Thursday, 18 October 2018

JB trip

I decided to share about weekend trip to Johor Bahru (JB) as I almost visit JB every month since Aug18. I used to drag going to JB as I hated the horrendous weekend jam but this changes after I start to travel to JB by train. This page will be updated as and when I have updates to share.

Transport to and from JB
When I went to JB in early September, I took bus as this was an impromptu trip and the train tickets were sold out one month earlier. I took bus 170 from Kranji MRT and was stuck in the jam for 1hr before I reached Singapore custom. Lesson learnt: Either take bus 170X or alight at the train station bus stop and walk to the Singapore custom if taking bus 160 or 170. It took me almost 1.5hr to clear both custom, clearing Singapore custom was quite fast which took about 20min, then stuck in the causeway for 15min and another 45min to clear Malaysia custom. Returning was much smoother as we had early dinner on Sunday and reached the Malaysia custom at 7pm. It took us 45min to clear but the causeway and Singapore custom were smooth sailing. At the Malaysia custom, we saw long queue snaking at bus 160/170 yet there wasn't many people queueing for bus 950. It doesn't matter taking bus 160/170/950 as all will alight at the Singapore custom. Other options include taking the yellow CW bus or AC7 bus or the private blue bus which only accept cash. 

Train tickets are available for booking on KTM official website exactly 30 days in advance  (another method of counting the days is 1 month + 1 day e.g. Today is 12 Oct 18 (Fri) and 10 Nov 18 (Sat) train ticket is being release) and the tickets are release at 8.30am daily.  I tried using Easybook and KTM but both websites were down for quite a while in early September and I could not book tickets at all. I resorted to buying tickets at JB Sentral train station when I went in by bus. My ex-colleague recommend me Easybook as there is shopback cashback for booking via this website but the tickets at easybook are not released at 8.30am exactly. As the train tickets are limited, I rather forgo the cashback and buy directly from KTM official website. Weekends tickets are extremely popular especially these timing: Saturday to JB 8.30am, 9.40am, 10.50am and Sunday from JB 7pm, 8.10pm and 9.20pm. From my observation, these tickets are usually sold out within half an hour after it is release at 8.30am. Hence the only way of booking these timing is to wake up early and book at 8.30am.

Transport around JB
I always plan to stay at the hotel near the places which I want to explore to minimise travelling. In the event if the distance are far apart, I will take Grab and rate starts from RM5 ~ S$2 which is so cheap. Taking grab is the main reason why I purchased a Malaysia SIM card.

Prepaid SIM card
I bought a Digi SIM card when I went to Miri. I didn't know that the SIM card can be extended with RM1 until my ex-colleague shared with me. I have heard from friends who discard their SIM card and buy a new one whenever they went to JB. Although buying a new SIM card is not very expensive but there is cheaper way to maintain the validity of the existing SIM card. Digi SIM card is quite popular in JB as it has one of better reception there.

After I'm back in Singapore after my Miri trip, I download the app "MyDigi" into my phone, insert the Digi SIM card and connect using wifi to create the new account. After the account is successfully created, the mobile number, type of card (Digi Prepaid Live pr Best Prepaid), credit balance and the expiry date will be shown. As long as the SIM card is reload or extend the validity within 75 days (for Best Prepaid) or 90 days (for Digi Prepaid Live) depending on the type of SIM card, then the SIM card will not be terminated. 

If there is credit balance, simply click the extend validity which will deduct RM1 from the credit balance and volia, the SIM card is valid for 1 day use and the inactive period will be further extended by 75 or 90 days. Otherwise reload the SIM card and the SIM card will be extended depending on the amount top up and the inactive period will be further extended by 75 or 90 days. 

There are few reload methods, the most convenient one are online top up using credit card or buy the reload vouchers from digi store beforehand. On the day when I'm travelling to JB, I insert the Digi SIM card and open MyDigi app using wifi at home first. To top up the SIM card, key in the 16 digit top up code under "Reload -> PIN" to top up the credit balance. 

The credit balance can be use to buy internet, making call and sending sms. As extending the validity with RM1 only comes with 100MB internet and internet speed is much slower, I will either buy additional 300MB (RM1) or 2GB + Free 1GB (free for 1 - 7pm) (RM3). There is a 7 days plan for RM10 which comes with 1.5GB + Free 7GB (free for 1 - 7pm) which is worth if travelling to JB for at least 4 days. 

As a thumb of rule, if my account balance has at least RM8, I'll just extend the validity for RM1 instead of reload the balance as I will use maximum RM7 for a 2 days trip (RM1 for extending validity + RM6 for 2 days internet 2GB + Free 1GB (free for 1 - 7pm). If my internet requirement is only 300MB, I will maintain at least RM4 (RM1 for extending validity + RM2 for 2 days internet of 300MB). The reload of balance and extend validity should be an either or method as both will extend the expiry date. It's a waste of RM1 to extend validity and then realising insufficient fund to buy internet which requires reloading of balance. Hence calculate how much is required before deciding whether to extend validity for RM1 or reload the balance.

I prefer topping up in Singapore and avoid topping up at the digi store so that I can start using the SIM card once I reach Malaysia custom. I found these 2 post in HWZ very useful: Post 4014 & Post 6757.

-Custom & JB old town area
Belllo Hotel is located just opposite JB Sentral and within walking distance from City Square and the old town where many cafes are located. It is a no frill hotel which is good for a night stay. I booked through Agoda as the rate is cheaper than booking direct from the hotel website. I paid S$59 for a deluxe room and was upgrade to the premier room as the deluxe room was not available when I checked in early at 11am. The premier room don't seem to be much larger than the deluxe room. 

The Grand Jade Hotel is located near the JB custom facing the R&F mall. I choose to stay here because my ex-colleague wanted to try out Insta Hotel but reviews were not very good. I booked the deluxe queen room without breakfast through Agoda for S$42 a night.  We left our bags as we reached in the morning and when we wanted to collect our bags upon check in, the receptionist seems to have difficulty understanding as he thought that we wanted to leave our bag at the hotel the next morning after checked out. It's the same receptionist and he don't even remembered us when we left our bag in the morning. Moreover our room is facing the lift and the sound proof is poor, we can hear  it's slightly noisy as the room was facing the street and there's 

-KSL area
I choose to stay at The Marion Hotel which is 5min drive to KSL as it's cheap, a premier room cost RM130 ~ S$43 per night. It's located within walking distance from Seven Oaks and Lavender bakery. I booked directly through the website as the rate is the same as agoda and payment is upon check in. The downside is that the premier room which we booked is facing the main street and it's slightly disturbing with the cars passing by in the middle of the night.

-Taman Mount Austin
I was contemplating between The Ardens Hotel and JS hotel which is directly opposite Aeon Tebrau city. I choose to stay at The Ardens Hotel which cost S$134 for 2 nights as it generates many positive reviews from tripadvisor and their lux room wowed me. I booked the room without breakfast since it's so accessible getting around with Grab.

-SQ Foot bath & Spa at City Square
We took the 60min body massage and 60min foot reflexology RM120 ~ S$40 as we wanted to save time and not travel out of City Square. The massage is mediocre so we will not return again.

-D Asia Massage Therapy at KSL
My ex-colleague brought us there and I find the service quite good and value for money. I visited the 2nd time with WB and I booked our session using whatsapp Hp: +60 14 317 9989. I like their D Asia Totality which includes 60min body massage and 60min foot reflexology. Currently they are offering member price as promo hence we only pay RM110. They have a loyalty card where a stamp is earn for every RM80 spent, accumulate 8 stamps to get RM80 off.

-Kaki Kaki Reflexology
This is a popular massage chain with many outlets in JB. To date, I have went to the outlet at Sri Tebrau and Mount Austin. I always enjoyed the massage session here even when I did not choose the same masseur.

As there are many blogs on JB food, I'll only list down those that I personally consider worth recommending.

-Jang Won Restaurant Korea BBQ (Add: K3-211, Block C, Perniagaan Stulang Laut, Jalan Ibrahim Sultan, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: 11am - 11pm)
Super value for money as it only cost RM78 ~ S$25 for 2 pax! We ordered Set A which comes with 10 banchan, Dwaeji Galbi (grilled pork spare ribs), Samgyeopsal (pork belly), Gyeran Jjim (Korean steamed egg) and Kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew).

-Hiap Joo Bakery's Banana cakes (Opening hours: Mon - Sat 8am - 6pm, banana cakes are ready baked by noon and queue starts from 11.30am)

-Warakuya Japanese Garden (3 outlets in JB: Taman Pelangi, Sutera Utama & Austin Heights). Good quality and nicely plated japanese food at very affordable price, my friend reckon that this is Malaysia Sushi Tei. There's free drinks and fruits available while queueing which reminds me of Hai Di Lao. We ordered 9 dishes (Tempura zaru, Salmon belly sashimi, Dobin mushi, Geki kara ramen, Ebi Mentai Maki, Green tea crepe, Hamaguri sakamushi, Ikura Chawamushi, Salmon Mentai Nigiri) which only cost RM220 ~ S$73 for 4 pax. All the dishes we ordered are equally good.
I went to the Mount Austin outlet with my sis and food was equally good. New items which I tried includes the mango sushi which was out of stock at the Pelangi outlet, Special Kanpachi is good but the Hotate Uni Yaki which is slightly sweet.
I had Warakuya for the 3rd time and every dish is so so so good.
-Restoran Selera Selatan (Add: 34, Jalan Ros Merah 2/13, Johor Jaya, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: Mon - Sat 7am - 10am, sometimes sold out by 9am on weekend). It is reputed to be one of the best in JB and it didn't disappoint us when we woke up early in order not to miss it. We ordered roti kosong, roti plaster, roti telur + bawang and roti sardine. All are equally good.
-Creamery Boutique Ice Cream (Add: 33, Jalan Austin Heights 8/3, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: 2pm - 10pm) Ordered Guinness Stout & mixed berries cheese ice cream with Chocolate Lava cookie. It's unique to pair ice cream with cookie as waffle is the more common one. 2 scoop + cookie only cost RM25 ~ $8, where to find this price in SG?
-The Atlas Maison (Add: 32, Jalan Austin Heights 8/7, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: Daily except Wed 8.30am - 6pm) Hearty breakfast at a quiet minimalist cafe. Ordered ½ breakfast platter and french toast.
-Just Want Coffee, The Factory 30 (Add: 30, Jalan Mutiara Emas 5/3, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: 12pm - 12am). It's a refurbished factory located inside the industrial park and it didn't take long to Grab from here. Nice ambience, good coffee and tea, highly recommend their bagels.
-JWC Homies (Add: Aeon Tebrau, Opening hours: Opening hours: 12pm - 12am). Ideal place to take a break after shopping at Aeon Tebrau. The Tiramisu here is frozen so the waiter advised us to wait for 8 min if we prefer a softer version.
-Bukit Changar Roti Canai (Add: 394, Jalan Tengku Azizah, Bukit Chagar, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: 6am - 10am). It's located within 5 min drive from JB custom and cost us RM5 for the grab ride. We decided to have a quick breakfast here as the cafe we intend to visit is not open yet. It's self service here whereby queue to order and then collect your prata. A kosong prata cost only RM1 which is freaking cheap but the portion is small so may not be filling if you are hungry.

-People & Places Café (Add: 6, Jalan Kencana Emas 2/3, Kawasan Perindustrian Tebrau 3, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 10 am to 6 pm & Fri - Sun: 10 am to 9 pm) As we were not very hungry after having a prata each at Bukit Changar, we ordered a Quesadilla Brekkie for sharing. The presentation of the food is so tempting and taste good, albeit spicy for me.

-Kofuku-Tei 幸福窝 (Add: 33 Jalan Serampang, Taman Sri Tebrau, 80050 Johor, Opening hours: 5pm - 2am (opens at 12pm on Sat and Sun) The steamboat here is A-la carte and they also sell yakitori, the quality is comparable to Beauty Pot. We ate till we drop as it only cost us RM330 for 4 pax. We had the signature chicken soup and japanese miso kimchi soup. There are some hits and missed in the items we ordered. I will recommend the Liberico pork collar, fortune bag, prawn paste, seafood paste noodle, grilled squid. I find the cheese pork ball average as it's not those Bobo cheese balls where the cheese will spill out once you bite on it. I dislike the premium Australia beef as the beef smell is too strong for me but WB like it, so it depends on personal preference. We had complimentary mushroom platters and la mian as there is lucky draw for spending above RM200.

-San Lou Cafe 三楼咖啡屋 (Add: Jalan Stulang Darat, Opening hours: Daily except Thu: 7am - 2pm) I came to know this place after reading Johorkaki blog. We had Asam pedas fish, la la clams, fried eggs with krill, fried sayur manis, ngor hiang and orh nee for RM108 which is very reasonable.

The purpose why my sis and I went to Mount Austin is because of Lost in JB. (Add: G10&11, Block A, Akademik Suite, No. Utama, JB., Jln Austin Heights 3/2, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Opening hours: 12.30pm - 10.30pm) My sis has played escape rooms before and she is very interested when I told her JB has escape rooms too. Moreover the price is cheap RM42 ~ S$13 as my sis mentioned that it cost above S$30 in Singapore. There are 6 theme rooms with 9 slots per rooms and reservation booking can be make at their website. We chose the Doraemon room which is the easiest among the rest and we took more than the allocated time to escape from the room. As we went on a weekday, there was nobody playing the same theme after us and were allowed to play till we escape from the room. It's very fun to crack our brain and some of the puzzles are nonsensical. I'll definitely return again.