My 4 years trip around the world ,part 16 ,MIRI -SARAWAK

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.

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Next .back to Singapore

My 4 years trip around the World ,part 15,SANDAKAN &SEMPORNA

Sandakan

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.

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Semporna

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.

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My 4 years trip around the World ,part 13 SINGAPORE SENTOSA ISLAND

Sentosa 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.

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Next Borneo

My 4 years trip around the World part 8 ,PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the rugged tropical island of New Guinea(which it shares with the Indonesian territory of Irian Jaya) as well as numerous smaller islands and atolls in the Pacific. The central part of the island rises into a wide ridge of mountains known as the Highlands, a territory that is so densely forested and topographically forbidding that the island’s local peoples remained isolated from each other for millennia. The coastline is liberally endowed with spectacular coral reefs, giving the country an international reputation for scuba diving. The smaller island groups of Papua New Guinea include the Bismarck Archipelago, New Britain, New Ireland and the North Solomons. Some of these islands are volcanic, with dramatic mountain ranges, and all are relatively undeveloped.

Nearly 85 percent of the main island is carpeted with tropical rain forest, containing vegetation that is a combination of Asian and Australian species. The country is also home to an impressive variety of exotic birds, including virtually all of the known species of birds of paradise, and it is blessed with more kinds of orchids than any other country.

Papua New Guinea’s climate is tropical, as one would expect in a country located just south of the Equator. December to March is the wet season, although occasional rain falls year-round. While Port Moresby, the capital, and other towns on the coast are quite hot in the summer months, temperatures are considerable cooler in the Highlands. July, August, and September are the best months for trekking vacations.

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Next Salomon islands .

My 4 years trip around the World ,part 7 .CAIRNS AND GREAT BERRIER REEF

Cairns, Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is a modern, sophisticated city, and is an ideal base to explore the wider Tropical North Queensland region with front door access to World Heritage listed Reef, Rainforest and Outback.

The city itself is where much of the accommodation is situated close to international standard restaurants, boutique shopping, modern art galleries and evening entertainment. All the attributes of a world class modern city are to be found in Cairns: International air access, rail systems, high-standard accommodation facilities, an art gallery, botanic gardens, university, a casino and a convention centre.
Over a century of architecture is reflected in the city streets – a comfortable blend of traditional Queenslander style and modern designs. There is enough of the old Cairns left for the astute visitor to imagine what the city was once like.
Modern buildings grace the cityscape with a mixture of architectural designs including the Reef Hotel Casino, Cairns International Hotel and the Cairns Convention Centre. A focal point for the city is the Cairns Esplanade. Almost two kilometres of landscaped parkland fringes a busy thoroughfare and restaurant strip on one side, and a natural harbour inlet on the other. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the Esplanade to relax on the grass, eat at sidewalk cafes, meet new people, to walk under the trees, and to watch the many bird species which come to feed on the tidal zone.

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Next Papua New Guinea

My 4 years trip around the world ,part 2 .KERGUELEN ISLANDS

The Kerguelen Islands or the Kerguelen Archipelago is a group of islands in the southern Indian Ocean. It is far far away from any civilization. It was discovered in 1772 by a French expedition and currently is a territory of France.
The Kerguelen Islands are located at 49°15′S 69°35′E. This places the archipelago just outside of the Antarctic circle. The main island, Grande Terre, originally called Desolation Island, is 6,675 km² and it is surrounded by another 300 smaller islands and islets, forming an archipelago of 7,215 km². All the islands combined, it is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. The climate is cold and very windy and the seas are usually rough.
There are many interesting animals and plants. These include penguins, seals, Kerguelen cabbages, rabbits, cats and fish.
The population of these islands is only about 110. Most are scientists or weather watchers. There is no risk of crime. Only danger may be the cold or getting lost.

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Visiting Fort Jefferson,Dry Tortugas ,Key West Florida ,2012

Perhaps the most unusual national park in the national park system is Dry Tortugas. It’s one of the smallest, one of the most remote, and one of the least visited. But it’s nevertheless a wonderful park, comprising seven small islands, coral reefs and other undersea attractions, and nesting areas for a variety of wild birds. The park includes some 64,657 acres of land above and below the water line.

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During and after the Civil War the fort began to be used as a prison for deserters and other criminals. In 1874 the army completely abandoned the fort after several hurricanes and a yellow fever epidemic, and it wasn’t until 1898 that the military returned in the form of the navy, which used the facilities during the Spanish-American War. The fort was also used from 1888 through 1900 as a quarantine station, and was garrisoned again briefly during World War I.

In 1908 the area was designated as a bird reserve and transferred to the Department of Agriculture. On January 4, 1935 it was designated as Fort Jefferson National Monument by President Franklin Roosevelt, the first marine area to be so protected. On October 26, 1992 the monument was upgraded to National Park status in a bill signed by President George Bush.
Journey to the Park

There’s no “easy” way to get to the Tortugas. The islands are located about 70 miles west of Key West in the waters of the Straights of Florida. A four hour boat ride is necessary to cross the waters of the straight which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Excursions are available on ferries by operated by several concessionaires, one of which can be seen below as it appeared in the 1996-1997 season.

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Little land is seen on the trip, except for a glimpse of the tiny Marquesas Islands not far from Key West, but the waters of Gulf are exceptionally beautiful. The imposing outline of the walls of Ft. Jefferson on Garden Key eventually comes into view, seeming so incredibly improbable in the middle of nowhere.

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The boat swings around the island, and the southeast corner of the fort can be seen, along with the beach which is evident on the southern portion of the key. These first views of what was the 19th century’s largest coastal fort are particularly impressive.

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Garden Key is almost completely covered by the fort. The red brick walls of the fort contrast strikingly with the blue-green waters of the Gulf which surround it, as can be seen in the picture below.

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Another view of the fort, and the lighthouse, is shown here.

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For some visitors there is a faster way to reach the park–by seaplane. In the picture below a row of planes are parked on the beach outside the entrance to Fort Jefferson. In fact, the island was used as a seaplane base during World War II.

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Outside Walls of Fort Jefferson

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The walls are surrounded by a moat. Although it might seem strange that a moat would be necessary outside a fort surrounded by miles and miles of ocean, it was intended to provide protection against not only potential invaders but also the relentless pounding of the surf. The view below looks toward the east along the south wall.

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The view below looks the opposite way and provides a clear view of the relationship of the moat to the walls of the fort. By any estimation the building of the fort was a remarkable engineering accomplishment. The foundation was laid 2 feet deep and 14 feet wide, underwater. The walls of the fort are 8 feet thick and about 50 feet high.

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Another view of the entrance to the fort can be seen in a picture taken from on top of the walls. The bridge (seen in the center of the picture) replaces a drawbridge which used to furnish the path across the moat into the fort.

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Fort Jefferson itself is six sided building constructed of 16 million hand-made red bricks. A closer view of the moat can be seen in this shot looking east toward the entrance of the fort. Construction of the moat was also an engineering challenge and was not completed in 1873.

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A view of a corner turret land a eastern wall is shown below.

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This section of the wall lies on the southwest portion of the fort. A walk, which lies on the outer wall of the moat, can be seen in the upper left portion of the picture. The moat is filled with sea water and turtle grass, jellyfish, sea squirts, yellow stingray, queen conch, mangrove snapper, bristle worms, sea cucumber.

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Although the walls are generally in good condition, in places considerable damage can be observed. Some of this damage has occurred as a result of a poor foundation which, by 1857, had already caused the walls to begin cracking as it settled. Other damage resulted from the accumulated effects of the powerful hurricanes which have periodically pounded the island.

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