Short Getaway: Johor Bahru Edition
Is school getting into you? Are you so stressed up by deadlines that you wished you could get away from Singapore even for a short while? Well, why not consider a one- or two-day getaway to our neighbouring country, Malaysia? With the current exchange rate that is extremely favourable to us, Johor Bahru (JB) would make a great choice for Singaporeans! You could café-hop or shop without worrying that you would bust your budget. Here is a short guide on what you can do in JB:
How To Get There:
Many people do not know this but you can get to JB in literally 5 minutes! I am not joking because I tried this method before and I was shocked how fast I reached there. Simply take a train to Marsiling MRT Station and board 856 to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Once you arrive, head to the counter and purchase your train ticket for SGD5. The earliest train leaves at 6.30am and the last train is at 11pm so be sure to check the train schedule properly as it does not run on regular intervals. Ensure that you have enough time to go through customs because the train leaves on time. For a detailed schedule, you can refer to The Smart Local (http://thesmartlocal.com/read/ktm-shuttle-guide).
Where To Change Money:
If there is no money changer near you, fret not because there is one located opposite Woodlands Train Checkpoint, just beside Sheng Siong Supermarket! You can even buy some food or drinks to snack on the train although I do not see the need to because the journey is only 5 minutes long. The rates are decent (SGD1 to RM3) so you do not need to worry about getting ripped off!
How To Get Around JB:
The train stops at JB Sentral so it is very convenient for you to get around JB as there are taxi stands just outside the mall. Be sure to purchase a SIM card so that you can always stay connected. It is a major plus especially if you take a taxi as many of the drivers are not sure of the roads. I had to use Google Maps and direct the driver to the café I wanted to go. Alternatively, you can use Uber or Grab. It is much cheaper than normal taxis (I paid SGD1.50 for a 20 minutes’ ride!) and they do not need directions as they have their GPS.
What To Do In JB:
If you are afraid to go too far, you can hang out at JB Sentral mall. However, I would not recommend that as you would be wasting your time. Although things are much cheaper there, the mall is no different from your run-of-the-mill (friendly) neighbourhood shopping malls back in Singapore! Instead, go on a food trail because prices are so low that you can eat till you drop. Here are 5 must visit food places in JB:
1. Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory
Address: 13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Bahru. Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays 7am-6pm; Sundays 9am-1pm
If you love anything old school, then this is the right place for you! This bakery is one of the oldest and most popular in JB. They are famous for their RM3.50 buns (filled with coconut, red bean, otah or peanuts) and banana cakes that are usually sold out in minutes the moment they are taken out from the wood-fired oven. The queue starts very early even before the goods are ready so be sure to wait at least an hour for it. Personally, I have not tried their food but I have heard raving reviews about it. The bakery is well-known amongst the locals so it has to be worth the wait!
2. Chaiwalla & Co. Container Café
Address: Lot 2810, Tan Hiok Nee Street, 80000 Johor Bahru. Opening hours: Mondays to Thursdays 12 pm-12am; Fridays to Saturdays 12pm-1am; Sundays 12pm-12am
After queuing up for bread and cakes under the relentless sun, I am sure you are extremely thirsty! So why not quench your thirst by buying a cup of tea from Chaiwalla & Co. Container Café? It is conveniently located near Hiap Joo Bakery so you can grab your bubble tea to go with your bread or cakes. The café’s concept is unique because it is made out of a shipping container and I bet that you have not seen such a thing in Singapore! They also sell brownies and pies so you can munch on those if you are still hungry.
3. W.W Laksa House
Address: 36A, Jalan Kolam Air, Taman Water Works, 80100 Johor Bahru. Opening hours: Mondays to Sundays 8.30am-3pm
Too much sweet stuff? Why not try Johor-style laksa? It is completely different from your usual Penang laksa as the gravy is thicker and richer. The owner of this popular coffeeshop is extremely generous with ingredients and you get a bowl of laksa filled with fish balls, beancurd skin etc. And guess how much it costs? Only RM6! Additionally, you can choose to add RM0.70 for a piece of otah. Talk about old school prices!
4. C.A.T.S Café – Cats At Their Sanctuary
Address: 31A Lorong 2C, 80100 Johor Bahru. Opening hours: Mondays to Sundays 1pm-9.30pm; Closed on Wednesdays
If you have ever wanted to visit an animal-themed café in Singapore but been put off by the prices, why not try this cat café in JB? I patronised the café during my trip to JB and the cats there were adorable (however, I must say I am more of a dog person). However, if you have a sensitive nose, I suggest that you give this café a miss because there was a rather distinctive cat smell. The cats are allowed to roam freely around the café and they would strut casually across your table while you are having your meals.
I would recommend skipping the food and just have the drinks because it was overpriced for JB’s standard and extremely bad. The nasi lemak I had was so salty that for a moment, I thought the café was owned by a salt factory!
5. Ong Shun Seafood Restaurant
Address: 67 Jalan Abdul Samad, 80100 Johor Bahru. Opening hours: Mondays closed; Tuesdays to Saturdays 4pm-1am; Sundays 4pm-12am
Well, after all that feasting and walking, it is time to go back to Singapore (or reality). But before you head back to JB Sentral to catch your train, why not have one last meal? This halal Chinese-style serves up some very good and fresh seafood tze-char food! They are very popular with the locals and open till the wee hours so you can satisfy your cravings at any time.
How To Get Back To Singapore:
Alas, it is back to good-ole Singapore. However, before you head back, remember to purchase your ticket at the counter. At only RM5, it is much cheaper than the ticket to JB! However, the train timing differs. The earliest train sets off at 5.30am and the last train leaves at 10.15pm. If you do miss it, consider staying overnight at JB so you can have more time to explore other places or catch a SBS bus back, although the journey might be longer! :)