Johor Story 4: A Day Trip to Kluang (居銮) for Mooncakes, Coffee & Street Arts
Waking up before 6am in the morning was fast becoming a routine to me when I wanted to cross the Straits of Johor to West Malaysia — be it to get banana cakes from Hiap Joo Bakery, find local food or to travel further to the north of Johor, like Muar, or beyond the state of Johor to Malacca.
Read: Johor Story 2: A Day Trip to Pekan Muar for Food, Coffee & Street Arts
It was a Thursday when I repeated the routine again, this time to Kluang (居銮) district in Johor. Crossing the border was a breeze on a weekday.
07:45 - Reached Kranji MRT Station
07:52 - Boarded SBS Transit 170X to Woodlands Checkpoint
08:10 - Cleared Singapore Customs
08:14 - Boarded SBS Transit 170 to cross the Causeway
08:20 - Cleared Johor Bahru Customs
08:24 - Boarded SBS Transit 170 to Larkin Sentral
I had two options to get to Kluang. One was to take KTMB Intercity train from JB Sentral at 8:30am and reach Kluang at 10:42am, taking 2 hours 12 minutes. The other option would be to use intercity bus service via Larkin Sentral to Kluang Pengangkutan Awam Bandar Terminal. I opted for the bus service due to its greater flexibility and frequency and also because the bus terminal was closer to my first destination in Kluang Town than Kluang Train Station.
At around 8:35am, I arrived at Larkin Sentral and queued to get a ticket at the manned ticketing counters. The queues were quite short and I got my ticket to Kluang for RM14.40. I boarded the S&S International bus service via Gate 13/14 and it departed at 9am with only 5 passengers onboard, including me.
In terms of travelling distance, Kluang was nearer to Johor Bahru than Muar but I had not visited the town before. This would be my first time to Kluang and I came up with some objectives for the trip as follows:
Get Shanghai mooncakes from Yuen Fatt Biscuit
Buy coffee at Kluang Coffee Powder Factory
See Kluang Street Arts
Find interesting food outlets or cafes along the way
Have "sexy encounter (艳遇)"
The intercity bus arrived at Kluang Bus Terminal at 10:30am, taking just 1.5 hours. It might seem faster to use bus instead of train, but the time saved was only 12 minutes.
My first destination was Yuen Fatt Biscuit, a traditional bakery, which was about 1.6Km from the bus terminal. I was prepared to hike there, despite the hot weather, and to check out the town at the same time.
(A map of my walking trail and places of interests is included at the end of this post.)
Similar to most small towns in Malaysia, such as Pontian, there were hardly any pedestrian crossings on the roads. Pavements on the roadsides, if any, were not meant for people to walk on — trees with low-lying branches and signboards obstructed walkways and forced me to walk on roadsides.
25 minutes later, I arrived at Yuen Fatt Biscuit (源发饼家). As Mid-Autumn Festival was drawing near, the bakery was geared up mainly to sell mooncakes, especially their signature Shanghai mooncakes with unique "pillow" shape.
Most of the mooncakes were already pre-packed in boxes with different mixes. I asked for two boxes of mixed mooncakes with single yolks (RM36) initially, but seeing that the size of the mooncakes was a little smaller than expected, I added another box for a total of RM108 (approx. S$34).
Each box consisted of three variants with different fillings: lotus (light brown skin with one hole), pandan (green skin with one hole) and red bean (darker brown skin with two holes).
After leaving Yuen Fatt Biscuit, I made my way towards Kluang Coffee Powder Factory which was about 2.8Km away.
Not far away from Yuen Fatt, I walked passed Yu Kong Moon Cake (游港上海月饼), which made and sold Shanghai mooncakes too, and went in to take a look. Similarly, the shop was selling only mooncakes during this period but their mooncakes were different from Yuen Fatt's.
On hindsight, I should have purchased two boxes from Yuen Fatt and get a box of different Shanghai mooncakes from Yu Kong. With no intention to buy too many mooncakes, I left the shop empty-handed but made a mental note to revisit the bakery after Mid-Autumn Festival.
Then, I resumed the hike, following the shortest path, which I had mapped out before the trip, to Kluang Coffee Powder Factory. Frankly, if I were to revisit Kluang and going to the bakeries again, I would use Grab — only if I have mobile data roaming.
Half an hour later, I came across a cafe called Cow Cow Yogurt (恋上酸奶牛) and decided to take a break, get out of the noon heat, have some yogurt and lunch. At 11:40am on a weekday, I was the only customer in the cafe. Well, it was still early and the cafe had just opened for business at 11am.
The staff recommended their Japanese-style value sets and I opted for the Special Sauce Chicken Skewer Don with passionfruit Yakult (RM19.90). I did not realised that the fruity Yakult was a "non-yogurt series", which meant I did not get to try the signature drink of the cafe — oh well, there's always a next time. But the cultured drink was really refreshing.
The chicken skewer don was served with salad, two halves of an egg and two skewers of grilled chunky chicken with sesame seeds, seaweed and special spices. The chicken skewers were well-seasoned and tender. I was really famished and finished the whole bowl. After the meal, I ordered their popular Japanese red bean pancake (RM2.50) to try.
I rested and chilled in the cafe till 1pm. Leaving Cow Cow Yogurt, I continued to Kluang Coffee Powder Factory, which was about 10 minutes' walk away.
First stop in the factory was the sales section that sold the factory's products, especially its "Television" brand traditional coffees. My original intention was to get some kopi-O but changed my mind when I saw packets of coffee beans that said "100% Liberica". It was very easy to get arabica and robusta coffee beans or powder, but not so common to find liberica beans. Without hesitation, I picked up a 500-gm pack of liberica coffee powder (RM38). A liberica-arabica-robusta blend was also available at RM28 — I will probably get that next time.
I noticed some insect repellant on the shelves that were made from coffee beans and that was an amazing idea to me! I would do some research and see if I could self-made some insect repellent cum deodorant cum coffee aroma air refresher for my home.
After paying for the liberica powder, I went to Brew 1966, a cafe just beside the sales section, and ordered a cup of cappuccino (RM7.90) before looking for a seat. Then I saw the crackers, in plastic containers, on the tables for consuming with traditional coffee the traditional way. I should have ordered a kopi-O.
I left the coffee factory at 2pm and walked along Jalan Lambak towards the town centre. Less than 10 minutes later, I came to the purple-theme Pre-Tea Q 艳(遇)芋茶社, a dessert shop cum cafe. This would be where I would have "sexy encounter" (as stated in my list of objectives for Kluang).
I did not stumble on the dessert-cafe but had planned to visit it because of its playful name. The Chinese name of the cafe "艳芋", meaning "colourful yam", had the same pronunciation as the commonly-known words "艳遇" which meant "sexy encounter". I had mischievously told someone that I was going to Kluang to look for 艳(遇)芋, giving them the impression that I was looking for "sexy encounter". I would show them photos of the "sexy yam" after the trip. 🤣🤣
First time to Pre-Tea Q, I went for their signature Taiwanese-style (cold) glass jelly dessert with yam Q, sweet potato Q and pearls (RM11.90). An option was also available to customise the grass jelly dessert with any three toppings, but I kept to the recommended concoction.
I did not know what "yam Q" and "sweet potato Q" were until the dessert arrived. They were yam or sweet potato mixed with sweet potato starch or tapioca starch to give them a soft and chewy texture — similar to the famous taro ball dessert that I had tried in Jiufen of Taiwan (台湾九份芋圆). The cold dessert was a good thing to have on a hot day.
Continuing on Jalan Lambak after 3pm, I came across some pre-war architectures that were well-preserved. The stone lions were still standing on the rooftops since 1939 (if they are not replicas).
I worked my way to the intersection between Jalan Sultan and Jalan Laman Pesona (a back alley), where Kluang Street Arts could be found. There were a number of beautiful murals on the walls along the 250-metres alley.
It was believed that the name "Kluang" came from the Malay word "keluang" which meant "huge bat", thus, Kluang was also known as "Bat Town".
There were a cafe, named Kaki Lima, and a dessert shop, named Old Alley (老胡同), located along the alley of murals. Both had alfresco seatings and looked interesting.
It was around 3:40pm and I had about 1.5 to 2 hours to waste before taking the train back to Johor Bahru. Between having another coffee at Kaki Lima or another dessert at Old Alley, I decided on visiting Old Alley since it was getting late for more caffeine. I would visit Kaki Lima on the next visit.
Stepping into Old Alley, I wanted something cooling and was recommended to have a mix berries yogurt shaved ice (RM17). I gladly accepted it and seated myself on the upper floor. Two guys were at another table and we chatted a little. They had travelled all the way from Kota Tinggi to Kluang just to try the black sesame soybean pudding at Old Alley — fine, I missed the good stuff again. But the mix berries shaved ice with yogurt, almond flakes, banana slices and grapes was nice too, had natural fruity taste and not too sweet.
It started to rain outside around 4pm. I took my own sweet time to rest in the shop and eat the yogurt ice. The rain got heavier and heavier and I started to feel a little cold from the ice dessert. It was still raining at 4:30pm and I decided to go for the black sesame soybean pudding (黑芝麻豆花, RM7). I was considering to skip dinner if I felt too full later.
When the soybean pudding arrived, it was fully covered by black sesame with an enticing aroma. Eating soft soybean pudding with black sesame was a first time for me and it was not too sweet too. It would be even better if they could serve it hot but it was not on the menu.
At 5pm, I left Old Alley for the train station. I needed to get a ticket for the last train to Johor Bahru. It was still drizzling.
I arrived at Kluang Train Station 6 minutes later and went straight to the ticket office to get a seat on the 5:54pm (last) train to JB Sentral. A seat was available and I paid RM14 for the fare. After the counter staff handed me the train ticket, he told me that I was very lucky as it was the last ticket for the last train of the day.
I was surprised by his comment as the number of available seats was more than 150 the night before — which was why I did not try to book a seat earlier. Seemed like most people would get last-minute train tickets. I was not at all worried about missing the train since Kluang Bus Terminal was just 750 metres away with more bus services to Larkin Sentral.
With more than half an hour to go till the train arrived, and it was still drizzling, I loitered around the train station and checked out Kluang Rail Coffee Cafe just opposite the ticket office. I was too full to want to eat again while waiting for the train, so I made a note to dine at the cafe on my next visit.
At 5:40pm, the speaker crackled to life and an announcement was voiced out. I could not understand what it said (in Malay) and simply followed the other passengers to a temporary platform for boarding. The new train station was still under construction but train services were already using the new railway tracks. The temporary boarding platform was not setup to shield passengers from rain and shine.
At 5:50pm, the KTMB Intercity train arrived. It was still the older and slow train, not the newer and faster Electric Train Service (ETS) type. It would probably take another many years for the ETS trains to arrive at Johor Bahru. Anyway, it was time to bid goodbye to Kluang — and I will be back!
I was not able to take a nap on the train and kept my eyes opened throughout the two-hour journey. The air-conditioning in the train was cooling for the first hour, but when majority of the passengers alighted at Kulai and Kempas Baru, two stops before JB Sentral, the train turned into a freezer. I was fortunate to be wearing a long sleeve shirt but it was not thick enough to fend off the cold for long.
At one minute to 8pm, the train arrived at JB Sentral. My body had burnt up all the calories that I stuffed myself in Kluang to fight the cold and I was famished.
Exiting from JB Sentral, I walked over to JB City Square Mall and took the elevators to the 6th floor. I would have dinner at Ho Seng Kee Wanton Mee (何成记自制云吞面世家). I ordered their (medium) wanton mee (RM12.90) plus a fried egg (RM3).
The wanton mee tasted great with springy homemade egg noodle, fresh minced pork dumplings and slices of barbecue pork.
I finished my meal and left City Square mall at 8:35pm and made my way to JB CIQ to return to Singapore. As long as I was not crossing the border to Singapore between 3pm to 7pm on weekdays, it would be a breeze.
20:40 - Reached JB CIQ
20:48 - Cleared Johor Bahru Customs
20:55 - Boarded SBS Transit 170 to cross the Causeway
21:05 - Cleared Singapore Customs
21:08 - Boarded SBS Transit 170X to Kranji MRT Station
21:40 - Reached home.
It was a fruitful trip to Kluang — I had accomplished all my objectives. It might seem tiring to walk around Kluang but my total walking distance for the day was only 7.2Km.