From The Straits Times    |

Credit: Kendra Tan

I love going to Johor Bahru (JB). I mean, who doesn’t? It’s affordable, it’s good, and you can do almost everything and anything you want for less compared to Singapore. 

As someone who frequently crosses the border for food, entertainment, shopping and massages, I feel the need to share some of my best JB haunts with other Singaporeans (hence this post). 

Now, unlike other articles that just give you the “Top 10 best things to do and eat with JB”, I’m going to provide you with an entire tried-and-tested itinerary (along with some travelling hacks) so that you don’t have to think about picking your favourites and then using Google Maps to string your entire trip together. 

The ultimate one-day JB itinerary 2024

‘Cos we’re lazy chill and laid back, we shall start planning to enter Malaysia at about 11am.

If you drive: Check Motorist.sg for live traffic camera feed at Woodlands Checkpoint before entering.

If you’re taking public transport: The jam can be a turn-off, especially on weekends. Here are some hacks I’ve discovered over my many years of crossing the border.

  1. Option 1: Consider walking across the border (yes, walking) when the jam gets really bad. I’ve done it before and it took me only about 30 minutes. 
  1. Option 2: Pay someone off (unofficially) to take you across the border.

Usually, public buses will take the bus lane, so it’s not that bad of a jam compared to driving. But I know, sometimes upon exiting Singapore immigration, you’ll get a shock at how loooong the queue is for the SBS bus into JB. 

Now, don’t queue. Instead, walk over to the private bus bay. You may notice several blue buses called “Bas Pekerja”, which essentially means “employee” or “worker” bus. They ferry Malaysian workers back and forth daily. Simply get on it, and ask the driver if they’re okay with you hitching a ride to Malaysia Customs (usually they’re agreeable). Upon getting down, pay around 2 to 3RM directly to the driver. 

Morning: Brunch at Kopilicious 

After makan-ing (eating) at many restaurants and coffee shops in Malaysia, my favourite go-to for breakfast or brunch is Kopilicious, which has two branches in JB. 

The Taman Sentosa branch is an eight minute drive from the customs, while the Taman Molek branch is 16 minutes away. 

What you should eat and drink: Their signature cold coffee (3.50RM) and mee siam rendang (12.50RM).

Now, I’m not exactly a food writer so I’ll keep it short — Freaking. Delicious. And I’m not even a spice eater. The mee siam rendang had a spicy yet savoury kick that left me wanting more after each bite. Heck, I was even thinking about it for weeks after my trip.

If you have yet to try Kopilicious, try it on your next trip. I promise it’s worth it. 

In the afternoon: Discover Mount Austin 

After brunch, head over to Mount Austin’s Shiba Cafe — It’s time to play with some furbabies! 

Mount Austin is just a 10 min drive from Kopilicious’ Taman Molek branch or a 15 min drive from the Taman Sentosa branch. 

Price-wise, you’ll pay around 20RM~ for an hour with the doggos and it comes with one drink. It is open from 10am to 8pm daily, with 3pm to 4pm being the dogs’ break. 

We had fun playing with all types of dogs, including huskies, shiba inus, toy poodles and more. Reservations in advance are required, and you can WhatsApp them at +60 11-1193-9795. 

For people who aren’t that interested in dog cafes, you can also do your nails at Sasa Nails House or go for a three hour karaoke sesh at SING V KTV at super affordable prices — both within walking distance of the dog cafe. 

There’s also a really great, big mall in the Austin area that’s around a 10 minute drive away called AEON Tebrau that is linked to Toppen Mall and IKEA — you might want to spend another full day here if you choose to stay the night. 

Sasa Nails House: I remember paying roughly around S$60~ for a french gel manicure and pedicure — and as a ‘chor lor’ (rough) person, I was surprised that my nails lasted for months without chipping off. 

SING V KTV: This karaoke branch can go as low as 0.50RM for three hours per person on a weekday afternoon. However, I think we paid around S$10~ for three hours per person with unlimited drinks. Still very affordable. 

AEON Tebrau: Your shopping haven. Movies, food, fashion, groceries… Anything you want, this mall has it. 

At night: Danga Bay

If you like theme parks, this one’s for you. 

Okay, truth be told, the thrill is not from the rides — it’s the safety of those rides. You might fall off and die, who knows. But that’s what makes it exciting. Just kidding. I’ve been there countless times, rode on all their cute, rickety rides and have had to any incidents… Yet. 

But for real though, you should check it out. Located around a 20 minute drive from Mount Austin, this is where you’ll want to go after all the shops and malls have closed for the night.

Once the sun sets, you’ll see a bunch of local families hanging out at Danga Bay with their kids, taking rides, buying LED balloons, riding on rented PMDs/bicycles/carriages, and more. Think of it as a mini Pasar Malam (night market) and a theme park in one — that closes no earlier than 12am. 

I would not recommend eating dinner there though, as the restaurants there are not cheap — it’s mostly a bunch of Chinese restaurants selling seafood by weight. But as for snacks inside the park itself (as you can see those tents behind us in the pic above), I would say go for it. There are donuts, drinks, and other food sold by individual vendors at very reasonable prices.

The park is free to enter, but you’ll have to pay for rides. Each ride costs about 2RM to 10RM, which we’re okay to pay for hours of fun. 

We played bumper cars, a roller coaster in the dark, the Viking ship, as well as a cycling ride suspended in the air called Galactic Ring which looks something like this: 

I found this ride to be the most “dangerous” as you are on a high track above the ground and honestly, it’s an old theme park so you can see everything from that height, including what looks like a huge metal junkyard with rusty pipes and wires sticking out from the ground directly below one part of the tracks. I would hate to imagine if someone accidentally fell out of the ride during that segment. 

Also, hold onto your phone. Tightly. Very tightly. 

After midnight: Massage and Supper 

How can we ever forget about getting a massage in JB? 

After playing up a storm, head over to Bangkok Family Spa at Permas Jaya for a well-deserved message. 

Tons of Singaporeans enjoy going to Bangkok Spa (nearer to customs), but in my opinion, after having tried both spas multiple times, I would say that Bangkok Family Spa is better. 

It’s the same price and also less crowded than Bangkok Spa, and there’s free transport to and fro customs/KSL area. It’s clean, quiet (no clock ticking sounds, thank goodness) and sometimes you may even get an individual room (where it’s a door instead of curtains) if you opt for a solo aromatherapy massage. 

The spa is located around a 15 minute drive from Danga Bay. 

At only around S$20 for an hour of Traditional Thai Massage, I would say that massages are a MUST DO in JB. 

I personally always go for two hours of their Aromatherapy Massage, because I think oil hits better. 

Click here for their full service menu and price list.

You can message them on WhatsApp at +60 11-1081-5555 to make reservations. 

After you’ve gotten all the knots out of your body, step outside of the spa and you’ll immediately see a lok lok truck next door blasting Chinese EDM music. I don’t know the name of it, or what time it opens and closes. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not, depending on the owner’s mood, I guess. But 80% of the time I go to the spa, that lok lok truck is open. 

Grab some food, drinks, chill and when you’re done, get the spa’s transport to send you to customs for free.

Hotel recommendation

If it’s too late and you choose to stay, here’s a hotel I’d totally recommend:  Midori Concept at Austin Heights.

Having stayed there multiple times, I can assure you that this hotel is clean, beds are comfortable and their high-powered shower is all you need for a good night’s rest. 

The cost? Only around S$40 per night.

Book your room at Midori Concept Hotel at Booking.com or Trip.com.

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