Category Archives: Living

White Box and Black Box @ Danga City Mall

During 11th Annual JB Arts Festival I stopped by the White Box which is on the top floor of Danga City Mall in downtown Johor Bahru. A few weeks later I listened to a talk on backpacking around South America and Europe at the Black Box.

JB sketchers display with drawings

JB sketchers display with some of the participants work. Join in their monthly outings and more activities.

These have become permanent spaces (for the time being anyway). Since the mall has many unrented spots this is a very wise idea; making use of otherwise wasted space and also brining in potential customers for businesses at the mall.

painting of a girl floating in space

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If You Visit Kuching Eat at Tribal Stove

Tribal Stove is absolutely wonderful

Yes it has great food, which thankfully there is a a great deal of in many place. What makes Tribal Stove someplace not to miss is it is the rare combination of great and generally inaccessible food.

I often find great restaurants in tourist destinations. And sometimes it is even local in a sense – but nearly always (not all, but almost) I can get very similar good dishes in any large city across the globe.

Tribal Stove had truly distinctive dishes that were also great. They have quite a few dishes, some of my favorite are wild jungle salad and tapioca leaves. The restaurant serves cuisine from Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak.

photo of great Kelabit Highlands food

Maybe my all time favorite meal. The 3 sample items were great.

The set menu (photo above) of tea, a meat dish with 2 vegetable sides, soup and rice that was US$5 (15 MYR). It was amazing. It would be great at $20. I happened to be lucky enough to get my favorite vegetable there with my first order.

The meet dish in the triple was very good, the rice I didn’t care for. But the two vegetable dishes were amazing – truly great. One the right is Lamud Busaq Keluduh (Bario Wild Flower Salad) – wild ginger flower, petai and wild chives flavored with Bario Higland salt. I believe the dish on the left was Udung Ubih (Wild Tapioca Leaf) – cassava or tapioca leaf pounded and shredded and cooked to perfection over a slow heat. The middle dish was, I believe, beef with crisp vegetables.

Menu - Tribal Stove, Kuching

I have been trying other dishes which are also great but those 2 are not to be missed (you can get “small” dishes of those for $3, see photo below – two pretty easily make a meal in my opinion). If the prices triple this place is still not to be missed.

There is no restaurant I recommend to travels more strongly than I recommend Tribal Stove. If I could have one restaurant transplanted to my location so I could eat their in my home town it would be Tribal Stove. There is nothing remotely close.

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Forced to Accept Unreliable Service

Sadly one of the features of living in Johor Bahru is having to accept unreliable service.

My 9:30 AM taxi isn’t here (after 9:50 AM). The only phone numbers online for the JB-Singapore taxis that I can find are never answered. I don’t mean like they take a long time or sometimes are not answered. I mean I have never had a call answered. Now he called and just said he isn’t going to do it I have to find some solution myself half an hour after they were suppose to be here.

FoodPanda, which is a good idea, just doesn’t deliver what you order sometimes. It is like a lottery. Maybe they will deliver maybe they won’t. Earlier this week they just didn’t.

Also earlier this week a called a local cab which just never showed up. I have tried various companies and this one is the least bad. But still will just sometimes not show up at all. That is it, you are just left stranded.

Bad service is everywhere around the globe. But in the USA you can usually avoid it other than in politically protected monopolistic companies (Comcast, Verizon etc.) and airlines. For example, you can get around normal car dealers. If you care about decent service you just don’t deal with companies that provide lousy service.

But in JB I find it very hard to do. You just are stuck with very limited options and finding those that offer reliable service is just either not possible or beyond my capabilities quite often. If anyone knows a reliable “yellow cab” from JB to Singapore please let me know.

There are many good things about living in JB. But the poor reliability of companies is tiresome.

Restaurant Rong Hwa in Johor Bahru

My favorite local delivery place closed months ago (or at least the phone number doesn’t work anymore): Gerai Makan Laut Chun Siang.

I found this new place that is good but I don’t have as many dishes I like. The Indonesian prawns are great. I like the samba sotong ok (in photo). Click on the menus to see larger images (so you might be able to read it). It seems to me it is Chinese food with maybe a bit of Malaysian style.

photo of Sambal sotong and bitter gourd

Sambal sotong and bitter gourd from Rong Hwa in JB.

They do have a couple nice vegetable side orders (though nothing I like as much as the fried broccoli at the old place), my favorite is baby kai lan. Bitter gourd (in photo) is strong (I like the bitter gourd in fried eggs better.

photo of Rong Hwa menu

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The Spice Kitchen Indian Restaurant in Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru

The Spice Kitchen in Bukit Indah is yet another excellent Indian Restaurant in Johor Bahru. I would eat here a great deal if I lived in Bukit Indah township in Johor Bahru.

Indian food lunch a the Spice Kitchen

The food is great and the interior is nice. It has the exposed ceilings with duct work showing that my brother loves and overall is just a nice feel.

photo of the interior of the Spice Kitchen Indian restaurant

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Air Pollution Returns to Singapore and Johor

Bad air pollution levels have returned to Singapore and Johor in the last month. So far the recent air pollution problem has been moderate compared to June of 2013 (or Bejing). The readings have been in the “moderate” problem area but those are noticeable visually and when you are outside breathing the air is obviously more polluted than normal. I don’t usually use my air conditioning but I have the last week due to the air pollution.

The air pollution readings are published by Malaysia and Singapore. Air pollution will get a bit worse at night (assuming everything else stays the same) due to air pressure.

Air pollution has dramatic health consequences. The World Health Organization released a study last month stating that 7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution.

Regionally, low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012, with a total of 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

The damage done by air pollution to health include respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, changes in lung function. There is mounting evidence that exposure to air pollution has long-term effects on lung development in children.

With effect from 1 April 2014, Singapore has moved to an integrated air quality reporting index, where PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 micros or larger) will be incorporated into the current Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) as its sixth pollutant parameter. The PSI will therefore reflect a total of six pollutants – sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3).

The 3-hour PSI will take into account PM2.5 concentrations. In addition, NEA will also publish the 1-hour PM2.5 concentrations every hour.

From the Malaysian site today (their update was dated September 2013)

DOE is in the midst of finalising the new Malaysian Air Quality Guidelines to include the standard limit of PM2.5 in the ambient air which based on World Health Organisation (WHO) 2006 Guidelines.

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Tandoori Mahal – Indian Restaurant in JB

Tandoori Mahal is another very good Indian Restaurant in downtown Johor Bahru. It is across the street from Village Briyani Cafe and Village Countryside Cuisine, next to Zen Zeng Hotel and a block from Danga City Mall.

photo of Paneer Tikka

This Panner Tikka was great. The paneer was much “richer” than any I had tasted before. I am actually not sure if this was intentional or not but I really liked it. I ordered it another time and it was still good but much more like the normal panner (cheese) I am used to.

Tandoori Mahal Indian Restaurant menu items written on the wall

A meal will cost around 15 – 30 MYR (US $5 – 10) depending on what you choose.

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The Grand Gem Indian Restaurant in Johor Bahru

The Grand Gem Indian Restaurant is located in the Blue Wave Hotel in the Central Business District of Johor Bahru. It is yet another good Indian Restaurant. Johor Barhu has many of good Indian restaurants a worthy choice along with many others.

photo of swinging seat and Grand Gem interior

I have seen swinging seats (similar to the one in the photo) in several restaurants in JB.

The Grand Gem has a very nice ambiance and the food is good. They don’t offer delivery, at this time.

lunch-at-grand-gem

The Blue Wave hotel overlooks the Straits with a view of Singapore. The restaurant is on the ground floor so you don’t have a view but the interior design is nice. The hotel is across from the old immigration site (to be a condo or hotel sometime soon, I believe) and near the new CIQ and City Square Mall.

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Empty Johor Bahru on Chinese New Year Day

Today is the Chinese New Year holiday (the first day of 2 weeks of celebrations). At Midnight (this morning) the sky was ablaze with fireworks. There are fireworks with huge visual displays that are all over the city. There are several huge “official” fireworks but there are dozen more with very large visual explosions that I could see from my balcony.

For lunch today I went to Sweetwater Mediterranean Restaurant and enjoyed an excellent lunch. I walked around downtown after that and it was like walking in a nearly abandoned city. Over 90% of the retail stores were closed along with most restaurants. The foot traffic was minuscule and there were hardly any cars on the road.

photo of spiral stairways in alley

Spiral stairways in alley between houses. This is an old photo of the area I walked in (Tamen Pelangi), I didn’t bring a camera today.

It reminded me of walking outside on Christmas when I was a kid. The roads were abandoned like no other day. Now the traffic is a bit lighter on Christmas but it is nothing like the otherworldly experience it used to be. Today in JB was like that, it wasn’t far from turning into a ghost town. It was actually interesting walking around like that.

The first day of the Chinese New Year is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. It is a traditional practice to light fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers and to make as much of a din as possible to chase off the evil spirits. You can read much more about it on Wikipedia.

The Chingay Parade will take place on February 20th in Johor Bahru this year.

Related: Basketball Courts in Downtown JBBig Lizards in Johor Bahru CBDArulmigu Sri Raja Kallamman Indian Hindu Glass Temple in Johor Bahru

Carabao Thai Restaurant

Carabao Thai Restaurant is located in Johor Bahru’s CBD, next to the New York Hotel.

photo of the exterior of Carabao Thai Restaurant

The restaurant has only outdoor seating. They spray mists of water and use shade and fans to help keep things relatively cool. I think the setting is the best reason to chose Carabao, as the food is only decent as is the service.

photo of the interior of the Carabao Thai Restaurant

Even though it is downtown they do a nice job of situating the restaurant on the back of the lot with some shade trees so you do get a bit of a feel of escaping the city. They also have a large parking lot.

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