Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The JB trail

It is a known fact that many Singaporeans love to visit Johor Bahru, Malaysia, for the cheaper food and shopping and attractive exchange rates. This is because JB is the nearest Malaysian state to Singapore, just a short drive across the causeway. So one of the days, the family also went on a one-day trip to JB.

As we drove ourselves, these were the common sights along the way. JB town itself is bustling with huge malls, and many shops along old buildings and shophouses with plenty of food. One thing Singapore does not have, compared to JB or other Malaysian states, are huge billboards and perhaps, road pollution. I do find billboards interesting though....

The buildings looked similar to those in Singapore in the 1970s, which provides nostalgia. However there were certain beautiful commercial buildings and hotels which looked spanking new and modern. Another thing Singapore does not have - the many pylons across Malaysia - cables hang vastly above the roads and land.

We left home at about 7.30am and with no traffic jam at the checkpoints, we were able to sit down to have breakfast by 9am, somewhere in Skudai. As the car was sent for a complete regular servicing (RM120 = S$49) nearby, we had our breakfast at Kedai Mee Itik Sin Hai Cheng, famous for their duck noodles.

We ordered bowls of kway teow duck (dry and soup versions), kway teow noodles together with some side dishes - braised beancurd and eggs, fishball soup and of course, a cup of strong Kopi-C for me. They even have yong tau foo. The kway teow were slim, reminded me of Ipoh kway teow. The bill came up to less than RM30 (S$12).

The rest of the morning was spent in City Square Shopping Mall where the family, especially the kids, bought clothings for the Chinese New Year, Bata school shoes, and other stuff. We had late lunch at almost 2pm at the popular Restoran Soon Fatt. They were crowded even after the peak lunch hours. We always have Bak Kut Teh here when we visit JB.

The Bak Kut Teh came piping hot in a big claypot, where the pork ribs and liver and other ingredients were freshly cooked on the spot. We ordered a couple of side dishes, like the youtiao to dip into the soup, salted veggies which came with fried pork lard (to my surprise), braised beancurd and skin, sesame chicken in claypot, the chye sim was stir-fried with garlic. Total bill came up to RM 60 including drinks, for 6 persons. This works out to be S$24, which means $4 per head. Not fantastically cheap but still cheap by Singapore's standards. In Singapore the above dishes would have come up to about S$50 or more.

Then it was again mad shopping for the rest of the afternoon in Tebrau City, the gigantic shopping mall which houses Jusco, a huge department store, among many other shops. By 7pm, we headed for dinner again, this time at a market with many hawkers and stalls. We ordered different dishes from different stalls to share. There was Penang fried kway teow, fried carrot cake, and Ramly burgers. Generally speaking, each dish costs about RM4 (S$1.60). I ordered the BBQ Stingray and Sambal Kangkong which came in banana leaves.  I was amazed the meaty Stingray which was sliced into 3 pieces, cost just RM17 (S$4.90). You can NEVER get this price in Singapore - a piece of stingray (with not much meat) here cost minimum S$8-$10! Here we have 3 pieces at S$4.90!!!! You dip the stingray into the sour cincalok chilli - heavenly. The kangkong was RM6 (S$2.50). Although I did not have any of the scrumptious food due to my veg diet, it was a delight seeing the rest of the family enjoying the food. Hur hur.... 

I usually do not have reservation ordering more food and would have ordered even more dishes to try (especially when in a foreign land), if there was no limit to the family's appetite. I like to see people eat and enjoying their food. I do not like them to be overly-concerned with "can finish or not?", as to me, we can always ta-bao (takeaway). It is always a joy to be able to eat, and it is not as if we are ordering very expensive food like sharksfin, abalone, caviar etc... This is hawker food. Food is enjoyment when with like-minded people who share the same philosophy as me towards food experiences.

After dinner, we stopped over this shop Chun Chew Tang nearby to buy traditional cookies and cakes. We bought the Tau Sar Piah and Chicken biscuits, Char Siew Shu and lots of other cookies with other flavours.

Another must-do before we head back home, was pumping petrol and of course a Snow car wash. For about 15-20 minutes, four muscular men sprayed and washed the car with "snow" (soap detergent), cleaned and wiped dry, scrubbed the tyres, and windows. They even vacuum the interior of the car so so so thoroughly. The total bill? RM7 (S$2.80)!!!!!!

In one of the shops earlier, saw this top which I had to snap. This had to be a tribute to our now-defunct Miss Singapore aka Miss Boomz. Of course I did not buy it, haha! Niece bought this cute accessory for I think RM10 (S$4) and this piece of grey slip-on shoes was RM39.90 (S$16). And we bought a full-length mirror from Jusco at RM25 (S$10)!! Totally worth it.

And totally even more worth it, were the groceries we bought at Jusco. Among some great finds, bought 4 huge packs of Bak Kut Teh for RM24 (only S$2.40 each), a 3kg of Knife cooking oil was RM13 (S$5.30) versus a 2kg cooking oil in Singapore for about S$7-$9. A big bottle of Prego pasta sauce cost RM10 (S$4) versus a smaller bottle in Singapore at S$6-$7. I love the bakeries in Malaysia as most of the time, they tasted more buttery and fragrant. Bought a Walnut cake back for RM4.90 (S$2)!!!! I absolutely do not mind going into JB, say once a month to eat and shop for groceries, as there are really some cost savings in the long run.

At the end of the day, it rained as we were driving home. It always rains whenever I visit JB, don't know why. But it was a nice end to a relaxing day for the family. Thankfully, the weather was great and cool earlier the entire day, and there was no traffic jams at the checkpoints on the way back. So lucky.

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