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03 June 2011

Miri in Jazz

AirAsia Social Media team

By AirAsia Social Media team

18 May 2011

Over the weekend, I flew over to Miri to attend Borneo Jazz Festival and it was my first visit to East Malaysia! The best thing about working with AirAsia – we can fly to all AirAsia destinations, even at the very last minute – which is what my colleague, Trudy did! She decided to join me for the trip and two of us head over to Miri for our very first East Malaysia adventure!

So we flew in to Miri on Friday night and the flight took about 2 hours. From the airport, we took taxi to go to the hotel (You can buy taxi coupon just right outside the arrival hall) and we managed to catch the last act of Borneo Jazz for the day – Les Doigts De L’Homme from France which gave a wonderful performance – a whole new kind of jazz music as they meld gypsy jazz standards and their own compositions with influences of Balkan, rock and of course, there was a plus point – one of the band member is cute 😛

And that wraps up my first evening in Miri.

The next day, after breakfast and a quick check on the places of interest in Miri – without knowing where to start. Haha, it’s true! But we were basically saved by the tourist map from the hotel. So my advise to those who wants to visit Miri around ala backpack style, just grab a tourist map of Miri and you can basically get around easily! The map was very useful and reliable for first timers like us – and what I like about the map most is that each square represent approximately 5 minutes walk which helped a lot in estimating the walking distance required from one place to another place.

Equipped with the map, we set off to our first stop which is the Miri City Centre and being the ‘kiasu’ me, I decided to opt for walking to the City Centre instead of taking the taxi (which will cost about RM15 for a 5-minute ride from our hotel, Park City Everly Hotel). The walking ain’t that bad if only the sun wasn’t that hot… but we survived the walk – that took us about 20-30 minutes walk.

My first impression of Miri – green and quiet. It did not give me the hustle bustle feeling. There are a lot of shops around the City Centre – sundries, groceries, hardware, telco and supermarkets – and the supermarkets sell from shoes to umbrellas, to bags to washing powder and clothes. I’m amazed with the amount of hardware shops there actually – we easily passed by 10 of it.

We asked around on how to get to Canada Hills where the Grand Old Lady (also known as ‘Oil Well No.1) and Petroleum Museum is situated. The locals were giving mixed suggestions which range from “It is very near! You can just walk!” to “Take a taxi! It’s too hot to walk!” but no one was able to give us a rough estimation on how much the taxi ride will cost us. We decided to take taxi to go up because both of us are quite tired from the earlier walk and the 5 minutes ride cost us RM15, which to me, is quite expensive.

The Grand Old Lady is one of the important historical monuments as it is Malaysia’s first inland drilling platform which started its operation in 1910 and ended in 1973. and ended in 1973.

Upon its retirement, it was turned to the national monument and it offers excellent view of Miri City and its surrounding. The Petroleum Museum located next to the Grand Old Lady is a must visit place if you want to learn more about the history of Miri and how the discovery of oil changed the small fishing village into booming town.

We were quite lucky that the museum was also having an exhibition titled “Evolution of Sarawak Currency” (The exhibition is on-going until 18 September 2011). I’m a history buff hence I was quite excited to check it out and it is interesting to see how the currency evolves as each century turns around.

Our next stop is to head back to City Centre and this time we decided to walk down – which was quite a brisk despite the hot weather. Half way down the road, there is a signage to crocodile farm but we decided to give it a pass since we are both not a big fan of crocodiles 😛

We visited the Miri Handicraft Centre. I initially thought it is some sort of museum but it is actually a centre where numerous handicraft stores are located inside the building, where they sell handicraft goods and souvenirs. The handicrafts are mostly handmade and there are various kinds of accessories like necklaces, earrings, bangles and the price ranges from RM5 to RM50 depending on the artwork.

After the long walk, we decided to take a break at local coffee shop and ordered some local food – kolo mee and Sarawak Laksa to complete our East Malaysia experience 😀

There are few religious places of interest that are located in the City Centre, one of it is Tua Pek Kong Temple which is Miri oldest temple built in 1913. The temple is located next to the first market. We actually missed the temple when we got to the City Centre because the back of the temple are actually facing out to the road hence we thought the temple is just one of the regular temples. Lesson learned here – don’t be trick by the pictures because I thought the temple was very vast area based on the online photos I saw…

The temple is very beautiful – ideal for photography for avid photographers as each of the pillar have beautiful arts motives crafted on it.

Our final stop before heading back to hotel was Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) office which was located right next to bus / taxi station, to get more information on where are the best places to hangout, eat, stay and visit but alas, the office was closed by the time we got there (Note: STB office closes by 3 p.m.)

The bus station/taxi stand brings back nostalgic feeling – when I was a child, I traveled quite often on public buses to go back to hometown with my grandmother and those were the days where the bus stop looked pretty much like the one in Miri now.

Since we decided to be adventurous, we decided to take bus (actually, that is not true, the truth was we were very tired but reluctant to pay RM15 just to head back to hotel) and we just hopped on to the bus! How do we know which bus to take? Hehe, all thanks to the awesome map – which provide the bus routes so just look for the place you want to go & check which bus heads toward it! The bus ride only cost RM1 in comparison to taxi ride which will cost us RM15!

Our plan to head to the beach and to the famous Miri Marina Bay for dinner was thwarted because the restaurant has closed down recently ;-( So the plan for romantic sunset dinner (it has been said that the sunset view at the restaurant is the best in Miri) and to check the huge seahorse lighthouse statue was not accomplished.

Apart from kolo mee or Sarawak laksa, the famous food around Miri is seafood and the prices are quite reasonable, if compared to Kuala Lumpur. We had our dinner at Tanjong Pagar Seafood Restaurant which is less than 5 minutes walk from our hotel (the restaurant is located right next to TM building).

So what’s left after dinner was to enjoy the Borneo Jazz Festival! The venue was quite packed as compared to the day before and The State of Monc from Holland was just about to start their performance when we got there and boy, how we enjoyed the band’s energetic performances!

When the band ended, we decided to head over to the beach – the hotel have its own private beach where the festival was held. It’s the perfect place to chill and listen to the jazz band playing in the background if one prefers to stay away from the crowd. The soft sand, moonlight and starry skies were just perfect for us to lie down on the beach while listening to Maria Muldaur from United States singing “California Stars”.

And that wraps up our short adventure in Miri. The next day, we head over to the airport and bought some last minute tidbits as souvenirs and as you can see in the picture – pepper is signature product in Sarawak, so true that they even have pepper candy!

Get Around Tips
You can get around Miri town by walking or by taking public transportation such as bus or taxi. I would personally recommend taking the bus – which is cheaper and more fun – you get to see the cities by following the bus routes. The taxi in town do not run on meters (or at least those that we encountered) and they usually quote a flat rate to tourists.

Grand Old Lady and Petroleum Museum
How to get there : There is only 2 ways of transportation – taxi or “bus no.11″ (aka your good pair of legs) from the city centre. The 5-minutes taxi ride cost us RM15 but given the fact that the weather was blazing hot and we are clueless on the direction, we decided to take the taxi.

AirAsia Sales Office in Miri City Centre
Head straight from Jalan Rice Mill – you will be able to see it – located right next to CIMB Bank – you might get mixed up with the signboard as it is continous red 😛

Want to see more of Miri? Check out the photo album at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150254274112387.373637.18801397386&comments=1