After our previous article on Kedah, we have invited three other UNMC students to introduce their home states, and the featured state for our third article is none other than Johor! Johor is located at the south end of Malaysia and is often overlooked by tourist as many view it as a ‘bridge’ to Singapore. However, this state actually offers an exotic experience for fans of outdoor adventures and countryside activities. If that is not your thing, you could also opt for nearby shopping malls or cafés to hang out with your friends. With its diversity, you can definitely find an activity that suits your taste. During your visit, find the little similarities of Kuala Lumpur in Johor Bahru, visit the fishing village in Mersing, enjoy the green scenery in Kota Tinggi, go food hunting in Muar and much more!
Without further ado, let the Johoreans share some opinions and insights of their state that might help you prepare for your next getaway!
Najwa Mazelan | 3rd Year in Nutrition
Saran Anandan | 2nd Year in Biotechnology
Rynnie Son | 3rd Year in Education
Compare KL or Semenyih to Johor. Do you think there are any differences?
Najwa: I come from Segamat, which is a small town located in the northern part of Johor. It’s not even close to the state capital, which is Johor Bahru. Segamat is not like KL or Semenyih, not even Johor Bahru. It’s a peaceful town with fewer cars and less traffic, making it easy to get around. You can’t do much here but it’s a good spot if you’re looking for a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Saran: I am from Johor Bahru, which is the capital of Johor. The interesting part about Johor Bahru is that it is a mix of both KL and Semenyih. You get the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Kuala Lumpur, as well as the tranquillity and the old-town charm of Semenyih. It’s the second-largest city in Malaysia, so it has almost all of the typical activities and attractions you’d find in Kuala Lumpur.
Rynnie: My hometown is Kluang. There are parts of Semenyih which do remind me of home, especially Broga Hill. There is a similar mountain called Gunung Lambak which oversees my town. I would also add that there is a blend of rural and modern city life in Kluang. We have a shopping mall with international brands, as well as vibrant agricultural activities (e.g. palm oil and rubber plantation) found in the countryside.
What are some of the misconceptions people often have about Johor?
Saran: There is this misconception that Johor is full of plantations. It probably stems from the fact that the PLUS highway (the easiest way to get to Johor Bahru by car) is dotted with oil palm plantations on both sides of the highway. In contrast to this belief, Johor is full of different landscapes. From the skyscrapers that highlight the Johor Bahru skyline to the mountainous terrains of Pagoh and Yong Peng, Johor really is a place with a myriad of views and sceneries. Everyone tends to say that Johor is just the gateway to Singapore, but we have lots of things to offer so a trip down here is definitely worth your time and money.
Rynnie: Generally, my acquaintances, who are not very familiar with Johor, will always think that Johor only has Johor Bahru. Johor Bahru is the just capital of the state; we have many other cities too! As for people who have heard about Kluang, it is mainly due to the famous Kluang Rail Coffee Shop and that’s it. Other than that, most people just assume that Kluang is some “ulu” place.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out or chill with your friends?
Saran: I’d usually hang out in places like City Square, or JBCC, both of which are shopping malls, but I guess that’s something you’d get in Kuala Lumpur as well. JB has witnessed an explosion of hipster cafes over the past few years, and some of them are pretty good. Places like Kilang Bateri and Dreamliner Café are definitely great additions to your Instagram profile.
Rynnie: There is a strong ‘yumcha’ culture in Kluang (or maybe it is the same across Malaysia). There are reportedly over 300 coffee shops in Kluang, including traditional coffee shops and trendy cafés. I used to often go café hopping with my friends during our free time. My favourite café has to be On The Road. They serve authentic and unique cheesecakes which will surprise your taste buds. I would like to recommend my two personal favourites, ‘rose and white wine’ and ‘sweet potato’. In addition to that, there is a great literary atmosphere in the café because it also works as an independent bookstore where you can find works done by local authors, carefully handpicked by the shop owner.
Could you share with us some underrated places to visit in Johor?
Najwa: If you are planning to hang around Segamat, I would the recommend Kedia Kopi Nan Yang, which is located near the market in town. It’s a local coffee shop and many locals tend to go there to get their daily caffeine fix. Order the iced kopi to refresh you on a hot day with a side of kaya toast. If you are nearby Muar, I would recommend you to head to the 434 Sai Kee Coffee Shop which has been around for more than 50 years. It’s famous for its local coffee and aside from its typical kopitiam menu, they also serve Mee Bandung Muar which is a popular dish here. You can also head to Tanjung Emas for some Asam Pedas. They have multiple variations of Asam Pedas, served with different types of fish too so there’s always going to be something that will suit your palate.
Saran: Speaking of underrated places, there is this place in Johor Bahru that isn’t famous even amongst the locals. It’s an unnamed lake that is referred to as ‘Tasik Biru’ or Blue Lake. It’s located opposite Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Institute of Industrial Technology (UniKL MITEC), behind a hill which you would have to hike past. It probably used to be an old mine or quarry that has since been filled up with water. The state authorities haven’t been able to gazette it as a tourist attraction as of yet, which may explain its relative anonymity. However, it does provide you with a really nice view.
Rynnie: There is an organic farm called Kahang Organic Eco Rice Farm that provides local farm stays and volunteering programs, so people can experience hands-on rice farming in the paddy fields. Other than that, there is an irrigation spot where you can do bamboo rafting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Nearby, there is a mountain called Gunung Belumut, where you can do jungle trekking. In comparison to Broga Hill, this is slightly harder since there are no properly-paved steps.
What are some places you must visit or things you must do in Johor?
Najwa: I would recommend hiking Mount Ledang if you are keen on outdoor activities. It’s only around 1200m tall and perfect for first timers. The scenery is to die for! If you are not interested in hiking, you can also hang around the Ledang Waterfall. For those coming from the South, you can also stop by the Sg. Bantang waterfall, located in Bekok. Both of these places are nice to visit with your family and friends.
Saran: One place I’d suggest visiting is Puteri Harbour, and the area around it. Puteri Harbour has a dock for luxury yachts, as well as a Superhero Café, which displays memorabilia from both the Marvel and DC Comics Universe. A word of advice: you’re better off getting your shot of caffeine from anywhere else but the café (the prices are exorbitant!). However, the items they have on sale and display are indeed somewhat special. Also, do try the food at Spice Grill, which is a restaurant that specialises in Indian and fusion cuisine. Their wares are expensive, but it is worth the money. The food served in this restaurant is simply magnificent, and it also gives you a great view of the Puteri Harbour dock.
Rynnie: There is a mural street called ‘Laman Kreatif Kluang‘ that you must visit. As mentioned earlier, Kluang is famous for coffee. There are different types of coffee you can try – the local product Kluang Coffee Cap Telvesiyen, or the Luwak Coffee served in the Garden Café in Paloh. What compliments the coffee most, in my opinion, is the traditional dessert made by Tong Huat Confectionary; I have a strong bias for their Kuih Kacang Masin! Lastly, there is a place called Machap, where you can experience pottery and make crafts using porcelain.
Through this article, we hope that you learned more about Johor as a state and the endless activities that this beautiful state has to offer. In the future, before you head to Singapore, do stop by Johor and visit the recommended places. Until next time!
By America Lee Yan Yi