Jaunting Around Johor Bahru
Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
5Trip End Aug 28, 2008
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I, along with seven other batch mates, had the chance to visit this city of about 1.8 million people courtesy of a twinning agreement which my company had inked with a Malaysian utility operating in JB.
Formerly known as Tanjung Puteri, this capital of Johor State is one of the three highly urbanized centers in West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), along with Kuala Lumpur and George Town in Penang. Separated from Singapore by the Straits of Johor, JB is less than an hour away from the city-state by car, bus or motorcycle, but this could stretch to as much as two hours if the traffic at the causeway linking the two is heavy.
It was interesting to learn that many residents of Johor work in Singapore because of the high-paying jobs available there. Singaporeans, on the other hand, come to JB for business, shopping and entertainment, with a significant number putting up their residences, businesses and factories there, taking advantage of the stronger Singaporean currency. The daily traffic congestions at the immigration checkpoints attest to the increasing number of Malaysian workers in the city-state as well as the growing influx of Singaporeans into Johor for business, entertainment and leisure.
It may not yet have the sophistication that neighboring Singapore is known for, but Johor Bahru still has the conservatism that is fast disappearing in cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur where customary lifestyles and contemporary points-of-view seemed to blend harmoniously into the bustling landscape.
In the capital, the sight of Chinese girls clad in mini-skirts and short shorts walking alongside Muslim women wearing headscarves and shapeless gowns barely creates a commotion. I guess that scene would have caused some stir in JB, as the city seems to be more traditional and conservative than Kuala Lumpur.
Architecturally, JB is a typical Islamic city whose character shines through the many mosques, shrines and parks dotting its cityscape. One structure there that fascinated me was the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, which can accommodate some 2,000 worshippers. Considered as one of the most beautiful old mosques in Malaysia, this edifice is perched on top of a hill in downtown JB, overlooking the Straits of Johor and neighboring Singapore. It's a mixture of various architectural styles, but principally colonial, with its minarets resembling British watchtowers. Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance to see the place at close range.
Another interesting episode of our trip to JB was the visit to the Sultan Ibrahim Building, whose massive structure nestled on Bukit Timbalan overshadows other nearby high-rise buildings in the city.
One of the more prominent developments we noticed during our tour of the city is Danga Bay, a thriving waterfront along the coasts of Johor Bahru facing the Straits of Johor and overlooking Singapore. This recreational park was designed to be a city within the city, featuring a residential area, a business and financial center, shopping and leisure facilities.
Looking back, the visit to JB altered my perception of Malaysia, helping me let go of my hang-ups. It also made me realize there's so much more to discover there. Now, I'm looking forward to my next sojourn to Malaysia, perhaps to Johor Bahru again, or to some other city like Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, George Town, and Kota Kinabalu.
Where I stayed
Hotel Seri Malaysia-Johor Bahru