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- 08 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Crowded on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Johor Bahru is the lively capital of Johor state. Surrounded by lush rainforest overlooking the gleaming Straits of Johor, this gateway between Singapore and Malaysia is a central hub for travellers passing through Southeast Asia. It's a kaleidoscope of culture, blending heritage buildings from the city's British colonial period, Chinese 'shophouses', ornate Indian temples and sizzling, fusion street food.
You can stay in an old-style, homey Johor Bahru hostel within walking distance of the city centre, a chilled-out hostel decorated with hand-painted murals or boutique rooms in the heart of Central Business District. Some hostels in Johor Bahru have free breakfast, and most have free Wi-Fi too. Expect fans or air con and communal social areas to meet new friends over a game of darts. Look out for a hostel in Johor Bahru with extras such as free toiletries and personal lockers.
Most visitors stay in Johor Bahru's Old Town, where you'll find street art, food stalls and colonial buildings. There are a few neighbourhoods to explore here. One of the oldest is Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, known for its antique shops and pretty 'shophouses' – mixed-use living and business homes traditional to Southeast Asia. Danga Bay has contemporary restaurants set along a pretty waterfront lined with moored boats. Outside the city, Desaru Beach is a long stretch of white sand popular with surfers.
Johor Bahru has a number of top sights. See Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman, a Hindu temple glittering with glass mosaics; and bright-red Old Temple, telling the story of the unification of the city's five Chinese ethnic groups. Today, Johor is known for quirky theme parks such as Sanrio Hello Kitty Town and Angry Birds Activity Park. For a more local experience, hunt for a bargain at the Pasar Karat night-time flea market. Be sure to try the sought-after curry puffs at Salahuddin Bakery, which is virtually unchanged since it opened in the 1930s.
From Senai International Airport, shuttle buses to central Johor Bahru take around 45 minutes, while taxis are slightly faster. Buses run from central Singapore to Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal, and take between 40 minutes to 2 hours (depending on traffic). You can also ride the MRT from central Singapore to Woodlands, and catch the KTM Shuttle Tebrau train across to Johor Bahru (a 5-minute journey). Within the city, you can get around using buses, taxis or on foot.