In my previous post, I've shared how my wife and I decided at the spur of a moment to take a train from Tanjong Pagar to Johor Bahru. Naturally, the train ride itself was an experience in itself. Upon reaching our nearest Northern neighbour, our mission was to explore its newest shopping malls, eat till we burst, indulge in some massage, and shop during the post-Christmas sale (especially for Chinese New Year clothes).
The trip was certainly an eye opener. It revealed how similar yet dissimilar JB is to Singapore. While the shopping malls were every bit as impressive as ours - give or take a couple of years in terms of fashion tastes and trends - what particularly charmed me were the old style kopitiams (coffee shops), hawker centres, and street scapes which can no longer be found in Singapore. Although the roads are more chaotic (and dirty) than the streets here, I love that sense of rusticity and nostalgia in JB.
We were also charmed by the hospitality, warmth and sincerity of the Malaysians working in the service industry there. Their earnestness, proactiveness, and friendly banter made all the difference in our shopping, massaging and eating experience.
Okay, enough preamble. Here are the photos for your vicarious viewing pleasure!
From JB's sprawling new railway complex, we crossed the bridge over to City Square, Johor Bahru (location here), which I understand is 70% owned by Singapore's GIC and full of Singaporeans.
One of the first things I saw was a bubble tea shop called "Cool Blog". Hmmm...maybe I should open one called "Cooler Insides"? :)
These convenient money changing outlets were present in the new shopping malls that we visited. What's interesting was that the exchange rates were standardised across all of them - and were pretty competitive too.
Starving and sleepy after an hour train ride, we tucked into some Old Town Kopitiam wanton noodles, coffee and tea.
City Square was full of the usual retail chains, interspersed occasionally by some locally branded outlets.
My wife decided to make good use of her time, and bought a nice pair of slacks from Mango (which was having a post-Christmas sale).
Hmmm... looks like they also have an Enchanted Christmas in JB, unlike our Christmas Fantasy!
Lavender is apparently a very popular cakery and bakery here. Prices are about half that of Bread Talk in Singapore.
We next hopped onto a cab, which costed about RM 8 to 9 to bring us to a nearby part of town.
Our destination was the newly inaugurated KSL City, which I understand offered some of the most expensive residential apartments in the city.
A view of the atrium in KSL City, which was recently opened on 12 December 2010 in an event featuring MediaCorp artistes Mark Lee and Apple Hong.
The MBO cinema at KSL City, complete with funky blue and purple balls as decor.
Retail and F&B stands/pushcarts like these were commonplace. This crepe stall was exceedingly popular, and the crepes sure looked yummy!
More shopping for my wifey, this time for some blouses and dresses.
After a spot of shopping, we decided to walk the streets to look for food. Along the way, we passed this old style hawker centre and market...
...before venturing into this coffeeshop for some much lauded Johor Laksa.
The verdict for the spicy noodles? Nice and tasty, without being too heavy on the "lemak" side.
We also tucked into some bak kut teh to satisfy our cravings for authentic coffee shop fare. The bak kut teh (pork ribs in spicy soup) here was generally more herbal and less peppery than those in Singapore.
A view of a busy traffic junction, complete with highrise hotels and advertising billboards galore - something that you don't see very much of that in Singapore due to traffic safety regulations.
Our final shopping destination was the older Holiday Plaza which was completed way back in 1985.
The layout of the shopping complex was pretty old school, and reminded me of a hybrid between Queensway and Lucky Plaza Shopping Centres in Singapore.
Unlike the earlier two shopping malls, this one appeared rather homey and unexciting.... yawns..
See my wife's glum face? (Actually she was tired lah... and the caffeine boost from the Wong Kok Hong Kong Cha Chan Teng did help)
On our way back in a cab, I took this shot Plaza Pelangi, another older shopping centre in JB.
Finally, we walked through the spanking new CIQ complex at JB, complete with purple hued water feature and steel-and-glass architecture. Clearing customs and immigration was fairly easy, and I must commend the Malaysian officers for being polite and civil throughout.
Opting to try a different experience, we took the Singapore-JB Express bus, which brought us all the way back to Queen Street in air-conditioned comfort.
Would we return to JB soon? Most definitely. It has much to offer and is just a convenient train/bus/car ride away.
Labels: JB, Johor Bahru, malaysia, retail, tour, travel