The Southern Getaway
Johor is the third largest (19,984 sq km) and one of the most developed states in Peninsular Malaysia. It is situated at the southern tip of the peninsula, just across the Straits of Johor from Singapore (with which it is connected by a road and rail causeway). Johor’s population exceeds two million people, comprising an ethnic mix of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other groups. Its capital is Johor Bahru.
The state is known for eco-tourism, agro-tourism and sports-tourism. The Endau-Rompin Forest Park is one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests and offers adventurous travelers a fabulous escape from the city. The state has over 30 beautiful tropical islands many untouched, a great place for relaxation.
As Johor Bahru is the fastest developing town in Malaysia, some may find the place ‘messy’ – the city centre is certainly not reflective of cleanliness you will find elsewhere in Malaysia. Also be extra cautious of touts and snatch thieves when moving around. However, shopping in Johor, Malaysia is a delight for those who find the Singapore dollar too high, as you pay in Ringgit. Prices at shopping places are reasonable (though in Johor, things are slightly more expensive than other parts on Malaysia), but it’s still cheap when compared to Singapore Many Singaporeans even do their routine weekend marketing in Johor, or go to Malaysia to enjoy cheaper seafood.
Visitors should venture out of the city to discover what this big state has to offer. The best of Johor is outside the city! Travel to the outskirt, to the fishing villages, fruit farms and islands off the coast of Johor. You will certainly enjoy cheaper food and fruits.
Johor experiences a tropical monsoon climate for the greater part of the year, enjoying temperatures that hover around the 27oC mark, with only slight seasonal variations. The rainy season runs from May through December, during which time the greater part of the annual rainfall is experienced.
January to April is an ideal time to visit the state of Johor, as the weather is not excessively warm and chances of rain are only slight. Relative humidity can be quite high during this period and at other periods of the year also, making air-conditioning a welcome relief.
Whatever season you decide to visit in, be sure to pack appropriate clothing. Skimpy attire is best avoided for cultural reasons, regardless of the weather. Visitors are advised to wear modestly styled lightweight cotton clothing that’s comfortable on hot days and provides some protection from the sun.
Johor Bahru – the largest city and capital, a popular gateway to Singapore
Mersing – main port for ferries to Tioman and other islands
POPULAR TOURIST SPOTS IN JOHOR
Sultan Abu Bakar Royal Palace Museum
This museum is generally touted as Johor Bahru’s most significant sightseeing attraction and is worthy of its reputation, offering some splendid architectural features and interior decor. The palace serves predominantly as a museum and is occasionally used for important state functions. Completed in 1866, additions and renovations over the years have ensured that the palace has maintained its majestic appearance.
Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Ibrahim Building
Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Ibrahim Building is Johor’s state secretariat building, where state government departments are housed. It is located at Bukit Timbalan in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The building was constructed between 1936 and 1939. It was officially opened by the late Sultan Ibrahim of Johor a year later. It has a 64 meter high square tower and the building was used by the Japanese during world war II to spy on British activities in Singapore before attacking it.
Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque in Johor
A must on every sightseers list is a visit to this magnificent religious structure which overlooks the Straits of Johor. The mosque was completed in 1900 and was official opened by the sultan of the time, Sultan Ibrahim. The mosque is notable for its mix of Victorian and Moorish styles. Non-Muslim visitors are permitted entry, but must wear modest clothing and remove their shoes before entering.
Situated near Istana Bukit Serene, Danga Bay is a recreational park that was designed to be a mini-city in its own right. In keeping with this concept, the park features a residential area, a commercial and financial centre, shopping malls and leisure facilities. Visitors will find a plethora of interests on hand in this unique micro city including gardens, a cultural centre, a bustling restaurant scene and more.
Teluk Buih Beach
The long coastline at Air Papan makes its way southwards and meets a small craggy bay which the villagers have named Teluk Buih after foamy white surf that lashes on to its shores. Teluk Buih offers a sheltered stretch of fine sand and is a popular retreat for the villagers.
The beach is popular among picnickers especially on weekends and public holidays. They can swim in its blue water, play games on its wide beach or just sit back and relax under the shade of the verdant vegetation.
Dubbed the southernmost tip of mainland Asia, Tanjung Piai is a haven for a diverse species of flora and fauna, including those unique to mangrove areas such as mangrove crabs, beady-eyed mudskippers and crab-eating macaques. Tanjung Piai is also famous for being a hot spot for birdwatchers to visit during the migratory season which falls around September and March. Located within the district of Pontian, Johor, Tanjung Piai is a place where the earth and sea, plant and animal life, live in blissful harmony. Tanjung Piai Johor National Park covers an area of over 926ha — 526ha of which comprise of coastal mangroves. There are two entry points to Tanjung Piai – the one at Sungai Belukang and the other at Desa Sri Piai. Entry into the Tanjung Piai park requires a minimal fee of just RM3 for adults (Malaysians) and RM5 for foreign visitors, payable at Tanjung Piai’s visitor’s complex.
Pulau Tinggi or Tinggi Island is one of the many captivating tropical islands that nestles the East Coast of Johor. Its white, sandy beach surrounded by alluring blue waters makes it a perfect haven for those who want to escape from the mundane world.
Pulau Tinggi gets its name from a high hill rising 2,000 feet above sea level (“tinggi” is a Malay word for high). The island is painted green by the lush tropical forest that is rich with rattan, timber and other valuable plants.
Its surrounding waters is rich with exotic marine life and beautiful underwater flora fringing its coral reefs, providing a breathtaking underwater view for divers and snorkelling enthusiasts. The island is also blessed with natural fresh water and sheltered harbour, which explains its role as a stopover point for traders in the olden days.
Billed as the world’s largest orchid gardens, Orchid Valley covers an area of 100 acres and boasts a collection of over 80 different tropical orchid species. Specimens require careful nurturing and are kept in strict environmental conditions. Visitors have unrestricted access to all of the gardens impressive specimens and the chance to make purchases at small shops within the facility.
Endau Rompin National Park
Endau Rompin National Park encompasses the watershed of the rivers Endau in Johor and Rompin in Pahang. It covers some 488 sq. kilometres of forest and is gazetted as the country’s second national park. The park is the perfect haven for adventure seekers. The park is closed during the rainy season i.e. from November to March. No fishing is allowed during the spawning season from September to October. Salt licks around Gunung Tiong offer a worthwhile look at wild animals such as deers, elephants, boars, leopards, etc. Get entry permits to visits the park from: National Parks (Johor) Corporation, JKR 475 Bukit Timbalan, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor. The easiest way to explore the place is to book through a local travel agency.
Air Papan Beach
Air Papan is synonymous with Pesta Air Papan (Air Papan Festival), which is held annually on May 1. Each year, the event draws a huge number of local tourists to join in the fun and games. The flat and wide 3km-long beach is perfect for hosting various traditional games and cultural performances, as well as food and craft fairs.
Located about 12km north of Mersing, this beach is popular among picnickers especially on weekends and public holidays. They can swim in its blue water, play games on its wide beach or just sit back and relax under the shade of trees that line the beach. From here, one can see the faint bluish silhouette of Pulau Besar, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Tengah, as well as smaller islands nearby such as Pulau Batu Gajah and Pulau Setingan.
Desaru Beach (Pantai Desaru)
Twenty-five kilometres of white, sandy beach and lush tropical greenery makes up Desaru – the most popular beach in Johor. Located 98km north east of Johor Bahru, Desaru, or also known as the ‘Village of Casuarinas’, was developed by the South Johor Development Authority (KEJORA) to boost tourism industry in Johor.
Desaru is a great destination for family vacation as it offers a variety of activities for the whole family including swimming, fishing, snorkelling, canoeing, horse riding, jungle trekking, go-carting, golfing and windsurfing. Regarded as Johor’s ‘gold mine’, Desaru is equipped with a wide range of facilities and several up-market resorts, each with its own individual character. An 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. makes Desaru a well-known destination among golfers.
Tanjung Resang Beach
Close to Penyabong beach, you will find Tanjung Resang which is normally subjected to rough waves and wind from the open South China Sea. The sombre tone of the sand matches the wild nature of this spot. Dense outcrops of trees form the backdrop for a cluster of chalets facing the beach and jetty.
Nearby reefs can be easily reached from the Tanjung Resang jetty while the many other dive sites at the nearby islands, including a WWII shipwreck at Pulau Aceh can be reached by only a short boat ride.
Chinese Temple in Johor
Located in Johor Bahru and juxtaposed by the modern skyscrapers surrounding it, this striking religious structure is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Dating back to the late 19th century, when it was constructed by Tan Hiok Nee and other Chinese community leaders, notable features include a bronze bell, wooden tablet and an original joss stick holder, all of which are almost as old as the building itself. A major renovation programme from 1995 to 1996 brought much of the original splendor back to the temple. The temple is dedicated to the gods of the Hainanese, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew dynasties.
THINGS TO DO IN JOHOR
Johor, Malaysia has a remarkable range of activities catering to almost every market segment. There are plenty of family friendly activities in Johor, and children are never bored when holidaying anywhere in Malaysia. For young couples and singles, Johor offers an exciting and diverse nightlife and is considered one of the culinary capitals of Malaysia. Read more…
Johor is a haven for shopoholics with aplenty of malls, arcades, handicraft centres, bazaars and markets. Here you will find a mixture of international and local markets, letting its visitors choose from branded products to locally made handicrafts and food products. Local craftwork is sure to catch the eye and they do make lovely souvenirs of a trip here. Read more…
There are plenty of restaurants and eateries all over Johor that serve mouth-watering local and international cuisines. Johor Bahru is famous amongst budget-conscious epicures, especially Singaporeans as the food is comparatively cheaper at this side of the border. You will find everything from up-market restaurants to hawker centers that serve local delicacies. Read more…
There is an airport at Senai, near Johor Bahru. Daily flights are available from Kuala Lumpur and Penang to Johor. – The airlines that flies daily to Johor are Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and firefly. You can also travel from Johor daily on Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia to other Malaysian states. Taxis are the best option from the airport to the city or to Singapore Airport coaches also takes you to the city but you may have to wait.
Johor is linked by roads to Singapore and the rest of Peninsular Malaysia. The North-south expressway cuts the length of the state (refer to Map of Johor) and goes into Singapore through the 2nd link and to the city of Johore Baru to Singapore. The causeway at Johor Bahru city centre that goes into Singapore is the busiest crossing. Buses or coach services ply between Malaysia from Singapore daily. You can catch a bus almost every fifteen minutes from Karanji or Jurong East (Singapore) to Johor Bahru. Bus travel is the cheapest transport between Malaysia and Singapore. Passengers have to disembark on both sides of the causeway.
Express buses and tour buses take you daily from Johor to many major towns in Malaysia. Express buses from major towns in West Malaysia, stops at Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru. From here you can catch local buses (Malaysia yellow bus or Singapore SBS bus) to other parts of Johor or into Singapore. (Details in our page on From Singapore to Malaysia).
Driving round the state is easy as the network of roads in the state linking towns and villages are well-paved. However, take care when driving through villages (travel tips).
You can call for a Singapore cab to take you into Johore Bahru and taxis from Johor going into Singapore are available at Sentral Bus terminal or Kotaraya Terminal, JB city or at the Senai airport. However, it is cheaper to take the taxi to the customs checkpoint on both sides of the causeway and take the bus through the causeway (from checkpoint to checkpoint of Malaysia Singapore)
Johor Malaysia Singapore links
Johor-Singapore Causeway, built in 1923, is a 1,056 metre causeway that links Johor Bahru (Johor), Malaysia to Woodlands, Singapore. This link across the Strait of Johor serves as a road, rail and pedestrian link, and also carries water piping line into Singapore. Over 60,000 vehicles crosses the causeway daily. This link goes into the heart of Johor Bahru and joins the Federal highway.
Malaysia-Singapore Second Link (Laluan Kedua Malaysia-Singapura or Tuas Second Link), of 1,920 m length, opened in January 1998. This bridge from Johor to Singapore was built to reduce traffic congestion at the causeway. It is a dual-three lane carriageway linking Kampong Ladang, Tanjung Kupang in Johor to Tuas, Singapore. (Second link website: Second Link) The link takes you into the North-south expressway.
Trains on the Malayan Railways takes you from Tanjong Pagar, Singapore into Malaysia. Singaporeans even travel by this train to shop in Johor Bahru. The railway line is linked right up to the Thai railways. the railway station in JB is in the city centre, just next to the Customs and Immigration checkpoint in Malaysia.
You can travel by sea from Singapore and Indonesia to Johor The Johor Bahru International Ferry Terminal, located in the Zon duty free complex is about 2 km east of the Johor Bahru-Singapore causeway. Ferries in Johor go to Batam and Bintan, Indonesia and Tanah Merah ferry checkpoint in Singapore.
Ferries from Singapore
Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore) to JB International Ferry Terminal/ZON Ferry Terminal (Johor Bahru)
Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore)to & Sebana Cove (Johor);
Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore)to Stulang Ferry Terminal in Johor Baru
Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore) to Tanjung Pengelih, Johor
Harbourfront terminal to Sebana Cove (Johor);
Changi Ferry Terminal (near hawker centre) to Tanjung Belungkor or Desaru (Johor);
Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Penggerang (south east Johor).
Ferries to islands of Johor
Mersing Jetty provides access to the Rawa, Pemanggil, Dayang, Aur, and Besar Islands. Pulau Tinggi, Apil, Sibu Besar and Sibu Tengah is accessible from Tanjung Leman jetty (60km south of Mersing).
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