Johor – the southern-most state on Peninsular Malaysia bordering Singapore – has always been the state that I would love to live besides Kuala Lumpur. It has many things to offer, from lush greenery, heritage buildings, modern city life, and many types of food that is bound to amaze foodies and gourmands alike. It is one of the more popular states in Malaysia that brims with fun-filled attractions that are suitable for travellers of all age groups, especially families with children.
From 9 until 12 April 2018, Tourism Johor collaborated with Gaya Travel Magazine in organising a familiarisation trip involving 30 selected journalists, bloggers and influencers to experience the delights of Johor. The trip brought the participants to various destinations that should be on all travellers’ itinerary when they happen to visit this state.
What to Experience?
Everybody knows the cutest cat in the whole wide world is Hello Kitty! Though Hello Kitty originated in Japan, she has a special little home in Johor. My inner five-year old self screamed with excitement as I explored her home, watched and danced along with Hello Kitty and friends, and experienced interactive activities together with the whole family.
Note: Hello Kitty’s neighbour, Thomas & Friends, also offers fun activities for the whole family as well!
Wednesday – Monday | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sanrio Hello Kitty Town RM85 | Two-park Pass RM125
There seems to be no age limit for those who enjoy theme parks and what better way to spend quality time with your family than at LEGOLAND theme park in Johor, which is only one of the six LEGOLAND theme parks in the world! The LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort comprises a family-friendly hotel with themed rooms, LEGO theme park, LEGO waterpark and soon to open Sea-Life Park. During our short visit, we simply had to try the world’s first LEGO Virtual Reality roller coaster, which offers a thrilling and adventurous ride, making us want to explore more of the park’s grounds that are replete with characters and miniature buildings made from LEGO bricks, including replicas of famous landmarks such as Taj Mahal, Petronas Twin Towers and more.
Daily | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Laman Mahkota, Istana Bukit Serene
Since I am a person who simply loves taking in the cool tropical breeze at night and hang out with friends and family, I find that Laman Mahkota, situated close to the gates of Istana Bukit Serene (Serene Hill Palace), is perfect to spend quality time with them in Johor Bahru. Laman Mahkota is where travellers can find the oversized replica of the Sultan of Johor’s Crown – supported by four curved pillars that almost resemble arches – hovering above their heads, making it an interesting subject to photograph. At night, the place illuminates with a sense of grandeur. The park is also beautifully adorned with water fountains that lit up with coloured lights in the evening.
Johor Bahru’s Zero-Kilometre Monument
This landmark – located just in front of Johor Bahru post office – indicates the starting point when distances are measured in Johor. Don’t miss taking pictures here to gloat that you’ve been to the starting point of Johor Bharu, which surprisingly not many people knew.
Sultan Ismail Building
Sultan Ismail Building – located within Johor’s seat of administration called Kota Iskandar (www.kotaiskandar.com), around 18 kilometres away from Johor Bahru city centre – is the place where Johor State Legislative Assembly meets. This grand building, which sports Moorish-Andalusian and Johor-Malay architectural styles, is the place where the members of the public can learn how legislations for the state of Johor are debated and passed. As travellers enter the building, they are welcomed by a water feature flanked by two large curved staircases just like in Bollywood movies, which make for nice Instagram shots. Upstairs is the Johor State Legislative Assembly Hall, cleverly embellished with symbols denoting Johor’s economic wealth from the past such as motifs of black pepper and gambier.
Note: Check out the design of the building’s ceiling, which takes cues from the shape of the pineapple flower because Johor is one of the major pineapple exporters in Malaysia.
Daily | 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
*except Mondays & Public Holidays
Remember the time when everyone was addicted to the game called Angry Birds where we virtually throw colourful birds using a slingshot to defeat the mean green pigs? Then visiting the Angry Birds Activity Park inside the popular KOMTAR JBCC (www.komtarjbcc.com.my) shopping centre would surely turn the game into reality! When we arrived at the park, the staff together with the character called The Bomb (black round bird) welcomed us with two dance numbers. We then jumped on trampolines, leaped into a foam pit, tested our balance and shot mean green pigs. Travellers with children should also give other attractions like go-karting, air bag-jumping, slide and obstacle courses a try if they have more time in their hands. These activities are totally safe for children and there is staff stationed at each attraction.
Daily | 10:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m.
The much-celebrated Johor Darul Ta’zim Football Club (simply known as JDT) is held by Johoreans in high esteem, owned by His Royal Highness Major General Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim, The Crown Prince of Johor. The Tan Sri Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos Stadium, also known as Larkin Stadium, now painted in bright blue and red, is the newest addition to Johor’s attractions after being renovated and home to the club. Travellers can definitely feel the roaring spirit of Johor when entering the stadium. There is also a Johor-Japan football gallery that chronicles Japan’s success in qualifying the 1998 World Cup in France.
Note: There are also JDT merchandise for sale like jerseys, key chains, lanyards and more.
Do you ever feel like you need to get your hands on items like traditional musical instruments, paintings and handicrafts? Travellers can surely do so when they visit the Johor Craft Complex, where they can witness live demonstrations in the making of handicrafts and playing of traditional musical instruments like kompang, angklung and gamelan ensemble. The centre also organises art classes and activities such as batik– colouring, wau-making (traditional Malay kites), tie-dyeing, keychain-making and more.
Tip: Go there during weekends when the centre hosts car boot sale.
Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Desaru Fruit Farm cultivates various tropical fruitsDesaru Fruit Farm is a 180-acre fruit farm that cultivates various tropical fruits such as durian, mango, mangosteen, guava, dragon fruit, rose apple, jackfruit, starfruit and passion fruit, among others. Though this is a non-self-plucking fruit farm, travellers can feast on fresh luscious fruits after completing their tour. Besides the informative guided fruit farm tour, there are also bee farm and petting zoo as well. Touring this farm is indeed educational and the guide explains expertly. When it is time for fruit-tasting, we were lavishly served with fresh and sweet fruits that were too good to pass up.
Entrance ticket price:
Adult RM25 | Child RM20
First opened to the public in 2007, this museum – housed in a traditional wooden structure built in Malay vernacular using mortise and tenon method, devoid of any nail – exhibits information regarding Johor’s early beginnings before the founding of Tanjung Puteri, what we now called as Johor Bahru, in 1855. The museum is located within what is now a small village. Back in the 17th century, the site of the museum was where the fort of Old Johor was situated and served as one of the bases of the Old Johore Sultanate, which took up the Malay Sultanate mantle after the fall of Melaka Sultanate by the Portuguese. The lineage of the Melaka Sultanate was continued by the Old Johore Sultanate up until 1699, when Sultan Mahmud II died without an heir.
Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Closed on First Day of Eid ul Fitr & Eid ul Adha
Entrance is FREE
Teluk Sengat Crocodile World
If Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter was here, he would’ve shouted ‘Crikey!’. I was utterly awestruck when witnessing the 1,000 crocodiles that are being reared in this farm, including the oldest that is already 156 years of age and another one that is tailless. I always have a special thing about crocodiles since I was a child because of ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ show. There’s something so amazing about this species that it’s impossible not to be amazed by them, especially the fact that they are not prone to illnesses. The owner of the farm said that she didn’t intend to inherit this farm from her father, but then things changed and now travellers to this place could see how passionate she is when she shares remarkable details about crocodiles and her experience rearing them, making the whole experience eye-opening. Travellers could even pet and take pictures with baby crocodiles.
Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Adult RM8 | Child RM4
T: +6 07 8955220
Exploring the mangroves and learning about its ecosystem is educational. But that not all that travellers will get at Belukar Durian Wetlands; this place also offers fun-filled activities to be enjoyed with friends and family like river-cruising, kayaking, bicycling, camping, and fishing. There are also chalets for travellers to rent if they wish to stay overnight and catch fireflies that light up the mangrove trees.
Horseshoe Crab Livestock and Hatchery
Did you know that in Sedili Kecil, Johor, there is the only centre for horseshoe crab cultivation and hatchery in South East Asia? The centre accumulates horseshoe crab eggs, hatches them and rear the baby horsehoe crabs up to one year before releasing them back into the sea. This conservation effort helps to replenish the number of horseshoe crabs in the wild, particularly in the waters of Johor. Horseshoe crabs only reach sexual maturity when they are 14 years old. Due to overfishing, their number is dwindling fast and now each horseshoe crab retails up to RM15 due to high demand.
Johor is blessed with fresh seafood due to its proximity to the South China Sea. At at Chalet Terapung Selat Mendana (Mendana Strait Floating Chalet) in Kong Kong Laut, an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Johor Bahru city centre., travellers are bound to have an interesting dining experience above water where they can feast upon freshly caught marine life that are then prepared in different ways such as spicy flower crab, ikan siakap tiga rasa (fried sea bass drenched in three-flavoured sauce), sotong celup tepung (deep fried squid), and udang galah kari kering (Lobster cooked in dry curry). This place also offers chalets above water so that travellers can focus on fishing activities during their stay.
Note: To get to the place also involves a five-minute boat ride.
T: +6 013 480 6300
What better way to end the trip with a shopping trip to Johor Premium Outlets (JPO), which is one of the state’s ultimate shopping havens. This is the place where travellers can shop for renowned brands like Gucci, Guess, Coach, Adidas, to local ones like Vincci and Padini sold at discounted prices. There are also food and beverage outlets like Dome, Starbucks, Marrybrown and more for famished shoppers or those who prefer to sit down and dine rather than shop.
Tip: Since parts pedestrian areas of JPO are exposed to the elements, be sure to bring along caps and umbrellas just in case it rains or the shines too brightly.
Where to Stay?
Jen Puteri Harbour Hotel, which is part of the world-renowned hospitality group Shangri-La stable, is luxurious, plush, and well thought out. From business-friendly to Hello Kitty-themed rooms (children are sure to love ‘Hello Kitty of Oz’, ‘the Munchkin Village’, and ‘Captain’s Kitty’s Cabin’), this hotel offers memorable stay for travellers of all ages. and more.
Amari is a modern Thai hotel brand that is characterised by spaciousness, culture and philosophy. The décor of this hotel sports the colours and rhythms of modern Asia. It has 242 guestrooms and suites, meeting rooms, Breeze spa, and library. Guests are bound to enjoy the gastronomic offerings be it for breakfast, lunch and dinner at Amaya Food Gallery, where various Thai-influenced dishes are prepared by the chef using fresh ingredients. The presentation and flavours of the dishes harmonious fit with the modern Thai lifestyle.
This accessible yet tranquil resort, located on Desaru Coast, invites guests to luxuriate and indulge on the white sandy beach or by the pool or at the spa, as well as having fun with the activities offered. Sands & Sandals Desaru Beach Resort is much recommended for couples who seek sweet getaway. Some of the highlights of the resort are the couple suites that come with big heart-shaped bathtubs.