It’s been months since we made the trip. Coming to 9 months to be exact. My bad. I know I have been sitting on it until now before I took the effort to post the story about our Johor trip here. Anyway, better late than never, right?
Since my wife was busy with work, we couldn’t go overseas but decided to take a local road trip to Johor for the year end holiday in 2013. Johor is chosen because it’s the most unexplored state for us.
Needless to say, among other attractions, Legoland Malaysia is the highlight of the trip.
We took the North-South Expressway to Johor and our first stop was Muar.
From Kuala Lumpur to Muar, it takes about 2 hours of drive. A total of 250km of mileage. We exited at Tangkak and we still had to drive for about 30 km before reaching Muar town. I am surprised to realize that Muar is a very clean town and some of the buildings there are color-coordinated by street.
We reached Muar at about 8.30 am. We wanted to do what Muar people do: have satay for breakfast. We went to R&H Cafe for this. We also tried its taufu lentuk (RM3). We also tried its mee rebus.
Generally the food is above average but I find everything is sweet. What makes R&H Cafe special is, according to the owner, Sultan Johor is a regular patron to this cafe and he loves Super Soup and tofu lentok. His Majesty comes here 3-4 times a month, according to the owner.
Another uniqueness which you can’t find in Kuala Lumpur is you can enjoy your satay first and you pay as per what you eat later.
R&H Cafe is located diagonally opposite the bus station.
R&H Cafe (Sate Maharani)
130-2, Bangunan Mara, Jalan Maharani, 84000 Muar.
Telephone: 016-6253 666
Cafe 434 (才记咖啡)
Later, we went to Sai Kee Coffee (Kopi 434) – the Elephant coffee. Just a few doors away from R&H Cafe. Kopi 434 was founded in 1953. Since then Kopi 434 is synonymous with Muar coffee.
The decor of the cafe is soothing and resort-like. The wall is covered with beautiful pine wood planks and decorated with coffee machines of different era. Coffee in various forms is available for sale. We bought home some local coffee sachets – RM19 for 100 sachets.
Cafe 434 (Sai Kee Coffee)
121 Jalan Maharani, 84000 Muar, Johor.
Dataran Tanjung Emas (Tanjung Emas Square)
Tanjung Emas is a nice and clean square along Muar River. A wonderful place to have a morning stroll and there are a few playgrounds spotted there.
At the end of the pavement, we took a round trip boat cruise along Muar River at Jeti Tanjung Emas. Tickets: RM10 adults, RM5 for children under 12.
Muar is rich in history and it’s depicted by its many historical buildings: Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, Customs Building, Muar High School, etc.
Besides that, one may find old shop houses in the town area. Not to be missed is Hindu Temple along Jalan Meriam.
Chicken Rice Balls
Opposite a Hindu Temple at Jalan Meriam, we accidentally saw a coffee shop selling chicken rice balls that is also on our food list. The coffee shop is called Jit Fat. You can order chicken and rice balls separately. Each chicken rice ball costs 60 sen. Nothing to shout about the chicken rice and chicken. You can also try its otak-otak (60 sen).
Hainanese Curry Chicken Rice
We walked along Jalan Meriam and found this famous restaurant called Lu San Restaurant (卢山) which is famous for Hainanese Chicken Curry Rice. I tried to speak to the owner and ask more about kau yoke rice. His reply which I felt was arrogant: “Eat and you shall know. I can’t tell you anything.”
Reluctantly I sat down and ordered. True enough, despite the cockiness of the owner, the rice turned out to be excellent. You’ll be served with bitter gourd, salted fish, besides chicken curry. Not enough, we ordered another plate. This time we had Lu Rou rice (stewed pork). Again, it was good. The food made me feel very homely and it was highly appetizing. Though the serving is not big but it’s worth a try.
Lu Shan Restaurant
At the junction of Jalan Meriam and Jalan Haji Abu.
Mee Bandung Muar Abu Bakar Hanipah
Walked around at Glutton Street (Jalan Haji Abu) but didn’t buy anything as we were so full and there were not many stalls opened as it was still early. After walking around for some distance, we arrived at the famous mee bandung stall: Abu Bakar Hanipah Mee Bandung Muar. It’s located in a Chinese coffee shop and he is the only stall in the shop. The business is still thriving after so many years as witnessed by the non-stop streams of customers.
True to its name, the mee bandung was good. You can judge from the countless of photos taken and some of them with VIPs. Each plate is RM4.50.
Mee Bandung Muar Abu Bakar Hanipah (Wah San Coffee Shop)
69-A Jalan Abdullah, Muar, Johor.
6.30am to 5.00pm
Hello Kitty Cafe
It was not registered on my mind until J reminded me we had to visit this place. It’s a special place as this eatery is a Hello Kitty themed cafe. It’s a not to be missed item on our list… at least for J. By the time we reached the cafe, we were still full, hence we only ordered drinks. The prices are reasonable. The place is well decorated with Hello Kitty decorative items. We picked a tatame for a sit on the floor experience. The place is located slightly out of town and behind Bank of China.
Sweety House Cafe (Hello Kitty Cafe) 甜甜屋
9, Jalan Perniagaan 2, Pusat Perniagaan Kenanga, 84000 Muar, Johor.
Telephone: 06-951 3387
Hours: 11:00am to 10:00pm (Sun to Thurs); 11:00am to 11:00pm (Fri and Sat) – Closed on Tues.
Johor Premium Outlets
We went to Batu Pahat before reaching Johor Premium Outlets in Indahpura, Kulaijaya. It took about 30 minutes from Batu Pahat to enter Air Itam exit. Entering E2 North South Expressway (Lebuhraya Utara Selatan) take exit 253 entering E3 Lebuhraya Kedua Malaysia Singapore. Then take Exit 304 and Exit 302A. Follow signs leading to Johor Premium Outlets.
At JPO, we don’t find the things any cheaper. The design of the outlets are the same as the US’s outlets. There are a few restaurants there and we chose George and Dragon Cafe to have our dinner there. We took lamb, spaghetti, pizza and scones. The food and service are excellent. Highly recommended.
Le Grandeur Palm Resort
We checked in Le Grandeur Palm Resort in Senai at about 10pm which is about 15 minutes from Johor Premium Outlets. RM363 for two nights which we feel is a steal.
Breakfast at Le Grandeur – The buffet spread is moderate. A combination of Malaysian and Western breakfast. My favorite is teh tarik.
In the morning, we headed to the pool for a dip. The pool is adequately-sized and it’s apparently very popular among its guests.
Senai Kuih Stall
From our research, we came to know about this famous stall in Senai town which sells local kuih. We reached there about 1pm and the famous Hakka Kuih is sold out. Despite the kuih are different from what we used to see and they are more expensive than kuih in KL, we bought a few types of kuih to try out. True to its name, overall the kuih is excellent. On average, the kuih costs RM1 except yam cake which is RM2 each. The yam cake is superb.
One note of warning about Senai is the town is full of foreigners. I suspect they are Nepalese and Vietnamese women. I don’t want to sound racist, but I felt a bit intimidated by this as for the first time I felt I was a foreigner in my own country.
Johor Bahru City Tour
We took about 40 minutes to reach Johor Bahru city from Le Grandeur. We passed by Danga Bay. And I wanted to go to Bukit Serene but it is closed for renovation. Later, I saw a nice building after Dataran Bandaraya on the left. I immediately made a turning to the left and only then did I realize it was Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.
I love the architecture of the mosque which was built in 1892. We even went in to the mosque to have a look. I must confess the interior still carries the old design. The majestic mosque is next to Johor Zoo. It is situated at Jalan Gertak Merah.
Situated at Jalan Datuk, 3 km west of the Causeway. Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru is the city square (not to be confused with the City Square shopping mall in the heart of downtown) that was constructed in conjunction with Johor Bahru being granted city status on January 1994. A yellow-colored building with a gigantic, yellow clock tower built stands on the north edge of the square. The square is surrounded by two sports fields on the south side and three sports fields on the west side. Many outdoor events are held here.
To get there from the city center, take any of the very frequent buses (one-way fare 1RM) that go to Bukit Indah/Kulai/Selesa Jaya from opposite City Square (starting point) at Jalan Wong Ah Fook or from the bus stop in front of the old railway station at Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.
Johor Old Chinese Temple
Later on, we went to the city but it started to rain. We stopped at Johor Old Chinese Temple (Roufo Gumiao). It was another historical building in JB. There was opera show going on when we went there. From the design of the temple and the height of the roof, one can tell that it’s a very old building. In fact this temple is believed to be built in 1870.
One can’t help but wonder the temple is slowly eaten up by development as many modern and tall buildings start appearing around the temple. I hope that the temple can sustain the threat of development and being preserved as a heritage site.
I wanted to look for two traditional bakery shops. One located in Jalan Dhoby and another at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. But to my disappointment, they were both closed on Sundays. Maybe I’d like to pay them a visit some other day. (I managed to find them the following day and details can be found below)
IT Roo Cafe
Since it was raining, we couldn’t go anywhere but trapped in the car. We decided to go back to our hotel early. Before that we stopped at IT Roo Cafe for “the best chicken chop in town.” Before I found out more about the uniqueness of the name of the cafe, I thought the cafe has to do with kangaroo. But in fact, the cafe is not a new but old cafe and the name It Roo is translated Chinese name 一而.
You can have deep fried or grilled chicken. A choice of gravy of mushroom or black pepper. Chicken chop is RM13. Half through the juicy chicken chop, I almost swallowed something I knew was not chicken or coleslaw. I quickly tried to force it out of my throat. I was fortunate as it turned out to be a strand from wire mesh scrubber! I told the staff there and she profusely apologized. She offered me another new plate of chicken chop or I would be exempted from paying the plate with “extra” ingredient. The act showed that the cafe is sincere in pleasing its customers. Another plus point: Many Malay patrons were spotted at the shop.
IT Roo Café
Address: 17 Jalan Dhoby 80000 Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.456845, 103.763546
Hours: Monday to Sunday 12:00 to 9:30pm
Free wifi available
(oposite the baker shop Salahuddin Bakery)
After breakfast and checking out, we drove to Legoland via E3 – Lebuhraya Kedua Malaysia-Singapura. It took about 30 minutes to reach Asia’s first Legoland. Exit 312 Nusajaya.
You have to turn left to reach Legoland Hotel before the theme park. You won’t miss either one due to their strikingly strong colors. Though it’s stated that you can’t bring food in, you might want to bring your own water and snack. As with other theme parks, the food in Legoland is doubly expensive if not, tripled. For example, a cup of soda is RM5. You won’t go hungry as there are a few restaurants scattered in the park. To ease your burden, you might want to have your lunch at one of the restaurants outside Legoland. It’s only 2-300 meters away (walking distance) from the entrance and the place is called Medini Mall. You can find KFC, Burger King, The Chicken Rice Shop, Gloria Jean’s. But I don’t recommend Pancake House as the service sucks.
Legoland Hotel is decorated with impressive design. It offers three themes: pirate, adventure, kingdom. The walls and corners are dotted with Lego figures and pictures. The colors are vivid and the floor is covered with thick , colorful carpet with themed based design. Awesome! The hotel is so nice that we took so many photos.
Another advantage of staying in Legoland Hotel is you have free parking (get your parking coupon stamped first before exiting the hotel) and Legoland is just 200 meters away. Connected through LG2.
On a good day, it can get very hot and it’s advisable to bring more water and hats or umbrellas. On a not so packed day, I think one day is enough to cover the dry park.
At the shops (The Brick Shop), you can buy lego bricks by weight. Just pick and choose the sizes and shapes you like. Then weigh and pay.
Minimum height for most of the rides is 120 cm. I guess children 7-12 years old will enjoy the most. Younger children are not suitable as they can’t play most of the rides and furthermore they get tired easily.
Legoland: 2nd Day
After having breakfast at Legoland Hotel, we proceeded to Wet Park after changing to wet suit. Try to bring along as less things as possible. If you need a locker, there are plenty located at the entrance. To save money, you can place your bag on one the chairs located around the park. There are two ways that lead to Legoland Wet Park, one from the hotel’s back, the other accessible from the Dry Park.
There are a few rides in the wet park but the main attraction is the playground – Joker Soaker.
If you get tired easily or need a place to recharge, you can rent a cabana. It provides a personal safe, mini bar, recliners, and more. Body Dryer are also provided.
We had late lunch at KFC right outside Legoland at Medini Mall.
After a day’s at the wet park of Legoland, we went to Meldrum Walk in downtown JB for dinner. Most of the stalls are closed on Tuesdays. With the help of GPS, we found the place. We settled for Cantonese hor fun, wanton mee. They were good. Again with the GPS, we reached Mutiara Johor Bahru (our next place of stay) in 10 minutes.
Food Hunt in JB Continued…
Traditional Local Breakfast at Restoran Kin Hua (锦华茶餐室)
After the last night stay in JB at Mutiara Hotel. We went to JB downtown to have breakfast. It was my second attempt to hunt down to traditional bakery shops. This time I was confident as I had been making a few rounds there before. We stopped at Restoran Kin Hua for a traditional Malaysian breakfast: coffee and toast and half-boiled eggs. We ordered 2 each just to try out.
Opposite Restoran Kin Hua is where the hive of activities came from: an unassumingly looking bakery shop that one would pass by easily without noticing. The bakery is called Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory.
Inside this shop, it offers tantalizing, wood-baked buns and cakes. The top selling items on the list are coconut buns and banana cakes. The coconut buns and bread rolls are ready by 12.30pm, and sold out by 3pm. The banana cake is baked all day, with the last batch done by about 2.30pm.
The buns have the aroma of the traditional bread that I used to adore when I was a child. They are not the softest buns but the fillings are generous and moist. I guess this can only be achieved by using firewood oven.
When I was there I saw a young man was manning the oven using a custom-made 20 feet long spade to scoop in and out the batter or finished products from the oven.
Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory
13 Jln Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru.
Along the same street as Hiap Joo, there’s a Muslim bakery located at Jalan Dhoby. Another traditional bakery. I read that the Indian curry puffs here were good and I bought a few to try out. But I found these puffs are too salty. But you can try out its coconut buns 5 for RM2.50. They are good but I’d rather get them from Hiap Joo as the grated coconut is more moist and flavorful.
Address: 26 Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.456915, 103.763428
Hours: 8:00am to 2:00pm
Restoran Sekee: Ah Hwa Kway Teow Soup
We walked to Jalan Segget to look for Ah Hwa Kway Teow Soup stall which is located at Restoran Sekee. We ordered two bowls and they came with pig kidneys, minced & sliced pork, seaweed.
They don’t come cheap as every bowl costs RM8. I might be biased, I still prefer the Penang kway teow th’ng though.
Ah Hwa Kway Teow Soup
30, Jalan Segget, Johor Baru.
Hours: Daily 7:30am to 2:30pm (closed on Saturdays)
Tanjung Piai & Kukup
Since it was still early we went to Tanjung Piai from Pekan Nanas to check out where the southernmost tip of Asia continent: Tanjung Piai. The way that leads to this tip is not straightforward but signboards are sufficient as your guide once you reach Pekan Nanas.
You need to pay for entrance fee to enter the National Park where the landmark of a globe is located. Walking through the Visitors Information Centre, one will find a raised platform among mangrove areas. It’s about 1 km walk to the landmark – the southernmost tip of the Asian continent. The walk is a round trip and you can fish at a jetty nearby.
Tanjung Piai is a very remote and small village with a small population.
While Kukup, a nearby town (about 6-7 km) is buzzed with activities, especially at the jetty with boats that ferry people to Indonesia and Singapore.
We had our late lunch there. After calling a friend who hails from here, we settled at New Kukup Restaurant that is located nearest to the jetty on the right. The choice turned out correct as the food here is awesomely fresh. We ordered steamed fish and prawns, deep fried squid, and bitter gourd with egg (our favorite!). Many pictures don the wall of the restaurant, from old time politicians to Singaporean celebrities. The restaurant serves halal food and it started since 1965.
After chatting with the staff (or owner) at the restaurant as I told her the restaurant is spotlessly clean (yep, including the kitchen), she recommended us to have a walk at Kukup Laut – a floating village just right opposite the restaurant. We took her advice and began our stroll.
We are impressed at the cleanliness of the village. It’s considered very clean by Malaysian standard. Though the old houses there are occupied by local residents, there are some modern houses (mainly located at the furthest end of the village) are turned into homestay where visitors can stay and have their vacation there. The whole village opens our eyes to the history of the earlier Chinese people living there. Only motorcycles are allowed there.
For more bonding ideas that don’t cost you an arm and a leg, get your hand on “The Nonconformist’s Guide to Parenting.”