Johor, the southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia, is made up of eight districts comprising Johor Bahru, Pontian, Batu Pahat, Muar, Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Segamat. It has a long coastline flanking the Straits of Malacca on its western seaboard and the South China Sea on the east. Its capital city, Johor Bahru, or “JB” as it is popularly known, is the main administrative centre for the state government and a bustling commercial hub. This southernmost Malaysian city sits right next to the national boundary between Malaysia and Singapore where they are connected via the Causeway. Thirty kilometres southwest of Johor Bahru is the Second Link which connects Tanjung Kupang to Tuas in Singapore. Located within the district are the Sultan Ismail International Airport, Johor Causeway, Second Link and the Johor Bahru International Ferry Terminal
The origin of the word Johor derived from the Arabic word “Jauhar” meaning “Precious Jewel”. Arabic influences are very obvious where the Arab traders had come here to do spice trade, which was once very well known. Johor was also known as The End Land or “Gangganu” by the Siamese, which means “precious stones”. The opening of the State of Johor began in the early 16th century when Melaka was conquered by the Portuguese. Sultan Mahmud Syah, who was last heir to the Melaka throne had escaped and opened the Johor Government. At that time, Johor had expanded its empire until Riau.
The history of modern Johor began under the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar. The accession of His Royal Highness as the Sultan was in 1866 and held the title “Seri Maharaja Johor”. Sultan Abu Bakar introduced the Johor Constitution, which subsequently brought changes in the Johor State administration and it became more efficient. The transfer of the Government’s administrative centre in Teluk Belanga to Tanjung Puteri in 1841 gave positive impact to Johor, especially, in terms of development. The construction of government buildings, police stations, mosques, Court and Grand Palace clearly proved that Sultan Abu Bakar deserved to be called the “Father Of Development Of Johor”.
Now, Johor, which is bordered by Melaka, Pahang and Singapore; is one of the fast developing and advanced states in Malaysia.
WHERE TO GO ?
Legoland Malaysia theme park, the first in Asia, is situated in Nusajaya, Johor. Situated on 76 acres of land, the park is the sixth such park to open in the world. Previous parks are located in Billund, Denmark (1968), Windsor, England (1996), California, USA (1999), Germany (2002), Florida, USA (2005).
Legoland is built with over 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions. One of the main attractions here is the Miniland. More than 30 million lego bricks are used in the building of these monuments including the Petronas Twin Towers, The Merlion Statue, Taj Mahal and others.
These well-known buildings are built using lego bricks, an interactive world on a scale of 1:20 where people, trains and aeroplanes come to life at the touch of a button. Other attractions at the park include Lego City, Land of Adventure, Imagination, Lego Kingdom and Lego Technic. In the theme park, there is also an Observation Tower which is the highest tower in Legoland Malaysia, some 60 meters from the ground. This is also the third Legoland observation tower in the world after Denmark and Germany.
Kota Iskandar Johor
Kota Iskandar, Johor State Administrative Centre was opened in April 2009 and is now one of the must see places in Johor. Inspired by Moorish-Andalusian and Johor Malay designs and motifs, Kota Iskandar is Malaysia’s first Experiential Parliament where visitors through our guided tours will be allowed the chance to enter Johor’s beautiful state parliament hall and immersed in Johor’s rich culture and history while nderstanding the symbolisms and abstract interpretations in true style and splendour of Kota Iskandar- Johor’s Living Legacy
Endau Rompin National Park
Endau Rompin, straddling the Johor/Pahang border, is the second National Park after Taman Negara. It covers an area of approximately 80,000 hectares of rich and exotic flora and fauna, encompassing the watershed of the rivers Endau and Rompin, from which it derives its name. In other words, this place is huge. The park is home to a vast species of birds, mammals, frogs, insects and exotic varieties of orchids, herbs, medicinal plants and trees. It seems that every time a scientific expedition returns from Endau Rompin, they discover a new species!
Regular treks through the jungle will give adventurers sightings of leaf monkeys, long-tail macaques, white- handed gibbons, elephants, deer, tapirs and the occasional tiger and leopard. For adventure lovers and river trekkers, there are exhilarating rapids and fairly substantial waterfalls. To protect the pristine environment, only limited areas of the park are open for ecotourism. Entry to the park requires a special permit from the Johor National Park Corporation.
Pulau Sibu is a pleasant hideaway with its lush tropical vegetation, endless stretches of golden beaches and clear blue waters. The island is also dotted with numerous sea caves carved out of rocks. The constant pounding of the sea during the monsoon season has given the island a beautiful yet rugged appearance. The surrounding waters contain fascinating coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life. Shipwrecks off its coast can also be found. In the olden days, Chinese junks and pirate vessels often exchanged cannon fire around this island, and the remains of these battles lie scattered around the seabed.
There are facilities for scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, sailing and angling. Visitors can go for a hike through the jungle leading to unspoilt mangrove swamps or visit the kelong, or jetty, where anchovies are caught. Alternatively, head for the kampung, or village, to get a first-hand look at how coconuts are smoked to make copra.
Sixteen kilometres off the coast of Mersing is Pulau Rawa. The island is famed for its white coral sand, tall palm trees and coral reefs with neon-coloured fish and other exotic marine life. This quiet island only has two choices of accommodation on it. The wooden chalets nestled amongst coconut groves complement the island’s reputation as a quaint hideaway, perfect for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Desaru’s beaches are among the best in Johor. Many returning visitors agree that its white sandy beaches are a sight to behold.
The beaches are clean, lined with casuarina trees and stretch 25 kilometres long. Here, visitors can enjoy fun- filled activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, hiking as well as other outdoor activities. Take the opportunity to relax or get that sexy tan, while listening to rushing waves and enjoying the cool breeze.
Desaru is located 100 kilometres from Johor Bahru, and is a very popular destination for its clean beaches, excellent golf courses and unique attractions. Although it is better known as a beach and resort area, its other name is the ‘Land of Casuarinas’, as one can see casuarina trees along the beaches.
Its natural forest beauty, with views of the South China Sea, definitely makes it an exciting destination, captivating tourists from near and far. Amongst the attractions at Desaru include Desaru Beach, Fishing Village Museum at Tanjung Balau, Desaru Fruit Farm and the opportunity to see fireflies at Lebam River.
Desaru Fruit Farm
Situated on 100 acres of land, Desaru Fruit Farm offers visitors a fun time learning about the country’s tropical fruits. Packed with over 100 varieties of tropical fruits, 10 species of plants, a petting zoo, koi fish pond and other attractions, a visit here promises an interesting experience for the whole family.
Learn how to select good fruits, and try out local fruits such as the jackfruit, honey orange, water guava, soursop, and yes, the king of fruits – the durian. You may even purchase some of your favourites. Good agricultural practices ensure that the fruits here are of the highest quality. Well maintained, Desaru Fruit Farm received the Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agro-Tourism (MAHA) special awards in 2006 as the best agro tourism site in Malaysia. Not surprisingly, the farm continues to receive tourists from all over the world
Gunung Ledang/Mount Ophir
Shrouded in mystical legends and folklore, Gunung Ledang continues to charm and intrigue locals and visitors alike. According to the legend of the Princess of Gunung Ledang, the Sultan of Melaka wanted the Princess’ hand in marriage and she, not wanting to marry him, demanded that the Sultan present her with seven jars of women’s tears, seven trays of mosquitoes’ hearts and seven bowls of the Sultan’s son’s blood. After he was unable to meet these impossible requests, she fled to the mountain and continues to live in a hidden cave, to this day. The mountain is ideal for a myriad of outdoor activities with challenging mountain trails, icy waterfalls, and exotic flora and fauna, including many species of birds. At the relatively flat summit, which is 1,276m above sea level, a panoramic view of the Straits of Melaka and even the Sumatran coastline can been seen on a clear day. Also, Sagil Waterfall is a popular picnic spot at the base of the mountain.
Royal Abu Bakar Museum
This architectural wonder was completed in 1866. It was commissioned by the late Sultan Abu Bakar and is also known as the Grand Palace (Istana Besar Johor). Following a Renaissance style, the building was constructed by local artisans under the supervision of an European architect. The original furniture of the palace was made in England and ordered by the late Sultan Abu Bakar in 1866. The palace was renovated to become a museum in 1982 and was officially opened in 1990. Catch a glimpse of the grand lifestyle of the royal family through the silverware, ornaments as well as souvenirs by dignitaries that are on display at the museum. There are also pictures of the royal family from the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar.
Kota Tinggi Waterfall
The waterfalls are located at the foot of Gunung (Mountain) Muntahak. It cascades down some 34 meters from the mountain. The natural beauty of the area is refreshing, and provides an escape for busy city-goers. The cooling river waters also provide an ideal place for swimming, and a nice spot for picnics. It is a great place for nature lovers who often spot birds, and numerous insects around the area. Those wanting to spend a night here can opt to stay at the Kota Tinggi Waterfalls Resort.
Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque
On top of a hill in downtown Johor Bahru, overlooking the Straits of Johor and neighbouring Singapore, stands the magnificent Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, one of the most beautiful old mosques in Malaysia. The construction of the mosque marked the start of Johor’s modernisation process in 1892, which was commissioned by the “Father of Modern Johor”, the late Sultan Abu Bakar. It took eight years to build and was completed in 1900. The mosque can accommodate 2,000 worshippers at any one time. The mosque is a mix of architectural styles, but principally Victorian. It is said that the minarets look like British watch towers. Today, the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque is listed as a protected heritage monument by the Department of Museums and Antiquities.
Homestay Felda Semenchu
Joining a homestay programme is a great way to experience local culture in a close-to- authentic setting. The Homestay Felda Semenchu programme presents a golden opportunity to get acquainted with the lifestyle of the Johor Malays. Take part in the many activities with the locals: learn to shuffle the traditional Malay way in dances like kuda kepang, or try your hand at gasing (traditional top-spinning) and congkak. During your stay, you will also be taken on an engaging trip to an oil palm estate to see the agricultural side of Malaysia
Tanjung Piai National Park
If you’ve ever dreamed of falling asleep to the lilting sounds of the ocean, or waking up to the splendour of the universe, Tanjong Piai presents itself as a natural wonderland at the southernmost tip of Asia. Located 90km south of Johor Bahru’s city centre, Tanjung Piai’s natural wonders have been gazetted into a National Park. Its beautiful mangroves, important for their resilience, are one of the mainstays to sustainable growth of the various mangrove wildlife. They also serve to protect the land from the fierce onslaught of the wild sea.
Frolic with wide-eyed mudskippers, funny macaques, wild birds and other wildlife. Platforms built throughout the park allow visitors to observe the different habitats supported by the mangroves. Just bring a pair of good walking shoes to enjoy the mangroves in comfort.
Sungai Lebam Wetlands
Watching fireflies, or lightning bugs, is one of the main attractions in the Sungai Lebam Wetland Preservation area. Catching sight of the synchronised blinking lights for the first time is a magical experience. Fireflies emit light at their lower abdomen to attract mates and also scare away predators. They are harmless, but visitors should refrain from catching any as this would pose a threat to its fragile population. Fireflies often congregate at a vast mangrove swamp, especially at the Berembang trees. One should keep silent and avoid flash photography so as not to scare them away.
There are fewer fireflies around on rainy nights and when the moon is full. The best time to watch fireflies is one to four hours after sunset. To get the most out of your trip, do plan your journey in advance.
Kota Tinggi Museum
Built in 1997 and opened to the public in 2002, the museum traces the glory days of the Johor Sultanate, which started soon after the Malaccan empire fell to the Portuguese in 1511. The site Kota Tinggi was chosen for a museum due to its historical significance as the seat of the old Johor Sultanate. It was also at the valley of the Johor River that the famed writer Tun Sri Lanang wrote in the annals of “Sejarah Melayu” (Malay History), a histography of Malay excellence.
A walk through the two-storey building will bring you past a collection of rare exhibits from the 19th century to the present, including century- old porcelain, huge canvas paintings, ancient musical instruments and once- victorious weapons.
The first of its kind in Malaysia, the Mawar Gallery showcases the “Gracious and Famous Ladies of Johor”. Housed in a building about 100 years old, the permanent gallery is an amazing achievement towards the recognition of women in Johor, especially to those who have publicly contributed to the knowledge and achievements of Johor. Portraits of all past Sultanahs of Johor since 1886 until the present day, as well as ladies of the Royal Family and grand ladies of Johor are displayed here, serving as a tribute to ladies from all walks of life and professions. <
Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm
At the Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm, Mr Ng, Malaysia’s own Crocodile Hunter and a third- generation crocodile farmer, gamely brings visitors on a tour of these snapping reptiles.
There are more than 1,000 of them in this farm, including a toothless 130-year-old croc passed on from his grandfather. Past its prime, this geriatric prefers to spend its golden years sunbathing rather than scaring away the visitors. The crocs here are of the saltwater crocodile species (Crocodylus Porosus). As you venture deeper into the farm, you may notice that the crocodiles keep getting bigger. Mr Ng may also oblige trigger-happy tourists by going right to the water’s edge to stir up some “excitement” for that perfect photo moment.
Old Johor Fort Kota Johor Lama
The Old Johor Fort or Kota Johor Lama was the site of fierce wars amongst the local Malays and outside invading forces.
It was built in 1540 during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II (1528-1564). This fort was the best defence fort built along the Johor River at the time. After the fall of the Malay Sultanate of Malacca in 1511, Johor River became the administrative centre and defence fort to counter- attack the Portuguese position in Malacca. The natural environment of the fort made it easier to supervise the movement of the ships especially the threat from the Acehnese and Portuguese. In 1587, the fort fell to the Portuguese. The whole fort was burnt down and all assets including weapons were taken.
Established in 1928 by the late Johor King, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, Zoo Johor is one of the oldest zoos in the country and also in Asia.Originally called an “animal garden”, the medium-sized zoo was handed over to the state government to manage in the 1960s.Catch a glimpse of mighty lions, or play with the friendly elephants. Observe the huge, silent crocodiles from a safe distance, or stroll around the lake while admiring the aquatic birds.Take time to unwind at this unique zoo, and come back with wonderful memories and a day well spent!
The island off Mersing, along with Pulau Dayang, Pulau Lang and Pulau Pinang, are rated among the best diving destinations within the Johor Marine Park Area. The deeper waters around the area ensure good visibility and a large variety of marine life. The island is especially popular among weekend divers. The rich pelagic action also attracts numerous sport fishermen, hoping to try their luck with the marlins or sailfish outside the marine park island. Many private yachts anchor in the calm waters between Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang. The main reef is located towards the southern end of Pulau Aur and Pulau Pinang. The top of the reef begins at about 12m and slopes in excess of 25m, making it ideal for diving
Tanjung Balau Fishermen Museum
Fishermen living in the east coast used several ancient techniques to catch fish. Some looked at the moon, while others scanned the skyline for weather changes. For a dose of local seafaring superstitions and other fascinating stories of fishing and its techniques, just head to this unique fisherman museum.
Located north of Desaru, the Tanjung Balau Fishermen Museum was developed by the South Johor Development Authority (KEJORA). It is part of a development project in the local fishermen’s village at Tanjung Balau. Many artefacts are on exhibit, including fishing nets and tackles, with authentic replicas of the tools used. There are also gaily decorated traditional boats, rafts and vessels used by local fishermen.
Pulau Kukup Johor National Park
Pulau Kukup is one of the largest uninhabited mangroves in the world. It is also the only one situated in Johor waters. Today, Pulau Kukup has received international recognition, being granted the status of a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ (RAMSAR site) by the Geneva- based Ramsar Convention Bureau. A local folklore tells the tale of Pulau Kukup, an abode for five celestial princesses. One day, one of them fell in love with a sailor and they eloped. A curse was set upon the island of Kukup and it was submerged by sea. The island later resurfaced, but it was covered in mangroves. Many have tried to settle on this island, but without success. Some say this is because the island is inhabited by spirits. Pulau Kukup is today the home of countless species of wildlife. Among these are playful monkeys, quiet mudskippers and nosy wild boars. Enjoy the beauty of the national park, and be immersed in a delightful natural ecosystem.