All posts by curiouscat

Photos of Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia

I like walking around cities to see how things feel as you walk around. I like walking in the touristy areas (often I do anyway) and also the non-touristy areas. One of the problems in walking in non-touristy areas is if they are not meant to be walked around (cars are expected) then it can be pretty boring. But if locals walk around it can be quite nice.

Cat monument, with people posing in front

The cat monument is hardly impressive but it is a popular photo spot nevertheless. Kuching means cat in Malay (Bahasa Sarawak is the dialect of Malay spoken in Sarawak). Kucing is the word for cat in Bahasa Malay but in Bahasa Sarawak the word is pusak. There is some dispute how the name came to be but the city has adopted the cat city nickname.

the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building from the riverwalk

The Kuching Esplanade is in the foreground with a view of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building across the river (Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak).

Window on a red wall with yellow shutters open

Nice wall and window on a street near the Kuching riverwalk/esplanade. The Kuching riverwalk and a bit of surrounding area are nice for tourists (and locals) to walk around and enjoy.

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Bloomberg TV Takes a Look at the Iskandar Economy

Bloomberg TV Malaysia’s Cynthia Ng examines slowing growth in Iskandar’s real estate sector and the prospects for Johor Bahru.

The report states that 650,000 jobs have been added in Iskandar between 2006 and 2014. It also references a forecast for Iskandar to add 800,000 more new jobs by 2025.

The report pushes the notion that the housing market has been overdone and other areas (health care, tourism, education, banking…) should be targeted by investors. Manufacturing is a significant focus and has been doing fairly well (it is the only area with more investment than housing).

I raised the issues mentioned in the report (such as the over-reliance on luxury condo development) in my 2014 post Iskandar: Present and Future (and in other posts).

Related: Iskandar Housing Real Estate Investment Considerations (2011)The Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks (2011)The Precipitous Fall of the Ringgit Shows the Economic Risk in the Malaysian EconomyIskandar Malaysia Economic Development Zone (2013)The Singapore Market Impacts on the Johor Bahru Real Estate Market (2013)

Most Popular Posts on Our Blog in 2015

These were the most popular posts on the Living in Malaysia blog in 2015 (based on page views):

  1. Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore
  2. Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)
  3. Extremely Bad Haze in Johor Bahru and Singapore (2013)
  4. Plaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru CBD
  5. Dentist in Johor Bahru
  6. Danga City Mall in Johor Bahru
  7. The Spice Kitchen Indian Restaurant in Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru
  8. Gianni’s Italian Restaurant in JB (Taman Pelangi and Permas Jaya)
  9. Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Hindu Glass Temple in Johor Bahru
  10. paintings inside the Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Temple

    Inside the Arulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Temple

  11. Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or Beyond
  12. Annalakshmi Indian Restaurant in Historic JB
  13. Galleria Mall @ Kotayara – Johor Bahru CBD
  14. Street Art, Large Mural on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee in Johor Bahru
  15. Thaipusam Festival, Johor Bahru (2013)
  16. Basketball Courts In Johor Bahru CBD (here is a link to a video of me shooting baskets at my condo)

This is a video I shot and posted that shows a 360 degree view of the Johor Bahru CBD. It gets more view than some of my more popular posts.

St. Paul’s Church in Malacca

The ruins of St. Paul’s Church rest on the top of St. Paul’s hill overlooking Malacca (UNESCO world heritage site).

Interior of the ruins of St. Paul's Church (there is no roof)

Interior of St. Paul’s Church. All photos by John Hunter, see more of my photos of Malaysia.

The is part of the Malacca Museum Complex comprising the A Famosa ruins, the Stadthuys and other historical buildings.

Overlooking A Famosa ruins from St. Paul's Hill

Overlooking the A Famosa ruins (about in the center of the photo) from St. Paul’s Hill.

The original church was a simple chapel built in 1521.

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Bad Haze Conditions in Singapore, JB and Beyond May Remain for Months

The haze conditions have been bad and getting worse in Malaysia and Singapore the last few weeks. Not since the extremely bad haze in 2013 have things been so bad.

map of haze over Singapore and Malaysia

Map of haze over Singapore and Malaysia for October 18th via the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre.

Once again the main culprit is burning of forests in Indonesia. The map shows the darkest haze over the sources of the fires in Indonesia In the last week Melacca, Sengalor and even parts of Sarawak have had even worse pollution than Johor Bahru.

From the Department of Environment of Malaysia which publishes API* readings hourly for 4 sites in Johor (as well as the rest of Malaysia). A reading above 100 is unhealthy, above 300 is hazardous. In Malaysia this week readings have been above 150 several times and above 100 quite often.

chart of Singapore haze readings

Charts of Singapore haze readings, October 2015, via the the Singapore National Environment Agency.

The situation is expected to continue until the rainy season puts out the fires in January. There is firefighting ongoing but it is not able to put much of a dent in the massive outbreak of polluting fires.

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The Precipitous Fall of the Ringgit Shows the Economic Risk in the Malaysian Economy

The Malaysian Ringgit has collapsed in the last 6 months. This is largely due to the large amount of consumer and government debt (that I mentioned were problems for the Malaysian economy previously) with a large amount of that debt help by foreigners, the collapse of the natural resource prices (oil and gas and others) and dumping of Malaysian assets by investors losing confidence in Malaysia’s government and economy.

The economy is actually surviving better than you could hope given the problems listed above. The economy continues to grow, even if the rate of growth has decreased. The most serious problems remain the high debt level and finding some way to replace natural resource income. It also puts a spotlight on corruption problems which are easier to ignore when economic growth is strong.

chart of the Malaysian Ringgit v USD from 2005 to 2015

The chart shows the recent collapse of the Ringgit versus the US $ (the chart shows the 10 year history of exchange rates). The Ringgit has collapsed not just against the USD but also other currencies (for example reaching an all time low against the Singapore $).

Malaysia still has strong potential but the risks have increased greatly. The collapse of the Ringgit is an indication investors have lost confidence in Malaysia’s ability to address the long term issues with the economy. Part of the problem is natural resource income (including oil and gas and palm oil) have allowed Malaysia to not address issues and still prosper. Without very strong natural resource pricing propping up the economy the debt load and lack of confidence proved too great and the Ringett collapsed.

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Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or Beyond

I have mentioned before that the most important factor to the economic potential of Iskandar and Johor Bahru is the extension of Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru. I mentioned being skeptical of the claimed timeline years ago. And, in fact, that timeline has proven to be wrong.

Map of proposed Singapore to Johor Bahur MRT

Map shows the most sensible place for the first station in JB but that hasn’t been decided yet. Map by Seloloving

MRT link to Johor Baru unlikely before 2020

Hopping onto an MRT train and arriving in Johor Baru is unlikely to be a reality before 2020, as Malaysia has yet to determine a station site for its end of the line.

This Rapid Transit System link was first announced by Singapore and Malaysia in May 2010, and was initially targeted to be ready by 2018.

Rail construction experts said even if work started today, the line would be completed by 2020 at the earliest. But work is unlikely to start any time soon because no decision has yet been made on where the JB station will be.

And this article is only addressing 1 Johor Bahru MRT station. While that would still be useful. The discussion 4 years ago was starting with 5 stations in Johor Bahru which seems like a much more sensible starting point. Getting to 5 stations by the end of 2021 seems unlikely unless those responsible change the approach and treat this as a critically important project.

The importance of an MRT transportation system interlinking Singapore and Johor Bahru has only grown more critical in the last few years. Transportation issues are going to become increasingly annoying in Johor Bahru as all the luxury condos come online. And getting people into those condos that can afford them is still unrealistic without jobs in Singapore, for which the MRT extension is critical.

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Tanjung Piai National Park – the Southernmost Point in Asia

raised walkway in the mangrove forest

Tanjung Piai National Park is the Southernmost point in mainland Asia – located in Johor, Malaysia. The park is about 80 km from Johor Bahru.

The video shows my view as I walked through a mangrove forest and emerging onto the Johor Straits. The video zooms in to see part of Singapore (since Singapore is an island off of Asia this point is the southernmost point on mainland Asia instead of Singapore). And if some in Singapore try to claim that title, which some do, then why not Indonesia?

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Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, Malacca

Cheng Ho Cultural Museum is a small museum in Malacca dedicated to the memory of Cheng Ho (the more modern conversion to an English name calls him Zheng He). It is believed that the present Museum is situated on the original site of Guan Chang built by Cheng Ho, the Ming Grand eunuch, about 600 years ago. His fleet of several hundred ships sailed 7 times to the Western Ocean from China between 1405 and 1433.

Historic Timeline  of Melaka

Historic timeline of Malacca

Historical records reveal that Ming Dynasty’s Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Melaka at least five times during his famous seven voyages to the Western Ocean (Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Middle East and Africa).

Map of Cheng Ho's voyages

Map of Cheng Ho’s voyages

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Making the Streetscape Walkable

Response to Let’s do more for tourism in JB

I agree, JB has much to offer tourists and room to improve. Making locations like Jalan Tan Hiok Nee attractive to tourists is important. That location can provide a distinctive JB feel (not just one of 1,000+ malls all over SE Asia that really are all basically the same). Peppering it with small shops and art galleries and food and museum and street art is great.

And obviously what is desired is a nice walkable place that has history. JB is trying to do the same with the new “riverwalk.” But if you then allow people to park cars and motorcycles and vendors to block the sidewalk you severely degrade the user experience. You can retain those that hate malls and will put up with anything to avoid malls. But if people can’t walk without dodging all sorts of obstacles they will just go to malls and go to other cities. They won’t tell their friends about this nice old town they should visit.

Building up tourism often doesn’t take very brilliant ideas. What it does take is attention to detail; and continued effort to create a great experience. You see wonderful drawing of what new developments will be they always have people walking on clear sidewalks. Then go walk around downtown JB and you will find sidewalks are often blocked. Still JB is much better in this aspect than Penang. A big reason I decided not to live in Penang is you couldn’t walk around with ease.

Patience and a desire to make an effort to follow up and keep streets walkable is something most locations don’t have. And it is one big reason malls do well, they make it easy for people to walk around (though actually KSL mall has jammed in so many vendors in some narrow locations they even mess up walking inside a mall which is not easy to mess up). But if JB (or other locations) pay attention to making the experience enjoyable for tourists they will benefit.

The current economic conditions make tourism even more important for Malaysia. Tourists bring in foreign currency, buying the Malaysian Ringitt (and thus supporting the currency which has been getting crushed).

Related: The Present and Future of IskandarSalahuddin Bakery on Jalan Tan Hiok NeeUrban planning for walkable communitiesElevated Bicycle Circle: Innovation in Urban Transportation