I remember those old days when I spent half of my childhood in Johor Bahru. I remember how excited I got whenever the school break started.It was a ticket to a blissful and joyous holiday for me to be with my grandparents, siblings and cousins.
Johor Bahru was my second home, until tragedy struck: my grandparents died in a car accident and left everyone devastated. I stopped visiting Johor Bahru ever since I turned 15.Interestingly, after almost 7 years of not being there, I received an assignment from my editor, which eventually led me back to Johor Bahru to participate in a familiarisation trip to both Johor Bahru and Singapore organised by Firefly and Tourism Malaysia Johor Office.
Johor Bahru, affectionately known as JB by locals, is geographically located in the south of Peninsular Malaysia. It is the capital city of Johor and also the second largest urban area in Malaysia. It has bridges and road links connecting to Singapore, making it accessible to and from the Lion City.
Just as I thought that I knew everything about Johor Bahru, the familiarisation trip put my very limited knowledge about the city to shame. Johor Bahru offers more than just the mouth-watering kacang pool (made up of minced beef and beans and eaten by dipping bread into it) and murtabak kering (made up of stuffed pan-friend pWe headed off to Johor Premium Outlet where they sell high end branded items at reasonable or ridiculously inexpensive prices.
You can find everything from millineries to designer handbags. Though the area is rather exposed to the sun and may become a bit sweltering and humid come midday, such discomfort would surely disappear once visitors lay their eyes on the cheap and discounted branded merchandise.ancake filled with minced meat, eggs and vegetables).
We headed off to Johor Premium Outlet where they sell high end branded items at reasonable or ridiculously inexpensive prices. You can find everything from millineries to designer handbags. Though the area is rather exposed to the sun and may become a bit sweltering and humid come midday, such discomfort would surely disappear once visitors lay their eyes on the cheap and discounted branded merchandise.
Later in the afternoon, we were brought to one of the oldest Chinese temples in Johor Bahru, strategically located behind the Puteri Pacific Hotel. Surrounded by modern skyscrapers, Johor Bahru Chinese Temple is a place of worship and a symbol of unity among five Chinese dialect groups: Teo Chew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Hainan.
The temple was built in the 19th Century and although there is no proper record with regard to the completion of the temple, there exists a plaque and a century-old bronze bell located in the temple indicating it to be around 130 years old – definitely a historical place that visitors should not miss.
We then proceeded to another house of worship, which is made out of glass: the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple. It is located in the heart of Johor Bahru, right next to the railway tracks between Jalan Tun Abdul Razak and Jalan Mohd Taib. When I said everything in this temple is made out of glass, believe me: EVERYTHING is made out of glass, making it the world’s first glass temple. It was such an enigmatic and beguiling experience when I entered the temple.
Once inside, I saw the sculptures of Hindu deities, including the statue of Mother Teresa and Gautama Buddha that stands 120 centimetres tall. It is best for visitors to come and visit after 5:00 p.m. as the Hindus will be chanting and praying that time. But what really captured my attention were the murals that have stories behind them. There are two large panels on the ceiling painted to convey a universal message of social and racial harmony.
One of the murals showed an Indian motorcyclist fell and being helped by a Muslim, while a Buddhist picking up his helmet and a Christian lifting up the motorcycle – perfectly depicting what Malaysia is all about.We then made way to Desaru Fruit Farm. The farm is a true haven for fruit lovers as they have the chance to be surrounded with various mouth-watering tropical fruits that would make them go bananas.
Covering 160 acres, visitors have variety of fruit choices such as durian, starfruit, jackfruit, rambutans etc. There is also a mini zoo where visitors with children can observe and even pet the tame animals, among them cute little bunnies and goats.
When I was younger, Singapore does not need any introduction since it is a well-known country for its skyscrapers, futuristic buildings, strict laws and clean environment. Singapore is fast-moving, advanced, and of course, clean.
Universal Studio Singapore (or simply USS – yes, I am excited as you are whenever I hear this) is located in The Resorts World Sentosa and it is the first Universal Studio theme park to be opened in Southeast Asia. Totalling 20 hectares, the Universal Studio Singapore consists of seven themed zones, namely Hollywood, New York, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, The Lost World, Far Far Away Kingdom and also Madagascar, costing SD68 per person per admission.
Feel free to take pictures with Frankenstein, the man walking on stilts and even with Shrek! Try out the new thrilling Transformers 4D ride or the heart-stopping Battlestar Galactica roller coaster. The rides here are very well maintained and hold immaculate safety record. You might also enjoy ‘Revenge of The Mummy : The Ride’, which is a high speed psychological thrill ride with very sharp turns and fast reverse sections, pitting guests against fireballs, scarab beetles and robotic warrior mummies, all in the dark. Food and beverage outlets are easy to find; for Muslims, halal-certified restaurants are also available here.
What is Singapore without its signature Singapore Flyer? For the uninitiated, The Singapore Flyer is a giant ferris wheel that soars up to 165 metre in height, 30 metres taller than the famous London Eye. Situated on the southeast tip of the Marina Centre, it is built over a three-storey terminal building that houses shops, bars and restaurants. With 28 air-conditioned capsules, it is capable in holding up to 28 passengers.
A complete rotation of the wheel takes approximately thirty minutes. Besides enjoying the magnificent view, you can also book a capsule to dine with friends or loved ones for a high flying dining experience, whereby a butler will also be provided during the dinner.For food lovers, quickly head to Zam Zam Restaurant, famous for its Indian-Arabian-styled food that makes diners craving for more. Located at the North Bridge Road, this is one restaurant that visitors should not miss.
Famously known for using olive oil in cooking its dishes, Zam Zam Restaurant serves up fabulous Nasi Briyani dish, a rice dish cooked in spices and served with chicken, mutton and beef curry. Diners would also be amazed at the size of the chicken served as it would take hours just to finish it.
The restaurant’s Roti Canai (an Indian bread that looks like pancake prepared in round or square shapes made up of flour, cooked on a big open stove) is also popular. We all gained weight after dining at the restaurant because the food is simply finger-licking good.
If the Australia have the Sydney Opera House, Singapore owns Esplanade-Theatres On The Bay. Perfectly situated on the waterfront alongside Marina Bay, the purpose of the building is to be the centre of performing arts for the island nation and its name is taken from the nearby Esplanade.
The architecture of the building is inspired from the odorous fruit called durian, thus affectionately referred to as The Big Durian by the locals, without the pungent smell, of course. The building occupies a concert hall and a theatre that seat 1,600 and 2,000 persons respectively. For art lovers, Esplanade’s in-house programming team organises over 13 to 20 on-going series throughout the year.
Though Johor Bahru and Singapore differ in terms of buildings and technology, both have some things in common in terms of vibrance, culture and of course, good food. Both Johor Bahru and Singapore now become the two cities that I always love.