Background of Miri

Miri is Sarawak’s second largest city and was upgraded to a Resort City in 05.05.2005. It is a nice and low density place with many attraction. It is normally called the gateway of the north. It means that if any tourist wants to go to visit any remote or rural tourism site, they must pass by the City. The tourism site are mention below. Those are just a couple tourism spot. May more rural attractive sites or spot that were unexplored but only by the natives.

Early 1800’s prominent tribes in Miri were the Miriek and Kedayan who were fishermen and settled by the Miri river bank at the river mouth.

The Miri bazar in those days began to expand notably during the white Rajahs The Brooke Clan from England in the 1800’s. The diverse tribe began to join the Miriek mainly the Malays from Kuching, Pujabi and the Chinese.

The year 1882 the white administrator was Claude Champion de Crespigny  the Resident of Baram. One of de Crespigny’s successors, Dr. Charles Hose, persuaded the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company, a British subsidiary of Shell, to conduct exploratory drilling in the area, and on August 10 1910, the first oil was struck on a hill overlooking the small fishing village of Miri, at a depth of 123 metres.

The well, subsequently christened the “Grand Old Lady”, continued to produce oil until 1972. With the discovery of commercial quantities of oil, Miri was rapidly transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a booming oil town. By the mid 1920s it had become the administrative center of the Baram region, and continued to thrive until the onset of World War 2.

With current population of over 364,000 (in year 2010) people  who are from very diverse tribes. The year this article was compiled almost all tribes found in Sarawak are found in the Resort City Miri. The tribes are the Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan,Punan, Sembob, Murut, Berawans,lakiput, Tering, Bidayuh, Iban and many more smaller tribes.  

They moved in and settle in the city due to difficult economic factors at home when the timber booms reduced their operation in early 2000’s. So Miri is their second home while their first home in the rural areas were practically dusted.

Trade and economic booms began in Miri.

Under the administrative of Resident of Baram successor Charles Hose and the discovery of the first oil well few wells by the Anglo Dutch Saxon company were dug in surrounding areas on top of the Canada hills and the flat land at the foot to the hill. This rapidly transformed Miri fishing village bazaar to a booming oil town.

By the mid 1920s Miri had become the administrative center of the Baram region, and continued to thrive until the onset of World War 2.

Miri WAR Memorial  updates.

World War2 in South China Sea affecting Miri.

The Japanese occupied Malaya in World War II. Japanese forces attacked Singapore on December 10, 1941, and by February 15, 1941, the Japanese occupied the Malay Peninsula and Singapore.

On 13 December 1941, the Japanese invasion convoy left Cam Ranh Bay in French Indochina, with an escort of the cruiser Yura, the destroyers of the 12th Destroyer Division, MurakumoShinonomeShirakumo and Usugumo, submarine-chaser CH-7, and the aircraft depot ship Kamikawa Maru. Ten transport ships carried the advance party of the invasion force.

The Support Force—commanded by Rear Admiral Takeo Kurita—consisted of the cruisers Kumano and Suzuya and the destroyers Fubuki and Sagiri. The Japanese forces intended to capture Miri and Seria, then move on Kuching and the nearby airfields. The convoy proceeded without being detected and, at dawn on 16 December 1941, two landing units secured Miri and Seria with little resistance from British forces and the regment 2/15. Kuala Belait and Lutong were captured on the same day with around 10,000 Japanese soldiers ashore.

On 16 December 1941, Japanese forces landed at Miri, Sarawak having sailed from Cam Ranh Bay in French Indochina. Before landing in Labuan 1/1/1942.

During the invasion of Miri by the Japanese many event happened and left many memories and scars in the city.

The economic facilities and Oil industry were destroyed during the Japanese occupation period.

Burnt Oil Fields

By this time hundreds of donkey oil pumps were running and also oil storage facilities.

In December 16, 1941 when the Japanese arrived in Miri beach and Lutong Beach the small town of Miri was only protected by a group of British soldiers Regiment 2/15 who were Punjabi and police officers around 50 persons. The authorities command their soldiers and guards to burn all the oil facilities. Most likely they just torched them and not using any bombs or granite. But most of the facilities were not damaged by the Japanese invasion but by the Punjabi and the Gurkhas British soldiers. Shop houses, resident houses, oil workers home and oil facilities were destroyed. They were taken as prisoner of war by the Japanese after they were defeated.

Resident who disobeyed the Japanese war administraters were excecuted. The first Malay local who defended his village was called Mentali Bin Usang. He was executed in the early morning on Dec 16,1941. This was the start of the so called Miri mass Masacre whereby many locals were executed with Mentali. They were merciless in that war.

After the war the British government later put his graveyard at the place where he protected and massacred. The place was called Rumah Api Tanjong Lobang.

Miri under WWII Memories


As witness by a missionary the late Hudson Southwell in his book “Uncharted waters” he saw many oil field and facilities were burnt by the British troops before the Japanese arrived in Miri. Their effort were not effective to cut the oil resources that can be utilized by the Japanese later on.Some resident saw these activities were carried out by the Japanese occupiers but it was not.Southwell was the pioneer Christian missionary who converts many rural tribes in Baram and Limbang into Christianity. Not only he was a missionary but also a multi-talented person who teach these tribes carpentry, basic medical techniques and health.His operation center was called Bukit Sabun in a rural area at Long Lama bazaar at that time. This is where he built his workshop to teach rural young men about carpentry and a small school to teach them basic skills in education.Many have graduated from his effort to become pastors, teachers and carpenters at that time.

Discoveries of post Japanese war Administration

Jap hideoutTunnels and Hideout from aerial attacks and bombardment were found at the foot of the Canada hill. This is a small sized tunnel that can accommodate maybe 20 soldiers. The man made tunnel is shaped like a semi circle with both ends open. During the discovery in year 2020 there were nothing found and its just an empty tunnel.

Rumors circulated around that there may be hidden gold bars  somewhere in some other tunnel. I think people have to refer to the Japanese government for any records.

One of the best kept until middle of the year 2020  was the graveyard or cemetery  at the Canada hill foot of slope. All graves have been exhumed and relocated at the common ground at the Lambir graveyard. This make ways for a 5 star international hotel to be built on the ground.

Recent discovery includes a man-made waterfall at the side of the hill. The facilities is still good except covered with undergrowth and trees. I am determined that this waterfall be rebuild by the government of the day to make it as one of the tourist attraction in the City.

Waterproof lighterTake this lighter along whenever you go into the jungle because of the jungle wet condition you may not be able to make any fire. This lighter is water proof and can light a fire even when wet.

Since Miri was one of the place occupied by the Japanese during the World war 2 there must be more site that were created by them either for administration, hide out like tunnels, ammunition storage/depot or workshop and so on.

The only “asset” discovered so far were the tunnel by the Canada foot hill and the man-made waterfall on the other side of Canada Hill. There must be some more epic sites.

I am very sure that many war veteran especially the Miriek in Miri experienced many hardship during the war.

Economy of Miri.

The economic booms started after the world war 2 whereby more oil workers both local and foreigners were recruited.

The foreigners or expatriats established their specialty shops like sundry, bar “The Ship” , the Bounty at Piasau Garden and coffeeshop to cater themselves. The shops were set up in Piasau area while their quarters were in Piasau peninsula called Piasau Camp. The place is now abandon and managed by the government.

They also set up their own school to cater their children only. This school ‘Piasau School’ was set up in Piasau Camp housing are.

Many privately owned facilities like hospitals, buildings, and oil facilities managed by Shell were handed over to the local government in the 60’s onward. Those were the former Miri General hospital located at the Pulau Melayu peninsula, hospital at Brighton and housing estate at Brighton in Tanjong Lobang,

When the oil production were depleting onshore in Miri the Shell company began to shut them down and remove the facilities. These areas were the Canada Hill, Pujut and Lutong. During this time oil was discovered offshore Miri.

Those area abandoned were now developed into resident housing and shop houses. Those were the Boulevard Shopping Mall, Inland revenue building, Baitumal building, and many more along Pujut Road.

Miri was booming from early 1980’s when more oil were discovered offshore Miri as more and more oil workers settled in the town.

Miri Resort City.

Seeing the town is flourishing and located at the northern region of Sarawk, the local authorities rename the town into a Resort City in 05-05-2005. This was because this place is the gate way for rural tourism places like the Batu Niah Caves, Mulu Caves, Miri reef, may waterfall in Baram like the Mariggong Waterfall in Akah river, Julan and Takiwit water fall in Baram.

Akah Merigong waterfall is actually the highest waterfall in far out reach Akah river. Untouched naturally and has a thunderous sound in the forest. Only one Penan settlement village nearby that is about 50 KM upstream. Many history for this place. Since the Akah river is the only passage to come down and up the main river the resident further up this place are the Kelabits of Long Lellang.

Many of them capsized at this waterfall. They normally pull up and down their boat through the steep mountainous edge of the river bank when they need their boat again. Since an airstrip is set up at Long Lellang they never see this waterfall again.

For the new resort City in general more schools were set up, some historical site were refurbished. The Pulau Melayu peninsula was developed into a shopping areas. The hospital was relocated to another site opposite the Canada Hill.

The Shell workers the ‘Los’ was developed into a fun spot “City Fan” and other shopping area. Shell airstrip at Lutong in now developed into resident housing areas.

New shopping sites such as Bintang Plaza, Permaisury mall, Boulevard Mall are now popular shopping site. Accommodations site such as Mega Hotel, Miri Hotel, imperial hotel Miri, Pullman Hotel Miri and Mulu Resort, Marriot Hotel and Dynasty Hotel are now providing conducive plays to stay.

Location of Akah Merigong Fall @3.473120, 115.041797

Place of Attraction

Miri Niah caveBatu Niah: This is one of the UNESCO site in the country. It has big chamber of granite stones and a place for thousand of swiftlets. There were many discoveries in the cave itself such as burial place or graveyard carbon dated to 4,000 years old human remains. Currently one of the top most visited site.

From the city it can take 40 minutes drive to arrive at the registration house. From there you need to use engine propelled long boat to go across to the jetty. It take about 20 minutes to walk on the wooden plank walkway through the forest and to the mouth of the cave. Inside the cave is dark and you need a torchlight to take along the slippery foot path inside.

Along the walkway there are few vendors typically the Ibans who sell handy crafts.

Mulu CaveMulu Caves: The site is another verified UNESCO world heritage site . One of the cave chambers is very big much bigger than an Olympic field.

The Mulu park is famous for its caves and the expeditions that have been mounted to explore them and their surrounding rainforest, most notably the Royal Geographical Society Expedition of 1977–1978, which saw over 100 scientists in the field for 15 months. This initiated a series of over 20 expeditions now named the Mulu Caves Project.

The limestone buttresses of Gunung Api, Gunung Benerat and Gunung Buda hug the steep contours of Gunung (Mt) Mulu – a sandstone matrix mountain that absorbs millions of litres of tropical rainfall to discharge it into/under the limestone lenses.

Combined with the steep relief (Mulu Summit is 2376m above sea level) and superabundance of rain, the quality Melinau limestone is shaped into a subterranean world of abnormally huge chambers, massive underground rivers and amazingly shaped speleothems, unique to tropical areas only.

Sand was the result of a land plate dipping underneath another plate. The sheer pressure of these two grinding land plates that lasted for 20 million years, resulted in an accumulated layer of 5 km thick under the sea. On top of it a 1,5 km band of limestone formed.

Both formations were raised 5 million years ago to form the present landscape of Mulu. It is made up of limestones. You can notice the site from the air. It has sharp limestone pointing to the sky. Some have lost their lifes here at the pinacle of limestone when they fall down by the edge.

The abundant rainwater as well as ground waters combined forces to penetrate the limestone and to start a chemical process of dissolving the rock to form one of the longest cave systems in the world as well as the biggest enclosed space in the world.

Miri diving siteMiri Reef: Miri is a popular dive destination due to an abundance of pristine patch reefs. The Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park, lying at depths ranging from 7 to 30 metres has an average visibility of 10 to 30 metres. There are also some interesting wreck dives. The nearest dive site is a mere ten minutes from the marina bay jetty.

One can land in Miri and be in water two hours later. Local dive operators offer certification programme as well.  Water temperature at the start of the season is normally 26 to 27ºC but can be as low as 23ºC at depth, as the NE monsoon still brings in cold water from the northern Pacific. By May the water temperature reaches the more normal 29 to 30ºC. 

The best time to go diving in Miri is from late March through November each year.  The diversity and accessibility of corals and other marine life on the reefs is amongst the best in the region. 

The interest with the reef started by few diving club in Miri in late 1990’s.

Here are some interesting diving sites.

Sewa reefEve’s Garden (15 minutes from jetty by boat)
It is a shallow reef just 7 to 2 meters deep is carpeted with soft corals such as leather corals, elephant’s ear sponges and sea whips.  Giant anemones and clown fish are all over the reef.  This reef is also characterised by the schooling yellow tail fusiliers and angelfish.

Anemone Garden (30 minutes from jetty)
This is one of the most interesting reefs with depth ranging from 0 to 10 meters.  Both hard and soft corals thrive in splendid diversity.  Anemones and their symbiotic clown fish are found in abundance.  Bubble corals, staghorn corals and the colorful Dendronepthya soft corals.  Other surprises are feather stars, giant clams and nudibranchs, with schooling yellow tails also found in exaggerated numbers.

Belais Reef (30 minutes from jetty)
This site is like an open zoo in the sea; the pelagic – sea fans – large gorgonian fans of over 4 metre span, red, orange, white whip corals, yellow coral trees are found in their own concentration, spread over a 19,000 square meter complex.  Along the ‘walkways’ are angelfish, butterfly fish, sea perch, lizardfish, and nudibranchs.  Jacks and yellow snappers are found in abundance.  Batfish are also common among the long swaying sea whips or hovering blithesomely over outcrops whilst being serviced by entourage of cleaner wrasse and shrimps.  Reef top is at about 15 metres and the site is absolutely a photographer’s heaven.

Tukau Drop-Off (50 minutes from jetty)
Diving here challenges the senses; the reef starts at about 20 metres and drops quickly to 40 metres; often there is a vertical wall.  Schooling jacks, barracudas, Napoleon wrasse, yellowtail fusiliers, and large groupers are predictably found.

Santak Point (45 minutes from jetty)
Blue water, glass fish and sea fans are the signature of this site;  with an average visibility of 30 meters or more, the sea fans, large colonies of gorgonian fans of 2-3 metres in size are found all over the top of the reef at 21 metres.  The reef edge drops to 35 meters.

Siwa Reef (35 minutes from jetty)
The most interesting section of this reef is along the lower reef slope where leopard sharks and huge marble rays hang out during the day.  This site is full of surprises in small packages; orange clownfish in purple anemones to several species of nudibranch.

Barracuda Point (45 minutes from jetty)
A reef within a reef; this is a site on Salam reef where a school of 300 large barracudas are predictably swirling in a never ending circle.  Diving at a depth of 25 metres you can see flatworms, sea horses, symbiotic shrimps and seldom seen nudibranchs are also commonly found.

Sri Gadong Wreck (1 hr 10 minutes from jetty)
This is one of the favourite diving sites among local divers; resting upright on a 18- metres mud bottom, this small 30-metre cargo ship is renowned for its large resident groupers. The whole wreck is teeming with fish life in entirety. Jacks, yellow grunts, batfish and barracudas encircling around the wreck while the giant groupers swim in and out of the cargo holds.

Kenyalang Artificial Reef
A decommissioned oil rig, this is the first artificial reef in Malaysia and 2nd in the region.

There are many more attractive spots in the interior such as waterfalls, mountains, and timber camps. All are reachable by land.

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