Jalan-Jalan in Johore.

In May, Eddy and I usually head off somewhere in the country for a good ol’ cuti-cuti Malaysia holiday. Last year, we headed to the East Coast (Cherating and Kelantan). This year, we decided to head south to visit friends who had settled in Johore Bahru. And then, because I used to hear so much about it when I was a kid, I insisted we head off to Desaru.

JB Town turns hipster

The trip down to JB was uneventful, and the traffic was pretty good (because we were driving on a week day during Ramadan). When we reached the outskirts of JB, Waze took us through new suburbs that I have never been to before to get to my friend’s place in the neighbourhood of Taman Ehsan. These new neighbourhoods were really quite swanky, some elegant even. I was super impressed!

China investments in JB

Actually, I’m wondering if the Taman Ehsan area was only recently part of JB (I mean, I really don’t know, I have no idea) because it seems awfully far out. We finally got to our friends’ place around tea time and his home was awesome! The housing estate his home was in was pretty nice too. The actual area that housing estate in was interesting, to say the least. I took a walk a few days later around the shop lots surrounding and found loads of shops selling prayer items for Chinese traditions, a few laundromats, and lots and lots of stores that were closed.

More China investment

My impression of JB is that it has developed loads since I last went there (around 2015 for the Yoga for Athletes workshop). At that time, development was pretty obvious already but this time, some places were totally unrecognisable! One of the main streets in the city centre, that used to have a monsoon drain, is totally unrecognisable, with huge shopping malls on one side and refurbished old shop lots on the other. The monsoon drain itself has been totally cleaned up and has a waterfall!

More China investment facing Singapore

In fact, large shopping malls seem to be commonplace, even in the suburbs of JB. I’m not sure what was razed for these complexes to be built, but most of them seem to be pretty popular and cater to Singaporeans as well, aside from the Johoreans. I was told that many of the buildings (shopping malls, hotels, condominiums etc.) were China direct investments into the state.

Aside from that, my experience of Johore was mainly eating, LOL! Ask me now what I ate and I honestly cannot remember but there was a lotta food. Of course, we had to have a meal at Chakra, which is always awesome!

Town centre

Another thing that I noticed about JB was the number of foreigners who now work, live or are just there. Aside from the Singaporeans, there were really loads of mainland Chinese folk, and super surprisingly incredibly many Vietnamese. In fact, in some parts of JB, it practically is entirely Vietnamese folk, which was really weird for us in a surprising way!

Hindu temple close to the Chinese temple

After three days or so, we felt ready to leave the big city to head down to Desaru. The trip from JB to Desaru was only about 45 minutes and it was pretty scenic, traversing a number of rivers, including one large enough that required a suspension bridge!

Cleaned up monsoon drain in town centre

When we arrived at the outskirts of the beach area, I was impressed. The sides of the roads were pretty and manicured, while there was hardly any rubbish lying around on the road side. We finally reached the street on which all the resorts were and it was pretty hard to see the seashore due to all the monolithic buildings. We didn’t drive far enough, but apparently at the end of the road is where the public beach is. In the end, on the advice of Eddy’s friend, we stopped by Lotus Desaru Beach Resort.

On the way to Desaru

The resort was pretty huge and we suspect catering to corporates for getaways. It took us almost fifteen minutes to walk from our parking spot to the beach. The beach itself was beautiful, typical of our east coast beaches. Unfortunately, there was a tractor on the beach, digging up the shoreline. We aren’t sure why…

Desaru Beach

Because it was getting late and we couldn’t really find a place we wanted to stay that we liked, we decided to call it a day and head back to Kuala Lumpur. Don’t misunderstand, Desaru is sublime but I guess we needed to plan better to stay there next time. There definitely will be a next time!

What do you think of the developments in JB? If you’re Johorean, what are your thoughts? Do you like what’s taking place? Comment below!