Aside from our time visiting the amazing Niah Caves, we had five more days in the Sarawak region of Malaysian Borneo. During this time, we used the town of Miri as a base to explore the region of north-east Sarawak. During this time, we spent most of our evenings staying in Somerset Hotel, a decent “No durian” hotel in Miri.
There wasn’t a great deal to do or see in Miri, but we did spend a bit of time wandering around the town. There was a fairly impressive Chinese temple there, and a healthy looking market. One thing we noticed in Miri that we haven’t come across anywhere else, was that people offered us fruit when we were walking down the street, or taking a taxi – or sitting around doing nothing. From this respect, the people of Miri seemed very hospitable. I got the impression that not a lot of tourists go wandering around the town, as I got a lot of curious looks and smiles during our outings.
One interesting place we visited was Ming Café, a really odd place which was sort of Westernised, served beer, and yet had a lot of local families dining. We partook of the dirt cheap Indian buffet, which was delicious. Still, there was something that didn’t quite ring right there, and I think it might have been the middle-aged sleazy looking older western men which seemed to frequent the place. In fact, there was a generally slightly sleazy feel about Miri, which we hadn’t experienced elsewhere in Malaysia. There seemed to be a lot of dodgy looking bars about the place – I think it might be somewhere which certain Brunei citizens visit to “let loose” a bit!
While in Miri, we visited Lambir Hills National Park, and stayed in the accommodation at the park headquarters. Well, it was an interesting place to stay. We were the only ones there for the two nights we stayed, and as such were the only ones using the on-site café, pretty much the only ones doing any walks, and definitely the only ones being bitten by hordes of mosquitoes. The accommodation was very basic, and a wee bit grotty feeling. The bathroom was clean, but smelled of those little smelly sanitizers they put in public loos – ewww!
There were a couple of interesting walks which we did. First was the quite short walk to Latak Waterfall, just 20 minutes from the park headquarters. This was a brilliant and clean waterfall and bathing pool, with a few little fish flitting about. Brilliant for us to cool off after wandering about in the jungle, but we had to be careful of the ever-present mosquitoes which went after any bit of exposed skin! We visited this waterfall a couple of times, and both times had it all to ourselves – it was excellent!
The second walk we did was a 9km walk to and back from Pantu Hill. It was pretty tiring wandering about in the humid jungle, and after an hour or so I was sodden from all the sweat. I was dripping constantly, and no matter how much water I drank I seemed to sweat out twice as much! The walk was hard work, and a lot of ascending and descending meant we were pretty tired by the time we got to the climax of the trek – the hill itself. Just a few hundred metres above sea level, the view was still well worth the hard work, and we could see for miles around.
The trek itself was very interesting, and we saw plenty of wildlife and interesting plants. The most interesting animal we saw were giant ants – you see pretty big ants around South-east Asia, but none as big as these ants – I kid you not, some were the size of small mice! A part of me wished that an Orang-utan would come swinging through the trees past us but they don’t live in this particular park, and as predicted none came. We did, however, spot a wasp nest. In fact, we unwittingly stopped right next to one. I felt a jab on my leg, and thinking that I’d been bitten by one of the giant ants, swatted it away. I then got a jab on the hand, and subsequently spotted angry looking wasps flying out of a hole in the ground. I screeched at Mahmoud to run, and bounded off down the hill, fuelled by a bit of adrenaline. We didn’t get stung again, but my stings swelled up a fair bit – ouch!
Once our time in Miri was over, we flew back to Kota Kinabalu on a very short 50 minute flight. I was really pleased that we’d managed to get to Sarawak – I felt that we got to see some amazing sights in both Niah Caves and also Lambir Hills, and we’d gotten to experience a bit of Borneo that we otherwise would have missed.