Miri is the second largest city in Sarawak, not exactly famous for its touristic sites, but for being the main gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gunung Mulu National Park, Niah National Park, and Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park. As we had planned to visit only Niah National Park, we decided to spend a couple of days exploring Miri and its surroundings. The first thing we noticed on the way from the airport to the hotel was the several seahorse monuments all around the city, and later we found out that Miri has adopted the seahorse as its official symbol. During our stay, we discovered quite a few interesting things to do in Miri and places definitely worth a visit.
National Parks: Gua Niah and Lambir
Lambir Hills National Park and Niah National Park are the most visited national parks close to Miri. Lambir Hills is the closest and smaller, with a few waterfalls and nice, easy paths to enjoy nature, especially with younger kids. It’s a short drive from the city and in our opinion, it was enough to spend half a day visiting the park.
Niah National park and Gua Niah, on the other hand, are ranked as the second most important cave complex in Malaysia (after Mulu Caves) and almost a 2-hour drive from Miri, so we planned a whole day trip.
After we parked our car, purchased the tickets, and took a small boat (RM1 per person) to cross the river, we visited the Archaeology Museum (free admission) that gave us information on the history of Niah Caves. The trail to the caves begins next to the museum and we were stunned by the rainforest surrounding the path, part wooden plank walk and part a concrete path. The kids had a good time observing and taking photos of unique insects, butterflies, and plants on the way.
The first cave we visited was “Traders’ Cave”, which is really a rock overhang rather than a true cave, but the view is breathtaking. After a five minute walk, we got to the massive “Great Cave”, one of South East Asia’s most important archaeological sites.
There, the real adventure began, as we decided to go all the way to the darkest part of the cave, where we couldn’t proceed without a torch. The trail is on planks and the way is pitch-black, but there are direction signs from time to time and as long as you stick to the path, you cannot get lost. Be prepared to have a few screeching bats for company.
Finally, we returned to daylight revealing that we were now in another large cave. A short walk and we arrived at the last cave, called the “Painted Cave”, for the ancient human figures drawn on the wall by the prehistoric inhabitants.
We really enjoyed the adventure and it was also very educational to the kids. It’s a place suitable for everyone, but for kids that are too young and not capable of walking for about 4 hours without wanting to be carried or afraid of the dark, you might just consider going as far as the Great Cave and then turn back.
Our favourite Miri beach was Tusan Beach – definitely the most beautiful and the one we spent most time exploring. Tanjong Lobang and Luak Esplanade are also very popular.
This great stretch of sandy beach at the foot of a cliff is the most visited beach in Miri. The way to the beach has carved steps out of sand and clay and a bamboo handrail to hold on the way down. On a rainy day, it will probably be very slippery and dangerous, especially for younger kids. So be extra careful.
Tusan beach’s highlight is a rock formation of a horse head with its mouth down as if drinking water from the sea. This is a great place for a memorable photo. The kids found a different highlight thought; “the golden clay” as our daughter named it. We found this unique clay under a hidden cave along the beach and the kids spent some time there making animals and objects out of clay.
After watching the stunning sunset from the cliff we went to a local fresh seafood restaurant and came back at night in the hope that we would be able to see the famous “blue tears”. It’s a natural phenomenon that occurs at Tusan Beach when a type of plankton produces a blue luminescence in the seawater at night. Unfortunately, that wasn’t our lucky night, but we already knew it didn’t happen frequently.
Miri has the most beautiful and well-crafted handcrafts I’ve seen so far in Malaysia. Unlike many other cities, including Kuala Lumpur, most of the items are really hand made from locals and not imported from China. The prices are not so cheap, but there we found unique tribal art souvenirs.
Tips for visiting Miri:
- Don’t forget to bring a strong sun cream. Although the parks are full of old shady trees, the sun is very hot and the trees were not enough to block all the rays.
- Mosquito repellent is a must especially at the beaches, where there are lots of sand flies.
- Wear Proper footwear to the parks as the way can be slippery in case of rain and inside the caves, the mounds of bat guano are also quite slippery.
- Wear a hat, in case you don’t want to risk to have any bat or bird droppings in your hair.
- It might be a good idea to bring also a change of clothes and leave it in the car. Even if it doesn’t rain, the kids will probably be soaked with sweat after the long walk.
- A hand or head torch is essential to visit the caves as you will walk in totally dark areas.
- Don’t forget to bring some water with you. There were a few stalls before the entrance to the first cave, with local ladies selling water, soft drinks and a few souvenirs.
- Bring some cereal bars or light snacks to eat on the way. We didn’t see any monkeys around.