Oct 18, 2016

Day trip to Johor Bahru

I spent a wonderful and simple day at Johor Bahru yesterday with a Friend. Our old fogey bodies were aching and in need of some professional squeezing (lol). But daunted by the high cost of a massage session in Singapore, we decided a day trip to Johor Bahru was the only way to set things right.


Obviously, this isn't my first trip to Johor Bahru. But I've always gone with either locals or people who knew what they were doing. I've never ventured into JB by myself despite the close proximity because a solo female trip to the city was frowned upon by everyone around me. That is until this year where I was encouraged by circumstances to step foot into the city alone.


Anyway, I decided to blog about this day trip even thought it's a well-trodden path to give people who are new to Johor Bahru a bit of assurance (if I can do it, so can you!)  and travel inspiration.



We ended church sometime after 12 noon and hailed a cab straight to the Woodlands Checkpoint.

If you intend to take a bus, you can either catch 950 in Woodlands interchange or 170 at Kranji MRT Station. I personally prefer 170 as the frequency of the buses are better. The bus stop is just beside the cake shop at level 1 of the MRT station. Turn right when you exit the station gantry.





Getting across the Singapore customs with our biometric passport was efficient and stressless. The estimated duration to get across was probably 10 minutes, dependent on the queue.

After we were done, we went down to the Bus Interchange underneath the Singapore Checkpoint and jumped onto whichever bus that came our way. The buses in the tiny interchange can be classified into two types; Singapore or Malaysian buses. The Singapore buses included SBS bus 950 and 170. I'm not aware if there are any other service lines (or buses ) as these two services are all I remember.

The next one would be Malaysian buses. They come in a range of assortment; from old to new and from air-conditioned to non-air-conditioned. Despite the difference, the ticket price remains consistent at $2RM and you usually pay when you alight. Prepare some loose ringgit on hand if you're taking this option to minimize money changing problem while paying. You can also pay with $1 SGD if you don't have any ringgit. The bus driver will gladly accommodate =) 

I always choose the Malaysian buses if I can as the queue, though chaotic are usually not as crazily long as the queues for the Singaporean Buses. Not to mention the frequency of Malaysian buses also far excels the Singaporean SBS buses. Some of the Malaysian buses are even luxurious coach buses with spacious cushion seats and air-conditioning .

We managed to get a comfortable seat on our way over. Praise the Lord!






Unfortunately, the traffic was slow - as it always is on a Saturday afternoon when what seemed like the entire Singaporean population gathers to enter. 

Following the crowd, we alighted at the Malaysian checkpoint where we were greeted by snaking queues.


the Malaysian Checkpoint. Photo taken on a separate day

The queue on that Saturday was so long it probably took us an hour to get through. After getting through, we stopped at the money changer to change some ringgit and off we went to City Square!


Lavender the Bakery at City Square

We bought bubble tea, checked out the winter wear at Uniqlo, bought some accessories and decided to make our way to the famous Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory.

Along the way, we walked passed a bazaar with tents selling all sorts of goodies. We were drooling over the awesome looking snacks and traditional goodies but restrained ourselves since we didn't want to lug the loot around so early in the trip. We walked around with the help of Google Maps =)

Tip alert! If you don't want to activate your roaming data for a day trip, you can just download the area map offline on onto your phone.



It took us roughly 20 minutes to reach and locate the traditional bake. We bypassed it the first time and walked too far down because we couldn't recognise it hahaha.


The road further down from Hiap Joo

And here is the famous Hiap Joo Bakery! The store front is claustrophobically small but thankfully, everything ran like clockwork. Customers line up politely, tell the staff what they want and promptly leaves after paying.

By the time we arrived at 4:10pm, only Banana Cake was left. I bought two big trays while Evonne bought a small one to share.



Don't expect anything more from the shop though as the decoration is simplistic and traditional. There are no display racks to display the pastries and definitely no fancy menu. The cakes are lined neatly in packets on the long table inside the shop while a firewood furnace burns in the background.



The variety of pastries and cakes sold were pretty limited but they are all very affordably priced. 10 slice of banana cakes only cost $9.60rm.

I've never been a fan of bananas so I can't say I was that excited about the cakes. But the cakes were indeed soft, fluffy and fragrant. This is a fun side trip for people who go Bananas over Bananas or someone who just wants affordable pastries xD



The shop is just on the right of the big red gate structure.



Pretty wall art in the area.



We spotted a milkshake cafe that was filled to the brim with customers. We didn't bother going in but it seemed to be doing something right given the amount of customer it attracts. Maybe we will try it next time! 



We took a cab to Holiday Plaza after having our fill of Banana cakes and it cost us $8.25rm. Journey was maybe 15 minutes.



You can also take a bus from the Bus interchange near the JB Checkpoint.




The bus interchange is simple but well lit and well labeled. The only problem I've had was not knowing how Long I had to wait for the bus. I've only ever taken the bus once but I believe it's entirely do-able



The bus mostly seemed to be air-conditioned and cost roughly $1.50 RM.


photo from internet

Holiday Plaza is probably my most favourite mall to shop in Johor Bahru. It doesn't have the scale and variety of bigger and newer Malls like KSL or even City Square.

But things are reasonably priced and they provide plenty of services like body massage, Nail services and hair salons- which in my opinion, are the most worthwhile things to spend your cash on when you're in JB. Too many of the Malls have their prices hiked up to cloud to leverage on the singaporean crowd. Which then defeats the purpose of going over the causeway for cheap buys because they are not cheap anymore!

If if you are new to JB, remember to check out their Oloiya Bakwa (barbecued meat)! Their intense flavouring and soft texture place them on my top bakwa chart! I have observed, however, that the texture fluctuates occasionally though the flavour remains immensely delicious x3.

Anyway, the main highlight of the trip was to relieve our sore bodies so massage it is! I usually go to Thong Thai Massage Parlor but it was full that day so we just walked into a random massage parlor a level under and got ourselves sorted out.

The Massage parlour we went to had a very ... simple looking storefront. 



We went for the Totality package that included 40 minutes on the feet and 60 minutes on the body for just $80RM! I was apprehensive about the place initially but everything turned out very well and the masseurs were all skilled at their job.

We ventured out of the mall in seek of dinner since most of the shops were closed by the time we ended massage. Not to mention that there wasn't a lot of places to eat in Holiday Plaza sans the fast food chains.



We found this ZhiChar restaurant roughly 5 minutes away and had a hearty meal.This place was on the side of the candy store called "World Sweet House" .


Restoran Seafood Shang Kee: https://goo.gl/maps/aGtyZdajhs12  



The meal consisted of a small plate of salted egg yolk fried sotong, a small plate of vegetables, soup for two and Hokkien mee for two. The bill came up to just $48RM. The meal was pretty yummy though we were too full to finish everything.

We went for ice cream and drinks at World Sweet House afterward. World Sweet House is a standalone store directly opposite Holiday Plaza that sells snacks and candies to tourists; the prices were tourist price too.



After dinner, we decided it was time to return so we hailed a cab that brought us to JB Central for $15RM.



We took yet another coach ride from the Malaysia Customs to Singapore.



And then took SBS 170 from the little interchange underneath the Singapore customs checkpoint to reach Kranji MRT Station.



Thank God for the smooth traffic as we arrived in Kranji MRT Station just 10 minutes later.

Thus ended my rather simple day trip to Johor Bahru. I didn't do anything outrageous but it was fun and relaxing.

I hope my post motivates fellow female travelers to try this trip for themselves. Both my Friend and I were female and we felt completely safe in JB despite the warnings. I'm not saying there are no risks, risk is everywhere and you should be vigilant regardless of where you are. The usual advice such as staying out of dark alleys, staying within the crowd, keep your valuables out of sight still remains..

But there's no need to be fearful. Hopefully my trip will provide some insights and inspiration!


1 comment:

Jerome said...

I read you post and I am glad that you and Ur female friend had the courage to come to JB. I know of quite a few female relatives and friends who dare not step into JB.Hope this post will assure and encourage more people to come here.