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. Continue reading Long Weekend Johor Getaway

North-South highway lunch stop – Panchor

Today i found my new favourite lunch stop along the North-South highway – Hin Thoy restaurant at Panchor. It is easily accessible from the North-South highway – merely 8 minutes from the Pagoh toll exit.

Panchor is a quiet village by the Muar river, and i love the sense of serenity here. This was much more pleasant than the other nearby towns, Yong Peng and Tangkak, and even Pagoh.

All quiet on the river promenade
Exceptionally calm waters

Continue reading North-South highway lunch stop – Panchor

North-south highway lunch stop – Ayer Hitam

Today i drove a little faster (okay way above the speed limit actually) and got to Ayer Hitam at 1230pm (in just 2.5 hours from KL), just the right time for lunch. Ayer Hitam is just off the highway, making it a convenient lunch stop.

If you Googled for Ayer Hitam food, you’ll invariably find Tang Chuan among the top search results. Tang Chuan sells Pau and other Dim Sum, not quite the staple people will usually choose for a lunch meal. We certainly did not feel like having Pau for lunch. After doing a quick survey, i settled for Meng Heng, located at the corner unit of the row of shops across the road.

For completeness sake, let me quickly mention that the Kopitiam next to Tang Chuan, called New Mui Thye, had two stalls open at lunch time, selling chicken rice and noodles. The corner unit at the other end of the same row of shops as Tang Chuan sold Wanton noodles. The two shops directly across the road from Tang Chuan sold mixed economy rice (什菜饭), and these two took in the lion’s share of the local lunch crowd. None of these eateries looked appealing, honestly speaking, and from intuition, i felt there was something about Meng Heng that seem just slightly more convincing.

Screen capture of Restoran Meng Heng from Google Street View.

Meng Heng sells various types of noodles, as well as mixed economy rice. I just found out they have been around for more than 60 years. Okay. Wow.

We ordered three types of noodles, and they did not disappoint.

Curry pork ribs. The curry has an obvious Tumeric taste, and overall, it was rather tangy, which i think is characteristic of Johorean curry. The pork ribs were very tender.
Laksa. Came with pretty good (stiff rather than soggy) fish cake.
Minced pork noodles. This was very fragrant and tasty.

The noodles used was chewy flat yellow noodles, a welcome change from the more common soggy round yellow noodles. There was a lot of (too much) oil in the noodles but no obvious taste of lard, which sat well with me as i do not like a lot of lard in my food.

I don’t have a photo of the coffee which we did order, but as mentioned in the news article, it was pretty good. Yes, despite the coffee being a little milky, as is typical of the coffee around this region (from Batu Pahat to Pontian in the south), there was enough of aromatic coffee taste to convince me i was drinking coffee instead of milk.

Just so that i can check Ayer Hitam off my list of food to try along the North-south highway in Johor, we went to sample the Pau at Tang Chuan after finishing our meal at Meng Heng.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell the glutinous chicken rice anymore

I would say the Pau were indeed nice. We sampled the big Pau and the Char Siew Pau. Both were more savoury than sweet, which suits my preference just nice. The filling were juicy and tender. The coffee from here, however, was no match to Meng Heng’s.

There was a steady stream of customers, and i think the internet lent a huge helping hand

To conclude, i would say Yong Peng is still the best place to do lunch along the North-south highway if you’re not in a hurry.

Where to pump petrol before entering Singapore from North-South Highway

It is no secret that petrol prices in Malaysia is about one third that in Singapore. At present, the price of RON97 is RM 2.05 per litre, whereas it costs S$2.05 (before applying discount) per litre for RON95 in Singapore. Topping up your tank before returning to Singapore from Malaysia means huge savings, especially for cars with bigger tanks. Some even perform the rather unsightly maneuver of rocking their car in an attempt to get that little bit more petrol into the tank.

Cars returning to Singapore after travelling on the North-South Highway will have to decide where to pump petrol, and it’s best to plan ahead exactly where. One might say this is an easy decision – just choose the station nearest to the immigration checkpoint. Under optimal conditions, when there is no queue at the checkpoint, this is a sensible choice. However, when there queue, pumping at a petrol station near the checkpoint may cost you more time to clear the immigration, since your queue will virtually start at the petrol station. It is demoralizing, i can tell you.

Let me go straight to the point and show you the three options you have in choosing the petrol station:

1. Petrol station near checkpoint

For the second link, obviously the Shell station just before the Tanjung Kupang CIQ is the one, and probably 90% of the cars returning to Singapore will pump petrol here.

Continue reading Where to pump petrol before entering Singapore from North-South Highway

JB Durian trip 2

Here we go again, making a trip to JB for Durian. Now is certainly the ripe time to go, with Durian supplies ramping up and prices coming down. In my opinion, the prices are still not that cheap. I’ll just quickly state here the prices of those varieties i have sampled for your information (per kg):

Lao Tai Po (老太婆) RM 25 (pictured above – sweet and creamy)
Sultan RM 30
D101 RM 38
Tekka (Bamboo) RM 38
Mao Shan Wang or Musang King RM 48 Continue reading JB Durian trip 2

Johor Durian trip

It is July and it is time for more Durians! This time we ventured further north, all the way to Malacca.

Information on the whereabouts of Durians, whether Durian orchards or stalls selling Durian are scarce as ever. My first target location was an organic Durian orchard near Batu Pahat. Believe it or not, I managed to determine the location of this place based on the markings on a lamppost. No other clues were given except the name of the road and a photo of the roadside. The photo carried the caption “very easy to find us”. Yeah, right.

Undeterred, I started searching using Google Street View, traversing the road, Jalan Sungai Suloh, where they’re said to be located. I found a patch of land that looked promising, and upon comparing the markings on the lamppost, to my amazement, they were a match! Continue reading Johor Durian trip

JB Durian trip

It’s that time of the year again! While you can enjoy Durian just about anywhere throughout Malaysia and Singapore, the best place in the world to enjoy Durian has got to be my hometown, SS2 Petaling Jaya. You get the best prices and the best variety here, sourced from the mountainous areas in Pahang. Just for comparison, the price of the Mao Shan Wang (MSW) variety in SS2 is RM30-45 per kg, but in JB, it is around RM50. I guess the proximity to Singapore drives prices up. Continue reading JB Durian trip

North-South Highway lunch stop – Pagoh

Pagoh is a very small town, with its commercial centre stretching over just 500m or so. When driving towards JB from KL, Pagoh is after Tangkak and before Yong Peng, making it a suitable candidate as a lunch stop, since it takes slightly over 2 hours to get to Pagoh.

Being the very small town that it is, choices are limited as expected. There are probably no more than 10 eateries in total if you actually combed the entire area. I settled on Gao Yuan Seafood that was almost the only place with an online presence.

Gao Yuan Seafood, tucked away in a corner away from the main crossroad
Gao Yuan Seafood, tucked away in a corner away from the main crossroad

Continue reading North-South Highway lunch stop – Pagoh

North-South Highway lunch stop – Tangkak

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For the longest time, Yong Peng has been the de-facto choice as the lunch stop en-route from KL to Singapore. The taste has become too familiar and a change is desperately needed. I looked up Google maps to see which towns are just off the highway. Tangkak turned out to be a good candidate.

Tangkak is about 2 hours from KL, slightly nearer than Yong Peng. We usually arrive at Yong Peng around 130-2pm, which is kind of late for lunch, so Tangkak works well for those times when we depart from KL slightly late. Today, we departed KL around 1030am, made a quick stop at Seremban to pick up some Siew Pau and arrived at the planned Tangkak eatery around 1230pm. As with Yong Peng, Tangkak town is only a few km off the North-South Highway. Continue reading North-South Highway lunch stop – Tangkak

Crawl-less year end staycation

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Excerpt from The Straits Times

The causeway has been in the news recently, being the source of frustration to travellers when they are stuck in a 5 hours jam to cross it. I can relate to this, as I myself was stuck in jam lasting more than 3 hours. On 11 December, a Friday, I joined the queue into the CIQ from the EDL at about 420pm, and managed to exit Woodlands Checkpoint only at 730pm.

The jams are happening despite an improvement in the workflow at Woodlands Checkpoint, whereby the vehicle inspection is done at the same time as the immigration clearance. This would have reduced the overall waiting time by probably half an hour, but apparently this wasn’t enough to relief the congestion, which one frequent causeway user said was the worst ever. It was so bad that she decided to put up in a hotel in JB. Looks like i’m not the only one having the same idea.

Excerpt from The New Paper
Excerpt from The New Paper

The best ways to avoid the causeway crawl are obviously air travel, or don’t travel! This is certainly not a good time to drive into Malaysia (and vice versa). Here are just some ideas of what one can do, free of charge (not counting transport and food of course), while staying put in Singapore. Yes, my kind of staycation. I simply don’t believe in spending money to stay in a local hotel.

Christmas light-up

This year, there is a new venue to view Christmas light-up other than the obvious Orchard Road. Yes, you probably already know it – Christmas Wonderland @ Gardens by the Bay. Judging by the popularity of this event, i have a feeling this will be held annually. A friend of ours who tried to go there (by public transport) was stuck in a queue for 3 hours. On my first attempt to get there, i immediately scrapped the idea on seeing the multi-kilometer tailback of cars queueing to get into the carpark. It was absolutely crazy!

Anyway, i went a second time, before 6pm on a Monday, and the car parks were already full, but the car park at Marina Barrage had plentiful parking (apparently the cars that were queuing were not aware of the availability of this car park that is within easy walking distance into Gardens by the Bay). Our plan was to have an early dinner at Satay by the Bay. It was quite empty before 6pm too, though before long, queues started to form at the food stalls as well.

It is certainly worth a look, but not quite pleasant having to contend with the crowd, especially when visiting with young children.

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The centrepiece
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A very elaborate Christmas tree

Sentosa is another plausible option even if it is slightly cheesy.

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Get in touch with nature Continue reading Crawl-less year end staycation