Johor Bahru: What It Has to Offer
Johor is a Malaysian state in the south of the Malay Peninsula. Johor Bahru, formerly known as Tanjung Puteri or Iskandar Puteri is the capital of the state of Johor, Malaysia. Johor Bahru was founded in 1855 as Iskandar Puteri when the Sultanate of Johor came under the influence of Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim. The area was renamed “Johor Bahru” in 1862. Johor is also a bridge away from Singapore, a fellow ASEAN country.
I visit Johor Bahru about twice a year, usually for a short holiday with the family or because we have a family-friend engagement there. This time around, I felt it was necessary to introduce Johor Bahru and its stories filled with royalty and a generation of histories.
Before you exit the highway to enter Johor Bahru, one can opt for a shopping experience like no other at Johor Premium Outlets (JPO). My family and I visit JPO every chance we get as one can get amazing deals from high-street boutiques that are not available at local malls.
After doing some slight damage to your bank account, make your way straight into Johor and along the main straits of Johor, you will be greeted with some eye-catching monuments with its own stories to tell. And another side of the strait is a view of Singapore. One of the things that will greet you is The Royal Crown in Istana Bukit Serene, dubbed the “Jewel”. It is the royal palace and the official residence of the Sultan of Johor.
Along the road, there will be a brown-maroon coloured building which is Sultanah Aminah Hospital, which holds a history worth telling. On 25 October 2016, a fire broke out in the ICU of the main building, killing six people and wounding another four. A day after, a second smaller fire occurred in the operation theatre in the emergency and trauma ward. Due to this, the government decided to conduct safety audits on all hospitals in the country. One can still see the remains of the fire at the ICU building as the walls are black instead of their own signature colour.
After that, you will be greeted with a royal looking mosque which is the Masjid Sultan Abu Bakar, the architecture of the mosque is of English Victorian style and some Moorish elements to it, with a touch of Malay influences. This is one of the reasons why it is also listed in the visitor’s attraction list. The mosque sits on top of a prominent hill, overlooking the Straits of Johor and was named for Sultan Abu Bakar, the father of Sultan Ibrahim who ordered its construction. It can accommodate 2,000 worshippers at any one time.
At night, the city centre comes alive for Bazaar Karat, which is a stretch of food, inexpensive textiles and vintage finds; a night market that will for sure congest the main road. There are so many things one can experience there, from live performances and hot piping deep fried chicken and squid. Fortunately for us, there was a Deepavali Festival going on near the Bazaar Karat and colourful lights and loud music greeted us as Indians walked around buying their festive goods and preparing Deepavali that will be going on on the 6th November, this year.
As for food, Hua Mui is an old kopitiam famous for the origin of Hainanese Chicken Chop in Malaysia. You would think that you can only eat bread and eggs for breakfast, but Hua Mui provides an array of food from deep fried chicken cutlet, to noodles and big breakfast to fill you up for the day. Tip: it opens at 8:30AM, but people will start queuing from 8AM to get a seat.
For dinner, seafood is best served grilled and shared with people. Thus, do visit Yong Yong & Tip Top Ikan Bakar for the freshest catch of the day, grilled or fried to your choice. The service there is friendly and quick, making your visit more worthwhile.
Johor, and its capital Johor Bahru has so much to offer. Not only it is rich in its own history and stories, it is also a melting pot of races that are proud to be Johorean and would wear their flags out proud.