Located at the South of the Malay Peninsula, the state of Johor shares its maritime borders with Singapore.
Its capital, Johor Bahru – or JB, as its colloquially known – is one of the fastest-growing cities in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, and has hosted international trade fairs and conferences such as the World Islamic Economic Forum.
Johor’s popularity stems from its diversity in ethnicity, language and culture, as well as its tropical rainforests. Today, it has a unique range of local cuisine, historical and cultural attractions, plus a thriving cafe scene.
Due to Johor’s close proximity and economic relationship with SG, Singaporeans regularly frequent the state via the Johor-Singapore Causeway and Tuas Second Link during weekends and public holidays. It’s relatively fast to get to – you can reach Johor within four hours via public bus.
Plan ahead, though, as several activities featured here are found further away from the city centre.
TIP: Use ride-hailing apps to get around the state – alternatively, check out rental car companies. Not only is it cheaper for families, but it’s safe and reliable, too.
Start your day with some authentic, local pastries at one of the oldest bakeries in JB. Established in 1936, this traditional bakery is known for freshly baked confections – displayed in old-school metal trays – which are not only full of flavour, but extremely affordable as well. Try its karipap kentang, a triangular curry potato puff ($0.50 each), a favourite amongst locals and tourists.
26 Jln Dhoby, 80000, Johor Bahru
Shopaholics, rejoice! While there’s no shortage of retail spots in JB, travel just 30 minutes away to this outlet mall where you’ll fi nd 150 brands to choose from. Designer boutiques include Kate Spade New York, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tory Burch and more.
Johor Premium Outlets
Jalan Premium Outlets, Indahpura, 81000, Kulai
Built in 1866, this royal palace is now commonly used for state banquets and royal functions. Check out the most distinctive feature of the Grand Palace: its Anglo-Malay architecture, characterised by its Anglo-influenced blue roof and a dome with traditional Malay designs. And, don’t miss out on visiting the Royal Abu Bakar Museum, which houses a great collection of rare royal heirlooms and impressive artifacts.
Grand Palace, 80500, Johor Bahru, +60 7 223 0555/0222
Situated in the Taman Pelangi neighbourhood 15 minutes away from the Woodlands checkpoint, this beautifully decorated garden-themed cafe uses fresh produce sourced from local farmers to prepare farm-to-table meals, such as rice bowls, burgers and desserts. Order the Gyutan Rice Bowl ($9.20) – thin slices of savoury beef tongue served atop the bistro’s pearl rice.
Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro
78 Jln Pingai, Taman Pelangi, 80400, Johor Bahru
After a long day of shopping and eating, treat yourself to a facial or body treatment at this hotel spa just minutes away from JB Sentral. Try its Johor Bahru Energy Boost Package ($140) that comes with an exclusive coffee and citrus full body scrub that helps detoxify and re-energise skin. Or, opt for its Mood Massages (from $62) – the spa will match the massage type with the mood you want! Bliss!
Breeze Spa at Amari Johor Bahru
82C Jln Trus, Level 6, Amari Johor Bahru, 80000, Johor Bahru
There’s nothing better than a refreshing and tasty milkshake on a hot, sunny day. Check out this speciality milkshake cafe that dishes out delish creations (from $5.90). A must try: Avocado Power, a gula melaka (palm sugar), avocado and vanilla milk ice cream concoction. Its churros, waffles and crispy croffles (croissants pressed into waffles) are also bound to satisfy your tastebuds.
9 Jln Trus, 80000, Johor Bahru
You should never miss out on visiting a pasar karat (flea market) on a trip to JB. Once popular in the past, such bazaars are harder to find, but Bazar JB is as haps as a night market can get. Scoff down street food, and score quirky finds like antique knick-knacks, jewellery and vinyl at one of the biggest flea markets in JB.
Jln Segget, Bandar Johor Bahru, 0000, Johor Bahru
Take time to visit any one of these five theme parks in Johor with your kids.
- Sanrio Hello Kitty Town
You won’t need to fly to Japan to visit Hello Kitty’s house! Interact with your favourite Sanrio characters, spin in the Kitty Tea Cup ride and more.
- LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort
Enjoy the best of both worlds with this wet-and-dry theme park! Plus, its hotel is fully LEGO themed, too.
- Thomas Town
Say “hi” to Thomas the Tank Engine, Harold the Helicopter and Bertie the Bus! Tip: Get tickets to Thomas Town and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town (above) at a reduced price when you purchase them together.
- Angry Birds Activity Park
Inspired by the popular mobile game of the same name, this park has 26,000 square feet of play for kids of all ages – including a go-kart track that even parents can enjoy.
- Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark
Enjoy thrilling rides? With its roller coaster flume ride and steep slides, this park’s definitely not for the fainthearted!
By Melodi Ghui, July 2019
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