Johor Who? Three Things I love About This Dirty Old Town

Johor Bahru, the capital city of the state of Johor Malaysia isn’t exactly a popular tourist mecca.  Most travelers pass through on their way from Singapore, just over the causeway (more on that later), to Kuala Lumpur and beyond.

Tourist attractions in Johor Malaysia?

There aren’t many tourist attractions.  In fact sometimes I feel like the tourist attraction, riding around three on my motorbike with my sister and eight year old niece.

A lot of money changes hands on horse racing nights in Jalan Meldrum in Johor Malaysia
A lot of money changes hands

Three things I love about Johor Bahru

Here are just three things I love about JB in the state of Johor Malaysia:

  1. Race nights in Jalan Meldrum.  We refer to this street fondly as Jalan Molly Meldrum.  If you are mystified by this reference do yourself a favour and Google this much loved Aussie icon.

When the horse races are on in KL and Singapore the street is alive with bookies, gamblers, runners and onlookers.  No-one gets to see the races but a lot of money changes hands.

The locals are incredibly welcoming and friendly. When one of the punters was talking to me I mentioned the other captain used to be a jockey.  Somehow this has become legend and he is known as a world famous jockey there.

Better still, since he won a couple of bets one evening they figure he’s an internationally successful gambler and ask him for his tips.

The bling is almost blinding in the glass temple, in Johor Malaysia
The bling is almost blinding in the glass temple

2. The Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple.  All Bollywood bling.

One evening I attended a puja (prayer ritual) involving countless trays of chopped vegetables and stuff being thrown into a ceremonial fire, interspersed with bundles of wood and oil poured onto the fire to the soundtrack of chanting and drum beating.

At one point the priest’s pyromaniac skills slipped and the whole temple was engulfed in smoke.  I could hardly breathe but it was incredibly atmospheric.

We call this restaurant in Little India in Johor Malaysia the Giant Duck.
We call this restaurant in Little India the Giant Duck.

 3. Food glorious food.  There is endless variety, and the local food is not expensive. My absolute favourites include roast duck, and crispy pork and Sup Kambing (conveniently supplied with straws to suck out the marrow).

Bone sucking. The food in Johor Malaysia is sensational.
Bone sucking

Since the Danga Bay Marina was closing we have moved our yacht Yana de Lys to the Senibong Cove Marina near Permas Jaya.

A causeway is a road not a bridge

I’d done a quick Navionics electronic navigation calculation on my phone while I was eating lunch one day.

Despite not having signed up to be a solo sailor, I figured I could sail the ten or twelve miles on my own.  I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last person to make this dumb mistake.  I wondered why there was no Air Height shown on the chart for the bridge to Singapore.  Doh!  That’s why its called a causeway – it’s basically a road not a bridge.

I called the other captain back from Australia for the 90 mile circumnavigation of Singapore. Meanwhile I get to enjoy eating and exploring this dirty old town of Johor Malaysia.


A snake in the sink and other fun at Danga Bay

The Pogues – Dirty Old Town

Travelling backwards in time to Myanmar

Ah Myanmar…

I have wanted to travel to Myanmar for years.

I’ve watched the movie about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi  (“The Lady”) twice.

I’ve drooled over the sailing charts but keep hearing how tedious and expensive it is for cruising yachts to access.

Travel to Myanmar: Kawthaung (Victoria Point) from my longtail boat
Ahh Myanmar. Approaching Kawthaung in a longtail boat from Thailand

Travel to Myanmar via Ranong in Thailand

So when I was living in Phuket and needed to extend my visa by leaving Thailand, it was a no brainer: Do a visa run to Kawthaung (Victoria Point), in Myanmar (Burma) via Ranong.

Yay! I finally got to travel to Myanmar. Well for a brief visit anyway.

Minibus horror stories

After reading the frequent horror stories about mini bus nightmare one day visa runs in the Phuket newspapers and blogs I opted for the local bus. Plus I wanted to spend a night in the Thai border town of Ranong.

Travel to Myanmar: Southern Thailand zooming past my window
Southern Thailand zooming past my window

The second hand unwinds

The 300 km trip took forever.  I was practising counting in Thai and lost track at 33 stops in the six hour journey.  Out the window it was all jungle, small towns, rubber trees, clumps of colourful spirit houses, election billboards and more jungle. To a sound track of Thai rock on the bus TV.

The clock next to the TV would climb its way up to a couple of minutes to nine, then be dragged back down by gravity.  The second hand unwinds.  Again. Whenever I dozed I would wake up to the clock telling me it was still two minutes to nine.

Looks like deja vu all over again Yogi.

A night in Ranong

Travel to Myanmar: View from my room. The river burbled soothingly all night.
View from my room. The river burbled soothingly all night.


I spent the night at the Thansila Hot Springs Resort in Ranong.  Great value, really comfortable bed, with the river running right past the picture windows and burbling through my sleep.

The hot springs were about half a kilometre away.  Seriously weird concept  dipping in a 65 degree C pool after the hot and sweaty walk up the hill in the tropics, but I think it was therapeutic.

Helpful Burmese fixers

The next day I took a longtail boat ride over to Myanmar, passing through three military checkpoints to get there.

On the  short walk to the immigration office I was joined by three cheerful and helpful Burmese fixers who tried to talk me in to buying:

  1. Duty free cigarettes.  (“No thanks I don’t smoke”)
  2. Duty free rum.  (“No thanks, I actually prefer to drink wine”)
  3. Duty free Myanmar wine.  (“What colour is it – red or white?”  After conferring among themselves they decided it was a clear colour, 300 baht for two litres.  “Oh thanks anyway but I’m not sure it’s the kind of wine I drink”)
  4. Yaba (amphetamines).  (At this point I just laughed and pictured myself starring in an episode of Locked Up Abroard.)
I was happy to tip them for their help. They made me feel so welcome and made me laugh for most of the short time I was on Myanmar soil. Although  I admit I gave them a little less than their suggested $US1000 each.
Travel to Myanmar: A brief glimpse of the Kawthaung waterfront
Kawthaung waterfront doesn’t look like it’s changed in at least 50 years

Next time I travel to Myanmar I’m going stay much, much longer. As long as my visa allows. In a hotel that is.


A view from my room – of Minibus Mayhem

Holidays in Cambodia: 5 Days in Siem Reap