South East Asia :: March - June 1995

Subject: Bat City . . . and beyond. (Part I)
Date: March 28, 1995 10:50

16:12 Waterfront Food Stalls; Miri, Sarawak-Malaysia :: 27 MAR 95

'The Guide' (Lonely Planet) is no more impressed with Miri than Bintulu, but as a 'not on the tourist map' industry town I kinda like it here. The feel of Bintulu is a bunch of fat cats sat around a map and said, "Hmmm, we need a town to support the logging industry right about here." So they built one. The airport is in the middle of town; you have to drive around the runway to get from the wharf and commercial district to the residential area and its various places of worship. (I've never seen so many religious houses in one place.)

With Miri, on the other hand, there appears to have already been a sizable town before the logging boom brought 'growth and prosperity'. Miri's a fair bit larger than Bintulu. It even has one-way streets. Some avenues are wide with rows of big shade trees down the median. Contrary to expectation, it is the larger Miri's character that seems the more relaxed of the two towns, perhaps because there is history and purpose separate from the logging industry.

From the moment we arrived in Bintulu I wanted nothing much more than to leave it. Unfortunately, we arrived at 15:15 just 15 minutes after the last bus to Batu Niah, our intended destination for the day. Stranded for the night.

That fate would not have been so undesirable in Miri. Nonetheless, we've booked a flight to Kota Kinabalu departing tonight at 18:45.

Batu Niah is another thing altogether. There are but two reasons to visit Batu Niah, to enter Batu Niah National Park, and to leave it. Even these reasons are simply necessary evils since there is no other means for the automobile impaired to reach the park. The Guide lists accommodation in Batu Niah, but don't even think about it. It also specifies that for RM2 one can stay at the hostel inside the park and even cook meals in its kitchen facility. Well, three years ago, when my copy of The Guide was published, you could. There's been a complete refit. Actually, the original hostel was torn down and replaced by absolutely the most modern accommodation I've encountered in Malaysia. Luxury for RM10 apiece includes wonderful new wood construction, a nice spacious room with 4 single beds (for two people), a full western style bath larger than some of the rooms we've stayed in recently (Bintulu for instance, yuk), powerpoints galore, a pretty verandah with table and lounge chairs, and an expansive kitchen. The only drawbacks: all the mossies you can swat, and somebody forgot to put the cooking facilities in the kitchen. Oh yeah, no scooters, no roosters, and no mosques.

If you ever come here, take one of the little wooden long boats from Batu Niah rather than a teksi. It costs the same, and takes as long, but is a much nicer way to travel. From the bus loop, just walk up to the river and someone will be glad to take RM10 off your hands for the privilege of taking you up river to the park.

10:20 Shangri La Hotel; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah-Malaysia :: 28 MAR 95

Another RM150/night hotel, about 10 times more than usual, just for the direct dial phone. At least there are several English language channels including CNN and BBC World Report. All kinds of neat things going on in the world.

Checkout time approaches and I've got a date with a HOT shower.

Continued in Part II

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --

And when women do not need to live through their husband and children, men will not fear the love and strength of women, or need another's weakness to prove their own masculinity.

  graphical element Betty Friedan
The Feminine Mystique
Feminists have always optimistically assumed that once they demonstrate the merits of their cause, male hostility to women's rights would evaporate.
  graphical element Susan Faludi
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women.