Here in Miri

Hi All,

Randal and I are just really relaxing here in Miri.  We ride our bikes, read, I paint, Randal watches his Discovery DVDs and watches the late night shows on his computer the following morning while I follow the Red Sox.  Just a couple of retired people!  I have been to the library twice.  Randal is also spending lots of time doing boat chores and also researching where and when we’ll go to have the boat pulled and the bottom painted.  We’ve decided that we’d both like to stop in India on our way to the Med.

We’ve only been here in Miri for about 2 weeks but it feels like much longer.  I know my way around the city and can’t remember what it was like to feel unsure.  I know the library and the bookstore and where to buy enough fresh veggies to keep me happy.  There are large supermarkets too when we need them.

The local people are very friendly.  During Hari Raya Muslims go to the cemetery to honor the dead.  We were biking past and slowed to let a group cross the road.  They said a quiet hello.  I said Salamat Hari Raya!  Then they all smiled and gave us a huge hello.  I think they appreciated that I had acknowledged their holiday.  We have found great apple crisp and ice cream, chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, homemade banana muffins and yogurt all at Pete’s Deli just up the road from the marina.  Pete’s Chinese!  The longer we stay the more we discover that we like.

I’ve written a story about having some pillow covers made here in Miri.  It’s just typical of the cruising life although it is amazing the number of cruising women who have sewing machines.  I wouldn’t mind having one.  Maybe one day.



Red Pillows

Ever since we left China I’ve wanted to replace the pillow covers on the 3 small pillows we keep on the settee in the saloon. (In landlubber terms the pillows are on the built in couch in the living room. I didn’t grow up with anything called a settee or a saloon so they’re just not terms I would choose without feeling that I had to explain what I meant requiring an entire paragraph practically.)

Anyway, the Chinese pillows were bought in a mini-mart store just across the way from where Bill and Stella had their lovely condo in Baijiao. We were waiting for Stella to meet us at the car. Sorry Bill, but I never liked the material, the pattern, the colors or the tassels that started falling off immediately. We lived with those spur of the moment purchases for two years until we got to Kuching during Sail Malaysia. I didn’t love the ones I bought there; I just liked them more than what we had and they looked better in the store…. I had tried to buy some in the Noor Arfa batik shop in Terengganu but they had none and neither did the public market cloth shops. Since the time we had left China I hadn’t seen pillow covers anywhere when I actually took the time to look. What I had seen was a long red, gold, green and blue skirt with an elephant and Indian motif while I was wandering through Chinatown in Singapore. Had to have it even though the elastic waistband was sized for tiny Asian people. I just really liked the material. Something about red and elephants made it irresistible to me as I was in my elephant phase. Well, I never wore the skirt; waist too tight, skirt too long and the occasion never arose.

While in Terengganu I told Ruth from Icicle One about the skirt. She said the waist band could come off and be replaced. So impulsively I took out a scissors and picked out the stitches and took out the waistband and that was the end of that skirt. Oh well. I put it with the sari cloth and the other sarong cloth we had been given and hoped someday to find someone somewhere to make me pillow covers.

Several days ago Randal and I went out looking for the second book store in Miri. We never found it but we did find a huge shop that sold fabrics, yarn, notions, and even a few paint brushes. I noticed that they had women sewing too. So Thursday, when the library had reopened after Hari Raya, I took one “Chinese pillow cover,” the long, now useless skirt, and I went back to the shop which was on the way to the library. Luckily Annabel Aurelia was there. Not only did she speak English, she spoke pillow and knew exactly what was needed to transform my no longer wearable red skirt into 3 pillow covers. Annabel has a hearing problem so we had to write to each other. Annabel reads and writes Bahasa Malaysia, she reads and writes English and she signs and I think she also might have been reading my lips. Pretty accomplished. She measured but found there wasn’t enough skirt material for front and back so took me to the shelves of fabric. She instantly picked out the perfect fabric though I had to keep looking before I saw she was right. Then she picked out the perfect zippers to match. She just really knew what she was doing.

Randal and I rode back today to get them and I really like them a lot. The shop was busy so I only had time to get the covers, say thank you and take a quick one chance only photo of Annabel. And I gave her one of our flag bandannas too.

In US dollars each cover cost about $3.60. I certainly think I got great value for my money. Can’t remember what I paid for the skirt in Singapore but it couldn’t have been very much or I wouldn’t have bought it.


Pillows front and back.

You can see the elephants on the bottom and the red. Can you imagine this as a floor length skirt? Interesting fashion statement I’d have been making since though the waist was small it billowed out around my hips making me rather giant. But I really like the material.


They add a bit of color to our tan and teak.

Annabel made sure the same pattern of the skirt was used on all of the pillows.


Annabel Aurelia in the shop where she works.

Miri Library

Hi All,

  We are enjoying our time in Miri.Two days ago Randal and I got out our bikes and did a really long 15 mile ride.  It felt long anyway with the 90 degree temperature and 90% humidity.  And there were two hills too!   We rode along the coast highway, but the view was blocked by several zillion dollar mansions.  We took a detour to go to a more modest neighborhood near the airport which advertised a show house. It wasn’t opened so we gave ourselves a brief tour of the one being built next door.   We rode back to the coast road and turned into a small beach park area.  After a short rest we biked back toward town stopping to eat way too much fried rice and noodle soup. 

  Yesterday I went off to the Miri Public library.  Here’s the story…..

Miri Public Library; you can only get there by walking!
Our first visit to Miri was at the end of July for part of Sail Malaysia.  During that visit Randal and I rode our bikes to the Public Library.  It is new and quite impressive and they had several watercolor books that interested me.  They even had an art exhibit of local artists on display.  Yesterday I decided to go back for another visit.  Randal was doing a boat project with the alternator and battery charging system that necessitated running the engine for 2 hours.  I decided to “leave the premises.” 
The library is a fairly good distance from the marina so I decided to attempt the Miri bus system.  There is no printed schedule on the Internet, but the local bakery ladies told me that the bus ran every 20  minutes or so.   You watch the bus go by in the opposite direction and 20 minutes later it will be back at the stop in front of the bakery.    I packed up my backpack, kissed Randal good-bye and walked the 10 minutes over to the main road where the bakery and several small shops and restaurants are located.  It was 10:30: I sat down to wait for the bus.  There was a young man waiting also so I confirmed with him that I was indeed at the right place.  I had brought a book with me; but instead of reading I spent the next 25 minutes picking briars out of the bottom part of my skirt.  I have no idea how they came to be there but they were itchy.  Luckily they were just on the bottom part and only scratchy on my legs.  I got most of them out by the time the bus came at 10:55.  The driver was very helpful even calling the money dollars rather than ringgits.  It cost 1 ringgit to take the bus into town to the local bus terminal.  At the terminal the driver kindly walked me over to where bus 42 was parked; the bus that would get me closest to the library.  He then took me back over to the tiny terminal building where the schedules are posted and we saw that bus 42 wouldn’t leave for another 45 minutes!  A taxi driver asked if I wanted to take a taxi and I said no.  Then I asked the bus driver how much a taxi would cost.  He said about 5 ringgits which is less than $2.  But I decided to walk thinking it wasn’t so far. Also, I would know my way back since finding a return taxi at the Library would be impossible.   And it wasn’t so far; maybe a half hours walks.  I had to ask along the way since I’m not great with maps.  But it actually was quite simple other than crossing the really busy double lane wrong way traffic.  At one point I found myself at a bus stop as a bus came along.  I waited my turn to get on and asked if the bus would get me anywhere near the library.  The driver said, “No, Wait for bus 42.”  I continued walking, saw a taxi coming along and tried to flag it down.  No luck.  The weather was getting very overcast very quickly so I was getting concerned.  But after one more giant complicated major intersection I came to the street where the library was located.  As it turns out there are two libraries and I got to the “wrong one” first.  Another 5 minute walk and I was at my intended library with the watercolor collection I had come to see.  And most importantly, just outside the library, a small food stall.  I had a cold soybean milk drink and then went inside.  It was about noon and 10 minutes later it was pouring!
I sent the next 2 and a half hours there looking at several watercolor books and still there are more books I’d like to see.  And I didn’t explore their magazine collection.  So I will go back. 
I left the library and walked back to the town center and then back to the marina.  Along the way I stopped at a fruit stall to buy some crisp apples.  Though I was hungry I wasn’t the least bit tempted to eat an unwashed apple.  I did find a bag of lightly sweetened caramel popcorn at a house wares store.  The popcorn was in a display at the front of the shop.  That made a great lunch and got me the rest of the way back to the marina.  It was hot but I did have a bottle of water and there was no second choice but to keep walking. 
I had left the library at 2:45 and got back to the marina about 4 pm.  That included stopping to browse the Miri Handicraft Center, buy the apples , buy the popcorn and cross several busy streets.  It had taken me from about 10:20 am when I left the boat until about 11:45 to get myself “by bus” to the library.  It took me just about the same amount of time to walk back.  It really is a shame that it is so difficult to get to the library using public transportation: not for me, but for the locals. 

When we were here in July I wrote an email that included photos of the library.  These are photos of the landscaping around the library.  I had to pass this way walking from the first library to the second new library.  Miri means seahorse so you see lots of seahorse sculptures like in Kuching you saw cats.  Kuching means cat.

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Catching Up

Hi All,

  Randal and I left KK on September 2nd and arrived in Labuan on September 4th.  We stayed in Labuan several days longer than planned waiting for better cruising weather.  Because of that we were able to have several lovely evenings with Elisabeth and Patrick our friends on LaBarque who also happened to be in Labuan.  ( Elizabeth and Ruth from Icicle One and I had gone off looking at local handicrafts in Terengganu and Santubong. )  We took turns making dinner and watching movies.  They had Charlie Wilson’s War and Good Morning Vietnam.  We hadn’t seen either so it was dinner and a movie.  The food was good, the movies were good and the company was great.  One of the best parts of cruising are the people you meet along the way.

   We are now in Miri Marina and will remain here until October 1st if the marina has room.  There is a race that starts here October 9th so the marina will fill up with boats that are going to participate.  We don’t have the time or really the interest to participate since it takes you back to KK and we are going the opposite direction.

  We are already familiar with Miri because it was our next to last stop of Sail Malaysia.  We will get out our bikes and make the round of marine hardware shops and vegetable stalls at the wet market.  There is a nice new library here too which we visited briefly our last visit.  I might even figure out how to get there by bus.

  The attachment is the next to last one about Sandakan which seems so long ago at this point. 



Sandakan Today….

Sandakan is unique and also typically Malaysian. Many of these photos will look just like those I’ve taken in Sebana Cove, or Kota Kinabalu. Ultimately it’s our interaction with the local people that attracts us to Malaysia. They have been friendly and helpful everywhere we go. Sandakan was the same.

Sandakan has a new “wet market” where you can buy almost anything “fresh” you want eat. And if you need some simple, inexpensive colorful clothes, go upstairs and you’ll find rows of stalls selling the colorful tops, wraps, and dresses I started buying back in the Philippines. But Randal and I were just being tourists and not shoppers so all I left with were photos.


Bushels of watermelon.


Of course, lots of fresh fish though; fresh chicken was for sale in the market.


Still Life with Fish. The red fish just caught my eye and it’s easier to see in a large photo.

Randal and I went to the library in Sandakan. We went twice; the first time just to see it and the second time to read magazines and look at art books and fill time. Not a bad collection of books and a quite good selection of magazines including “Foreign Affairs, the Economist, Newsweek; “women’s magazines, sports, something for everyone just like US libraries. They had magazines in all of the three languages spoken in Sandakan; Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English.


It’s a fairly large building with parking under-the-building parking area.


They had books, magazines, computers, DVDs…. While we were in Sandakan one of the local news papers printed an article about the high cost of books and how readers were worried about having a continuous supply. Comments faulted the library for being too far from the center of town and not having enough of the popular titles so the wait was too long. Randal and I could walk to the library from the city center; but it was at least a 20 minute walk for us and we walk fast. There seemed to be a bus if you knew how to use it but that also costs money for the locals. Wish they had built the library in the town center though it looks to be close to several schools. I guess they save the land in town center for what is always perceived as “profit making enterprises.” I was disappointed in the collection concerning Agnes Keith. When I asked about it, the reference person took me to a locked room and showed me copies of Keith’s books. She pointed to the books and that’s about it and then left me to search around. I wanted an overflowing vertical file folder with clippings and old photos like we had at the RCPL so I could read about her time in Sandakan. I didn’t stay long, not much inspired by what I saw; maybe I just really wasn’t in the mood.

I left local history and went to the watercolor section and learned a few things. The library reminded me of the Public Lending library in Kota Kinabalu. (KK has a newer library just for reference which I visited during our first trip to KK.) The library in Terengganu was new but had fewer books. These libraries get used. You never see them empty. There are always a good number of people reading magazines or students doing work. It’s nice to see. The Sandakan newspaper also ran an article discussing whether the government should censor the Internet. Readers responded and most were the same arguments we hear at home concerning kids and their access to porn. At least they were discussing it and allowing diverse opinions. I was disappointed that the one from someone signing herself as a librarian was mostly concerned about access to Facebook. Good grief: that’s definitely not the most important internet access issue for sure! Having said that, in a world where people don’t travel so much, Facebook could be a way to see and interact with a wider group of people and ideas. And almost everyone at home now is on Facebook as a way to communicate with family and friends. It will be interesting to see what happens here in Malaysia with Internet access.

The library was just next to a wharf area of fishing boats. We walked over but hesitated to go into the gated area. The fisherman saw us and waved us in so we went.

clip_image012Many of the men loved having their photo taken. They call hello and ask “where are you from?” They’re always pleased to hear we’re from the U.S.


Scenes from the fishing wharf. The huge lights are used for night fishing and make night cruising interesting. Our radar is set with a 3 mile radius and these lights can be seen from much further away. So you see lights but nothing on the radar.

I’ll send one more Sandakan email: showing the local kids.

Kids of Sandakan

Hi All,

  Randal and I biked into Miri today and discovered an English Language Bookstore.  That’s good and bad.  Good because we can stock up and bad because this is not a used book store and the prices are the same as in the US.  Sure do wish I could use the local libraries to check out books.  Someday that will happen.

  Anyway, here is the last of the Sandakan emails.


ps Books bought


Our Woman in Kabul by Irris Makler about Afghanistan women

In the Name of Honor: A Memoir by Mukhtar Mai about Pakistan women

Careless In Red by Elizabeth George ( a murder mystery for fun!)


The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace

Weather glitch

Hi All,

  We had planned to be in Miri by now but bad cruising weather changed our plans.  We had rough but not terrible weather from KK to Labuan.   The marine forecast for the area has “20 to 30 knot wind on the nose” and 2.5 to 3.5 meters which is roughly 8 to 15 ft waves.  Too big to deal with.  Several other boats have pulled into the harbor here since we arrived.  Probably for the same reason or they are doing a booze run since Labuan is a freeport with cheaper alcohol.  Things should calm down by Wednesday so maybe we’ll leave by then.  Internet is too slow here to send photos. 

So that’s it.

Sox are hanging in there…..