Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of Oil, Seahorses & Crocs

Last week, my girlfriend visited me here in Miri bringing some much needed warmth from Semenanjung. I gladly became her tour guide for her short stay in Miri.

Our 1st stop is the Petroleum Science Museum situated on top of the curiously named Canada Hill. This is where it all started, where oil was first found back during the days of the White Rajah.

Situated in front of the museum is a structure almost a century old, Well No 1 affectionately known as ‘The Grand Old Lady’, ignoring the obvious phallic symbolism behind the tall erection.

Exploration & production of oil moved offshore after the oil on top of the hill has been sucked dry. A few production platforms can actually be seen from the top of the hill, churning out thousands of barrels of oil per day that earned Miri the unofficial nickname of Oil Town.

Entrance to the strikingly designed museum is free but sadly many of the exhibits are in bad conditions.

After the short history lesson on oil & how it catalyzes the growth of the city, we visited another symbol of Miri - the Seahorse. While not as famous as their feline friends of Kuching, the mascot of the city can be found everywhere - in the middle of a roundabout, on key chains, on the signboard of a food court etc.

Perhaps the largest of them all is the Seahorse Lighthouse, which took us a couple of wrong turns before finally finding the place.

How a city known more for its oil came to be associated with the sea creature is unknown, but statues of seahorses in the middle of a busy roundabout are definitely more aesthetically pleasing than a monument of oil barrels.

The next day, we went to Brunei, a country so boring it deserves a blog post of its own.

On the 3rd day & running out of places of attraction to go, we decided to visit Miri’s Crocodile Farm. Entrance fee is quite steep at RM 10 & since it’s a Monday, the place is eerily deserted. There is a mini zoo if crocodiles aren’t exactly your cup of tea.

Not much to see though except for some bored looking monkeys, a sleeping leopard cat, a hungry & desperate stork chewing on rocks, a pair of stressed out sun bears and what the sign claimed to be the world’s most dangerous bird, the Cassowary.

The desperate stork

But the star attraction is of course the crocs. We climb up the wooden platform, built using planks with gaps in between so you can have a good look of your killer in the unfortunate incident of one of the planks giving way, to have a better view.

Crocodiles aren’t very animated or active creatures, preferring to lie around for hours on end under the sun. Having been around since the time of dinosaurs, I believed such behavior to be the pinnacle of evolution.

It’s supposed to be feeding time at 11.30am but perhaps due to the global economic slowdown, there isn’t any chicken throwing feeding frenzy that day. I am sure the crocs aren’t happy with such cost cutting measures. Somebody bail out these poor crocodile farmers please…

Just before the exit is the obligatory souvenir shop, for those who preferred their crocodiles dead and in a variety of colours.

Before flying back to KL, she bought some black pepper & rattan baskets as souvenirs from exotic Sarawak. That concludes our little tour of Miri city and it will be a couple of months before we see each other again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

There Is Something About Miri

Kolok Mee

Miri people have an unhealthy obsession with kolok mee. There are stalls selling the exact kind of noodles EVERYWHERE!

Kolok mee is actually like wantan noodles tossed in oil, top with minced pork & char siew. Unlike wantan mee though, it does not have soy sauce so it looks pale in comparison.

It's simple & cheap, you can get a bowl at around RM2.30. But I find it bland & oily. The popularity of this noodle really baffles me.

Maybe it's an acquired taste. Maybe it will slowly fall in love with it. Maybe I will even crave it when I went back to KL. But right now...I am just not that into it.

This is kinda cute

Pimp My 4WD

I had this impression that many people in Sabah & Sarawak drove 4WD because of the bad condition of their roads. But I found out that it's only partially true here in Miri.

You are more likely to find Myvis & SLKs (Small Little Kancils) on the roads than pick up trucks. That being said, pick up trucks are a common sight around town.

And they are not ordinary 4WDs mind you. The 4WDs here are usually extensively modified with large chrome grilles & bling bling wheels. They make the Kelisa-with-oversized-exhaust-pipes owners in Semenanjung look like wussies.

The roads in Miri aren't that bad either. In fact, I am surprised the pick up truck isn't as popular in KL, it will be perfect for navigating our pot hole filled roads.

This is just desperate


Aah..this is the latest buzz word coined by our beloved & highly respected PM. I can probably imagine the reaction of the people here in this part of Malaysia to be...

"Har? What is that guy on the TV talking about?"

People here in Miri learn to coexist in harmony with each other. Not far from our office, a church stood side by side a mosque sharing a common perimeter fence.

Some Chinese can speak Iban, while the Ibans can speak Foochow.

Just last week, while I was 'enjoying' my non-halal kolok mee in a Chinese kopitiam, I saw a Muslim family sit a few tables away ordering food from a Muslim operated stall situated in the same shop.

I must be the only one who noticed it as the other patrons continued enjoying their breakfast without batting an eye.

1Malaysia? People here have been living as one all along.

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