Category Archives: Johor Bahru

JB Arts Festival 2016

Once again the JB Arts Festival is taking place in Johor Bahru.

Performers include Najwa Mahiaddin:

Juno and Hanna:

And as always there will be art events and workshops, including:

The Johor Sketchers will be collecting stories from the people of Jalan Trus, Jalan Pahang, Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and doing a ‘sketchwalk’, in which they sketch scenes of the city on location, live. Stories will then be exchanged for postcards with sketches of downtown buildings and scenes, and these stories will be displayed on a Story Map Mural inside the Thinkcity Office on Jalan Pahang.

The festival has already started and runs through October 8th.

Related: 10th Annual JB Arts FestivalWhite Box and Black Box @ Danga City Mall (11th annual arts festival)2014 Johor Bahru Arts Festival9th Johor Bahru Arts Festival (2012)

Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS)

If you live in Johor Bahru and work in Singapore (or have some other need to commute frequently, student etc.) you would fill up your passport quickly if you got stamps in your passport for each entry and exit.

The Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) uses a sticker (with embedded with a RFID chip) that is attached to the passport and scanned upon entry and departure from Malaysia. So this removes the Malaysian stamps.

MACS has been developed to cater to non-Malaysian investors, business persons and professionals. A Malaysian sponsor company is required. Working for a business in Iskandar that also required you to work in Singapore would likely qualify. This requirement is stated in some places but seems to be ignored often especially for those with a Singapore passport (which makes sense, say you are just someone who lives in Singapore and has a weekend home in JB shouldn’t you be able to use MACS?).

You can apply and receive your MACS sticker at the main Johor Bahru CIQ (ask when you are there I can’t find a direct link on their web site).

Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) brochure

Singapore has the Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and Long Term Pass holders and Work pass holders. See the link for various conditions. It might only be available for those with Malaysian, USA, UK, Chinese or Australian passports (I am not sure on this part).

Please add your comments on your experience or suggestions related to commuting between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

Related: Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or BeyondTaking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeOnline Resources for Living in Johor BahruSingapore and Iskandar Malaysia

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.

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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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

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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Umatei Sushi Restaurant, Permas Jaya

The Umatei Sushi Restaurant in Permas Jaya is another nice Japanese restaurant in Johor Bahru.

Umatei Restaurant - interior view

I imagine many diners are from Straits View Condo and the Renaissance hotel. It is also right next store to my favorite books store (in fact I am on my way there an hour after I post this): Treasures and Books Store, Used English Language Books (though the bookstore is moving next month).

Bento Box lunch and custard

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