We have been wandering around the capital of Johor state, the city of Johor Bahru. It is across the causeway on the north of Singapore and is light years away from the modernness and excitement of Singapore. The distance here was 21 miles, hotel to hotel, yet took us about three hours by subway and bus. Passport control and immigration out of Singapore took 5-10 minutes, but into Malaysia it took about an hour. There were plenty of stations open, but the numbers of people were huge. Another big difference between the two countries is the cost of items, going from the world’s most expensive country to inexpensive Malaysia. Since being here, we have used Asia’s version of Uber, called Grab, three times. Each time, the ride was between 10-20 minutes, and cost US $1.23 to $1.96. Unbelievable!
The first photos are from around a local park across from the Botanic Gardens, our destination today, which was closed. We were quite startled to come across a sink with running water along a sidewalk, until we realized it is in front of a mosque, which requires washing your hands before entering. On to the mall! We thought it quite unusual to see a hijab store…that is, until we walked through more of the mall and found that every fourth store was a hijab store! And we love the idea of a vending machine dispensing a soft-serve ice cream cone, but we didn’t try it to see how well it works. We took a few photos of some of the food prices, as we couldn’t believe the low cost of eating out. You know how much KFC and Subway charge for basic meals, right? Here are Malaysia’s prices, in US dollars: $3.23 for a KFC two-piece chicken meal with fries and a regular drink (13.20 ringgits); and $2.57 for a Subway Everyday Value sandwich with a regular drink (10.90 ringgits).
Following the food court photos are a few from our breakfast buffet, one of the largest and most diverse we have ever encountered. There is an Indian Kitchen, a Chinese Kitchen, and a Malay Kitchen that includes Malaysian and Indonesian dishes. The Cold Kitchen is mostly American and European favorites, with pancakes, waffles, fruit, pastries, breads, donuts, cold cuts, cheeses, cereal, and of course, ice cream! There are at least eight different kinds of rice scattered about (steamed, boiled, fried, in coconut milk, vegetarian, meat, and seafood!), and about 20 different kinds of noodles, both of which are a big thing here. Savory dumplings, egg rolls, and wontons are everywhere. There are about 100 little bowls in the buffet, as you can see, with condiments, chilies, spices, vegetables, seaweed, black mackerel, anchovies, and all sorts of other additions for your rice, noodles, and main dishes. Not all are marked, and most that are, are in the Malay language. Most everything we try blindly is at least fairly spicy if not all-out fiery hot. Mike tried hard-boiled quail eggs, as you can see in his hand…one peeled, one still in the shell. They are tiny. He said they tasted like normal hard-boiled eggs. There is a tea station and a smoothie bar and far, far more food than we can sample even over the five days we are in Johor Bahru. A bonus for us here: our hotel room is free on Hilton points, we were upgraded to a suite, and daily we have that amazing breakfast for free as well as an evening reception for free: four daily hot dishes, sandwiches, salads, cold cuts, cheese, garnishes, fresh fruit, soup, breads, soft drinks, beer, wine, and four different desserts. We find that the Hilton Honors program gives us amazing benefits and rewards.
We liked the messages depicted in the final two photos: Buy now or cry later, and Own your style or stay naked. The latter seems very funny when women are covered head to toe and men mostly don’t even wear shorts…other than Mike!