Known as one of the best culinary destinations in Johor, this humble town is comparable to a diamond in a rough due to its underrated reputation among locals. In fact, it seems that Muar is home to various attractions for city dwellers and tourists to enjoy a more quaint and laidback atmosphere. Formally called Bandar Maharani Bandar Diraja, it was declared as Johor’s Royal Town by the current ruler of Johor His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Baginda Al-Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj back on 5 February 2012.
When we talk about Muar, we are not only talking about the town because it also actually a district within the state of Johor that possesses ancient Malay heritage comparable to the golden age of Melaka Sultanate with legends such as Hikayat Malim Deman (Malim Deman’s Tale) and Lembing Awang Pulang ke Dayang (The Return of Awang’s Spear to Dayang). These days, the district – especially around town area – beams with updated charm in the form of hipster cafes and children parks. Let’s discover Muar’s own surprises, shall we?
Where to go…
Awarded as the biggest Herbs and Spice Plantation by the Malaysian Book of Records, Nasuha Herbal and Spices farm is a 1,500-hectare cultivated paradise that does not just supply abundant spices and herbs, but also multiple activities for travellers. The farm has chalets, a dormitory, and other accommodation of its own, a spa and a recreational park where travellers can burn that extra calories off after dining at Nasuha Herbal Restaurant. Although the restaurant accepts walk-in customers, the farm doesn’t, so call ahead and plan big, as they have tour packages (lunch included) for groups larger than 20 persons at MYR37 per head. Located only 45 minutes from Melaka, travellers can take Lebuh AMJ (Alor Gajah-Central Melaka-Jasin route) to reach Muar for an interesting road trip.
The Muar River Cruise is the perfect choice for those who love being on boats or ships. Although this is is not a fancy cruise, this 40-minute tour allows travellers to take in the scenery of the town from Muar River and soak in its beauty without having to contend with traffic or brace through the hot sun. There is narration about the history and facts about Muar during the cruise, so keep your ears open for interesting and educational info about the Royal Town of Johor. The fares are MYR12 per adult for MYkad holders and MYR15 for non-Malaysians, while children are charged MYR6 each. The cruise operates every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
For those seeking selfie opportunities should follow the Muar Cultural Walk, arguably the most Instagram-worthy route in Muar. Rows and rows of murals are painted at the back of the commercial buildings, making the back alley bursting with creativity and urban zest. Aesthetically pleasing three-dimensional artworks such as the old Muar cinema and satay stall beautifully complement the pre-war architecture that exude nostalgia. Contact the Muar Cultural Walk committee and have an educational spin around town. There are also other attractions such as performances from local buskers and cultural shows, including street vendors that peddling home-made items in the evening from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight every Friday to Sunday. There are other murals scattered around Muar too, so be mindful whenever you pass by. One of the well-known murals is the ‘Loving Sisters’ by Russian mural artist Julia Volchkova, who drew the iconic Indian Boatman mural in Penang. Admirers of her work can now see a piece of her enchanting touches in Johor.
Call Mr. James @ Teo Peng Heng at +6 017 8895899 for more information.
While Muar Cultural Walk is an activity that celebrates the current and past-time of Muar that is arranged and showcased, Muar Walking Tour on the other hand is a self-initiated discovery leading to historical remains of the colonial and pre-war age, including Muar’s longstanding heritage. As written by the Malaysian Traveller (https://www.malaysia-traveller.com/muar-walking-tour.html), this seven-kilometre trail through Peter Street shows you the best historical gems of Muar that you can discover by foot, so lace up and prepare to step back in time.
Tanjung Emas Recreational Park
Have a stroll at this park for some peace and quiet, or stare out to the majestic river that stretches out to the Straits of Malacca. Try out Muar River Cruise for a different but memorable perspective of the town.
Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim and Masjid Sultan Ismail
Initially, a wooden madrasa built in 1888, it was eventually converted into the iconic blue-hued Western-meets-Middle Eastern-influenced Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim in 1925 to commemorate Sultan Sir Ibrahim’s then 35-year rule. Seven decades later, the sister mosque that replicates the architecture of the original was built across the river in Tanjung Agas and named Masjid Sultan Ismail as a tribute to Sultan Ismail who succeeded Sultan Ibrahim. From afar, these two mosques look grand as they stand opposite of each other, separated by Muar River.
Royal Resting Place
This well-maintained edifice looks like a flashback from the 60’s with early modernist architecture that emphasised boxy structures and rigid symmetrical lines.
Sultan Abu Bakar Building
This marvelous-looking blue building that sports colonial architecture houses local government offices.
Muar Royal Customs and Excise Building
Built in 1909, this building has a steeple to indicate Victorian influence over its architecture.
Make a quick detour at the old shophouses along the street and bring home local produce such as dried seafood as you turn back time when exploring the row of century-old commercial buildings.
Muar Clock Tower
The still-functioning clock tower in the middle of the street is Muar’s most prominent landmarks, embellished with white and neutral paint, complementing the sunny blue sky.
Home to the defending 13th World Lion Dance Champions, Muar is the birthplace of these enthralling performers. Kun Seng Keng is not only a unique attraction but also a local mission in preserving and boosting awareness towards the beauty and dynamics of lion dance to the locals regardless of race and religion. The performers are dedicated in bringing the Lion to life through hypnotising moves and acrobatics skills as they deftly tread on challenging elevated poles. Although there is usually no performance offered to visitors, try catching the performers during training to personally witness their prowess. There is no fee charged for entering the training centre, but bigger groups need to inform the administrator of Kun Seng Keng prior to arrival so as not to disturb the performers’ training session.
What to Eat…
Founded in the 1950s, Sai Kee’s 434 coffee is now a household name in Malaysia. Fans of this brand can have a taste of 434 coffee right at the source by visiting Cafe 434 located along Jalan Maharani. Painted in bright yellow, travellers are bound to be smitted by this cafe with its unique and rustic Norwegian-inspired interior. The cafe’s specialties include the Elephant Coffee, Original 434 Coffee and the Monalisa Coffee. The prices are reasonable and the aromatic coffees are deep with flavours, which is why patrons could never get enough of them.
Gluttony Street Muar
One of the oldest culinary attractions in Muar is the Gluttony Street. Called in many names and terms, this street’s charming atmosphere remains the same throughout the years. The one in Muar dates back from 1952 and since has been the go-to food spot for local Chinese society. Located along Jalan Haji Abu, the highlights are fried oysters, pork satay, chwee kueh (water rice cakes) and the ever classic herbal tea to knock off the midday heat. The selling of food begins in late afternoon and ends by 8:00 p.m., perfect for those seeking early dinner.
ZZ Satay Warisan Muar is one of the most popular spots in Muar to have breakfast. Unlike in other places that serve this smoky and juicy delicacy only in the evenings, satay is served as a breakfast staple along with other iconic dishes like nasi lemak and roti canai. Located on Majidi Street, the stall opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 2:45 p.m.; it operates every day except Tuesday. With the price tag of MYR0.70 per skewer, travellers may indulge as many as their tummies could fill.
Where to stay…
One of the most intriguing lodging options in Muar would have to be PopChuco Art Gallery Homestay. This art gallery cum cafe also provides accommodation, with the concept of shared space experience. Even its exterior oozes with hip, local artistic charms with bright paints and abstract murals. Charges are applied per head, starting from MYR85 for two persons to MYR210 for six persons. Located near the town centre on Jalan Othman, sightseeing by foot would be a breeze.
As one of the few container hotels in Johor, PPT Muar strikes the most attention with contrasting coloured containers and block-red roof, unlike any other hotels that travellers have seen. All rooms, are equipped with modern amenities and flat screen television sets. The rates are affordable, starting from MYR98 for a Single Room, MYR128 for Standard Master and all the way to MYR231 for Executive Suites. Guests are invited to bask in its picturesque interior at the ce