Johor Bahru: Malay state on the border with Singapore

  Marica&Sonia   |     24/01/2018

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We arrive in Singapore on January 14th at 5 am. This time there is someone special waiting for us at the airport: there are Sonia's uncles with her cousins Jennifer, Sheron and Diana. They are currently in Johor Bahru - Malaysia - for work, therefore we decide to spend a week with them.


We should take a few hours to get to Johor even though we are just 25 km far away. We have to cross the border and it's not easy at all by car. You need to hold some permits and there is a very long line to respect. We finally reach Johor around 9 am, we have breakfast and then we go to sleep!

Johor Bahru is the capital of the state of Johor. Its metropolitan area, with over 1.8 million inhabitants, is the second largest urban area in the country after the national capital Kuala Lumpur.

According to the Constitution of 1957, the 13 current Malaysian Member States, each with its own legislative assemblies and its own executive bodies, are governed by hereditary sovereigns or elective heads of state, who nominate in their area, every 5 years, the Supreme Head of the Federation.

Nine states are governed by a Sovereign (called Sultan, Raja or Yang di-Pertuan Besar), assisted by a Prime Minister (Menteri Besar) who holds executive power. The rulers of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor and Terengganu have the title of Sultans.

We visit the center of Johor, the Indian quarter, the Chinese road: Tan Hiok Nee heritage Street where we find several bars and restaurants as well as the Old Chinese temple. We continue with the temple of Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman, a unique Hindu temple of its kind, entirely decorated with bright glass mosaics.

What we notice is certainly the extraordinary presence of shopping centers, high-quality facilities and many restaurants open at any time of the day. We are actually wondering: how much do they eat?

We also note the presence of 3 peoples living peacefully together in this land: Malays, Chinese and Indians. So a real mix of cultures and an excellent example of mutual respect!

Since we really like local markets, we recommend the following ones:


  • every Monday evening from 5 pm to 9 pm: Taman Century Garden near the KSL shopping center. We try various local foods and different types of fruit unknown to us, including the excellent rambutan.


  •  everyday: Pasar Besak Larkin near the bus station. Here you can find so many varieties of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and various spices.



With Henry and his family - very kind Chinese friends of Sonia's uncles - we visit the fish market in Pontian (about 1 hour from Johor). It is a very large market where you can find any kind of fresh fish of any size. Impressive!

For lunch, we eat this delicious fish prepared by some friends of Henry, at a Chinese restaurant. We start with a soup of fish balls, then fish soup with noodles and finally fish stewed with vegetables as a side dish. All very delicious!

In the afternoon we visit the market of Jalan Persaka 5, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah which takes place from 6 pm to midnight. Here we try various typical foods too; they were so many that we forgot the names (certainly not easy to remember). We are really grateful to Henry for this interesting tour of the city!

But now is the time to tell you about the crossing of the border by bus to visit the beautiful city of Singapore.

We arrive at the City Square (shopping center) with the shuttle bus that started at 6.50 am from our accommodation. We take a long walk following the signs for Woodlands (northern area of Singapore).

Pass the passport control and go downstairs where you have to take a bus to get to the border with Singapore.

We take a bus that takes us to the CIQ - Immigration and Quarantine Complex - the Malay border.
You can take the bus number 160,170 or CW1. We take the 170 because it seems to have a shorter line. We wait more or less an hour to catch the bus, paying RM 1.30 for the ticket (less than 30 cents) directly on the bus. It is advised to have the right change because the driver does not give rest.

And it does not end here!

To cross the bridge of about a kilometer that divides Malaysia from Singapore, it takes us more than an hour because of the morning traffic! The intense traffic, in fact, is due to the presence of many people from Malaysia who daily go to Singapore for work, since here the salary is much higher. So they face hours of public transport and lines at the controls of the two borders to be able to keep their family in Malaysia. A huge, truly admirable sacrifice!

Finally, we arrive at the Singaporean border at about 9.30 am; we pass the passport check and take the same bus number that takes us to the Kranji bus station (we must keep the same initial bus ticket).
From here we change some Malaysian money into Singaporean Dollars and then take the metro towards Marina Bay.

After about 1 hour by metro and about 3 and a half hours of total travel, we finally reach the vibrant heart of this great metropolis ready to be discovered!

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