‘Still much to do in Johor Baru’


Making a beeline: Since the Malaysia-Singapore borders reopened on April 1, 2022, tourists from the island republic have been visiting Johor Baru to dine, shop and visit entertainment spots. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

Singaporeans say they cross Causeway to buy groceries, service car, watch movie and even stay for short vacations

SINCE the Malaysia-Singapore borders reopened on April 1, tourists from the island republic have been visiting Johor Baru to eat, shop and visit entertainment spots again.

It is common knowledge that Singaporeans cross the Causeway for myriad purposes, thanks to the attractive Singapore-dollar-to-ringgit currency exchange.

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StarMetro spoke to some of the visiting Singaporeans to find out their usual activities during their trips to Johor Baru.

Getting a car wash is typically on top of retiree N. Raja’s to-do list each time he enters Johor Baru with his wife or brothers.

Raja (right), who is looking on as two employees wipe down his car at a car wash in Johor Baru, never fails to stay overnight, shop and watch a movie in the city.Raja (right), who is looking on as two employees wipe down his car at a car wash in Johor Baru, never fails to stay overnight, shop and watch a movie in the city.

“We enjoy taking weekly trips across the border as we have a condominium unit in the city, so it is convenient and we do not have to spend money on hotel stays.

“We make it a point to catch a movie while we are here, too, as it is much cheaper to do so in Malaysia. Tickets for two with a set of popcorn and drink amounts to around RM60 whereas a ticket alone in Singapore costs about $15 (RM48).

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“Before returning home, we stock up on groceries such as snacks, cooking oil and toilet rolls as well as fresh produce from the Larkin market like fish and vegetables,” said the 74-year-old.

Raja added that he would not buy eggs as the Singapore government prohibited bringing the item into the country.

For 38-year-old information technology solution architect Eunice Tan, no trip to Johor Baru is complete without sampling the delicious local fare such as bak kut teh, char kuey teow and traditional handmade biscuits.

Tan, seen here checking out the variety of biscuits at a shop in Johor Baru, is glad she can make the trip for cheaper goods. — Photos: THOMAS YONG/The StarTan, seen here checking out the variety of biscuits at a shop in Johor Baru, is glad she can make the trip for cheaper goods. — Photos: THOMAS YONG/The Star

“I frequent different eateries each time to sample a variety of food based on my relatives and friends’ recommendations because some dishes are just more authentic in Malaysia.

“My mother, who also visits Johor Baru quite often, also buys milk formula here as she says it is much cheaper,” she added.

Although more people were crossing the border into Malaysia these days, Tan said the crowd had not reached its peak yet.

“I have many friends who cannot wait to visit Malaysia again. They are still getting their passports done.

“There is a long wait at our Immigration Department due to the large volume of passport applications these past few months.

Many visitors from Singapore prefer to drive over when they visit Johor Baru, especially on weekends.Many visitors from Singapore prefer to drive over when they visit Johor Baru, especially on weekends.

“For some of us, crossing the Causeway into Johor Baru is a great way to scratch the travel itch after not travelling for over two years due to Covid-19,” she said.

Heading to Johor Baru was a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Singapore, said a civil servant who wanted to be known only as Sheela.

The 39-year-old, who drove into the Johor capital for a three-day, two-night stay with her husband, said it was a relaxing trip for them this time.

“We did not have any specific list of things to do except getting a body massage and trying out a popular nasi padang spot in the city centre after hearing good reviews from friends,” she said.

As for graphic designer Hadi Sharif, 29, Johor Baru is a shopping spot for apparel such as sneakers and streetwear.

“I ride my motorcycle to Johor Baru for a day trip every three months to look for motorcycle accessories, auto parts and getting my bike serviced.

Sree Devi visits Johor Baru monthly to shop and get her nails done, as the price of products and services in this city is more affordable.Sree Devi visits Johor Baru monthly to shop and get her nails done, as the price of products and services in this city is more affordable.

“While waiting for the workshop to finish the job, I take the opportunity to get my Ramly burger fix because it is difficult to get a similar-tasting street burger in Singapore,” he said.

Another Singaporean, Sree Devi Devadas, 46, visits Johor Baru once a month to shop and get her nails done.

The human resource manager said items such as prayer oil and other paraphernalia were also on her shopping list as they were significantly cheaper here.

“However, when visiting Johor Baru after the border reopened, I was sad to see that some shops had closed down, presumably due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

“I could not help but notice too that some of the prices at restaurants have become steeper, but it is still cheaper to spend money here.

Shopowner Eow Kai Chin (left) assisting Singaporean customer Soi Moi in selecting freshly baked handmade biscuits at his shop in Taman Sentosa, Johor Baru.Shopowner Eow Kai Chin (left) assisting Singaporean customer Soi Moi in selecting freshly baked handmade biscuits at his shop in Taman Sentosa, Johor Baru.

“Before crossing the Causeway back to Singapore, my husband and I will usually fuel up the car first,” said Sree Devi, adding that they would usually travel on weekdays to avoid the weekend traffic.

A creative freelancer, known only as Chua, and his wife were among those queueing up to buy banana cake at a famous third-generation bakery in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

“My daughters are huge fans of the fragrant banana cake. They asked us to buy six large boxes for them and their friends,” he said, adding that he enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Hainanese coffee and chicken porridge before joining the queue.

Chua said his wife would usually visit an optical outlet and pharmacy to buy her contact lenses and toiletries in Johor Baru.

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The 60-year-old said he was happy to see improvements to the landscape and infrastructure in the city centre compared to before the pandemic.

“While strolling from my hotel to downtown Johor Baru, I was impressed by the changes. The streets are cleaner and there are more things to look at.

“I also appreciate how the new developments are connected to the old parts of the city.

“My wife and I travelled to Johor Baru via the Shuttle Tebrau train service this time, and the journey was only about five minutes. The immigration clearance was also a breeze.

“I will definitely recommend the train service to our friends who plan to visit Johor Baru soon for shopping and eating, as it avoids the traffic jam,” he added.

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