May 17th, 2015
The usual mental deliberation ensues as to how I should spend the day. I am desperately behind in my journal writing, not that that is anything new, the brilliant poetic language I am inspired with evaporating entirely after a few mere days of further experiences.
By default, I had wanted to go to Lambir Hills National Park, but as I studiously commit myself to writing in my journal, the morning hours slip by, and it becomes increasingly apparent that there is no way I will be able to everything today, least of all go to Lambir Hills.
If I work on my journal seriously and try to get other personal business done, I will not have enough time to get to Lambir Hills, and I certainly don’t want to repeat yesterday’s fiasco. At least I make the decision relatively early in the day, limiting my excursion to a foray to the Imperial Shopping Centre for a coffee with a few small digressions. And while I am at it, I can get a number of postcards written while drinking coffee at the Mayland Coffee Shop, which is not a bad place to spend one’s time in this placid town.
Wandering over to the supermarket on Jalan Makhoda Ganpar to buy some juice, I find a series of small breakfast eateries serving rojak, fresh juices and general drinks, normally the kind of place I would love to indulge in, but it’s actually not that hot these days. And since every place makes rojak, I look to see if there are other establishments that serve alternatives.
I opt for a fairly unappetizing mee goreng, although Malaysian food is all about taking chances on food that may turn out to be compelling, if not potentially amazing. Young Malay men, Indonesian guest workers, older Chinese men and small families populate these establishments, although the crowds are very thin on the ground today, and the automobile traffic almost nonexistent.
It’s funny that I should spend so much time struggling go take photos and find myself misfiring, and precisely when I take some utterly banal shots with no inspiration whatsoever they should turn out quite fantastic. Or at least I think so.
I don’t quite understand what it is that I like so much about Miri, given the city would chase most people away in a heartbeat. The utterly banal architecture is curiously interesting, a play on sterile boxes but coated with lots of colour and glass, adorned with big bright signs that reflect the sunlight refracting through the lens of Malay and Chinese cultures. The low shop house architecture is positioned at odd angles with a continuous interloping thread of small trees that are pleasurable to look at and diffuse the sense of crowding the town may experience.
Tall office towers and hotels seem to feature prominently across the town’s skyline. And everywhere there are restaurants, ranging from the Malay eateries to the ubiquitous sea of south Chinese places, cafes, and so unusual in the peninsular area, drinking establishments, and not just one or two.
A huge development is emerging along the waterfront, dominated by a towering hunk of concrete which will apparently house a hotel. I can’t see how the hotel industry in this town will fare, especially considering that it already has a massive oversupply, as if the hotels here represent a dumping ground for cash that needs to disappear.
In contrast to the somewhat grimy and unaesthetic back alleys of central Miri, colourful low bushes crowned by slender palms arc along the roadside to the waterfront and then to the south, past the large fenced off area presumably intended for some other gargantuan construction project.
Most of the businesses in the area are closed today, but I am eager to check out the trendy-looking Silver Spoon cafe which offers western-style favorites along the line of the eatery next to the Residence 21 hotel.
Along the waterfront of the other side of the monstrosity shrouded in green, a small fishing lure competition is reaching closure, the beaming participants stashing gear in their pickup trucks as the remaining participants look at the fish carefully piled on the tarp on the ground.
A surprisingly ramshackle wood-and-stilt collection of shacks huddles along the waterfront in stark contrast to the gleaming soulless overwrought boxes being erected on the adjacent land.
I return later on to the Silver Spoon for some indulgence, but the relatively mediocre western-style food is too infused with maladroit Asian sensibilities to really work …