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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Maneuvering Malaysia - Just Johor Bahru

Most of us drive across the Causeway into Johor Bahru, Malaysia, without even giving it a second thought. It is so near, so convenient, and the petrol price was half due to currency conversion. The food lovers travel in for delicacies such as Bak Kut Teh, Wanton Noodles and Lok Lok (strands of food on sticks, to be dipped into a shared pot of gravy); the shopaholics raid the malls and stores.

Yes, so what does one do in Johor exactly?

Let's shop? Yes, let's do. There are many shopping malls in Johor Bahru itself - older ones like The Store and Pelangi have been slowly fazed out, replaced by more trendy malls such as City Square Mall (just right across the Causeway), a couple of Jusco Shopping Centres,  KSL City Mall and of course, the Johor Premium Outlets.

Their local brands are low-priced and rather trendy, really. Feel free to indulge and enjoy the lower currency exchange rate. Stock up on clothes, shoes and groceries. It is not advisable to purchase imported brands there, though, such as Mango, Guess, etc - because the prices are higher than if purchased locally (due to high import taxes).

Besides the great malls as mentioned above, doing manicures / pedicures or getting hair cuts / perms / rebonding / treatments there are well worth it too, as well as watching movies or singing Karaoke. Spend a lazy afternoon in JB and save half the costs, if you please.

For the foodie, there are delicacies to be found everywhere in JB. There are coffee shops strewn around serving traditional Zi Char (stir-fried dishes such as sweet- sour pork, soy sauce shrimps, shrimp-paste fried chicken etc), Bak Kut Teh, Wanton Noodles.

For scumptious and cheap Zi Char and Seafood, many Singaporeans like to check out Taman Sentosa, a huge non-airconditioned eatery with many stalls serving good local dishes.

Inside the shopping malls are an assortment of fast food restaurants, HongKong cafes, Chinese restaurants and Western cuisine as well.

If you are looking for more up-class Chinese / Seafood Restaurants, my two personal recommendations are Grand Straits Garden and Kong Inn Seafood Restaurant. They serve fresh, superior seafood dishes done Chinese style, provide rather hospitable service, and offer lovely ambience.

A staycation in JB??? Why not? Whether you decide to leave town on a last-minute basis, cannot take long leave, or have budget constraints, JB is a place where you can enjoy an affordable night or two away from the hustle-bustle of Singapore citylife. Stay cooped up in your rooms ordering room service and cuddling, or explore the city while returning at night to your room for a good night's rest.

Nice hotels such as Thistle Hotel (formerly Hyatt Regency) or Austin Hills Golf Resort provide comfortable and even sophisticated accommodation at good rates, good facilities and offers respite for a relaxed weekend for families, friends or lovers alike.

Feel free to party too, if you wish, but take heed to beware of drugs and fights - have fun, but provoke no one. It could get rather messy or dangerous in there.

Other Attractions
Besides the great city attractions, one might also like to visit the JB villages to see the simplistic ways of how the villagers live. I have watched them -  totally comfortable lifestyles where their days were spent cooking, mahjong or chatting, rearing their little poultry pets, growing a little fruits and vegetables and sowing what they reap. Children attended schools, and then came home to watch TV, help their parents on the family farm or tend their mini-marts; if not, it was a childhood filled with playing in the sandboxes, chasing butterflies or wading in the rivers. They lived stress-free, contended in their own chosen paths.

These are the kind of experience that are truly humbling to one's soul, and made me miss a real childhood and at the same time, realize how fortunate we are, to be this advanced.

There are also plantations and aquariums for visits, if one would like a natural indulgence for the senses.

Lastly, do drop by Danga Bay (Teluk Danga) if you are seeking recreational activities, fine dining restaurants, lavish malls or simply would like to spend a relaxing or romantic day at the seaside with friends, family or partners.

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