While Kuching's city mascot is the cat, Miri claimed the seahorse - famous for its gentle gracefulness. Despite a handful of high-rise hotels dotted around the city, Miri still retains the charm of a small town; the culturally-diverse people in Miri are very warm and friendly to visitors.
Miri is the second largest city in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. The discovery of oil 100 years ago transformed Miri from a quiet fishing village into a wealthy city of around 300,000 people. The close proximity to Brunei makes Miri extremely popular with expats working for the oil companies.
Miri acts as an excellent base for exploring the many national parks in northern Sarawak including Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak's only UNESCO site. Lambir Hills National Park is only 30 minutes from the city; Niah National Park - famous for its massive caves - is only one hour from Miri.
Orientation in Miri
Unlike Kuching's pleasant waterfront, the mucky waterfront in Miri is mostly industrial. Instead, the tourist scene is focused around Jalan North Yu Seng - a busy stretch of restaurants, cafes, and hotels.
The Tourist Information Office as well as the Forestry Office are located adjacent to the main bus terminal in the southwest corner of the city.
A large park with brick paths, Chinese garden, and public pool occupies most of the eastern side of the city. Aside from the nightlife district - known as the Survey Area - , all sites around Miri can be easily reached by walking.
Just west of Miri - 15 minutes away by bus - is a beach esplanade with picnic area that is a popular gathering spot for local families on weekends.
Things to Do Around Miri
- San Ching Tian Temple: Located only 15 minutes outside of Miri, San Ching Tian is the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia. To visit the temple, take bus #44 to Krokop.
- Taman Selera Beach: Only 15 minutes west of Miri, this dirty beach is a popular spot with locals on weekends. The beach esplanade is a pleasant picnic area with many seafood restaurants open only in the evenings. Buses #11 and #13 pass by the beach; you must tell the driver to stop.
- Hawaii Beach: Hawaii Beach is an undeveloped, wide stretch of sand less than 30 minutes west of Miri. Take bus #13 to visit the beach; the last bus returns back to Miri around 5 p.m.
- Miri City Fan: The large park in the east part of Miri contains a Chinese garden, amphitheater, public pool, and pleasant esplanade.
- Grand Old Lady: The "Grand Old Lady" is the nickname given to Malaysia's first oil well, which is now a monument at the Petroleum Science Museum. The monument is located just across the main road - Jalan Miri Pujut - south of Miri.
- Tamu Muhibbah: Farmers come to this market to display their fruits and vegetables. The market is located just south of the main bus terminal.
- Lambir Hills National Park: Located only 30 minutes away, the Lambir Hills National Park is famous for its staggering diversity of trees and plants. The national park has cheap accommodation; inquire at the Forestry Office located next to the main bus terminal.
- Imperial Mall: Located at the bottom of the Imperial Hotel on Jalan North Yu Seng, the Imperial Mall is a modern shopping complex with a large supermarket attached.
- Soon Hun Shopping Complex: Located within the Mega Hotel, this dimly lit mall has a dingy feel compared to the nearby Imperial Mall.
- Bintang Mega Mall: Located on the main road in the south of Miri, the posh Bintang Mega Mall is currently undergoing a serious face lift; the city's only Starbucks is found inside.
- Miri Handicraft Centre: Although there are a few artisans making unique crafts inside, the Handicraft Centre is mostly a collection of overpriced souvenir shops under one roof.
- Boulevard Shopping Complex: This massive shopping complex is located in the Boulevard Commercial District near the main bus station.
Learn which souvenirs to avoid by reading about responsible travel in Southeast Asia.
Food in Miri
Miri is a great place for eating. Like the food in Kuching, Miri has its own interesting eateries serving delicious Sarawak food, Malay, Thai, Indian, and seafood.
Ming's Cafe on Jalan North Yu Seng is a popular, open-air spot serving wonderful local and Indian food. Despite the large portions and popularity, an average meal only costs between $1 - 3.
Nightlife in Miri
Aside from a few expensive bars and sleazy karaoke pubs located in the heart of Jalan North Yu Seng, the bulk of Miri's nightlife happens in the Survey area just outside of the city. Unfortunately, a taxi is required to reach the cluster of bars and nightclubs; all drivers know the bars.
The current live-entertainment and dancing hotspots are "Cherry Berries" and "Balcony" - both open until 3 a.m. Both clubs charge a steep cover on weekends.
Getting To Miri
By Air: The brand new Miri International Airport (MYY) was recently declared the busiest airport in Sarawak. Both Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines operate many flights a day to all parts of Malaysia. Tiny MASWings flies to rural areas and the Gunung Mulu National Park.
By Bus: Long distance buses run between Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, Brunei, and Miri. Buses arrive at the Pujut Corner long-distance bus terminal just outside of the city. Bus #33A runs hourly between the main bus terminal and the long-distance bus terminal.
If arriving in the evening, you must either hire a private car to get to Miri from the long-distance bus terminal or walk to the main road and flag a bus going toward town. Surprisingly, there are no buses or taxis after 6 p.m; wait at the bus stand nearest to the Petronas station.