0058 Where the &%* is the Pusat Bandar? (Mal 009—new)

Johor Bahru Travel Blog

 › entry 30 of 58 › view all entries
No, that's NOT the real "city center"!

Day 043: 10 hours, 11.8 kms

 Johor Bahru is the last Malaysian city before Singapore, and I figure I should probably stay the night here, since Singapore is going to be a lot more expensive.  I arrive at the bus station to another downpour--  but fortunately the bus station is also a huge multi-level market, so I decide to go ahead and do some clothes and souvenir shopping for folks back at home…

I get tired of waiting for the rain to stop, so I just head on out.  There are no good clues as to which way is downtown, so I meander around a couple of side streets until I see a rather dingy looking hotel squeezed among some shabby offices and hardware stores… Relieved, I take a few moments to gather my thoughts before I head out to explore Johor Bahru.

I take a wild guess as to which way is downtown, but soon find myself walking through grassy countryside… But off to my right I catch a glimpse of a cluster of high rises and look for a way to head that direction. 

I finally find a side road that heads through a couple of middle class, single home neighborhoods… through another small commercial area… a couple of dead ends and detours before I finally reach what I thought was downtown…

Turns out it’s just  a couple of high rises--  but not really the “heart of the city” at all…

I’m getting a bit frustrated with these Malaysian cities.  First it was the snarl of freeways in Kuala Lumpur that made it hard to walk anywhere… then it was the elusive downtown of Ipoh… and now Johor Bahru…

Blame it on modernization.  Like American cities, Malaysian cities seem to be built with a “sprawl” concept… everybody’s got a car, or at least a scooter--  so no need to have the neighborhoods tightly clustered together… just build a lot of freeways and scatter the residential neighborhoods all across the landscape…

It’s getting dark, but I’m not quite ready to give up.  I cross the high rise area, past a couple of restaurants where folks are enjoying their Ramadan ftor… down a dirt road… through a construction site… along the freeway… then up through a very ugly bunch of low income high rise apartments… down a muddy path, through a hole in a temporary way… and suddenly, there it is:  Downtown Johor Bahru.  I don’t know if I should shout for joy or snarl in anger at all the trouble I’ve gone through to find it….

A rather small downtown, but yes, very dense and a lot to see.  There’s a lively outdoor restaurant area… a huge shopping mall… the sultan’s regal castle at the top of the hill… a colourful “Little India” street with Hindi pop blaring from the loudspeakers… then a dark mini-red light district with Chinese prostitutes beckoning to passerbys… and then finally a quiet, peaceful colonial style street with cobblestones, quaint British era buildings and a nostalgic feel…

Yes, I definitely have found the “heart of Johor Bahru…”

Fortunately I won’t have to go through the same hardship to get back to my hotel.  I easily find a bus that goes to the bus station… hop on, and decide to call it a day…

nathanphil says:
Thanks for the correction...

Yeah, Malaysia, unlike other Asian countries seems to have embraced the American "city sprawl" concept...
Posted on: Mar 02, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
No, thats NOT the real city cent…
No, that's NOT the real "city cen…
Johor Bahru
photo by: bensonryan