Tag Archives: Johor Bahru

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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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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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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11th Annual Johor Bahru Arts Festival 5 September to 4 October

The 11th Annual JB Arts Festival is presented by The Johor Society For The Performing Arts. Once again a wide variety of artists will perform, providing many opportunities for fans to enjoy new artists and past favorites.

There are also new additions this year including the white box (The Art Gallery will not only features framed art and installations but will also feature artists at work) and black box presentation spaces at Danga City Mall. These spaces include many workshops for attendees.

See the full schedule of schedule of events. The embedded webcasts in this post showcase some of the performers scheduled for the month long festival.

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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.

Iskandar: Present and Future

The potential for Iskandar, and the extended Johor Bahru, region remains strong. But the lack of progress on transportation issues for getting back and forth from Singapore are a huge problem for anyone wanting to think about living in the area now. I also remain worried about the huge imbalance between a huge boom in luxury condo development and the lack of a similar visible increase in high paying jobs to afford the huge numbers of luxury condos coming on the market now, and over the next 5 years.

The imbalance between office buildings and the huge numbers of luxury condo high rises continues to be a big warning sign I think. Add to that the very poor job done thus far dealing with the very initial stage of what will soon be a flood of cross border traffic is a huge warning sign that investors should heed.

The cooling measures on real estate investment were wise, though late (I would have done it a bit differently but overall taking cooling measure was, and is, a good idea).

There needs to have been more done sooner on the cross border transportation issues – a 3rd link should have been operational last year. The MRT should be under construction now. And more focus should be on bringing in high paying jobs to fill office buildings and then getting those built.

Without much more progress on transportation and many more high paying office jobs the current number of luxury condo buildings should not have been allowed. The efforts on health care and education and the good jobs they provide, as part of the Iskandar initiative, have been good but those jobs don’t come remotely close to justifying even a small fraction of the luxury condo units under construction.

Several new big hotels are a good boost for the economy (and are great tax revenue sources). Retail efforts are good (and also good for providing lots of jobs and tax revenue) but how much more can be expected there without better paying jobs elsewhere in the local economy (basically I think this is a good focus but I think everything that can be hoped for is being done)? Theme parks are a good hope for bringing in tourists and boosting the economy (and filling up those hotels and bringing in tax revenue and providing jobs). It seems to me the very bad transportation problems over the last year in moving between Singapore and JB are a big problem for investors in this area though (if I were such an investor I wouldn’t commit more investments until the situation was much improved and there was reason to believe it wouldn’t be allowed to fall back into the situation we have been living with now). The manufacturing efforts have been decent but are not very significant thus far in producing high paying jobs.

One example of a mistake that is going to cause problems for decades is failing to install fiber in brand new luxury condo buildings. Even if developers don’t want to invest in the future I would not have approved building plans for luxury condos after 2010 that did not include wiring every unit for fiber. Fiber is the future of high tech living and not investing in it is not the way to become known as a future focused location. Economic development requires thinking of the future and not allowing shortcuts and cheap solutions today from capping the potential for the future.

The potential for Iskandar remains as strong as it is for almost any region on the globe. But the next 10 years can build a solid foundation for long term success or can result in a system that is difficult to build upon (such as a huge imbalance in real estate, toward luxury condos for example, or a bad transportation system – which are hugely costly to deal with). The next 10 years is much more challenging to do well than the last 10 years – the begging was very easy by comparison to the challenges faced now. If it is done well, I can see the Iskandar/JB region paired with Singapore in creating one of the most vibrant areas on the globe and creating great jobs and lives for those living here (Singapore will also benefit greatly from this being done well).

Related: Iskandar Housing Real Estate Investment Considerations (2011)Minimum Housing Prices for Foreigners Investing In Malaysia Rise to RM 1,000,000The Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks (2011)

Gianni’s Italian Restaurant in JB (Taman Pelangi and Permas Jaya)

photo of the interior of Gianni's Italian Restaurant in Johor Bahru

Gianni’s Trattoria has the same owner as Sweetwater Mediterranean Restaurant and both are excellent. Gianni’s in Taman Pelangi is two doors down from Sweetwater Mediterranean Restaurant and in Permas Jaya is over the pedestrian bridge from the Jusco mall.

photo of entrance to Gianni's Italian Restaurant

This is a photo of the exterior at Permas Jaya. All photos are from my visit to the Permas Jaya location. Both sites offer fixed price lunches at about 35 MYR (a bit over $10 with soup or salad, entrée and tea.

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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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