Think you know Johor Bahru (JB) like the back of your hand? Think JB only consists of City Square, and KSL City Mall? Think again. In this issue, we teach you how to explore Johor Bahru like a true local! Below is Car Club’s Ultimate Guide to Johor Bahru, a list of ten places and activities you can do. Book a car, strap in your seatbelts, and get ready for a whale of a time across the Causeway. Malaysia boleh!
1. ECO Shop: Malaysia’s answer to Daiso
Everything at RM2.12! Due to the currency exchange, that works out to be way cheaper than Daiso Singapore. And just like Daiso, ECO Shop sells everything from snacks to hardware to stationery to hair accessories. Take a break from the sweltering heat by popping into their air-conditioned interiors and enjoy strolling amongst their colourful aisles. Over 8,000 items can be found at ECO Shop. The chain itself was established over 15 years ago and aims to provide household necessities at an affordable rate for everyone.
The March holidays are a perfect excuse to laze at home and bake – so why not buy the necessary ingredients at just RM2.12 per item? Or if you’re simply too lazy, get baked cookies and other confectionaries and sweets at ECO Shop too. We believe there’s something for everyone here. Shop till you drop, bundle everything into your car, and zoom off.
ECO Shop Kempas branch 21, Jalan Cengkerik 5, Pusat Perdagangan Kempas, 81200 Kempas, Johor
2. Affordable shopping at Johor Premium Outlets
Bring out the shopaholic in you at Johor Premium Outlets. As the first premium brand outlet in Southeast Asia, you’ll be able to find luxury items and brands at less than what they cost outside. At the size of slightly over 30 football fields combined, Johor Premium Outlets houses 130 designer stores from Calvin Klein to Burberry. Discounts are all-year round, sometimes going as high as 90%!
Feet sore after all that walking? Head into one of the many cafes and restaurants around the plaza. Grab a sweet bite at Baskin-Robbins or Starbucks or hang out at Pizza Hut and Subway. There’s even an outlet of Shilin Taiwan Street Snacks there. Or if you’re planning an overnight trip, look out for the various Shop & Stay packages with Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor and Mutiara Johor Bahru. And if you’re still unsated, there’s always AEON Kulaijaya located a 9 minutes’ drive away. Catch a movie or simply take a breather there as it’s less crowded compared to other malls in Johor Bahru.
Johor Premium Outlets Indahpura, 81000 Kulai, Johor Darul Takzim Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 10pm
3. Indulge your wild side at Johor Zoo
One of the first zoos in Asia, Johor Zoo first operated as a private menagerie of the royal family in 1928 and opened its gates to the public in 1962. The zoo is home to over a hundred species. For an entrance fee of RM3, feast your eyes on gorillas, lions, and many more. Despite this, Johor Zoo is still relatively unknown. You might have caught a glimpse of it or two while snooping around Johor Bahru looking for the iconic Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, one of the state’s most famous landmarks. The zoo’s located just a few metres away from it.
If you don’t know any Bahasa though, interpreting some of the names may prove to be a challenge. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for the famed Malayan sun bear, with a distinctive moon crest on its neck. Compared to other attractions, Johor Zoo’s amenities are still reasonably priced. Two to three hours are about sufficient time to cover all the animals as it is not a very large zoo.
Besides animal-watching, visitors can paddle boats at the mini lake located near the entrance of the zoo, go horseback riding or picnicking at the recreation square. There are even playgrounds too. A blend of old and new styles is apparent at Johor Zoo as it is in the middle of renovations. At times, the enclosures appear makeshift and in piecemeal condition, more like somebody’s backyard than a state zoo. The animals look to be well-fed though. You can pay to feed some of them as well. Enjoy the many opportunities for close observations and encounters.
Jalan Gertak Merah, Taman Istana, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia Hours: 9am – 6pm (daily)
4. Lose yourselves at Gunung Pulai Forest Reserve
In the earlier half of February, just before the Chinese New Year season, news broke out that a Singaporean couple had gone hiking in Gunung Pulai Forest Reserve and went missing. Except that the pair wasn’t really a couple. And that they had met on a social dating app (widely believed to be the notorious hook-up app, Tinder), and that none of their friends knew about the other’s existence. In a saga that unfolded over three days, the twosome was believed to be good for good, with the odds not being in their favour. Making national headlines, the duo’s unusual plight activated the forest rescue squads of both nations and eventually they were found just in time for CNY. Turns out that both had went off-track only to go missing. The pair was spotted from helicopter near a lake where they had been beating the water to draw attention.
But enough gossip. Gunung Pulai is a jungle mountain, with trails suitable for walking and cycling. The entire length is about 10km in total: 5km both ways (source). As it is, the mountain is about 700m above sea level. Experience the soothing sounds of the rainforest – birdsong, the trickle of dew and the bubbling of the waterfall and your breathing. A few hours of serenity and fresh air. Mai tu liao (“Don’t wait!” in Hokkien), strap on your hiking shoes and get lost in your own urban escape.
5. Sugarbun: Famous fast food from Sarawak
Fast food…chicken and rice? From Malaysia? Not many know that Malaysia is made up of two regions broken up by the South China Sea – West Malaysia, home to Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur and East Malaysia, home to…? East Malaysia contains the states of Sabah and Sarawak and is way larger than West Malaysia. And from the beautiful Borneo jungle comes Malaysia’s homegrown fast food brand – Sugarbun.
This interesting fast food restaurant offers other Asian ethnic fares besides the ubiquitous fried chicken, such as claypot with rice. Their signature dish, the broasted chicken tastes just like fried chicken, but less greasy on the stomach. Kano chicken is the same only it comes bathed in their in-house sauce, made up of lemongrass, garlic, onion and spices. Roast chicken comes with your choice of black pepper or mushroom gravy and fish fillet is creamed with their secret recipe tartar. Sedap!
Fun fact: For Malaysia Day 2017, Sugarbun launched a “Truly Malaysian Combo” set meal. In celebration of the franchise’s Sarawak roots, each combo comes with the state’s famous 3-layer teh peng (“iced milk tea”), together with broasted chicken on fluffy Nasi Lemak.
Sugarbun Seri Alam
6C, C-01, Jalan Suria, Gravity Green,
Bandar Seri Alam, 81700 Johor Bahru, Johor Hours: 10am – 10pm
6. Up-close encounters at the Desaru Ostrich Farm
Housing more than two hundred ostriches, Desaru Ostrich Farm provides you with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the feathered birds. Once there, a caretaker will oversee guiding and explaining the birds to you during the tour. The birds are huge and look quite capable of taking a human down with a powerful kick or two. An adult easily weighs 100kg! Nonetheless, photo taking is allowed, with gung-ho visitors able to ride these feathered friends for a fee.
A souvenir shop at the end sells ornaments made from ostrich eggs, leather, beaks and bones. Lamps made from ostrich egg shells, and goods such as bags and shoes made from ostrich leather can also be bought here. You can also get a taste of the wildlife by feasting on pungent ostrich meat, with quite a number done up in interesting ways – like ostrich satay, bakuteh, and even teppanyaki. Alternatively, bring some dried ostrich tendon (“High in collagen”) home for your relatives.
P.S. Did you know that male ostriches have beautiful black feathers, while females sport a greyish plumage? Gender can’t be told until the birds become adults.
After the farm, head on down to the Desaru Fruit Farm Agro Tourism, an award-winning tropical fruitland in Malaysia. Spot cocoa trees, as well as roseapple (“Jambu”), guava, breadfruit, thousand fingers bananas, and more. You can even sample raw honey. Or go on down to Desaru Beach, famous for the pristine condition of its white sands and turquoise waters. Spot the colourful corals amongst the surf!
Desaru Ostrich Farm EMR 15, Teluk Ramunia, Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia Hours: 10am – 6pm
7. Visit the new Chestnut Nature Park
Channel Steve Irwin and star in your very own version of The Crocodile Hunter. Always wanted to have a direct experience with crocodiles, touching them with your bare hands? Now you can do so at the Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm. The Farm is a conservation centre and tourist attraction rolled into one. Get the chance to observe baby crocodiles no longer than your arm’s length, and crocodile scales are, despite their appearance, rather smooth and dry to the touch, rather than rough and cold.
The farm houses over a thousand saltwater crocodiles in all shapes and sizes with some living up to well over a hundred years. Like the Desaru Ostrich Farm, you too can pay to feed the crocs – in this case, with raw chickens. And just like the Desaru Ostrich Farm, visitors get the chance to satisfy their exotic taste buds with in-house delicacies such as herbal soup, which professes to clear up phlegm and strengthen the lungs. Spot the toothless 130-year-old crocodile, a living legacy inherited through the generations.
Psst! Did you know that there’s still a crocodile farm left in Singapore?
Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm Lot 1289 and 1290 Jalan Sembilan, Kampung Belading, Teluk Sengat, 81940 Kota Tinggi, Johor Malaysia Hours: 9am – 6pm
8. Hands-on edible creations at Slappy Cakes
Almost a century old (they turn 100 in another year!), Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory is famous for its natural banana cakes baked with zero preservatives and additives. One of Johor Bahru’s oldest and best known traditional bakery, their malt-flavoured breads and cakes are baked fresh every day, featuring traditional staples like red bean, coconut, and peanut butter buns. Their banana cakes are moist and not too sweet, infused with the delicate fragrance of bananas. They don’t have the usual cloying texture of other banana cakes.
Not a fan of bananas? They sell butter cakes as well, which are just as soft and delicious. The best part’s that the shop’s just a stone’s throw away from the customs. How do you know that their fluffy banana cakes are ready? By the snaking queue outside their nondescript shophouse of course! (By the way, the first cakes come out at noon.) Standby and get ready to snap them up fresh out of the oven – one batch disappears in just under ten minutes.
Experience the magic and taste of an old-school bakery that simply can’t be replicated otherwise. Apparently one of their many customers is the Sultan of Johor himself. While queuing under the sweltering sun does not seem like an exciting prospect, grab a cup of delicious iced tea at Chaiwalla & Co., near the bakery itself.
Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory 13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
9. Stuff yourself silly at Buffet Town
Tucked away in a back alley between Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Meldrum, Meldrum Night Market is just a stone’s throw away from JB Sentral. This hidden food paradise is a must-visit for food hunters. From Apam Balik (“MinJiang-Kueh”) to Mee Hoon Kueh, Meldrum Night Market is a veritable treasure trove of cultural culinary history. Apam Balik are pancakes cooked on the griddle and stuffed with ingredients such as peanuts and sugar. The ones at Meldrum even had corn granules added to them. Singapore staples like Char Kway Teoh and BBQ chicken wings can also be found here.
However, if you’re finicky about the ambience of your eating places, then Meldrum may not be the spot for you. There’s a makeshift atmosphere to the somewhat haphazard jumble of stalls, stashed as they are between two buildings. True-blue street food impossible to experience in the sterile environment of Singapore can be found here. Oyster Omelette is one of the more famous and popular stalls here as it’s less crispy, fluffier, mixed in with oysters just fresh out from the sea.
Meldrum Night Market 23, Jalan Meldrum, Bandar, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia Hours: 5pm – 12am.
10. Stuff yourself silly at Buffet Town
HS Farm Stay is a farm designed to provide an interactive learning experience. Get into proximity with the various farm animals and gleam informative titbits from your encounters with them. Inside the moderately sized farm, there’s a water park, karaoke room, and a hotpot restaurant. HS Farm Stay, like its name suggests, also provides homestay opportunities, where guests get to have their own backyard BBQ experience while soaking in the sights of the fauna all around – including, but not limited to, porcupines, marmosets, raccoons, and an albino peacock! Take a selfie with one of the many dinosaur statues dotted around the farm.
For the anglers and fishing enthusiasts, head over to the fishing pond where freshwater fish are bred to be caught. Take your fresh catch home or sell it back to HS Farm Stay. They also provide grilling services where your catch can be cooked on the spot. Small children can also try their hand at longkang fishing by scooping up tiny fishes in the net and bucket provided. Or if you prefer to let the fishes do the work – kick back your heels and relax at the fish spa as they nibble and trim the dead flesh between your toes at no extra charge. We heard there’s a bee park and coconut plantation here too.
Spend an enjoyable vacation at Johor Bahru by booking one of Car Club’s Car-Sharing cars to have a simply unforgettable holiday! Check our promotions page regularly to stay updated on our Malaysian packages. Selemat datang!