airport is about 1.5km (1 mile) from town. Take a taxi (buy a coupon at the airport) and it will transport you directly to your hotel. Taxis are the best way to get around town. Although taxis and buses do serve the surrounding attractions and car hire is available, the best way to see attractions is on a tour, as they include park fees, lunch and side attractions. Companies are also happy to tailor-make itineraries.
Miri has good health standards, public and private hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. However, be sure to buy medical insurance and get hepatitis and tetanus shots. Visitors suffering from respiratory illnesses should avoid visiting during the haze period in August-September. If you are staying overnight in forested areas, check well in advance with your doctor about appropriate anti-malaria precautions; always use insect repellant. Make sure the water you drink is boiled or bottled. Keep valuables in hotel safes and avoid carrying too much cash around.
|How are you?||Apa khabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Khabar baik|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Maafkan Saya!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|What's your name?||Apakah nama anda?|
|My name is…||Nama saya ialah…|
|Pleased to meet you||Gembira berjumpa anda|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Awak ada Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Di manakah kafe internet?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Di manakah saya boleh mendapatkan teksi?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Di manakah stesen bas/keretapi?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Tiket sehala/ulang-alik ke…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Ada bilik untuk seorang/dua orang?|
|When's check out?||Bilakah untuk mendaftar keluar?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Bolehkah anda mencadangkan sebuah restoran/bar?|
|A table for two, please||Sila berikan meja untuk dua orang|
|A menu, please||Sila berikan menu|
|The bill, please||Sila berikan bil|
|Where's the toilet?||Di manakah bilik air?|
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Lambir Hills National Park
A network of easy to tough trails lets visitors enjoy Lambir Hills National Park, one of the most diverse rainforest ecosystems in the world. A highlight of the higher slopes is the rare heath forest and its wonderful orchids. The park's rugged, hilly terrain also includes numerous waterfalls and natural pools in which to bathe. Note that the easy Latak Waterfall Trail, which leads to a 25-metre (82ft) waterfall, gets busy on weekends.
Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park
Scuba-divers will enjoy the colourful, healthy reefs at Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park. From the Marina Bay jetty, the nearest dive site is 10 minutes away by boat, but the drop-offs and slopes are almost an hour away. The reefs are shallow, with the deepest being 30 metres (98ft) and visibility 10–30 metres
Niah National Park
The key attractions at Niah National Park are the caves of Niah, an important prehistoric site of cave-dwellers. Besides archaeological artefacts, they harbour ancient rock art and beautiful limestone formations. During the controlled harvesting season, collectors with nerves of steel climb scaffolding up to the high cave ceilings to harvest birds' nests, a Chinese delicacy. Those with time should explore the forest trails too.
Canada Hill is the location of the country's first oil well, the most visited tourist site in Miri. The well is called The Grand Old Lady and is surrounded by murals, mining equipment and a landscaped park. There is also a small petroleum museum documenting the history of oil exploration and the city. Visitors can get a bird's-eye view of Miri and its surroundings from here.
Gunung Mulu National Park
The spectacular limestone caves and pristine rainforest of Gunung Mulu National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, are the main reasons visitors come to this part of the world. Set aside a minimum of two days to explore the amazing formations of the show caves, see massive bat colonies, walk through limestone and mixed Dipterocarp forests and travel by longboat.
Start the day at the colourful local market, Tamu Muhibbah (literally Harmonious Market) on Jalan Padang. The array of fresh produce is a window into the kitchens and tables of the locals as well as the forests and farms in the surrounding areas. The vendors are typical of the traders – and in some cases, farmers themselves – in markets (tamu) all over Borneo. Native women dominate and items sold are not only for eating but also rituals.
To taste this produce, head down the road to 1246 Jalan Melayu for brunch at the Summit Café. The cooking is Kelabit, that of the indigenous people of the Bario highlands. The rice used is the fragrant variety that grows there, whilst dishes include stir-fried wild boar, chicken cooked in bamboo and tapioca shoots in Bario salt.
Get respite from the heat of the day back in your hotel or head south towards Tanjong Lobang. Enjoy a spa at the Miri Mariott Resort and Spa or have a drink in one of their cafés and bars.
Come evening, head back to the city and north towards Canada Hill. En route, shop for native handicrafts and souvenirs at the Miri Handicraft Centre, but ensure you reach Canada Hill in time for sunset. This is the location of The Grand Old Lady, Malaysia’s first inland oil well and one of Sarawak’s most important historical monuments. From here, visitors can see the city as well as the South China Sea. On clear days, the view extends to Gunung Mulu.
Tamu Muhibbah, Summit Café, Miri Mariott Resort and Spa, Miri Handicraft Centre, The Grand Old Lady.
Pack a lunch and spend the first part of the day trekking through rainforest and bathing in waterfalls at the Lambir Hills National Park, a popular weekend getaway just 32km (20 miles) south of Miri. The park is also renowned for its bird-watching opportunities. On arrival, head to the park headquarters' information centre and learn more about which plants and creatures to look out for.
Of the trails, the most popular is only 20 minutes from the park headquarters and leads to the beautiful Latak waterfall which cascades into a pool. If it is too crowded here, head to the Pantu Trail, which climbs to a tree tower and the smaller Nibong Waterfall, or opt for the steeper Bukit Pantau for amazing views. Fitter visitors have many other options.
After lunch, continue south along the same road for around 60km (37 miles) to reach the Niah National Park. The Niah caves are an important Paleolithic-era archaeological site. Drive to the park headquarters or, for a more fun option, park at Batu Niah and take a longboat from there. Be equipped with a good torch and sturdy walking shoes.
Visit the information centre and museum before walking the 3.5km (2 miles) through lush forest to the Great Cave, whose massive entrance is stunning. The archaeological site underneath revealed hundreds of graves spanning 30,000 years. Take the loop trail or walk through this cave to the Painted Cave, which contains haematite paintings of humans, funerary boats and beasts.
Lambir Hills National Park, Niah National Park.