Our visit at the placid and little-known city of Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia was definitely full of firsts and wonderful surprises. If you are looking for some fantastic tourist spots, towering buildings, crowded landmarks, huge and sophisticated shopping malls then Miri is NOT the place for you. LOL. Be warned that whatever I say in this blog are simply my thoughts/opinions/reactions so it’s up to you if you’ll believe it or not. XD
Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia is sort of like a hidden treasure; an uncharted place that deserves more publicity. When I booked my super cheap flight to this city, I thought to myself ‘what would I possibly do in a boring old town like this?’ I did some research but I was still not that satisfied. I still thought it was dull and lifeless.
Come December 26, 2013, my friend (Celine) and I started our journey to this foreign land. First, I have to rant about the crappy service of Air Asia. If you’re going to book a flight and you want a comfortable, hassle-free trip, NEVER BOOK IN AIR ASIA. It was my first time using this airline and I was disappointed like hell. Our flight was supposed to be at 2:25 PM but we were able to leave NAIA at past 4 PM. If you have a detailed itinerary and limited time, like us, this is probably the most annoying thing that could ever happen to you. We had to make some last minute change of plans because our ETA was moved to a later time. >_< “Consistency” must be Air Asia’s motto or something coz on our flight back home, the flight was also delayed *rolls eyes*. I got home super late and super pissed off because of that. So yeah, beware of Air Asia — cheap flights = crappy service.
We arrived at the Miri International Airport (yep, they do have an airport ^^) at past 5 PM and we encountered our very first dilemma — we only had Philippine peso with us. Of course we thought about having our money changed here in the Philippines for more convenience but it was right after Christmas and we were both too busy packing up and meeting relatives, etc… Bottom line is, we found out that they only buy Singaporean, Bruneian and US Dollars. Good thing Celine decided to bring some of her extra Singapore dollars from our trip there last June so we were able to exchange it for some Malaysian Ringgit. I only had 5 RM from my stepmom and I doubt that could take me very far from the airport. If anything, I could only afford 5 packs of Kiss Me candies XD (More on the Kiss Me candies later ^^).
The airport is big but don’t worry, you won’t get lost. First thing you need to do once you get your RM ready is to buy a taxi coupon at the highly conspicuous “taxi coupon counter”. Just tell the helpful ladies at the counter where you want to go coz the fee is different for every destination (of course). In our case, we asked around and another helpful lady told us that we can have our money changed at Bintang Megamall downtown (which was one of our tourist destinations the next day). The taxi coupon cost us 30 RM. We were so worried that, seeing as it’s a small city, the malls might close earlier than usual. Luckily, the trip from the airport took us about 10 to 12 minutes only. The traffic in this city was unbelievable! It does not exist! XD The roads and streets were so damn clean and almost empty. Right at the entrance of Bintang Megamall, on the right side, you can see the money changer. There’s another one inside and I think it’s more ‘certified’ or something but they don’t buy Philippine peso. Racist. LOL.
So after changing our money, we decided to take a quick tour of the mall and grab some quick dinner before heading to our lovely hotel. The mall was quite small but I loved the grocery coz of the small “food court” beside it. They had really cheap foods and bread. Celine bought some sort of stir-fried noodles for only 0.99 RM while I bought some kaya balls (5 pcs./ 1.50) and chocolate waffles (2.50).
I love Mountain Dew so when I saw these I immediately bought them. We don’t have these flavors in my country. ^^ It’s 1.59 RM each and we also bought some red bean bread, 3 pcs. for 3.29 RM. We went looking for Italiano Ice Cream coz, apparently, you can have your name (or any name) written on your popsicles! Pretty cool, huh? Sadly, we couldn’t find it so we just gave up and rode a cab to ParkCity Everly Hotel (Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai). My friend and I came to a decision that since there’s nothing much to see in Miri, we should just stay in a pricey hotel for one day and then a cheaper hotel the next day. We wanted to have more relaxation time. The taxis were queued up right in front of Bintang Megamall and from there to the hotel, it cost 18 RM.
There’s only one thing I can say about the ParkCity Everly Hotel — AWESOME. I highly recommend it. We booked a room (with free breakfast buffet) at the Executive Floor and we were treated like princesses. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful, the ambiance was great, the room was fantastic and the pool was pretty cool. I loved everything about this hotel.
I suggest that you check in early, though, to enjoy the freebies and other amenities (like the Executive Lounge ^ where you can drown yourself in soda, tea, coffee and cookies + use the PCs and TV for free).
^ Out and about the hotel.
Another reason that I despised Air Asia — I would’ve enjoyed this hotel more if the flight was not delayed. Ugh. >_<
Anyway… the moment I saw the bath tub, I thought THIS IS IT. I’ve never had a bubble bath coz bath tubs are not very common in my country. Or maybe, just in my household. LOL. So I grabbed the chance and took a nice, long, relaxing bath before going to bed. 🙂
^ The beach at the back of the hotel. 🙂
We woke up early to take advantage of the breakfast buffet. LOL. I mean, we paid for it, right? So we should be able to eat as much as we want. We were the first ones in the dining hall and frankly not a lot of people came after an hour or two. The breakfast buffet was so worth the time and money. Too bad we weren’t able to fully enjoy it coz we had to get going if we wanted to take advantage of the pool as well ^^
My fruit platter~ 🙂
^ THE breakfast buffet. BURP!
^ Enjoying my bacon~
^ Loved the pool at the hotel with the “mini-bar” ^^
At first I was a bit hesitant to don my never-been-used two-piece swimsuit coz most of the people swimming in the pool were children and Muslim women. But then I thought, ‘oh what the heck’. So yeah, at some point during our swimming time, I took off my see-through topper and exposed some skin. Keber. LOL.
Anyway, after packing up and taking a quick shower, we checked out of the hotel. I seriously didn’t want to say goodbye to this wonderful hotel. T_T I will definitely come back and enjoy it more~ Another great thing about ParkCity Everly Hotel is the fact that you can leave your baggage with them for a certain amount of time while you tour the city or do some other stuff. So we headed out and experienced a bit of a dilemma with the transportation system in Miri. WARNING: During our three-day stay in Miri, we never figured out how the transportation system works. We’re not sure if the bus trips are every hour, every 2 hours, or depending on the driver’s mood XD There was a bus stop a couple of blocks away from the hotel and that’s where we waited. After about 15 minutes, a bus finally arrived! We didn’t really know where it was headed but we rode it anyway. Believe me, it is impossible to get lost in Miri. The bus fare to town was 1 RM and luckily my hunch was right – the final stop was at the City Bus Terminal near Park Hotel. When in doubt about your location or whereabouts, just ask the bus or taxi driver to take you to Park Hotel or the City Bus Terminal. These are two helpful and conspicuous landmarks.
^ Coz of the smoke from the incense, Celine’s cam’s lens fogged up.
Our first stop was Tua Pek Kong Temple, the Chinese temple which was located nearby the fish market. I’m not really a fan of historical sites, temples or museums so I wasn’t that impressed. Plus the weather started to become really, really hot. As in, scorching hot. Anyway, we were able to try the panoramic cam thingy on Celine’s cam and it came out great. 🙂
Panoramic view at Tua Pek Kong Temple
It kinda looked like we were together in this pic… XD We had a lot of fun shooting this. ^^
Next stop, just walking distance from the temple is the famous fruits and vegetables market, Tamu Muhibbah.
We didn’t take any pictures here coz… well, there was nothing really much going on. Actually, we kinda noticed that NOTHING GOES ON around Miri. It’s a sleepy, small town, but not really boring. Celine and I would often joke about how ‘lazy’ the people are. Especially in Tamu Muhibbah. Some people were having their late lunch or taking naps so our presence were clearly disturbing them. Haha! Instead of the noisy, rowdy and crowded market that we were used to, it was a quiet and peaceful one. You don’t need to worry about aggressive sellers shoving their products under your nose. I guess the people in here are too rich to even care about selling or making money. Haha. Okay, I’m not saying they’re all sloths, to put it simply, they are a bit laid-back as compared to other people…
We didn’t really buy anything at Tamu Muhibbah coz it was really freakin’ hot and we needed to go back to the hotel, get our things and head to Taman Awam Miri or the Miri Public Park. We took a taxi at the City Bus Terminal again and asked the driver to drop by ParkCity Everly Hotel to get our things then head straight to Taman Awam Miri. It cost 40 RM. Again, we had no idea how the taxi driver computed our fare. Celine and I therefore conclude that there is no logical explanation for the computation of the taxi fare. XD But here’s our formula:
Distance x number of passengers + time ÷ / x the mood of the driver = taxi fare 🙂
^ I just love this super long hanging bridge! ^^
I was really looking forward to this one coz I saw the pictures on the net and I loved it! However, the scorching and prickly heat burned out all our energy. By the time we finished walking the long hanging bridge, we were both sunburned, sweaty and exhausted. We picked a bench near the kiddie pool and hogged it for a while as we ate our red bean bread from last night. ^^ Actually, I thought we could take a swim at the pool but after seeing how it was only knee-deep, and most of the swimmers were kids, we decided against it. I badly wanted to take a shower though coz it was so freakin’ hot.
^ The seahorse overpass bridge
The most torturous part of this trip happened when we left the Miri Public Park. We were told that there was a bus headed to the city and we just had to get to the opposite side and wait. We were not told that we had to wait for like an hour before the freakin’ bus arrived! Gosh. And there was no proper waiting area, okay, it was just under the crosswalk bridge (near the seahorse statue).
So the bus to the city was also 1 RM each and once again we alighted at the City Bus Terminal near Park Hotel. Two taxis were in queue nearby but when we talked to one of the drivers and asked him to take us to Venice Inn (our 2nd and cheaper hotel), he hesitated coz he was not familiar with the area. It was a good thing Celine printed out a map which showed the exact location of Venice Inn. And then there was this really kind middle-aged lady who looked at our map and talked to the old driver for us. We could tell that she was trying to convince the old man to take us there. However, her convincing powers were not so great. It seemed like the old man was either too scared to get lost (in his own city) or he was simply too lazy to find our hotel. Haha! After more than 5 minutes of negotiating, we just gave up and waited for another taxi. That’s when we met the BEST TAXI DRIVER IN MIRI, Mr. Ah Heng. 🙂 He passed by and luckily his passenger got off at the City Bus Terminal. So we showed him the map and explained a bit and he said ‘OKAY’. Finally! Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult to find Venice Inn, but it was a relatively new hotel so maybe the locals were not so familiar with it. Mr. Ah Heng was, apparently, used to tourists in Miri so he offered to take us wherever we want to go the next day for 150 RM. We were a bit hesitant at first and we just told him that we’ll think about it. ^^
^ Our small, cheap room at Venice Inn
I’m not gonna lie, it was a complete letdown after ParkCity Everly Hotel. Haha! Well, duh. Of course, every other hotel would be bleak and ugly as compared to ParkCity Everly Hotel! XD Okay, maybe I’m promoting it too much. So we finally got our much needed shower and rest at Venice Inn. We had a laugh watching Malaysian TV, especially the TV show about celebrity gossips and news.
We took a walk and explored the ‘neighborhood’. We found some popular spots like Mega Hotel, Ming Cafe, Imperial Mall… We thought we could walk from our hotel to the Miri City Fan so we did… apparently, our batteries were still not fully charged and it got dark faster than we expected. So we were just following this long and seemingly endless sidewalk (along North Yuseng Road) when all of a sudden, it was gone. As in, the sidewalk was GONE. Bigla na lang syang naputol and there was no sidewalk in sight. We were just about to go back and give up on the Miri City Fan when we decided to cross the road and there it was! We found it! Haha! It was right there all along. XD
Sadly, my information was incorrect. NOTHING GOES ON around Miri City Fan when the darkness comes. Hahaha! There were still lights and everything but I guess it was more majestic and pictorial-worthy in the morning.
So we walked back, passed by the Imperial Mall where we found the amazing Kokoberry right near the entrance. This amazing ‘rainbow ice cream’ cost 3.80 RM each (the prices depend on the flavor or add-ons) and it totally refreshed our exhausted body and soul. Haha! I love love loved it! It’s a must try. I didn’t get to take any pictures coz I was too busy gulping it down. LOL. Anyway, they also sell the Kiss Me candies that I was talking about earlier. Each pack contains 10 pieces of candies for only 1 RM! Amazing, right? It’s the perfect pasalubong! There were different flavors – cherry, ginger orange, blueberry, etc.
Right outside Imperial Mall is a street food stall. Although everything looked fine, I was still hesitant to try something ‘new’ and unfamiliar. I asked the seller about each of them but they all seemed to be either made from chicken or fish. Celine bought some fish cake and I bought some good ol’ chicken nuggets. ^^ They each cost 1 RM. WARNING: They don’t have a variety of sauce, only hot chili sauce.
We saw a place called ‘Checkpoint’ right across Imperial Mall and we assumed that it was some kind of grocery. So we went there to buy some pasalubong na. The prices were okay, I guess. I don’t really have anything to compare it to though. However, the Kiss Me candies in there cost about 2-3 RM (can’t remember exactly) ^^ So it’s cheaper to buy it at Kokoberry. 🙂 I bought these from that grocery store.
After taking another shower and a bit of rest, we went out to get some dinner. We wanted to eat at some hawker food stall or something but then Silverspoon Cafe Restaurant, which was just walking distance from Venice Inn, caught our eye.
I had the spicy pork and luncheon meat meal (8 RM) and an iced lemon tea (2.80 RM) while Celine had the skewers combo (18.90 RM) and an iced green tea (2.80 RM). Yep, it’s a bit pricey but we just wanted to splurge coz frankly, we didn’t spend that much during this trip. I anticipated a lot of expenses but I still had a lot of money until our 3rd day. Haha!
After eating too much at Silverspoon Cafe Restaurant the night before, I forgot to set my alarm for the next day. So we were not on schedule coz we were supposed to be headed over at Lambir National Hills Park by 7 AM. Another funny thing was, we never really texted Mr. Ah Heng about the tour that he offered so we didn’t confirm anything. However, while getting dressed, I kinda thought that maybe he came. So I peeked outside and his taxi was there! Celine and I hurried because we thought he might have been waiting for more than 30 minutes already. ^^ Another lesson learned: Some people in Miri might be lazy in doing their jobs, but some people are true to their words and extremely diligent. Haha! If they say that they’re gonna be there at 8 AM, then they are REALLY gonna be there at 8 AM.
^ That’s Mr. Ah Heng beside Celine 🙂
Anyway, Mr. Ah Heng was really nice even though we were late. We just asked him to take us somewhere where we take away some coffee and bread but he took us to Sun City Cafe and even shared some sweet rice cake delicacies with us.
Celine and I ordered some Kaya Toast which were sumptuous and black coffee. 🙂
After that nice breakfast, we started our 40-minute trip to Lambir Hills National Park.
I guess we went there a bit early that’s why there was no crowd or anything. But then again, there are NO CROWDED places in Miri. And NO TRAFFIC. 🙂
So the entrance fee was 20 RM if you are a non-Malaysian adult. They will give you a map and you can ask the nice lady at the window about anything, like the easiest trail or the best waterfalls. She told us that it’s better to try the trail to Latak Waterfalls coz it is the easiest and it’s only a 20-minute hike. We didn’t have enough time coz we had to get back to the hotel by 12 noon to check out. I can’t remember well but I think we started our hike at half past nine.
^ The first and second waterfalls.
WARNING: Be careful of the mosquitoes. They bite. LOL. It’s better to wear leggings or pants and long-sleeved shirts. I was wearing shorts and of course my legs were attacked by those pesky mosquitoes. Watch out for gigantic, mutant ants too. Hahaha! I swear they were huge! It was like they came from Chernobyl or something. LOL! Too bad I didn’t get to take pictures of the Chernobyl ants coz I was too busy avoiding them.
So… we made a little bit of a mistake/detour… Okay, I made a mistake. Halfway through the trail, there was a sign that said Latak Waterfalls, Tree Tower, Blah blah Waterfalls… Long story short, we should’ve continued on our path straight ahead but we took a ‘wrong turn’. ^^ We climbed up these endless (not to mention STEEP) steps coz I thought it would take us to Latak Waterfalls. Apparently, it would lead us to the Tree Tower. Yep, we climbed all those steps just to climb a huge tree tower. Well, we decided not to climb it anymore, of course. We headed back down and took the RIGHT path to Latak Waterfalls.
^ At least we saw the Tree Tower. Hehe.
When I saw the waterfalls, all the exhaustion, heat and sweat were instantly wiped away. It was so worth it. PLUS we were the only ones in there. We had it all to ourselves. 🙂
So, of course we did what we had to do. We had fun doing the panoramic picture thingy again. Hahaha! We stayed there to cool down and bask in the breathtaking view. If only we had more time, I really want to see all 15 water falls.
Celine, me and our minions. LOL!
We were supposed to drop by the Grand Old Lady and Petroleum Museum over at Canada Hill, which was supposedly a must-see in Miri, but we had to check out of Venice Inn before 12 noon so we told Mr. Ah Heng to just take us back to the hotel. Not a big fan of hills and museums anyway. Haha!
After a quick shower, we checked out and headed to the famous Ming Cafe at Jalan North Yuseng Road. For the first time since we arrived in Miri, we finally met a fellow Filipino! Haha! So we were checking out the menu and I asked the pretty waitress in ENGLISH “How big is the Roti Canai? Is it big enough for two people?”, then she smiled and replied in Filipino “Maliit lang po yan.” I looked at her and laughed and I was like, “Pinoy ka pala teh!” XD XD XD It turned out that she was new, I think she had only been working there for 6 months… or less. I bumped into her in the ladies’ room and she told me she used to work in Brunei then she visited Miri for like a week, decided to try her luck and applied at Ming Cafe. She got accepted JUST LIKE THAT — without even a resume. Haha! That’s how easy it was to get a job in Miri. XD
Moving on, we ordered our food which was a bit overwhelming. WARNING: They have big servings at Ming Cafe. I think you can share one order with another person… unless you’re really starving. ^^ I ordered the pandan chicken… I think. ^^ And I honestly can’t remember what Celine ordered, but of course we took a picture. LOL. The mint tea is a MUST! It’s sooooooo minty. Haha! And of course we got ourselves some Roti Canai (cheese) which was freakishly HUGE. It is so not for one person lang. We were so full and we didn’t even get to finish our Roti Canai!
^ The freakishly huge Roti Canai
The Pinay waitress from Ming Cafe told me that we can buy souvenir and other stuff at the arts and crafts center below Mega Hotel. The entrance was a bit small and not very noticeable. Inside they have lots of key chains, pens, figurines and other mementos. You will notice a lot of SEAHORSE coz it’s Miri’s emblem. Don’t ask me why. We tried asking some locals ‘why is it seahorse?’ Nobody could give us a straight answer so we gave up. XD
Another thing that you should know about Miri, it’s soooooo difficult to get a cab anywhere. I mean, there was a queue of cab right outside Bintang Megamall but that’s the only place where we saw an abundance of cab. It’s like everyone in Miri has a car and there is a scarcity of cabs downtown. Or anywhere, for that matter. Luckily, we were able to get one in front of Mega Hotel and headed for the airport where our Air Asia flight back to Manila was DELAYED once again. This time it was delayed for more than 2 freaking hours! OMG. How consistent. >_<
Thus ends our adventures in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. It was very enjoyable, affordable and pretty exciting for me. I’m willing to go back to explore the other tourist places and to finally finish the trail at Lambir Hills National Park. ^^