Border reopening brings influx of visitors

Ling (seated left) asking a restaurant operator about how business is now that crowds have returned to Johor Baru.

FOR German tourists Preminy Kangatharan and Suthushan Sivananthan, staying in Johor Baru even for just one night was a trip worth the time.

The couple from Cologne, both 36, made a stop in Johor as part of their three-week trip around the world and were pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of delicious food that the southern state has to offer.

Preminy, who works in the marketing sector, said the city left a lasting impression on her especially after trying the local Hainanese- style coffee at one of the kopitiam (coffeeshops) in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

“We had such an enjoyable experience; we complimented the owner and also immediately made a positive Google review before leaving the shop.

“We mostly travel for food and make it a point to sample the local delicacies. My favourite in Johor Baru is the traditional Nyonya kuih, which I bought extra.

“We crossed over to Johor Baru from Singapore and will be making our way up to Kuala Lumpur. We found that things are much cheaper and livelier here.

“We even queued up to buy the famous banana cake from the century-old Hiap Joo Bakery,” she said.

She added that it was their second visit to Malaysia and they would consider making Johor part of their future travel plans to explore other parts of the state.

Singapore national Amy Shariff said it was a relief to be able to travel freely into Johor Baru once again after the country’s borders reopened on April 1.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, my friends and I used to visit Johor Baru about twice a month for cafe-hopping and shopping in areas such as Jalan Trus and Taman Mount Austin.

“It feels great to return again to see many of our favourite joints still operating despite the many challenges,” said the 33-year-old, adding that she would usually spend on clothes in Johor Baru due to the attractive currency exchange rate.

Amy opined that more Singaporeans and Malaysians working in the republic across the border would visit Johor more often due to the strong Singapore dollar.

Meanwhile, salon owner Stephy Pang said the weak ringgit had not stopped her from going to Singapore to meet her friends and family as they had been apart for more than two years due to the pandemic.

“I rejoiced at the government’s decision to reopen our borders, and I immediately applied for the necessary travel documents to go to Singapore.

“After getting the approved vehicle entry pass needed to enter the republic, I drove there several times including for weekend trips.

“Most of my friends and my elderly godparents are living in Singapore, so I jumped at the chance to visit them whenever possible.

“I also find the hangout places and experiences there different from those in Johor Baru. It is the next best thing before I travel to other countries,” said the 40-year-old.

Meanwhile, Johor health and unity committee chairman Ling Tian Soon is confident that both the locals and tourists will continue observing good personal hygiene and wear a face mask when necessary.

Despite the government’s relaxation of the rules, he said the people should be aware of their responsibilities in keeping themselves and those around them safe after more than two years of practising the standard operating procedure.

“After launching a wall mural in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee recently, I noticed the long queues and crowds frequenting the popular spots there and this is a positive sign.

“According to the Immigration Department at the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex, 1.14 million people entered Malaysia via the Causeway in April.

“Of that total, 880,427 were Malaysians while the rest were foreigners.

“The first two weeks of May saw the entry of 159,828 foreigners and 546,667 Malaysians into the country.

“I believe the influx of visitors will spur the local economy and inject life into Johor,” he added.

Ling is also anticipating more tourists from Batam, Indonesia, to visit Johor soon for leisure and medical tourism following the reopening of the Kukup International Ferry Terminal in Pontian today.

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