Miri ~ Sarawak
Miri is the 2nd largest city in Sarawak and has a population of 300,000 people with a mixture of Chinese, indigineous tribes who have moved down from their native lands that have been logged, and Malays (mostly immigrated to Miri by way of government postings or from forefathers emigrating from Brunei).
Miri is Sarawak and Malaysia’s first Oil producing area. Oil was first officially recorded in 1882 by Claude Champion de Crespigny, the British Resident of the Baram district in Sarawak. The locals had been using this black substance long before, collecting it for medicinal use, for waterproofing of boats and for lighting oil lamps. It was not until 1910 when the first oil company moved in to exploit its wealth.
Sarawak Shell were given the sole rights to mining oil in Miri until 1954 when the onshore oilfields dried out and exploration turned to the rich oil wells located in the seedbeds. Today, the oldest Oil Well in Miri is a reminder of the humble beginnings of Sarawak and more appropriately, Malaysia’s dependence on this commodity that has made the country what it is. The oil well is affectionately called ‘The Grand Old Lady’ and is located on Canada Hill. According to local myth, the hill is named such because of a Canadian who relocated in the early years as a recruitment manager, recruiting local and foreign workers as hands at the oil wells that quickly sprung up around the area.
After a productive run with an estimated 660,000 barrels of oil drawn from the oil well, The Grand Old Lady was shut down in 1972. Next to the Grand Old Lady, the Miri Petroleum Science Museum exhibits the history and technicalities of the industry. Miri has not much else to do and so a visit to this museum would be pretty much the highlight of your stay. Imagine highlighting Curtin University as a major tourist destination in the ‘Visit Miri brochure’, that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel!
For those interested in parks and gardens, there are a total of 14 such locations around Miri locale. Miri also has their share of music festivals with its International Jazz Festival held May annually.
The other interesting place of visit is the tamu market called Tamu Muhibbah. It’s open daily and is located just a stone’s throw from the Tourist Information Centre. There are 2 sections to the market: the wet section where local and imported vegetable and meat produce are sold and the dry section where you can get local fruits like Buah Salak, durian, lime on sale here. Hill rice from Bario and Ba’Kelalan is also on sale here. The indigenous people bring their produce from the hills and jungles to sell here. However, it’s certainly more noticeable that compared to a decade ago, the variety in jungle produce has reduced greatly. The local people laments that it is not due to the weather conditions (Miri has been encountering strange weather conditions in recent years) but because there really isn’t much of a jungle for them to go to.
Miri is more like a transit point for most tourists or travellers. From this city, travel out to :
Lambir Hills National Park, Niah National Park and Caves, Mulu National Park, Ulu Baram Area, Bario and Ba’Kelalan and Loagan Bunut National Park.
Some 45minutes drive away from the city centre will take you to the bridge connecting Miri with Brunei.
Next .back to Singapore
The historical city of Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah. It is located in the east coast of Borneo Island and is the administrative centre of the Sandakan Division. It had served as the capital of the British North Borneo during the British colonial time.
Sandakan is famous as the gateway for eco-tourism destinations in Sabah such as the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, the Turtle Islands Park, Sukau Proboscis Lodge, and the archaeological Gomantong Caves. It is also the notorious site of a World War II Japanese airfield which was built by the forced labour of Javanese civilians and Allied prisoners of war. In 1945, the surviving prisoners were sent on the Sandakan Death Marches—after which only 6 survived the war.
This gateway to beautiful islands is located in the Tawau Division, in the East Coast of Sabah. It is known as an illustrious scuba diving and snorkeling spot. Semporna town is mainly populated by the Bajau Laut ethnic community, otherwise known as the Sea Gypsies—many of whom live in sprawling stilt villages above the water or inside the traditional Lepa boats.
The Regatta Lepa traditional boat race is held here annually in April. Semporna was also the finishing line of the Eco-challenge: Borneo, which was held in 2000. Off the coast is the Tun Sakaran Marine Park, also known as Semporna Islands Park which was gazetted by Sabah Parks in 2004.
Tawau is a city on the southern coast of Sabah, very close to the border to Indonesia. It dates back to the 1890s, when the area was first settled, and quickly developed into a centre for the export of agricultural products of the region. Nowadays Tawau is the world’s third largest producer of cocoa after the Ivory Coast and Ghana. While Tawau is a pleasant town and has a large number of hotels and restaurants, it does not offer much in term of tourist attractions. Most notable is the Al-Kauthar mosque, completed in 2004. The airport of Tawau, which has direct connections to KL, is the closest airport to Semporna and the Malaysian Celebes sea islands.
Mabul is a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia. The island has been a fishing village since 1970s. Then in 1990s, it first became popular to divers due to its proximity to Sipadan island.
Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus and bobtail squids are just a few of the numerous types of cephalopods to be found on Mabul’s reef. The sight of harlequin shrimp feeding on sea stars and boxer crabs waving their tiny anemone pom-poms are just a small example of the endless species of crustaceans. Many types of gobies can be found including the spike-fin goby, black sail-fin goby and metallic shrimp goby. Frogfish are everywhere. Giant, painted and clown frogfish are all regularly seen. Moray eels and snake eels of many types can be seen along with almost the whole scorpionfish family. It would be quicker to to list the species not found at Mabul-crazy critters are in abundance at this magical macro site!
Sipadan is a legend in diving circles and with good reason. It is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, one of the richest marine habitats in the world; where over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been identified. Apart from its supreme location, the island and the dive sites that surround it are filled with spectacular natural formations such as a 600m reef wall and a labyrinth of underwater limestone caves, where many turtles have met their doom.
The tiny island can be circled on foot in less than half an hour, but offers at least nine established dive sites with enchanting names like Hanging Garden, Turtle patch, White-tip Avenue, Coral Garden and Barracuda point.
Although diving is the main attraction of Sipadan, non-divers are welcome to join the diving boats to go snorkelling in Sipadan. Those that want to start exploring the depths can even complete a four day PADI diving course or a one day Discover Scuba Diving course, offered by all the dive centres on the island.
Sentosa Island is not called ‘Asia’s Favourite Playground’ for nothing. Sentosa, which means ‘peace and tranquility’ in Malay, is a man-made island located south of the Singapore’s city centre. Visited by millions of people every year, the popular resort is home to a variety of themed attractions, rainforests, stunning beaches, a yacht marina and posh residences. It is hard to believe that before Sentosa became Singapore’s most popular island resort getaway it was a fortress of the British forces in the 19th century. It was only in 1967 that the island was returned to the government and turned it into a holiday resort.
Situated on the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong’s strategic location on the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea has made it one of the world’s most thriving and cosmopolitan cities.
Hong Kong as we know it today was born when China’s Qing dynasty government was defeated in the First Opium War in 1842, when it ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain. Within 60 years, Kowloon, the New Territories and 235 Outlying Islands were also leased to Britain. However, the history of the more than 1100 square kilometres that Hong Kong now occupies predates the events of the Qing dynasty by more than a thousand years. And, as you explore the city’s colourful heritage, you’ll discover stories of powerful clans, marauding pirates and European traders.
From its earliest days as a British colony, Hong Kong served as a centre of international trade. In the turbulent years of the early 20th century, the city’s population was bolstered by refugees, mostly from China. The arrival of immigrants in large numbers helped launch a new role for Hong Kong as a major manufacturing hub. It also brought economically stimulating energy and industry to the city’s character. In recent decades, as the economy of Mainland China has undergone a process of opening up, Hong Kong has transformed yet again – this time into a service-based economy as well as an important gateway to the world’s largest market.
Under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. This arrangement allows the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade and freedom of speech.
A look at the city’s history could give a strong impression that change is the only constant here. However, despite all its reinventions, Hong Kong’s spirit has never changed. In fact, the same energy and dynamism that turned a group of sleepy fishing villages into a crossroads of international trade is now taking Asia’s world city into the 21st century. Experience that spirit and Hong Kong’s story yourself by exploring the city’s rich culture and heritage.
Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city with a population of over three million. Yokohama is located less than half an hour south of Tokyo by train, and is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture.
Towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1867), during which Japan maintained a policy of self-isolation, Yokohama’s port was one of the first to be opened to foreign trade in 1859. Consequently, Yokohama quickly grew from a small fishing village into one of Japan’s major cities.
Until today, Yokohama remains popular among expats, has one of the world’s largest chinatowns and preserves some former Western residences in the Yamate district.
Chuuk was originally part of the colonial territory of the Caroline Islands, and as such Chuuk has been a part of the Spanish Empire, then the German Empire and finally the Japanese empires.
During World War II, Chuuk Lagoon was the Japan’s main naval base in the South Pacific theatre. A significant portion of the Imperial Japanese fleet was based there, with its administrative center on Tonoas (south of Weno). Due to its heavy fortifications, both natural and manmade, the base at Chuuk was nicknamed by the Allied forces as “the Gibraltar of the Pacific”. In 1944 the U.S. forces attacked Chuuk under code name Operation Hailstone. The attack culminated in one of the most important naval battles of the war. Twelve Japanese warships, thirty-two merchant ships and 249 aircraft were destroyed.
After the War, Chuuk was one of six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which were administered by the United States under charter from the United Nations from the end of the Second World War to the early 1990s. Now Chuuk is a state within the independed Federated States of Micronesia.
In 1944 the US Navy conducted Operation Hailstone, the largest surface bombing campaign in history, wiping out a Japanese fleet stationed at the island. The seabed around Chuuk is now littered with nearly 70 wrecks of ships and planes, all protected from deep sea currents by a reef system, and most within depths appropriate for scuba divers.
Although Truk Lagoon contains a number of spectacular wrecks, the Fujikawa Maru is often singled out by diving magazines and travel guides as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
However, apart from scuba diving, there is not very much to do in Chuuk. There are no real beaches on Weno (although some of the outer islands which can be reached by boat do have beaches). None of the hotels on Chuuk even has a swimming pool. For non-diving spouses, a trip to Chuuk can be a dull and tiresome affair.
Honiara ,Salomon Islands,Located on the island of Guadalcanal, Honiara is the capital of the Solomon Islands. Once in the spotlight for riots and civil unrest, the city has pushed through hard times to become a popular holiday destination.
Centrally positioned within the archipelago, and rich in World War Two history and Melanesian culture, Honiara is a hub for travellers visiting the South Pacific.
Honiara’s food scene presents an exciting mix of fares and cultures. Traditional dishes and ingredients are sold at markets, road side stalls and small downtown eateries, while a number of globally-inspired restaurants dot the oceanfront and the town’s main streets.
Markets are an integral part of Honiara’s and the South Pacific’s food culture; selling fresh produce and ready-made traditional dishes. Located downtown, the Central Markets are the country’s principal food markets, covering a whole block on the seafront. The SDA Market is a go-to for fresh fish and a quick meal. While the Kukum Market offers fresh vegetables and betel nut.
Neighbourhood canteens are also a great way to discover the Solomon Islands culture. Typically very small – often tiny shacks covered with chicken wire to prevent robberies – local canteens are akin to western-style corner stores, selling everything from mobile phone top-ups to canned goods.
A large expat community sees Honiara foster a modern and diverse international dining scene. Cuisines from all over the globe are represented at a number of reputable restaurants and cafes. Club Havanah is one of the area’s most famous restaurants, frequented by expats who indulge in the French fare, and mingle with local glitterati. On the waterfront, enjoying views of Savo, Raintree Café is another favourite Honiara haunt; serving bountiful pizzas and renowned deserts. A Honiara institution, rarely short of a crowd, Point Cruz Yacht-Club is best known for its cold Solbrew and simple western-style dishes. While downtown, Lime Lounge is a meeting point for expats, plating up satisfying breakfast and light meals.
As an island paradise with a sultry tropical climate, Honiara is privy to an abundance of fresh seafood. Sea King garners high praise for its Chinese-style seafood infused dishes. Cheap and very central, Garden Seafood also serves Chinese seafood staples such as sweet-and-sour fish fillet or prawns with nuts.
Shopping in Honiara proves to be an interesting and exciting experience. Markets bustle with fresh food, clothes and knick knacks, while outlets and shops brim with trinkets and intricately-designed handicrafts.
Atmospheric and bustling, Honiara’s main wharf provides a snapshot of Solomon Islands life. Pick through the chaotic Central Markets for hotchpotch mix of fresh local produce – including vegetables, fruits, fish and betel nut – and custom shell money and jewellery. A busy collection of stalls can be found set up near the wharf Monday through to Sunday.
Honiara is a great place to pick up souvenirs. A number of gift shops speckle the downtown area, selling a wide range of interesting souvenirs. The Melanesian Shop, Island Artefacts, King Solomon Gifts, Nautilus Gifts and the National Museum all stock similarly-priced handicrafts. Betikama Carvings is a great spot to pick up wood and stone carvings as well as woven baskets, shells and furniture. Betikama also features a scattering of war memorabilia.
Clothes shopping in the Solomons is generally limited to sarongs and tourist tees; however there are a number of second-hand shops that sell well known – albeit used – big-name brands. Charities in Australia and New Zealand ship bales and containers of second-hand clothes, books and bric-a-brac to the Solomons, to stores like: Island Clothing, XJ6, Hidden Kaleko Shop and Lei Clothing. It’s easy to tell when a new bale has arrived in store, as typically there is a large line of locals waiting for the shop to open. Chinatown is home to a few notable stores amid souvenir and local type stores.