An early start for the 7am bus to Miri 4 1/2 hrs away. We left on time with a total of 4 passengers and drove very slowly out of town and along the dual carriageway to the border. We are guessing there is a speed limit for buses here, if so it must be 50, but the slow pace meant we got to take a lot in and we turned off at Seria which is home to Shell Brunei’s major installation. The town has low bungalows for the workers and the gurkha troops based there to protect the installations. The oil rigs are quite visible.
We swapped buses at Kuala Belait after a 5 minute wait with by now a total of 10 passengers. The we stopped at a petrol station. The border was a short ride away and a very quick affair. We didn’t need to take our bags off the bus and do customs at all, we figure it is because Brunei is a dry country and when we’d originally entered Malaysia the only thing customs were looking for was alcohol.
Immediately after entering Malaysia the dense jungle was replaced with a stark flattened land with a bit of grass and a few ferns growing – probably pre or post palm oil plantation. The bus didn’t go much quicker the other side of the border but it wasn’t long before we arrived on the outskirts off Miri. We waited for a bus into the city which our mis-guidebook told us would cost 1 RM and forgot to mention you need exact change so Emma spent the first 5 minutes of the journey sweet talking other passengers to swap her note for change which someone finally did.
The journey only took 15 minutes and after a quick orientation we headed for the tourist info assisted by a nice old man who was telling us hotels are all cheap so you have no problem here. The information centre has a good map and pointed us in the direction of the bus timetable for buses to the airport for the next day. Off we went on our accommodation hunt – doing the usual of leaving Marie on a street somewhere whilst Emma did the rounds looking for a cheap but decent room.
The guidebook warns that some of the cheap accommodation in Miri are used as brothels and charge by the hour. This proved to be correct as we’d headed for the area the shortest distance walk from the bus station where the map showed lots of hotels. There are but Emma ended up doing a round of the brothels before finally dropping on a good cheap hotel that charged by the night.
We dumped the bags and headed to the restaurant downstairs for a very late lunch. They had deep fried chicken or deep fried tofu in a whole range of sauces. Deep fried it was then!
We explored some of Miri – the guidebook says it has a border-town vibe but we didn’t find this was the case. There’s not many tourist sights so we wandered around a few air conditioned malls and Emma managed to score a haircut much to Marie’s amusement because he didn’t do it as good as her and left a nice tuft around the crown which was later dealt with in the hotel room with a pair of scissors.
By 7pm and after some rain it went quiet and dark so we headed back. The day ended with the first proper shower we’d had for a long time.