Let me warn you now: I did not take a single photo of Miri. I had such a frustrating, pull-your-hair-out kind of day in Miri that I would have probably thrown my camera at someone before I took a photo with it. So I kept my camera in my bag, where it couldn’t do any harm to anyone.
I was sad to leave Brunei but I had booked my flight home out of Kuching, a city to the south in the Malaysian part of Borneo. I had planned for some time in Miri to break up the bus journey from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuching. Miri is the hub to reach three national parks that are supposed to be pretty great: Limbir Hills, Niah Caves, and Mulu. I had hoped to squeeze in a half-day to see the famous caves in Niah.
You can’t always get what you want.
My bus pulled up to the brand new long distance bus terminal in Miri in the morning, with plenty of time before my connecting trip to Kuching in the evening.
One problem: the terminal was completely deserted and in the middle of nowhere. Not one ticket stand was open; only one taxi was in the parking lot. There weren’t even any touts trying to sell me stuff I didn’t need. By the time I found out I had to get into the city to book my journey onward, the one taxi was gone.
After an hour of waiting for the cab to come back (it didn’t), an empty city bus pulled into the lot. An hour later, it pulled into a massive parking lot by a market downtown. I spent another hour being misdirected to various ticket vendors before I found the right one to purchase a trip to Kuching for that evening. My vendor then informed me that I would have to take another city bus to get to the old bus terminal (you know, the one they actually use).
I took a peek at my watch. No Niah Caves were going to happen for me today. It had taken me four hours to connect between the new terminal and the downtown. I had no idea how long getting to the old terminal would take, but I wasn’t going to risk a sidetrip.
Continuing a pattern of people in Miri being monumentally unhelpful and at times downright rude to me, my next bus driver cursed at me for asking him to let me know which stop was the old terminal. I quietly asked a few other passengers if they would let me know, but they ignored me like I was invisible. Half an hour later, the bus driver shouted angrily at me to get off the bus.
As he drove away, literally leaving me in the dust (which kicked up from the road), I was very disheartened to look around and see that I was in a residential area, full of houses and lawns and sidewalks but no buses.
Then the one fortunate moment of the day occurred and I spotted a backpacker turning a corner about three blocks ahead of me. I raced after him. When I turned that same corner, I was beyond relieved to see a smoggy sprawling complex of buses and vendor shacks.
One would hope my day could only improve from here. It did not.
There was heat exhaustion. There was boredom. There was the fact that the only English book I could get my hands on was this one:
And just when I thought I had finally escaped this never-ending day of hassles, the teenage boys behind me on the bus turned on their Nintendos to play a game whose soundtrack consists of a bad cover of “The Final Countdown” for almost all of the 14 hour overnight drive.