Exploring the market: Miri, Malaysia

We scooted up the Sarawak coast to Miri to converge with the beginning of the Borneo International Yacht Race. Joining rallies hasn’t really been our thing on Totem. Generally speaking, being on someone else’s schedule and with whole lot of other boats in proximity doesn’t jibe with our style- but after being by ourselves for most of the last year (we can count the cruising boats we’ve seen on one hand), getting caught up with the local seasonal cruising fleet- and having a bunch of fun events- sounded like just the thing for our little crew.

There was about a week to play around in Miri before the first race, an overnight passage to Labuan. For the first time in 266 days, we tied up to a dock at Miri’s marina, a 15 minute walk from town. It was quite a novelty to be able to just step ashore! For a mere $16, we rented five bicycles for an entire week, and went off exploring on them every day.

Like any regional population center in this corner of the world, Miri has a bustling market. Several, actually, depending on whether you are looking for fish, meat, or fresh produce. On the weekends, those categories converge as Dayak (a blanket term for the 200+ ethnic minorities in Borneo) stream in from the hinterlands to buy or sell wares. This makes for some eye popping fare.

Some of the produce is simply beautiful to look at: the super fresh ginger root…

fresh ginger

…these beautiful flowers.


Others were a bit gruesome. This vendor had a collection of freshly killed python (still twisting in the bucket: I’m told it will keep moving for half a day), a soft-shelled turtle from the freshwater streams that run down from the jungle; a clutch of tree kangaroos; and a sea turtle, the heart still beating. We’re not misty eyed vegetarians, but it’s still not easy to be confronted with this- especially when we question the status of some of the species.

not your typical fare

I’ve got some rough video of the critters, if you’re not faint of heart.

Most of the creatures for sale were much more alive. This man made a big effort to get Siobhan to take an eel. He literally tried to give it away for free! She wasn’t having any of it.


I loved the delicately gathered bowls of stir-fry premix: a few greens, some chilies, mushrooms, and squash. No, I have no idea what that green fruit (vegetable?) thing is behind the bowls!

stir fry in a bowl

I do know what this fruit is, however. We started finding salak at the markets in Indonesia, but none with such a pretty color as these. I’m told they’re Sarawak forest salak.

Sarawak salak...it's a fruit

I sat with these women as they haggled intensely over the right price for a snack.

Intense haggling for grubs

The snack in question: why, yummy wriggly grubs!

Grubs! Yummy!

Not something we expect to try anytime soon…

6 Responses

    1. I confess I had to Google Andrew Zimmern (we don’t see a lot of TV), but yes, he would be *exactly* the person who would have had a field day at this market!

    1. I was given detailed instructions on how to properly purge them with salt before preparing them to eat, but… well, we just weren’t going to go there. I appreciate that the woman didn’t assume I wouldn’t be interested though!

  1. You really do take great photos. We are looking forward to trying new foods when we begin our cruising adventure, but I’m sure bugs will be a pass. I can barely get my kids to eat vegetables 🙂

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