Long Weekend Johor Getaway

So, where were you over the long weekend just passed? For a cheap getaway, nothing beats crossing over to neighbouring Johor. This time, we ventured up the east coast which we haven’t been to before (not counting Desaru that is). This turned out to be an excellent choice since the north-south highway was jam packed with holiday makers who ended up getting caught in multi-hour traffic jam.

The islands off Johor east coast, especially Tioman, are the popular destinations in this area, but we avoided those as we wanted to avoid crowds. Instead, we headed to Rompin, where there is a decent beach that is not busy.

Anyway, we took it really slow and stayed for one night in JB before heading out to Rompin. Food sampled in JB – Restoran Fong Yem (丰源美食中心) at Jalan Dedap and Hook Sang Home Cooking (福生家乡小厨) at Taman Gaya. Fong Yem is supposed to be well known for the Bak Kut Teh stall, but the stall was closed when we went. Thankfully, the chicken rice and fried Bee Hoon were pretty good too.

Roasted chicken rice, though they are probably better known for poached chicken
Fried Bee Hoon, dry, with good Wok Hei, and did not clump together and was not too oily

Hook Sang was a surprise find. Good food at reasonable prices despite being a restaurant chain.

Hook Sang at Taman Gaya. Queue starts forming before 7pm
Salt baked chicken is the signature dish, and it is really yummy.
Salted egg coated Enoki mushroom. The combination works.
Tofu with crispy egg crust
Braised pork Bee Hoon is another nice dish
Grilled squid

Mersing is the logical lunch stop enroute to Rompin. This is where most travelers heading to Tioman would board the ferries. Many eateries chose to close shop despite the potential increase in business during the holiday weekend. We settled on a kopitiam at a corner, and i didn’t even note down the name of the kopitiam. The stall selling roasted meat had an endless stream of local takeaway customers.

The roasted meat was indeed very good, especially the Siew Yok (roasted pork belly). The crackling skin was crispy yet soft.

Rompin was another hour’s drive away. The beach was quite a pretty sight, with fine beige sand. We had the beach to ourselves in the afternoon, and the surprisingly the breeze was cooling in the heat of the day.

The low tide and the breeze created sand dunes along the beach

Come dinner time, and we were again faced with the problem of finding an eatery that was open. To avoid disappointment, we chose to go to Fu Man Lou (福满楼) at Endau, some 20 plus minutes’ drive away.

Fu Man Lou Seafood, located next to the Tioman ferry terminal
This was a popular signature dish consisting of shark meat and skin in spicy sauce. Quite appetizing.
Only the locally caught flower crab is available, and unfortunately, it has little flesh which dries up when cooked in Kam Heong style. Not recommended.
Steamed crab was a more suitable way of cooking the flower crab
Grilled squid
Butter cray fish was good (and cheap)

We were back to Endau the next morning for breakfast. There is a nice vibe along the main street. Most of the eateries were selling Bak Kut Teh, which is rather heavy for breakfast. We had noodles and toast.

The main street of Endau is lined with the original wooden shophouses. I’m happy to note that shophouses like these are quite well preserved throughout Johor in comparison to other states in Malaysia.

Next stop, Kluang. We arrived in time (they close at 2pm on Saturday) to pick up a few packets of coffee powder from Kluang Coffee Powder Factory. Well, i have always wondered if Kluang Coffee Powder is the supplier of the Coffee powder for Kluang Rail Coffee. If so, then i could potentially make similar tasting Kopi at home. I have tried, and it doesn’t come close. Oh well.

This was the first time we actually stayed in Kluang, although we have visited many times. Then, we would go only to Kluang Rail Coffee, but now that we have some time in Kluang, we took the opportunity to sample food from the highly rated restaurants in Kluang. Star Restaurant is one of them. They are famous for crispy duck.

Star restaurant. Has a modern makeover, but cleverly retained the original retro-feel signage
Crispy duck. No disappointment here. Not too dry.
Fried beancurd skin roll. Very crispy beancurd skin.
German beer. Very refreshing and a nice way to wash down the food.

In between lunch and dinner, we did some shopping. There are two malls within the compact town centre – Kluang Mall and Kluang Parade. These are places to kill time rather than actually shop. Where we actually do shop – Traditional Chinese Herbal shops and Pharmacies. Prices are a lot cheaper.

128 Seafood is probably the biggest Seafood restaurant in Kluang, and it is advisable to book ahead if you’re going there on a weekend or holiday.

128 Seafood
We were seated next to this pile of charcoal, the only sheltered table available to avoid the drizzling. Tantalizing as they look, these roasted suckling pig are bulk-ordered in advance and not catered to the general diners
Pork ribs in either secret (秘) or sweet (蜜) sauce. Tasty
Signature tofu
Finally, crab with decent flesh, in salted egg yolk sauce.
Another recommended dish, fish and yam in claypot. Nice gravy.

No trip to Kluang is complete without a visit to Kluang Rail Coffee. This time, we visited the brand new outlet in the centre of Kluang, near Kluang Mall. It is packed to the brim at any time of the day. They open from 8am, but one section is closed in the morning. Under-staffed.

I love their tagline – “It’s a local motion”. A pun on the word “locomotion”.
The interior is in the same style as their flagship store, but is brighter and more airy
Whole grain buns. The normal toast and buns were sold out before 10am?! I think they were simply too overwhelmed by the long weekend visitors the day before

The food was served a little lukewarm, including the Kopi. Nevertheless, the Kopi still tasted top notch, unlike other similar chains where the Kopi taste like instant coffee. I think the flagship store had better quality, and i will revert to visiting there instead next time.

We proceeded to Batu Pahat thereafter and re-visited Han Kee for the egg and ham sandwich. I also stocked up on coffee supply from Rengit Cafe.

Egg and ham sandwich from Han Kee. The bread is actually quite good – soft and chewy. Nicely charred egg. It’s interesting to observe how they fry the egg, which you can do so when you visit the toilet at the back of the store.
Left to right – Rengit White Coffee (RM16), Rengit Liberica Whole Bean (RM19) and Kluang Coffee Powder (RM13.5). Much cheaper than in Singapore. These will last me for some time.

We made our way back to JB and did grocery shopping at Tesco. We were going to stay for the night to avoid the jam across the causeway on the last day of the long weekend. This time, we stayed at Austin Heights, which you could say is one of the most happening places in JB currently. There is a plethora of new cafes, restaurants and bars around here. You could spend all day eating and chilling at Austin Heights.

After checking around, we decided on having dinner at KKIT restaurant (上汤街). As the name of the restaurant suggests, they specialize in seafood cooked in stock, but, my suspicion was proven true, it didn’t live up to expectations. The “stock” is no more than soy sauce with heavy garlic and ginger. There’s no way they can serve such large quantity of real stock at an affordable price. Nevertheless, it was not as bad as the other well-known restaurant that supposedly also specialize in “stock”, Matang Seafood. Skip Matang Seafood, the soup is full of MSG.

What a name
Seafood in “stock”.. not quite worth the money. The garlic is meant to numb your senses.

The “stock” based dish was gimmicky, but fortunately the other dishes more than made up. Ultimately, i think the restaurant is worthy of a repeat visit.

Ku Lou Yok (sweet sour pork) has a nice balance of sweet and sour. Portion is quite big.
Refreshing mix of sprouts and mushroom
Yam ring with Mongolian style prawn balls (fresh prawns). The Mongolian sauce was pretty good.

By the way, all the accomodations i have booked cost under S$50 per night per room. It really doesn’t get cheaper than this for a long weekend getaway.

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