Renewing ties with familiar faces, places


Ching (crouching at right, wearing beige cap) and her family taking time to enjoy nature at the Tanjung Piai National Park in Pontian. — Photos: VENESA DEVI and THOMAS YONG/The Star

SMALL towns in Johor are slowly returning to life with the reopening of economic sectors nationwide.

With travel restrictions lifted, local businesses in four districts namely Muar, Pontian, Kota Tinggi and Kluang are getting a boost from travellers inside and outside the state.

Muhammad Hazim Zamzam, 26, and his wife Fareena Ahmad Fadhil, 24, operate a recreational centre and campsite in Kampung Luput, Kota Tinggi.

“We reopened our centre at the end of last month to fully vaccinated visitors.

“But we have not reopened all our facilities yet, as we are short of workers.

“For now, the public can take part in paintball and experience some of our all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and tracks,” said Hazim.

He said the majority of visitors seemed to prefer booking on weekends.

Renggam in Kluang is known for its heritage buildings and colourful murals.Renggam in Kluang is known for its heritage buildings and colourful murals.

“Weekdays are still pretty slow,” he said.

Rethwan Musbah, 51, works as a guide for those looking to hike up Gunung Panti, Kota Tinggi.

He said tourists began applying for permits towards the end of October.

“Many are looking to escape to natural surroundings after being stuck indoors,” he said, adding that most of them were from Johor.

Restaurant owner Ong Mei Ling, 60, in Kukup, Pontian, is experiencing busy weekends once more.

“Before the pandemic, there was hardly any time for me to take a break.

“Unfortunately, everything changed because of Covid-19.

Rethwan says most of those applying to hike up Gunung Panti are from Johor.Rethwan says most of those applying to hike up Gunung Panti are from Johor.

“I decided to close for a couple of months and am glad that things are slowly returning to normal.

“While we no longer have dozens of customers coming in all the time, at least things are looking up on weekends and public holidays,” she said.

Tan Kian Hui, 28, who runs a homestay in Kukup, said weekend bookings this month and in December had been fully snapped up.

“People starting calling in to make bookings once the interstate travel restrictions were lifted.

“Only weekdays are available now,” he said.

Tan added that due to standard operating procedure, he could only operate at half capacity.

Anuar Jaafar, 73, is another who has reopened his stall near Kampung Sawah Ring in Muar selling cendol and mee soto.

“I decided to close for a couple of months earlier as there were hardly any customers.

Anuar and wife Ernawati are glad to see people return to their stall in Kampung Sawah Ring in Muar.Anuar and wife Ernawati are glad to see people return to their stall in Kampung Sawah Ring in Muar.

“When inter-district travel restrictions were lifted, I reopened my stall.

“The majority of my customers comprise those visiting family members here,” he said.

Restaurant owner Suraya Sadon, 27, said business had improved by 70% after the travel restrictions were lifted.

“People like to come here to experience kampung life and enjoy the view of the padi fields.

“Most of our customers have booked accommodation at homestays in the area,” she said.

In Renggam in Kluang, restaurant owner Sukri Zakaria, 46, has been seeing more customers since mid-October.

Salleh was spotted having a picnic amidst the padi fields with his wife and grandson at Kampung Sawah RingSalleh was spotted having a picnic amidst the padi fields with his wife and grandson at Kampung Sawah Ring

“Unfortunately, there are no hotels or homestays nearby.

“I hope that the state government can help promote this town.

“We have a lot to offer, including heritage buildings and colourful murals,” he added.

The opportunity to hit the road and reunite with family members has brought great joy to many.

Teacher Wan Nor Hazwani Hazirah Wan Subki, 24, is from Kelantan and was posted to Pasir Gudang this year.

“When my family travelled here during the Deepavali holidays, I took them around for some sightseeing.

“Despite having stayed here for months, it was my first outing beyond the Pasir Gudang district,” she said when met at Tanjung Piai National Park in Pontian.

They stayed for three days and also managed to visit Johor Baru and Kulai.

Lecturer Ching Kuan Yong, 37, was also spotted at the park with her two children, aged four and 10.

The recreational centre and campsite near Kampung Luput, Kota Tinggi has opened some of its attractions.The recreational centre and campsite near Kampung Luput, Kota Tinggi has opened some of its attractions.

“We decided to bring them here to enjoy nature,” said Ching who is from Skudai, and added that she felt safer as it was outdoors.

Teacher Nur Akmal Salam, 44, and her husband decided to travel from Selangor with their three children to Pontian and Batu Pahat.

“We used to visit Johor regularly but it has been almost two years since our last trip.

“We could not return for two consecutive Hari Raya celebrations because of the pandemic.

“Now we can finally meet our loved ones again,” she said.

In Kampung Sawah Ring, Muar, retiree Salleh Abu Bakar, 74, was spotted enjoying a picnic with his wife and grandson.

“I love the view of the padi fields.

“It reminds me of the village I grew up in at Felda Tenang,” said Salleh, adding that it is a two-hour’s drive from his house in Labis.

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