MIRI, BRUNEI and LABUAN
After 6 weeks on anchor it’s nice to stay in a marina again, even when there are no showers, toilet nor swimming pool, while the price of Miri Marina is in the same league as Sebana Cove, Penang City and Rebak. Being Dutch I should be able to come up with the exact amounts, but I forgot. The town of Miri is nearby, which is nice, and for us there was another reason we liked it: the Hash House Harriers. This organization of runners and drinkers, drinkers with a running problem, as they say, originated in Malaysia as a stress outlet for ex-pats. We always thought we should join once, as a cultural experience. The running part appealed, but with Jaap not touching any alcohol, the drinking part didn’t. However, we wanted to give it a try and here was our chance.
An evening on the dock with Jits, Ellen of s/y SILENT WISH (left), Hans of s/y ALK (who took the photo) and his wife Marijke (in the middle)
Jaap contacted Wim the GM, a man from Holland working for Shell, who came to collect us one afternoon. He drove us out of town to a bit of jungle and soon we were sent off to follow the paper strips. And there we went, into that primary jungle with 50 others. No trail, no path, everybody just dove in. I’m glad he’d told us to wear long sleeves and pants, (In this heat, this humidity?? Yes!) As a virgin you just follow somebody and hope he/she has the same speed. But our feet aren’t used to jungle and we always ran on flat ground. This was different. Not much running. More jumping, sliding, wading, stumbling up and down. Often on all fours. Getting to the end as fast as you can, because it’s the end of the day and darkness falls soon. And then???!!! We heard it happened regularly that people lost track and had to spend the night in there. Wow, not me! And I ran.
Dusk in the jungle Lambir National Park.
We came out in one piece and this was the start of a series of fun runs and heaps of very dirty laundry. I heard every city is different, some have rough parties, Miri has a reputation for tough runs. The inauguration wasn’t that bad; Jaap was allowed to drink the local sports juice and we met some real nice people.
One was Steve Dexter, who introduced Marijke to the Malaysian Nature Society bird watching team and they went out every weekend. Steve, Wim and his wife Jessy became our best friends here.
Left a longhouse near Lambir, & right Jaap and Jessy at their farm.
Children of the longhouse
Lambir Hills. Is a small National Park close to Miri. This and the other NPs like Mulu and Niah are the best places to see some decent jungle, huge trees, vines, parasitic ferns epiphytes, wild orchids, pitcherplants. The Lambir vicinity is where we did most of our bird watching and HHH runs.
The Chinese temple in Miri has some interesting paintings about the endurances in life. The mozzies could indeed be very bad.
In the small marina were around 10 other yachts. Some had been there many weeks, working on boat projects or whatever. A number of them were from Holland. Our direct neighbors were Sytske and Adri on sy MARIDA. They liked our cats a lot and we asked them to look after them for a few nights, so we could do some inland travel.
We flew to Mulu, and stayed 2 nights in the Mulu National Park. We walked and walked and saw huge caves, thousands of bats, interesting insects, lizards, squirrels, spiders. A tarantula in its house, white moon rats. The place teemed with critters, but had very few birds. Our chalet sported a large living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. And a pleasant veranda to sit on. Nice, all that space for a change. But easy to loose your stuff in.
For more photos see Wildlife section
Another time we rented a car and went to Niah National Park, together with Tony and Lyn from s/y Ambrossia. We saw more caves, different again, with bamboo scaffolding for birdnest harvesting.
A bat hawk sat in a tree guarding the entrance and a very skinny stick insect that was doing push-ups on the railing.
The hikes in these parks are all easy, with boardwalks across the swampy parts and railings and steps on the steep limestone rocks. The headquarters offer good information and in Mulu’s case good guides. The cafeterias serve surprisingly nice meals for very little $$. Marijke went back to Niah for an overnighter to catch some early morning specials (broadbills, hornbills, trogons)
This all made Miri a great stop. It would be easy to end up overstaying the time we’re allowed as tourists in Sarawak. We had to get out of Malaysia. No problem: Brunei is just around the corner. On September 8th we took in our lines and left. Guess who was half a mile ahead of us? s/y SILENT WISH.
The first stops in Brunei, Kuala Balait and the Princes Wharf were just to break up the long leg to Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital. The weather was OK, but the SW winds too light for sailing. With our Yanmar trodding along we made good process and SW even scored a big fish, to the joy of all. 3 Days later we arrived at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club.
One night we anchored in this harbor, which is part of a complex owned by Prince Jeffrey, the reputable brother of the Sultan of Brunei. Note the shape of the island! We dropped the anchor right under the bird’s eye, btw, which is a tree!
The anchorage in front of the club is sheltered, the holding good, the club allows visiting yachtsmen to use their showers, swimming pool and washing machine and has a bus stop for buses to town. Good for at least a week. We threw our mountain of laundry in the machine and settled around the pool for some socializing with other yachties and more Dutch people who came for Ellens birthday. Jits made his Miri Special: Patatjes met kip and we supplied the appelmoes. Zalig.
We rented a local boat to show us the Sultans palace and the water village of BSB.
On the 19th we left Brunei, the day before Hari Raya. Patrick and Elizabeth on s/y Labarque had found some very cheap solar panels that we were interested in as well, but as it turned out, we came just too late. The “shop” was closing for a whole week of Hari Raya holiday. As Labuan Island (Malaysia) was only 20 miles away we decided to have our own Hari Raya outing and come back after a week. So we sailed back and forth, cleared in and out a number of times, but did everything by the law.
Families in Labuan dress up in their favorite Hari Raya colors on the day the Ramadan is over.
The purple family and the ocre family waiting in front of a photographers shop
The customs building of
The weather had become somewhat unstable with typhoons to the east and north of us and some huge squalls caused quite a bit of damage around us. S/y ALISHAN fared well, but we had our tense moments.
End of September we left for KK.
Goodbye Silent Wish! We enjoyed you company!
And how are the cats?
Well, Wakame still gets seasick occasionally.
And Nori went swimming in Miri harbor, which was not a good idea, see sign!
But they are always happy when we have a line out, with fresh fish as a result! (sometimes)
First the butterflies. From top right clockwise: Raja Brook’s Birdwing, Black-veined Tiger, Velvet Nymph , some other nymph, and a Common Bluebottle
Camouflage Gecko and Warty Gecko:
What are these two up to?
The locals call these Hammerhead Worms
Banded Skinks, like to fight.
The Great Orange Tip at the NP entrance
My birds of the day: a pair of Dusky Broadbills
Snail lovers, come to Niah NP!
A lizard that changed colors every 3 minutes and a bit of curly wood
A giant squirrel and a cave dwelling spider
There was a whole family of them but they wouldn’t sit still.
Brown-throated Sunbird. Quite common, but they make such nice pictures
Last of the bugs. How many legs?
Left: Yellow-bellied Prinia Right: Black-thighed Falconet
Birds in the Bottlebrush: Oriental White-eye and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
Chestnut Munia and Sunda Pigmy Woodpecker
Little surprise at our favorite birding spot
And another one, near the marina. But the python was dead.
A skipper, a bee and a tiger
Things that live in the grass
Purple-naped sunbirds and a blue-eared barbet
Birds of Brunei and Labuan
This last one is the female
An angry Orange-bellied Flowerpecker on the left and a Pied Triller on the right (Brunei)
Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Brunei)
An Osprey on the left and a Waterhen on the right (Brunei)
Oriental White-eyes (Brunei)
Blue-crowned Parrots in the Casuarina trees on the north coast of Labuan Isl,
They made a lot of noise, but it still took us at least 10 mins to find them.