SG’s neighbour Johor Bahru isn’t just for shopping, eating and getting a massage.
Granted, Singaporeans cross the causeway mainly for these reasons. But if you have a little more time to explore and branch out further, there’s a charming side to the state, that’s outside of busy Johor Bahru.
Known for its beaches and rainforests, here are eight places in Johor that will make you believe you’re vacationing in a European country (in summer). Perhaps, a closer and cheaper alternative to scratch the itch when you miss home?
Step into the idyllic countryside when you enter the Riders Lodge Resort, which looks like an English manor situated in the UK. Stay for the night in one of its homey rooms and wake up to the sight of the horses grazing in the fields. You can even learn to ride a horse or join guided trails into a tropical plantation.
Address: Inside the Legends Golf and Country Resort, Lot 1302 Kebun Sedenak, 81000 Kulai, Johor, Malaysia
You don’t have to travel too far to live out your dream of running through a fully-bloomed lavender farm. At the UK Farm Agro Resort, just a one-and-a-half hour drive from Singapore is where you can experience the farm life with its wide range of family-friendly activities available too. Watching the sheep roaming about freely in over 100 acres of the meadow will surely make you forget you’re in Johor.
Address: Plot 8, Project Pertanian Moden Kluang, KM13 Jalan Batu Pahat, 86000 Kluang, Johor, Malaysia
Mount Austin, also known as the little Paris of Johor Bahru, is littered with pretty cafes that are inspired by the street cafes in France. Cafe de Flore, named after the popular French coffeehouse, is decorated in flowers and its green awnings can be spotted from afar. Its alfresco area is popular for photo ops and tricking your Instagram followers into thinking you’re halfway across the world enjoying a chi-chi afternoon tea.
Getting to Mount Austin: Hop on a 20-minute cab ride after crossing Malaysian customs.
Take your tribe out of the city and escape to Canopy Tribes, just three kilometres away from the Kota Tinggi waterfall. Apart from glamping out in the midst of a rainforest, there’ll be outdoor activities to do in the day. You can also leave the camping grounds for a hike up to the waterfall, then round off the day with a barbecue by your tent. There are party packages that will transform the campsite with bohemian-themed decorations. Though, if you’re not an outdoor person, the wet conditions and amenities might be a little off-putting.
Address: 7815, Jln Lombong, Batu 8, 81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
While you’re staying at the Canopy Tribes, you might want to check out the Kota Tinggi Firefly Park and take the river cruise to watch the fireflies light up the trees along the river bank.
Address: Jalan Kota Tinggi, 81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
Soak in the breathtaking views of Johor when you climb up the highest mountain in Johor. You’ll have to register with the national park first as the government has restricted the number of people allowed to trek up each day. Set off early and catch the sunrise at the peak; you can even touch the clouds.
Getting there: It takes about two and a half hours to travel from Singapore. Take a bus to Gunung Ledang via Tangkak, and another bus to Gunung Ledang National Park.
While there are many floating resorts sprouting up across Asia to replicate the popular honeymoon island, Rawa Island is just three hours away from the Johor checkpoint and comes close with its white sand and blue waters. There are only two resorts on the island, which are both equally aesthetically pleasing for your Instagram feed. The best part is having the sea right at your doorstep.
If you’re up for a little hike, the Hilltop Jungle Tracking can be easily scaled in 20 minutes. When you reach the peak, you’ll be greeted by the unending horizon of the South China Sea and the surrounding islands in Mersing.
Getting there: Take a three-hour coach ride from Singapore to Mersing jetting, then catch a ferry to Rawa Island.
There’s an abandoned granite quarry in Johor, but entering it is at your own risk. The entrance is already scenic on its own. Hike up a little further and you’ll see the blue lake and the quarry that looks like a mini canyon. With the right angle and filter, your picture might just throw someone off into thinking you’re exploring a gorge in Europe.
Address: 81750 Masai, Johor, Malaysia
By Melissa Goh, AsiaOne, August 2019 / Updated by Muneerah Bee, October 2019