After Kuching, Miri is the second-largest city in Sarawak, and won’t disappoint in terms of entertainment (malls, bars, restaurants etc). It’s also the birthplace of Malaysia’s petroleum industry – but we suspect that matters of a less industrial slant will be the main draw of making your way here!
Gunung Mulu National Park is the most popular reason for visitors, with Niah Caves a close second. Known as the northern gateway to Sarawak, Miri is also the main gateway for Loagan Bunut National Park and Lambir National Park, where you can find Sarawak’s largest natural lake.
National parks aside, there is enough to keep you occupied in Miri itself. For one, there are some excellent beaches here, with Luak Bay Esplanade in the city itself looking out onto the sea (so some great options for city/seafood dining here).
You’ve also got a number of parks (in fact, 14 in total!) – with a special mention going to Miri City Fan, a 26-acre park in the heart of the city – London eat your heart out! Another popular choice is the theme park Taman Awam Miri.
Finally, South East Asia’s largest Taoist temple – the Grand Lotus Hill (Lian Hua San) can be found right here in Miri, in the Krokop suburbs.
Where To Stay in Miri:
There are a number of backpacker-friendly places in the city, but our recommendation is Treetops Lodge if you’re after something a little more off-the-beaten-track. They are officially closed these days, but say they will open upon request some months of the year, send them an email to try your luck at email@example.com.
About 20 mins away from the centre, some accommodation here (that includes dorms and private rooms) is set in a purpose-built longhouse, and is bordered on one side by the forested jungle of Lambir and on the other by miles of beautifully pristine – and wonderfully deserted – beach.
For backpackers, Next Room Homestay is the cheapest option in Miri, with dorm beds at $7 USD. It’s not in the quietest location, with a couple of nightclubs nearby and breakfast leaves a little to be desired. That said, the rooms are clean and the beds are comfortable. All in all, good value for money.
For double rooms at reasonable prices, Chemara Boutique Hotel and La Mirina Boutique Inn both start at around $20 USD and are perfectly adequate, even if you may feel the word “boutique” has been applied somewhat liberally.
Things to do in Miri:
Approximately two hours away from Miri, there’s no adventure caving of the Mulu kind to be found here (see the following notes on Gunung Mulu if this is what you’re interested in!). Still, it’s an extraordinary place, not least because it houses the oldest remains of early humans in East Malaysia.
The wooden frames inside Trader’s Cave clearly show how humans once used it as a shelter, while The Great Cave – one of the largest in the world – displays the results of the first archaeological digs in 1957 (including a 40,000-year-old human skull, and log coffins from the Stone Age – yes, it was a burial site at one stage, too!).
Make sure to bring a light or head torch as the caves are pitch black. You’ll also need sturdy shoes and enough water. The walk to the furthest cave, (The Painted Cave), takes about two hours. There is a small souvenir shop set before the cave entrance but if it is after 3pm, it has probably closed. Make sure you bring enough water!
The Painted Cave stops letting visitors in at 1pm and the other caves at 3pm. The park officially closes at 5pm.
It is worth mentioning that although there are public buses departing from Miri every hour (final destination Bintulu), the buses don’t stop at the caves. You’ll need to get off at the junction with the rest stop. There is also a food court here. From this point, it takes approx 15 minutes by car to get to the caves. People previously recommended using Grab to reach the caves but since the COVID-19 outbreak, this isn’t always reliable. Sometimes the food stall owners at the rest stop may offer to ‘play’ taxi for around RM10 (Grab charges around RM18). The park offers rides to the bus stop but charges RM40. When it comes to catching the public bus back to Miri after visiting the caves, bear in mind that it will stop at the opposite side of the road in an alley. If you can’t find it, ask locals at the food court.
Gunung Mulu National Park:
A short plane ride from Miri and you’ll find yourself in Sarawak’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, home to Gunung Mulu Cave Network – that offers backpackers incredible caving opportunities.
To get here you can either take the 10-hour boat along the Melinau River from Miri or take a short plane ride. Read more about the National Park here.
Other things to do:
Aside from a vast array of forest walks, waterfall trips, boat trips along the Melinau River (where a number of indigenous tribes call home – including the Penan downriver at Long Iman), there are a number of great multi-day treks you can do here, including the climb to the Gunung Mulu summit, and the Pinnacles climb.
Both are challenging: the Pinnacles is almost vertical in some places, and the summit climb will take you 4 days! If you aren’t sure about these two, but still want to trek, you can always opt to hike to Camp 5 for the night before your return back to Park HQ. Camp 5 is also a stop-off point on The Headhunters Trail (that finishes at Limbang, a pretty town on the Limbang River).
By Karen Farini.