Hopping Across: Johor Bahru

Seemingly more and more Singaporeans now are heading over the border to our neighbour, Malaysia recently especially after the increase in currency difference. However, for some of the locals here, going pass the customs is more like a weekly task, getting fuel, necessities and perhaps some errands such as doing their hairs or nails. I would like to share a little on the day trip I took recently to Johor Bahru, hopping this would be useful for some locals and perhaps those passing by JB while en route for their holiday in Southeast Asia. I would recommend those whom hadn’t been there to try it! Let off some steam over there, certainly affordable for us and also a change of sight with the scene and it will fill your taste buds! For me, I have not been to JB for god knows how long, just to say, the last time I was there, they hadn’t renovated the customs and it is also not connected to the city square mall!

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After doing a tat of research, i did like loosely plan my to-do-list for JB. Mainly to hit up the cafes, get the banana cake at the famous shop and also treat myself to a massage. After all, massage in Singapore is so pricey. Travelling in a party of 3, my friends and I decided to make it early, heading out at 6am, hopping to avoid the crowd and pass the customs quicker. It’s just like being back to the basic military training days where I woke up daily at such godforsaken times. However, we got stuck on the bus 950 from woodlands to the Singapore checkpoint. It is such a jam and we even alight earlier and make it on foot to the customs. There are other ways to make it pass too, such as bus from marsiling, train or even drive in. Personally I feel that the train will be the most comfortable way. I had already expected crowd on a Saturday, however, what was surprising was that the Singapore customs was more inefficient and crowded that the Malaysia counterpart!

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Something good about going JB was definitely the improvement in convenience after the renovation of the checkpoint. Now, it is directly linked to the train station, JB Sentral and also the famous City Square Mall. This famed mall, located on the well known Jalan Wong Ah Fook has everything, from shops, restaurants and also a cinema. If you are the laze kind, you can choose to just spend the whole day here. We cleared pass customs roughly around 10 plus and yes, the very first thing have to be a meal at one of the hippest cafe. We decided to head to the Chaiwalla & Co. Container Cafe. With our pre downloaded map, it was a slight 5 mins walk from the mall. Unexpectedly we went pass the renowned charcoal bakery, Hiap Joo. I would share a little more about this bakery in a while, meanwhile the area we are in are bustling with coffee shops, cafes and random shops! This place sure has many good spots for pictures!

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Unfortunately, the container cafe seems to be closed and under renovation, shucks, but there is always a back up plan! Hmm after all it’s seeing JB in steps leh! I decide to head over to The Replacement Lodge&Kitchen cafe, located just around the corner. On the bright side, the surroundings here were pretty great for taking photos and we might have a slight delay here! The Replacement is another great recommendation and notwithstanding their great food, they are prominent for being instaworthy, with their white finish facade shophouse. It surely felt unreal and definitely super striking from it’s surroundings. I was immediately shown in and offered a large shared table right in the middle. Upon entering, on the right was the coffee bar counter and the main seats are located a corner. The place can be described as quaint and relaxing, in the old school white, glass and marbles finish, together with the use of a little greens and over hanged steel lamps.

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The menu is niche and besides the usual all day breakfast and brunch items on the menus they had a couple of really unique dishes. The great business idea about cafes nowadays are to focus on a couple of dishes and make it great and special. Here is a picture of menus above. I decided to go for the more special one, their unique take on Asian & Western Fusion, Soft Shell Crab Bao with Fries!

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At a cost of 30RM, roughly around 10 SGD! Instead of a burger or bread, it came in a chinese pao or bun, after it is being steamed, they slightly toast them, giving another level of crunch. Remembering me of the one I had in Melbourne, the soft shell crab was great, but a little under seasoned and the portion is a little small. The meal came with a wasabi mayo and fries, in comparison to the main, I actually had more great comments on the sides, the sauce was great and the fries were really legit marvellous! I had also ordered a side of scrambled eggs, being a little of an expert on it myself. My way is to beat air into the eggs however the one at The Replacement came heavier but flaky and delicious. The freshly cracked black pepper on the eggs after that were a great combination too! Meanwhile my friend had the Breakfast Platter and had full praises for the sauteed mushrooms too. I had a Iced Hazelnut Latte to accompanied the meal.

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Earlier, I made it a point to come back for the banana bread after my meal, I couldn’t leave without trying some of it!  While in the queue, seemingly some friendly Malaysian behind us overheard us and offer us a tasting of it, right after that the shop announced that they are sold out of the banana cake. Disappointed, we took an cab over to KSL Mall. This mall is about a 10 mins cab ride away and it’s huge. There is also a cinema here. You could definitely go around doing your business here with the choice of salons and massage shops here. I went for a 90mins full body massage here which was great! It cost me 100RM, the shop is located on the second floor at one corner, near the discover walk. P.S There is free wifi!

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Seemingly, you couldn’t not catch a movie here when the seats are spacious and the price is half of Singapore at 6 bucks only. After catching Jason Bourne, we headed back to City Square to grab dinner and also start to plan our journey back home. It is worth noting that sometimes, the cab won’t go by the meter and we were quote 15RM compared to the ride we took here at only 8RM! We decided to eat at this Korean Restaurant that do stir fried chicken hotplate. The meals here goes communal and requires a minimum order of 2 portion. We ordered the most famous original one, it came with chicken, cabbage, potatoes and rice cakes. We even added cheese and noodles! It is a great dish and the ramen is really good! Although I hope that it could be a little more spicy. The portion wasn’t really huge also. But it is affordable, costing around 30 dollars.

For the way back, I had actually planned to take the train instead, hopping that we could then avoid the crowd and wait for the bus. After a day of walking around and in the heat, it is actually pretty tiring! But the tickets were sold out and we had to just take the bus back. The timings for the train are available online, with the last one at 11pm. The train cost 5RM for the journey back and I would learn my lesson to buy it once I am in JB in the morning the next time. Hope you guys enjoy this and head over to chill during the weekend. There are many more places to explore and I will definitely be back. Total Damage? Less than 100 SGD for me.

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