Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Miri

Miri is in the state of Sarawak, which extends the length of Borneo down to the southern coast. 29% of the people in Sarawak are Chinese. It is the largest state in Borneo and is known as the "Land of the Hornbills".
A little bit of history - Western Borneo was traditionally trading ports and there was regular trade with China and the East Indies and England from very early on. The Sultanate of Brunei ruled much of North Borneo in the 15th -17th centuries. In teh 19th Century, james Brooke, an Englishman was given the area to rule after suppressing a rebellion. Their family ruled for 100 years and were known as White Rajas. The Japanese occupied Borneo between 1941 - 45. In 1945, it was liberated the Australians helped it to recover from the war. In 1963, it declared its independence. Miri is one of the northernmost cities. Much of the population resides along the western coast as the inland and eastern areas are not well developed, with few roads. Those areas remain forested, or are palm groves and farms. Many of the tribal groups still reside in those remote areas.

We learn that traveling to Mulu to see the caves takes more than a day and we decide to stay in Miri and explore the small town. We spend some time shopping and eating before heading to Kuching. Malaysia is one country where so many races of people live harmoniously. Black haired people are predominant but their ancestry may be Malaysian, Chinese, Indian or a combination. Christians and Muslims have a seemingly mutual respect for each other. The call to prayer sounds regularly and women in headscarves are a common sight, yet people wish each other a Happy Chinese New Year and at first glance, it is difficult to distinguish one race from another.

We walked to Canada Hill, the sight of the first oil well in Malaysia and spent the afternoon at the petroleum museum which was quite interesting. The displays show the process of oil exploration all the way to production. Dinner at the Imperial Hotel was surprisingly good.

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