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Sunday November 9, 2008

Great fun down south

Johor has more than just the mystical Mount Ophir to offer. Plan your trip to include many adventurous and holiday spots in this southern state.

1. Endau-Rompin Johor National Park

This is the country’s second National Park and it comprises 50,000ha of rich flora and fauna, encompassing the watershed of the rivers of Endau and Rompin. Home to many species of birds, mammals, frogs, insects and many other wild animals, as well as varieties of orchids, herbs, medicinal plants and trees, it also boasts of having the largest surviving population of Sumatran rhinos still left in Peninsular Malaysia.

2. Pulau Tinggi

A heaven for divers and snorkelling enthusiasts, its name is derived from a high hill rising about 800m above sea level on the island. It is one of the many islands that are located in the east coast of Johor and was a stopover point for traders many centuries ago. Enjoy the pristine white beaches and jewel blue waters. Myths claim that the spirit of Hang Tuah, a legendary hero from Malacca, guards the island where he had once stopped at during his journeys.

3. Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque

One of the most beautiful mosques in the country, this house of worship is a historical landmark of Western neo-classical and Islamic architecture. It is located on a hill on Jalan Abu Bakar and overlooks the Straits of Tebrau. It is named after the late Sultan Abu Bakar, who laid the foundation in 1892. The building was completed at the turn of the century in 1900. It is now a protected heritage monument.

4. Laksa Johor

Coming to this southern state, it would be deemed as an incomplete holiday if one does not try its food. The Laksa Johor is again a dish that has had European influence. Spaghetti is used instead of wheat flour noodles and it has a delicious gravy that is thick with fish and eaten with fresh greens and herbs. Truly a culinary delight that must not be missed.

5. Beriani Gam

This is a favourite rice dish for weddings in the Klang Valley but in Johor, this is considered its state dish besides Laksa Johor. It is thoroughly popular in Batu Pahat, which is incidentally known as the Beriani Town. It is rice cooked with spices and ghee and a thick and spicy curry of either chicken, beef or mutton, which is cooked in a stainless steel vessel, separated by a muslin cloth and later covered with a dough and left to cook until the flavours are subtly absorbed by the rice. It is an adventure in itself and not to be missed, especially if one is in Johor.

6. Danga Bay

This is a weekend haunt that most tourists from Singapore and locals flock to for the numerous carnivals that are organised here. It is an integrated waterfront development comprising shopping malls, and retail, residential, food and beverage, financial and commercial, and recreational components situated at Johor Baru City, with many good restaurants for those wanting to spend a fun-filled and carefree weekend.

7. Gunung Lambak Recreational Forest

This recreational hideout is located at the foothills of Mount Lambak and boasts of a cool ambience that is just right for picnics, adventure-packed activities like mountain-climbing and a host of other activities that can be had here with the ample facilities available. The mountain is about

510m above sea level and accessible via footpaths and wooden bridges for a good trek uphill. It is about five kilometres from Kluang town.

8. Tanjung Pengelih

This is a popular entry point among visitors from Singapore, especially those who come for seafood at Rengit River. It also has historical significance as on a hill behind the Immigration and Customs checkpoint here stands a historical relic that once served as the British Operation Centre during World War II. This site was said to house an underground hospital, barracks, tunnels, communications post, naval guns, anti-aircraft installation, command post, and artillery post. The old pillboxes are still visible on the ground here.

9. Shopping

Ceramics, pottery, tableware, porcelain crafts and many more decorative and household products are items that can be bought at reasonable prices in Ayer Itam Claytan Factory. It is located in Batu Pahat, on the way to Ayer Itam, and is a popular stop for its tableware that often depicts beautiful English designs. Further north, Tangkak is the textile town where many factories produce good fabrics here while imported materials are also sold at substantially lower prices than other places in the country.

10. Desaru

This is a beautiful and most popular beach in the state to visit. All 25km of white, sandy beach and lush tropical greenery make up Desaru. Located 98km north-east of Johor Baru, Desaru is also known as the “Village of Casuarinas”. It is a good destination for family vacations 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.