Johor Story 7: A Day Trip in Johor Bahru & Pekan Nanas (北干那那) for Eats
December was not my favourite month to travel to Johor Bahru due to the year-end school holiday that contributed to higher probabilities of congestion at the border-crossings. But, I decided to go on this trip on a Monday where lesser people would travel to Johor. There were 4 of us and the primary objective was to eat — not just in Johor Bahru but in Pekan Nanas, the "pineapple town", in Pontian district too.
7:40 - Boarded Service 170X opposite Kranji MRT Station
7:53 - Reached Woodlands Checkpoint
8:08 - Cleared Singapore Immigration
8:21 - Re-boarded bus to JB CIQ
8:45 - Cleared Malaysia Immigration (took longer than usual)
8:55 - Exit JB CIQ
After exiting from JB Sentral, we circled around Johor Bahru City Square Mall and walked to Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk — the little cultural street that had became a frequently-visited spot for me in recent months. I had proposed to the group to have breakfast at Kedai Kopi Xuu Yau (品苑云吞面) for wanton noodle, which was one of my favourites.
We ordered two wanton noodles with white sauce and two with dark sauce — forgot to ask if the red-sauce version was still available until we saw someone eating it — and a bowl of 8 handmade fishballs (total RM41). The springy noodle with flavourful sauce, tasty lean barbecue pork, crispy fried pork lards and fresh meat dumplings never ceased to wow me — and the group too.
At 9:40am after breakfast, we booked a Grab cab to Paradigm Mall for RM14, but we were not going to shop at the mall. My intention was to drop at the bus stop opposite Paradigm Mall and change to another bus to Pekan Nanas. I took my eyes off the road for a while, looked at my phone and the cab pulled up at the mall before I knew it. We had to cross the highway using the long curvy flyover.
There were two buses to Pontian at the bus-stop opposite the mall, myBAS T50 (30-minute interval) and Maju 96 (15-minute interval). A Service T50 arrived first. We almost missed the bus as the service number displayed on its front was quite small. Anyway, we managed to board the bus and the fare to Pekan Nanas was RM3.70 per person. The journey is about 30 minutes.
We alighted at the town centre in Pekan Nanas at about 10:40am. I proposed to have coffee at a cafe but the others wanted to try Dongxing Bak Kut Teh (东兴肉骨茶) before it closed for the day around "mid-day" (probably after lunch or after it sold out). I checked the map and led them to the claypot pork ribs soup stall not far away.
At 10:50am on a weekday, the coffee shop where Dongxing was located was super quiet — no other customers were in sight. We were early anyway.
We ordered a claypot bak kut teh for 4 persons and added-on some enoki mushrooms, beancurd skin and fried dough. Apart from pork ribs, there were pig intestines and kidneys as well. It was full of ingredients and cost RM53 only. The pork ribs were tender and the soup was tasty. We finished the whole claypot, not leaving a drop of soup.
After leaving Dongxing Bak Kut Teh, we decided to go for some shopping before coffee. We made our way to Eco-Shop, along Jalan Permata 4, where all items in the shop were priced at RM2.40. Not far from Eco-Shop was Eco-Plus where items were sold at various prices. We took our time to browse through the shelves as it started to rain but not for long.
The next stop was my favourite cafe in Pekan Nanas, although I had been there only once. I led the group to Platform Coffee & Homestay (平台咖啡) in the residential area. The rustic cafe with unique decorations was hard to miss. This cafe-cum-homestay was managed by a couple, Ah Ping (阿萍) and Ah Liang (阿良).
The cafe was decorated with earthen wares that created a back-in-time or stone-age feel. Apart from being a cafe and homestay, Platform also housed a small workshop for interested customers to have hands-on experience with making ceramic wares (booking required).
The last time I was at Platform Coffee, barely 2 months ago, I tried the sourdough and liked it a lot. I ordered it again this time for the group to try and added another plate of assorted cookies. The main reason for me to revisit Platform Coffee was to try the special Baileys Latte (奶酒咖啡, RM19), an alcoholic coffee.
The espresso coffee was added with sweet and milky Irish cream and hot milk. It is delicious and creamy with a tinge of fruity whiskey.
When it was time to leave, around 2pm, Ah Ping recommended two places where we could visit in Pekan Nanas on a Monday. One was a traditional bakery and the other was Nictar Pineapple Park. We thanked her and made our way to the bakery as it seemed to be nearer on a hand-drawn map on the wall .
It started drizzling slightly as we walked to the traditional bakery. 25 minutes later, we managed to find the bakery among a row of shophouses without losing our way but a little further than expected. The fading signboard above the shop made it even harder to spot it.
We stepped into Kilang Roti Dan Kek Teo Soon (潮顺面包西果厂) and were assaulted by the aroma of freshly baked breads. The long loaves of bread were lined up on shelves in clean plastic bags. Each loaf was RM3.40 only but it was so big that I had to share with a partner for half a loaf each.
The boss asked if we wished to skin the breads before slicing but we declined. The fragrance of traditional bread was mostly in the crust and that was what we wanted. When my half loaf of bread was handed to me, I gave it a slight squeeze and was surprised at its ultra-softness. I bought another pack of coconut buns for RM3.40.
We left the bakery and headed for the main road. As drizzle turned into rain, we decided to skip Nictar Pineapple Park and cut short our exploration of the town. We took shelter at a nearby bus-stop and waited for the next bus back to Johor Bahru. A myBAS Service T50 came along and we boarded it. The fare was RM3.50 per person to Paradigm Mall.
(A map on our trail in Pekan Nanas is attached at the end of this post.)
It was about 4pm when we returned to Paradigm Mall. We did an hour of shopping inside the mall this time. I bought some household items from Mr DIY.
There was no direct bus service to KSL City Mall, so we used Grab service again for RM23.
On Monday evening, a pasar malam (night market) would take place right outside KSL City Mall starting from around 5pm. We planned to dine at the stalls along the night market, but narrow passageway, large number of people and poor crowd control (as though COVID-19 was a thing of the past) made it hard to stroll down the two rows of stalls. We gave up mid-way and headed back to KSL City Mall for other dining options.
We came to the Glutton Food Street (贪吃街) at the basement of KSL City Mall and ordered food from several stalls to share:
Braised chicken, 黄焖鸡 (RM31)
2 x Chinese-style pancakes, 煎饼果子 (RM20)
Chicken glutinous rice + rice dumpling (RM14.50)
Braised beef, 凉拌卤牛肉 (RM42)
Guilin vermicelli, 桂林米粉 (RM15)
I recommended the braised beef and Guilin vermicelli from Fang Fang to the group as these Guilin specialties were my favourites too.
After dinner, it was time to head back to Singapore. Since there was a night market near the front entrance of KSL City Mall, the shuttle service F100 would pick up passengers near the rear exit of the mall. However, there was a long queue for the bus. We decided to use Grab again. It was just RM10 to JB Sentral but the closure of some roads due to the night market and heavy traffic in the surrounding area made us waited for 20 minutes before the Grab car arrives.
Personally, I would prefer to avoid crowded places due to all the inconvenience, and especially when there was no conclusion to the COVID-19 pandemic yet.
It was almost 8pm when we reached JB CIQ and our hearts dropped when we saw the queues at the immigration counters. It might be peak travel season during the school holidays but Monday night was not a time for the immigration counters to be fully-manned. It took us almost 40 minutes to clear Malaysia immigration and then on our way home.