Tag Archives: living

Train Transportation Between Johor Bahru and Singapore

Since 2015 KTM has run a commuter train between Johor Bahru and Singapore. The trains run from JB Sentral to Woodlands in Singapore (and the reverse). The cost is much higher from Singapore to JB. For whatever reason that is how the buses are priced too, the price is for example 5 MYR from JB to Singapore and Sing$5 from Singapore to JB. Since 1 Singapore dollar is 3.1 MYR that makes the price much higher from Singapore.

photo of the inside of the train

Inside of the train, via Singapore to JB Train post

The train ride itself takes under 10 minutes. The schedule is subject to change but runs more frequently in the morning (from JB) and in the evening (from Singapore) and infrequently during the day. It is geared toward commuters from Johor Bahru to jobs in Singapore which is why the times may seem a bit odd at first glance.

Remember you have to pass through customs before getting on the train. They have made the process faster by having you go through both country’s customs office before boarding the train. With the bus you have to go through customs, go over the bridge, then get off the bus and go through customs again and then get back on the bus. This obviously wastes time. The JB extension to the Singapore MRT (whenever it finally gets started and then completed) will use this improved process of clearly both customs at the same time.

Frankly I find the KTM website too confusing to use. You may also purchase tickets via this site. Even on this site you have to be careful to get the right ticket (the results will include some that are not going between JB and Singapore – maybe that will be fixed when you look, but be careful).

The current schedule is (remember this may well change so try the links above for current information)

Johor Bahru to Singapore Train Schedule

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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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2014 Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics

Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program started by Malaysia in 2002 to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. The MM2H program is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It brings in foreign currency which is very useful: both from fixed deposits and spending by expats.

The currency help is especially helpful right now. The Malaysian Ringitt has collapsed in the last few months to just 3.57 MYR to the US $ now. It was stable at about 3 a couple years ago and slowly declined to 3.3 over a couple years before the recent collapse. The collapse is due to high government and consumer debt in Malaysia and the recent collapse of oil prices. Malaysia was running up large debts even when oil prices were high and the danger of doing so has come home to roost.

The MM2H program targets retirees and future retires and provides a relatively small but still consistent and useful inflow of hard currency which helps support the Ringitt (the recent collapse would be even worse without this support).

Since the program was started in 2002, 27,000 expats have been approved.

country 2014 total
China 1,294 6,219
Japan 362 3,546
Bangladesh 252 3,007
UK 93 2,169
Iran 23 1,312
Singapore 77 1,109
Taiwan 83 1,043
Pakistan 63 919
Korea 114 911
India 46 774

*data for 2014 is for 11 months, through November 2014.

China participation has exploded to 40% of the total in the last 2 years. From 2002 through 2012 China was granted 18% of MM2H visas.

It appears likely 2014 will finish with the 3rd largest number of MM2H visa granted just behind 2013 and 2012.

North America had 75 in 2014 and 1,017 total. South America has just 24 total. Africa had 31 in 2014 and 318 total while Oceana (which includes Australia and New Zealand) had 52 in 2014 and 743 total. Europe overall had 194 in 2014 and 3,553 total while Asia had 2,500 in 2014 and 21,212 total (which is 79% of all MM2H visas).

Related: Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics (2012)Looking at the Malaysian Economy (2013)Iskandar Housing, Real Estate Investment Considerations

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)

Grandma’s House, Thai Restaurant in Permas Jaya

Grandma’s House is a nice little Thai restaurant in Permas Jaya (part of Johor Bahru).

photo of shrimp dish

Shrimp dish with iced tea

The food is good and inexpensive. A meal is about 9 to 15 MYR (US$5).

photo of old Fish Bowl TV

The interior decoration is the best part of of the place in my opinion. This is a real old TV turned into a fish bowl with live fish swimming around.

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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

My Ice Box is Actually an Ice Box

My power has now been out for 48 hours. Early on I anticipated a breakdown long enough to ruin the food in my “ice box”/refrigerator (the damage was caused by a ruptured pipe and water pouring into the electrical system) shutting off power to all but the ground floor. I walked next door to a small shop and bought a couple bags of ice. I went to dinner near a 7-11 and picked up some more ice (they have great ice for this purpose – very cold and a big huge sold block).

photo of a small neighborhood grocery store in JB

A shop similar to this one (but the photo shows a bigger shop a bit further away)

So far it has kept things colder much better than I would have guessed. Going back to when an ice box was a box with ice works decently using a modern refrigerator. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising as the insulation on modern refrigerators is better than the old ones. Still getting and restocking ice is a bother.

It would be a good opportunity for a business to make it easy. I suggested to the condo office that they help make this process easier for tenants as a smart move to mitigate the damage to tenants but they have not done so (no surprise). Either give ice away – the management companies losing a big of cash but not much really, ice is cheap. Or the management company makes it a condo expense which means the owners just pay for it. Or at least have some company agree to schedule a truck to come at x hour and sell ice to those who want to buy it.

Update: a few hours after I posted this they actually did have ice delivered for people to use. I am not sure if they took awhile to take my suggestion to heart or if someone else came up with the idea. Either way, it was a good sign.

A bit of customer focus can help mitigate the damage customer face when things go wrong.

The people in the management office are kind. But the management company has not built a management system with a focus on encouraging employees to continually seek ways to improve and provide great service.

Related: The Customer is the Purpose of Our WorkPoor Usability for Online Plane ReservationsGreat Cheap Cell Phone Plan

Update: I think we ended up being without power for just over 4 days. I found being without power really wasn’t that bad except for problems getting wifi. Luckily my building has wifi available for daily purchase and their signal was good (the power they use is separate line that is used by the elevators and stayed up the whole time). I was able to recharge my laptop in the building office (only floors 2-20 were without power). If I had been without wifi I think I would have had to move into a hotel, but as it was it was tolerable and less annoying than I would have guessed (though I still don’t want to have to deal with it again – especially since the “backup” wifi seems to have deteriorated – I have to use it occasionally when I have connectivity issues way too often – my internet connection is right on the edge of being tolerable…).

Channel News Asia Report on Iskandar

Sadly they don’t understand the web and the video is gone. When will site with huge budgets learn the basics of web site management such as web pages must live forever.

The webcast by Channel News Asia is a 22 minute look at Iskandar in Johor, Malaysia. The current population of Iskandar is 1.5 million people which is projected to grow to 3 million by 2025. Iskandar is 3 times the size of Singapore, which is the next door neighbor to Iskandar.

Two of the big focuses for Iskandar are education (for which Educity has been established in Iskandar and has brought in several British Universities to setup campuses) and medical care.

Related: Iskandar Overview VideoIskandar Housing Real Estate Investment ConsiderationsThe Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks