Monthly Archives: November 2011

Visiting Lizard

This little visitor stayed around a few days (a few weeks ago) but then he disappeared and I haven’t seen him since.

photo of lizard

This little guy was no more than a 5 cm. I am actually surprised I don’t see more of these guys around. I have been surprised by 2 large lizards I have seen. One, right behind the Johor Bahru CIQ (away from the main road) was at least 2 m long and another I saw maybe 1 km away was maybe close to 750 cm (I didn’t get a good look at this one).

Related: Monkey Sitting on a Bike Sign In PenangMother with 2 Kittens

Danga City Mall in Johor Bahru

View of Inside of Danga City Mall

Inside the Danga City Mall in JB - unfortunately the upper floors have far too many vacant store fronts.

The Danga City Mall is my favorite mall in JB. It has several very nice small restaurants and a high number of technology stores. The top floors also include a bowling alley, paintball arena and archery range. Unfortunately the mall also has quite a few empty shops. At least for now it also has my favorite store, the Treasure Store (which has lots of great used english language books): the Treasure store is moving to Permas Jaya next month.

photo of authorized Apple reseller store in Danga City Mall

Ascentouch (authorized Apple reseller) part of the large IT Valley area in Danga City Mall, JB Town.

The IT valley has the richest collection of technology stores in Johor Bahru including Samsung, Sony, HP, and Ascentouch (Authorized Apple reseller) used computer stores, computer repair, computer equipment stores. They have the normal assortment of phone stores and internet providers.

The restaurants offer some really good food very inexpensively. Two of my favorite are JB Station Kopitiam and Agena Sea (which moved next to the exhibit hall recently). On the lowest level there are about 8 good restaurant choices including Hokka Hokka Japanese Food, A1 Cafe. And there are probably about 8 more upstairs, including a small Italian restaurant which is decent (and better than I would think it could be for such a small location) though the seats are not very comfortable (more suited to drinking than eating). There is also a small grocery store that has some things but it would be better if it were a bit larger.

photo of the bowling alley

Bowling alley in the Danga City Mall - there is also a paintball arena.

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Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

photo CIQ building in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru CIQ

The Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) is a very large complex at the causeway to Singapore that accommodates Malaysian customs check for cars, trucks, buses and the JB Sentral train station. The CIQ was opened in 2008. The complex is know as CIQ – if you tell a taxi for example they will know where you mean to go if you say CIQ.

photo of Johor Bahru CIQ

Looking up to Johor Bahru CIQ from the street (all photos by John Hunter)

Queues are often reasonable but at rush hour (especially leaving Singapore on Friday’s and near public holidays) can be long. In several ways taking the bus is quite appealing (costs of bringing a car into Singapore plus tolls and there are significant restrictions on taxis that make that option difficult) but the walking from the entrance to the custom lines is quite a distance so that will add 5 minutes to your time. And waiting for a bus once you clear customs can add another 5 – 10 minutes. [update – given all the long delays and complaints from people they reopened walking over the causway as an option. A newspaper story in 2016 claimed 300,000 people walk across each day, that surprises me and I am not 100% sure the number is accurate]

The 2nd link (to the West) has shorter queues currently (these are the only 2 links between Singapore and Johor Bahru now). That is one of the reasons many people have been buying out near the 2nd link. Also that is a focus area for the Iskandar economic development initiative and the available of housing estates with integrated security and new bungalows is another attraction.

JB Sentral, which opened in 2010, is located in the same area and includes the train station and a large bus terminal.

Singapore and Malaysia have been taking recently about extending the MRT (light rail) from Singapore into Johor Bahru before the end of this decade and the likely location of the first stop is JB Sentral. This MRT (and extending 5 to 7 more stops in Johor Bahru will be a welcome improvement to mass transit and continue to build the economic ties between the two cities. Currently you have to take the long walk through Malaysian customs, then walk to the bus, take it over the causeway, walk through Singapore customs, catch the bus again and then got to the MRT (which for some reason isn’t the closer Woodlands MRT but the Kranji MRT). So just getting on the MRT in JB and clearing customs and getting right back on will be a big improvement. Of course they will have to add quite a few more customs staff to prevent long queues.

Related: Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsPenang Condo Market

Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore

Taking the bus from Johor Bahru, Malaysia to Singapore is easy once you know what to do.

First go to the Custom and Immigration Quarantine Complex (CIQ) in downtown Johor Bahru right near the causeway to Singapore. Walk through the complex to leave Malaysia (you need your passport, obviously). Once you clear Malaysian passport control you follow the signs to Singapore/Woodlands for the bus (on your left after you leave the passport area). You go downstairs and catch your bus. You pay for the bus, on the bus.

photo of people standing in lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ

Lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ. On the signs (and the ground) they list what buses the queues are for.

There are various options but the 3 most common are:

  • Queen Street (this gets you to downtown Singapore). You can take the CW2 (direct) of the 160 (many stops – so really you probably don’t want to chose this unless you want to get off before queen street). The Queen street stop lets you off right near Little India. Cost is under RM 4 (update 2014 – with increases in tolls the busses hiked fares by under 1 RM, they are a much better value now, since car and taxi tolls increases so much).
  • MRT – if you want to go to the Singapore MRT you can take the 170 or CW1 to Kranji station. Woodlands is the closest station but there isn’t a bus to there (that I know of). Cost is under RM 3 (after 2014 increase).
  • Airport – the airport bus takes you directly to the Changi Airport in Singapore and costs RM 7 (from Singapore to JB it costs SGD 7 – I am not sure of the prices after the 2014 increase). The bus is a small bus (seats about 20 maximum) – asking people where it is, will be the easiest way to find it. This bus only runs once an hour. This bus works great but you should be aware if you get stuck in customs trying to get into Singapore it is possible the bus will leave without you. If that happens catch the 170 to Kranji and take the MRT to the airport. I think the bus will wait 20 minutes for people to clear customs (and if several of you are not back yet the bus may wait, but missing it is something to consider).
  • photo of Kranji MRT in Singapore

    Kranji MRT in Singapore. There is a bakery right where the bus lets you off. To catch the bus back to Customs you have to cross over the road so you are on the opposite side from the MRT.

    The busses will take you across the causeway to Singapore and then you will disembark (with any luggage and belongings) and go through Singapore customs and then go back downstairs and catch your bus. The CW1, CW2, 170 and 160 run frequently during the day and evening (every few minutes to every 15 minutes for some).

    Overall it is an easy process and doesn’t take too long. But at rush hours (especially Friday night or on holidays) it can get very busy and backed up. I hear the morning rush from JB into Singapore is pretty bad, but I have gone a bit later (9:30 AM) when I have gone, and it has been fine (most of the time).

    The prices are from Singapore to JB are the same number but in SGD which means about 2.5 times as much money. So, for example, from Queen Street to JB is $3.30 (versus 3.30 RM).

    Related: Bus to Jusco in Permas JayaPlaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru Townresources for living in Johor Bahru

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    Paying Bills Electronically

    Paying bills electronically isn’t as straight forward as it should be. For example, for my electricity bill I asked my real estate agent how to pay it and was told it could only be done online through 2 banks and suggesting I try my management office or paying in person. Well after a bit of investigation I found that one option to pay online was only available through 2 banks (but that options was closed down “to upgrade and better server our customers”). But another method to pay online is available through many banks.

    Why real estate agents can’t even provide such basic information correctly is beyond me. I would expect such details as the very minimum to be expected of real estate agents serving expats. But sadly that seems to be the way it is.

    I talked to my management office and they would take the payment but only bring the payments to the electric company every few weeks so they suggested paying at any post office (we don’t have many expats at this condo so their preference for paying in person instead of finding an internet solution is not that surprising). You can also mail the payments back (but I don’t have checks or stamps yet so that option doesn’t appeal to me).

    If you want to pay online, go directly to your bank and go through the paying bills online section.

    Another bill I have to pay directly is for my internet service. There is some option to pay online but you have to print out a form, complete it and mail it back in (this is just to make a payment). I am not sure why they don’t make it easier to pay online. Partially I am sure this is a preference of some people here to pay in person. Also I am sure it is because paying staff salaries is not a huge cash drain. In countries with higher staff salaries companies make it as easy as possible to pay online and avoid paying staff to just process payments made in person.

    It looks like the best way to make payments is through your bank’s web site. Which is fine, now that I understand that is the way to do things.

    Related: Android Mobile Phone Options in MalaysiaGiving Back to MalaysiaHotels and Accomations for Travelers in Malaysia

    Plaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru Town

    Plaza Pelangi is one of 5 fairly large malls in downtown Johor Bahru. The others are Danga City Mall, KSL Mall, City Square Mall (right next to CIQ) and Holiday Plaza Mall. I would put Danga City Mall, KSL Mall and City Square Mall in the top tier and Plaza Pelangi and Holiday Mall in the 2nd tier. KSL Mall and City Square Mall I am pretty sure do much more business than the others do. I like Danga City Mall, but it has some sparse areas on the upper floors.

    photo of the Plaza Pelangi Mall

    Plaza Pelangi Mall in JB Town

    Plaza Pelangi is a bit smaller and seems less active, than other malls. There is a Cold Storage on the ground level, which is convenient for groceries, but they are expensive compared to alternatives (Tesco and Jusco). Some of the other tenants include: a large MetroJaya, Redbox and Popular Books. The mall has several restaurants including: Sushi King, Coffee Bean, Secret Recipe, Nando’s, Stonegrill and McDonald’s. It has a nice bakery. There are quite a few beauty salons (as there are in all the malls).

    Perhaps the biggest advantage of Plaza Pelangi is all the good food nearby. Within a few blocks you have many good restaurants including: Chez Papa, E and Y’s, Rosmarino’s and Warakuya Japanese Restaurant.

    Also, when cab driver’s don’t know how to get to those restaurants you can tell them to go to Plaza Pelangi (which so far all have known how to do). The taxi stand at the mall has also always had cabs, which has not been the case at many other taxi stands around JB (for me anyway).

    Related: KSL Mall in Downtown Johor BahruJB Station Kopitiam in Danga City MallBus to Jusco Mall in Permas Jaya


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    Zee Avi to Perform in Kuala Lumpor, Kuching, Penang and Singapore

    Zee Avi posted her music to You Tube from her home in Borneo and was spotted and signed by a producer based in the USA. She is back in Malaysia on a tour and will be performing at the following locations:

    • Rock Corner, The Curve Shopping Mall, Kuala Lumpor, Nov 16th
    • KL Live, Kuala Lumpor, Nov 17th
    • Straits Quay Convention Center, Penang, Nov 19th
    • TAB, Singapore, Nov 22nd
    • Damai Central, Kuching, Sarawak Nov 26th

    From her bio:

    just four years ago, Avi was a former art student in Kuala Lumpur who posted a song on YouTube to catch up with a friend and was quite surprised to find herself the toast of the Internet when thousands of strangers discovered her effortlessly stunning voice. Literal overnight success can easily poison young minds, but Avi is no ordinary mind ā€” while critics were comparing her chilled-out, jazzy, ukulele-based songs to Billie Holiday and Cat Power she was continuing to make visual art and remaining her buoyant, whimsical self. ā€œIā€™m 25 going on 12 and a half on a good day,ā€ she laughs, flipping through a notebook filled with colorful drawings and lengthy notes.

    via: Capturing Penang

    Related: Tourist choices in KLLooking into Kuching, Sarawak, MalaysiaHollie Steel

    Vaccinations and Medical Services from the Clinic Australia

    photo of strip mall and Klinik Australia fascade

    External view the the Clinic Australia

    I needed a vaccination booster and so looked for a place to get such services in Johor Bahru. I tried the Clinic Australia, near Plaza Pelangi, and was happy with the results. The clinic is located behind the Plaza Pelangi in the strip mall that hosts a few popular restaurants including: Rosmarino (Italian), Warakuya (Japanese) and Mulligan’s Irish Pub.

    The clinic is a small operation in a strip of shops. I don’t think you can make reservations, I didn’t anyway, you just show up and wait as people are taken care of. They offer vaccinations and check ups (for visa, pre-employment and insurance). They also offer flu shots.

    photo of the waiting room for the Clinic Austrailia

    The waiting room is half of the available space (I think).

    Related: Getting a Voltage Transformer in Johor BahruNursery in Johor BahruJohor Bahru shopping directory

    Address: 37 Jalan Kuning 2, Taman Peangi, 80400 Johor Bahru.
    Phone: 07-3319380
    No website or email.

    Getting a Voltage Transformer in Johor Bahru

    As noted earlier, in trying to cope with the noise pollution at my condo, I ordered some devices to help mask the most annoying noises. One of the devices I ordered was sleep mate (which generates “white noise” mechanically). But in my sleep deprived state (from not being able to sleep with all the noise) I didn’t notice that it required 115 volts (this is used in the USA, but Malaysia uses 240 volts).

    photo of voltage converter box

    Ultimax voltage transformer 240 volts to 115 voltes.

    In order to use a device that can only take 115 volts you need a transformer to convert the volts down from 240 to 115. Finding such a transformer in Johor Bahru was not easy, but I finally did at a little electronics shop. If you are looking for a voltage converter give them a call. I would try and get this same model – it was far cheaper than other options. And the other options required some additional wiring (the shop is more for electricians than just people wanting a transformer to plug in and use). The staff was very helpful.

    photo of Hitectrons Store front

    Hitectrons store - lots of electronic components

    Related: KSL Mall in Johor BahruNursery 2 blocks from KSL MallJB Station Kopitiam at Danga City Mall

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    Dealing with Noise Pollution in Your Condo

    Malaysia doesn’t have noise pollution standards as far as I can tell (does anyone know if this is accurate – if they do exist they sure are not enforced effectively). So you may well find extremely loud noises from extremely loud speakers from street events, bars and temples late into the night and very early in the morning. At some Johor Bahru condos this is not a huge issue, but at others it is a huge problem.

    There are various methods of trying to cope with noise pollution. Installing windows that are at least double-paned can help (but if the speakers are blasting away too loudly that will only reduce the problem, but not effectively deal with it). Heavy curtains can also noticeably reduce noise pollution penetrating into the room (but they are not nearly as effective as good windows). I am still looking for some way to buy such curtains in Johor Bahru (or get them shipped here). Please comment if you know where I can get them, or someone who is willing to make them for me (it really shouldn’t be that hard). I have talked to numerous places without any success. And I have emailed some places and don’t even get a response.

    Upon discovering how bad the noise pollution was (I don’t know the scope of the problem yet, some days it is extremely bad far later into the night and starting again very early the next morning – other days is just very bad but only for a few hours). I bought some headphones and a fan locally and ordered some devices to mask noise pollution (they generate more noise in the hopes of canceling out more annoying noise) from Amazon. I was amazed to get the devices shipped from the USA to Malaysia in just 4 days.

    The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine is a great device that creates various noises (stream, ocean, fireplace, rainfall, meadow…). One great feature of this device is that it has a microphone it uses to hear the noise level and then adjusts to increase the volume it produces to mask the noise pollution. It also will accept 100-240 volts (it has a transformer itself – like computer laptops do). It is very good for low levels of noise pollution (I would say under 60 decibels). However high levels it has to get so loud to mask them that it isn’t very useful.

    Fans also work decently for low levels of noise. The combination of the sleep machine, a fan, and earplugs, in my bedroom, is enough on most nights. However, on nights (and days) with louder noise pollution – I would estimate over 80 decibels getting into my room (as loud as if someone placed a TV in your room and turned it on – it is definitely significantly louder than my TV) those don’t work – even with all that, the noise pollution still gets through.

    The noise pollution is by far the most annoying thing I have had to deal with here. I am surprised (and extremely disappointed) that I was recommended this condo given how important I said peace and quite was. But my experience is an example of how important it is to beware, as the purchaser, and watch out for yourself. I am not sure how bad noise pollution is at all other condos but many have to be far superior in that regard to mine. Other than that problem (which is huge) this condo has many advantages. Realtors in Johor Bahru are in the business of renting the units they have. You can’t count on them actually knowing the strengths and weaknesses of options and presenting you their expert advice on what meets your needs (some will, others won’t). I would say this is the only big problem I have had. Otherwise many things have gone well.

    As I write this, for at least 44 of the last 60 hours I have had extremely loud speakers blasted into my bedroom (over over 75 decibels and over 85 for many hours), it is unbelievable to me that this is tolerated as acceptable behavior. But it is. On my balcony it is often over 100 decibels, I would estimate, though not for quite as long – maybe 20 of the last 60 hours (the level increases from very loud to extremely loud at various times).

    Related: Android Mobile Phone Options in MalaysiaExercise, SwimmingPenang Condo Market