Saturday, December 27, 2008

Miri City and the Grand Old Lady

Part of Miri city, as seen from Canada Hill.

I have fond memories of Miri in two respects. First as a young student where I came to town in 1967 doing my Fourth Form studies at Tanjong Lobang School. At Tanjong I completed my Sixth Form education in 1970 at the age of 19. My school days at Tanjong was instrumental in moulding my adolescent personality and has resulted in some deep traits in me. I'll find time in future to write more on this very early influences in another blog here .
Secondly, as a mature adult I came to the city in 2003 as a part-time student doing my MBA studies at Curtin University of Technology campus in Lutong, a satellite town of Miri. This entailed me to rush to Miri on weekends and hurry back to Bintulu after the last lectures on Sunday. At most times I could only arrive home past midnight because the travel time from Miri to Bintulu was approximately three hours. Well, I took up the challenge for two and a half years and made it! I got my degree in 2005. And I need to add here that the MBA was self-financed, a decision that took a heavy toll on my business income. I imagine now when considering the academic fees, purchases on books, subsistence allowances while in Miri, transportation costs etc, the MBA degree though done on part-time basis amounted to not less than RM 40,000. Well, it is much cheaper and more convenient than to go to Perth, Australia to undertake the same degree at Curtin's main campus there on full-time basis.

On top of Canada Hill is this relic of an oil well derrick, made of timber but fastened with steel bolts. This is indeed how Miri grew rapidly than other towns in Sarawak. The first oil well was erected on this hill on 10th August,1910. Three days before X'mas in December 1910, oil was struck at 137.16 metres( 425 feet) producing some 83 barrels per day. In 1911, oil production from this wooden derrick increased to 132 barrels per day and since then the Well. No. 1 became known as ' The Grand Old Lady '. With the discovery of oil Miri's fortunes shot into the skies. The presence of SHELL provided employment and businesses for the local people of Miri and other parts of Sarawak. But to me it was its early 'internationalisation of culture' in large part due to the presence of expatriates that distinguished it from other towns of Sarawak. Its early modernity and development gave it a headstart among other towns and thus earned a divisional and city status much earlier than Bintulu for example. Bintulu has got its divisional status but not a city status yet.

Another view of the Grand Old Lady with a time capsule installed, to be opened in 2015.

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