Miri, Malaysia - Jo
After visiting so many well-known destinations in India, I headed somewhere a little more obscure in Malaysia. Miri, an oil town in Sarawak, Borneo, is rarely top of anyone's must visit list, but my friend, Charlotte, has lived here for the past eighteen months and it was also a chance to revisit some old haunts from when I lived just across the border in Brunei.
Back in 1994 Miri was described in the Lonely Planet as 'a seedy oil town with rather dubious nightlife'. Since then the town has gained city status and cleaned its act up…. Well, a little! Understandably, I was very excited to see my old pal but I was almost as pleased to see her laundry facilities. After two months of hand washing, my clothes needed some serious help. My first day here, I watched with delight as my laundry swished around in the washing machine for three hours! Charlotte's machine took longer than any I've previously used to complete a cycle; perhaps it was clever enough to sense the dire needs of my grubby clothing. The idea of having crease free clothing meant I was keen to get ironing. Unfortunately, the iron reacted very badly to my enthusiasm and blew the electricity in the apartment and refused to work again. Realising I was not cut out for domestic duties, I decided to leave the chores to Charlotte's amah (maid).
Next I immersed myself in expat life, which meant upping my drinking capacity and broadening my drinking tastes to include wine, champagne and the odd cocktail. I still found time for the occasional G&T. Charlotte's penthouse overlooks the sea and the sunsets are spectacular so each evening we sat on the balcony with a little drink to watch the sky turn red and orange.
When Charlotte was at work I faced the same dilemma as the Shell wives, how to occupy myself. The expat activity of choice is exercise with everyone discussing their fitness regime over a cold beer at the boat club. As someone who actively avoids exercise I only managed to cycle around camp or to the swimming pool. In between relaxing and enjoying the space of Charlotte's flat, attending dinner parties or going to the pool, I did squeeze in a visit to the school where Charlotte works to help her. How does she manage with twelve well-behaved pupils in a large classroom and a salary double that of a UK teacher? It's a hard life!Sadly, for all the teachers reading this the school does not have any vacancies. Maybe if I retrain I can stay on as… an amah!