Tuai ewu' aku' means 'Come follow me' in the language of the indigenous Penan peoples of Sarawak, Borneo. This blog is an invitation to you to follow me on my big adventure to learn about this tribe and experience the natural beauty of Borneo. Tuai ewu' aku' ! x

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Miri - Its not a pretty city.

 Dear friends,

Its my last day in the town of Miri, a place I've been in so many times on this trip, but haven't mentioned once.

This fact has gotten me thinking a little bit..  Isnt it true, that when we are in our 'everyday' lives, we sometimes we see we see our friends' travel photos - smiles, cities, beaches..and we think WOW, I wish I could be there, doing what they are doing.  Well, if you've ever felt that way, (in fact if you've felt that way looking at my photos, for instance), then this post might offer some important balance.

When travelling, there are the places that you want to go to, and the places that you have to go to, to get to the places you want to go to.!  For me, during this time in Borneo, visiting the Penan, that place has been the oil-boom town of Miri.  Miri is the 'jump-off' point for trips into many Penan villages, it is a great place to stock up on necessities for your trip, visit a doctor, and get a drink.  But, it has to be said, Miri is not a pretty city.

Miri Architecture
According to my guide book, Miri experienced bombing during the second world war, which destroyed many of its British-built buildings.  The Malaysian government which then took over seem to have followed the Nautical-Carpark school of architecture, because so many of Miri's buildings look like closed in carparks with portholes.

Dare you to get a blood test here
Buildings also feature..doors going to nowhere!

And the air-conditioner is the Miri facade of choice, but watch for drips if you are walking underneath.

Miri Nightlife
The nightlife here is...confusing.
One of the first nights I came here, I thought I'd check out this friendly looking 'Music Cafe';

One glance inside, however, revealed it to be full of young women, and they all stared at me wierdly.  I only found out later that these fairly innocent looking karaoke places are places where men pay premium prices to sing with a woman on their lap.

Miri er, landmarks
 This rather big traditionally painted vase appeared HUGE on the map. Let down.
Its quite big
 Miri tourism is very proud of the 'Unity Tower', but honestly..
Miri Town Planning
In Miri, the air-conditioner rules the sky, and the car rules the street (the cat rules the night!).  While walking around Miri, I got the impression that all pedestrians are assumed to be poor, and therefore not worth catering for by city planners.  There are hardly any proper, push-button crosswalks, and those that exist don't work.  In Miri, you just have to get used to running across four lanes of traffic.
Miri Shopping
Once you have mastered the road-sprint, it can be quite entertaining to have a stroll and read Miri's diverse shop signs.
I meant to get my human life serviced, but I ran out of time..
I think gangsters live here
Every business, no matter how small, is an Enterprise

Honestly, when I first arrived in Miri, I was dismayed.  Looking around, I couldn't make any sense of the city - it didn't seem to have a centre, where people congregate, or a CBD.  Shops selling car parts were right next to bakeries, the hotels were also the shopping centres and people lived behind shop signs.

I thought to myself - I want to spend as much time in the Penan villages as possible because I don't know how long I can stay here....

But then, every time I passed through Miri again, it seemed that I liked it more..
Miri started to grow on me!

I learned to like Miri's somewhat unsuccessful but very earnest attempts at decoration;
These are electric trees
The shopping centre's nightly light and water fountain show. 

The Chinese temple with the scary paintings;
My favourite place to eat, Surabaya restaurant; (where the young male wait staff blush when they take my order!  hehe:))

Its library from the movie TRON, (the original);

Most of all, though, It's the Penan friends living here that are the reason I'll miss Miri..
Me with my friend, Hellen
Its not a travel destination - its a place to pass through, but its a home to some people and its been a temporary home to me. :)

So Long Miri!!

Ang x


  1. Angela, are you coming home?! Can't wait to see you!

    I know what you mean about Malaysian towns like Miri. We passed through many very much all like this when we were making our way to the Cameron Highlands. It is confusing at first but it was amazing how quickly you get used to the mechanic's worshop next to the bakery and the gaudy wedding gown store that it becomes almost a given!

  2. I've wanted you to post about where you were staying the whole time. Now I know why you were not so enthusiastic about doing so! Slummy or not, it's still interesting.

    I am glad you made it home safely. Now for the next leg of your adventure, wherever it may take you!

  3. Hi Angela

    Finally got round to reading your blog! Very nice write up and some great photos and videos! I'm hoping to go back some time this year.