It’s difficult to classify or rank places in Johor Bahru as the ‘most interesting’ or the ‘most boring’ because our judgments can sometimes be very misleading – a deadly boring place for the locals here could be relatively amusing for me. So let me just tell you this.
Royal Abu Bakar Museum
Isn’t there a better place to learn about a place than a museum? So folks, whether you like it or not, visit a museum, especially this one, which is unique in its own grand way.
It was not easy walking and searching for the museum’s entrance. When I asked a local makcik for direction, she said, “Don’t know-lah adik. Never been there.” Well, that was very much expected from a local, wasn’t it? I don’t want to go through this anymore.
So I just walked daringly through a seemingly grand entrance into a seemingly grand blue-and-white building. I was not sure whether I was at the correct place because I could not see a living soul. Has everyone lost interest in museum?
I bought a ticket (for a non-local price!) and was ushered to the Grand Palace. Established in 1864, this incredible building was originally a palace which was then turned into a museum in 1982. This transformed the museum into a more interesting entity that houses a lot of royal secrets and juicy stories. The luxurious exterior and elaborate items exhibited in the museum make it more outstanding compared to any other museums in Malaysia. Who wouldn’t be captivated by its royal regalia, exquisite guest area, majestic throne room, costly treasure room and gigantic banquet hall? I must say that the whole concoction of displays is mind-blowing.
Reading the history of Johorean royals, I was so delighted to scrutinize the background of the current Sultanah of Johor cum UTM’s Chancellor, D.Y.M.M Baginda Sultanah Zanariah binti Almarhum Tunku Ahmad. Wait a minute, of all places, she is from Pasir Mas, Kelantan! Haha.
I have just finished watching korean drama Stairway to Heavan and discovering this magnificent garden made me think that I was on a stairway to Heavan, just like in the drama. Oh yes, this garden is so enormous and beautiful. Overlooking the Strait of Johore, the garden’s sprawling landscape was superbly manicured and maintained. The gardeners must have worked hard day and night.
Located within the compound of the Grand Palace and extended over an area as big as the size of five football fields, this super garden once served for the royals. I could walk leisurely like a King along palm-lined driveways and enjoy the dense vegetation surrounding the garden. To experience some luxuries of past royalties is such a privilege for me.
The various concepts shown inside the garden still stun me. Who would expect to find a Japanese house and a Chinese gateway inside the garden? And there is even a rest house in the middle of the garden that reminds me of the place where Julia Robert suddenly kisses her best friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Hehe.
My Best Friend's Wedding
Except for elderly joggers and Chinese newly-wed couples who immortalize the garden’s beauty through their professional photographers, I guess the rest of the locals here do not prefer to have afternoon strolls in the garden because it is just too big and remote for them that can just make them tired. Thanks to the hilly setting of the garden which makes it covered and hidden from the public, this place is perfect for my personal retreat and getaway.
I always want to be near a lake. So having found seven lakes in Hutan Bandar was an unexpected bonus. But, wait – forest in the city? You gotta be kidding.
Hmm, covered 32 hectares, this recreational ‘forested’ park is indeed lying within the city. I thought JB folks make the most of this park, just like what Taman Tasik Titiwangsa does to KL folks. But, I could see that many parts of parks are hardly utilised. Perhaps, the park’s location is too remote and hidden from public view, just like Kebun Bunga.
This park definitely passes all the basic requirements for an excellent park, including an excellent example for poor maintenance and sheer negligence. I have never seen lakes that are so green and ‘natural’. If this was the proud concept of naturalness promoted by the management, I would surrender my case.
Except for the impressive Selera d Hutan restaurant, I found many public walkways are thickly blanketed with dry weeds and crispy sticks. There were times when I felt like I was really walking in the real forest, which made me wonder whether the management has ever visited this park or not. Most of the public areas appear worn out and aging that, depending on how you look at it, could possibly add the ‘natural charm’ of the park. I can say that the whole park seems to reflect its tired management and weary city folks.
Despite its ugly sides, I still love this place because it sends an important green message to the public and the responsible authorities. But please, can someone rebrand this park immediately under a brand new Iskandar Malaysia? Sayang, this so-called recreational park has all what it takes to be called a recreational park, but with continuous neglect, it might as well one day be turned into a cemetery park.
Talking about cemetery, I had a rare opportunity to have a brief glimpse at the Royal Mausoleum, which is the final resting place for Johor Royalties including Sultan Abu Bakar, the father of modern Johor.
I was awed by the highly-organised tombstones that evoked some serene feelings from me. The neighboring dense woods looked mysteriously peaceful. I was nervous because, besides the resting souls, there were no living souls around. Have people lost interest in this great monument?
Looking afar from the window of my car, I could see the grand mausoleum’s aesthetical architecture that weirdly pleased me with its poignant design. I felt sad. Since I was still alone, I moved on immediately to my next destination – a place with real souls.
Hooray. Now I could enjoy active souls in the zoo. But wait a second – are animals just the same everywhere? What makes the animals in Johor zoo different compared to other zoos? Will I find here a magic elephant that could fly? Or a tiger that speaks? Hmm. My friends kept asking me these ‘intelligent’ questions when I told them that I would visit a zoo in JB. Sorry folks, I didn’t have the right answers for those questions. I guess I just have to visit a zoo because it is just a routine for any curious tourists to visit a zoo. So there I was, in Johor Zoo, hoping to find a talking monkey.
Of course the animals here are all the same. You are right my dear friends. However, I should highlight a place here that caught my attention. No, not a talking animal. It is a field where a few ostriches play and breed. There was a lifted pathway that crosses through the field. I just enjoyed walking on this walkway, looking at school kids playing cheerfully with the ostriches. Ehem, there was also a couple. Anyway, this experience was enough to satisfy my hunger for a new discovery, even though I couldn’t find a flying elephant.
Stulang Laut Beach
People in KL usually drive all the way to Port Dickson to enjoy beach activities, but people in JB can just suffer a few minutes’ drive to Stulang Laut Beach for a family picnic. However, just like Hutan Bandar, it is sad to see that the beach is not well taken care of. I found it amusing to see people swimming desperately in the rubbish-filled sea.
There was even an uncomfortable 'scent' around the beach. I looked around and noticed a hidden drain that brought unwanted sewage from, I guess, the city. What a subtle and easy way to appreciate the beauty. Oh, from here, I could see Senoko Power Station standing boldly across the Strait of Johore on mainland Singapore. I suppose this should supply the power for Stulang Laut Beach, adding more appeal that conceals the ugly side of the desperate beach.
Finally, I have come to my favourite spot in JB. Stretched for 7 kilometres, I could view Lido Beach by driving through Jalan Abu Bakar and Jalan Tun Dr. Ismail. Whenever I want to go to downtown JB, I purposely choose these roads so that I could be inspired by the miracle of Lido Beach.
I just love driving along Lido Beach because there are so many pleasant things to see besides the beach itself. I could catch a glimpse of the orangish Dataran Bandaraya, the classic Hospital Besar Tun Aminah, the great Abu Bakar Mosque, and of course, the Grand Palace. Having seen these altogether while driving is like a climax of the day that gives me everlasting energy to spend the rest of the already tiring day.
There are so many places that I have yet to venture like Sultan Ibrahim Building, Taman Merdeka, Bukit Serene Palace, The Zon and many others. But, I have already felt more Johorean than a Johorean himself.
I think I am lost.
Labels: cekmi's inspiring adventures