It was Day 2 of the 3D2N trip to Batu Pahat, Pontian and Pekan Nanas in western Johor.
The Pontian-bound bus from Batu Pahat arrived at Pontian Bus Terminal in Pontian Kechil slightly before 3pm. I walked the short 100 metres to GF Wonderful Hotel (万得福旅店), where I had booked a room for one night. After a quick checked-in and deposited my backpack, I hit the streets for late lunch. One thing was a must-eat when in Pontian.
15 minutes later, I arrived at Kedai Mee Sin Kee (新记笨珍云吞面), well-known for its Pontian-style wanton noodle. The eatery was not crowded in the mid afternoon. I ordered their original ketchup-sauce wanton noodle when walking in and took a seat at one of the empty tables. A menu on the wall behind the food stall showed the prices of the food and I noticed that Sin Kee also served a self-innovated black pepper wanton noodle. I would try that some day.
The wanton noodle came with a bowl of soup with meat dumplings and fishballs. The springy egg noodle was thicker than usual and yet very tender — the texture was unlike any other wanton noodle that I had tried before. The slices of tender barbecue pork were not as thin as expected and were mostly lean meat. The meat dumplings were fresh and I could taste the sweetness of the minced pork fillings. It was no wonder that Sin Kee was popular and highly recommended.
After the late lunch, I explored the small town. It was not my first time in Pontian Kechil, so I roughly knew my way around but not to the extend of knowing the places inside out. It had been more than 3 years since my last visit to the town.
I walked past a couple of pushcarts in an alley just off a trunk road. Behind the pushcarts were murals of people selling foodstuffs on pushcarts also. One of the mural was titled "Lorong Cendol" and depicted an elder man preparing cendol.
The mural was painted based on a life scene — the real elder man (Noor Mohd, I believe) was selling his cendol facing the mural. He gave me a friendly smile and asked if I wanted a cendol. I agreed readily.
The small bowl of shaved-ice cendol with green jelly and large red beans in coconut milk was only RM2.50. Flavoured with gula Melaka (coconut palm sugar), the cendol was delicious, not too sweet and very refreshing on a hot day. I could finish it even right after a meal.
I continued to explore the area — noting the cafes and shops that were opened — but not for long as it started to drizzle. Sensing that the rain would get heavier, I worked my way back to the hotel. And sure enough, it started pouring heavily just before I reached the hotel. I dashed the rest of the way in the rain. It was 5pm. I took a shower and washed one set of my clothing for the following day.
The rain ceased at around 7:30pm. I went out to look for dinner. Except for several seafood restaurants that lined the coastline, majority of the shops and coffeeshops were already closed. After walking one big round without finding something that I would want to eat, I saw this cafe, called Kedai Ayamas, just few doors from GF Wonderful Hotel.
I went into the cafe, asked the staff for recommendations and accepted their suggested grilled chicken rice set. When my food was ready, I was the only one left in the cafe — it was already after 8pm. The chicken rice set came with an iced drink and a muffin. The grilled chicken was meaty and quite a big portion, almost like a quarter of a kampong chicken, and it tasted pretty good.
After the meal, I went to Eco-Shop and Mr DIY across the road to window-shop but more to burn some calories. After half an hour, I was back at the hotel and rest. But it was not until 11pm did I fell asleep.
The Next Day...
It was the third day of the trip and I would be returning to Singapore at the end of the day. But, I still had a list of places to visit in Pontian District.
I left the hotel at about 7:50am for breakfast. Similar to Batu Pahat, most of the shops were still closed at that time of the day. It took me about 10 minutes to walked to Pasar Awam Pontian (Pontian Fish Market). I had been to Pontian Kechil no less than 5 times in the past and had visited the fish market every time, especially the coffeeshops beside the market.
Kheng Guan Hiong Coffeeshop (琼源香咖啡店), a popular coffeeshop in Pontian among the locals, was well-known for its charcoal-grilled butter and kaya toasts. It was rather crowded when I walked into the shop. An elderly man, who had finished his breakfast, motioned for me to sit at his table as he stood up and left.
I always visited Kheng Guan Hiong for its traditional breakfast set with their self-roasted aromatic coffee, butter & kaya toasts and two soft-boiled eggs. It had been 3 years since I last had the breakfast set and I opted for the same again — I will try other things on the next trip.
Before leaving the coffeeshop, I bought a pack of Kheng Guan Hiong's coffee powder to bring home. Each pack consists of 10 sachets of ground coffee in hang-ear filters for ease of brewing at home.
Then I walked back to the hotel to prepare for check-out. My 15L backpack was getting full with 3 additional packets of coffee powder. I stayed in the room till 10am and then left the hotel.
I wanted to have another light meal before leaving Pontian Kechil for Pekan Nanas. I made my way to Kedai Mee Sin Kee, which opened at 10am. I wanted to try the black pepper wanton noodle — not on another trip. The shop was crowded this time. I waited for a short while and managed to get a table just outside the shop, directly in front of the otak-otak stall — it was a little warm.
When I ordered the black pepper wanton noodle, the lady boss warned me that it would be quite spicy. They probably remembered that I ordered the non-spicy original version the day before. I told them I liked to try different flavours. I also added two otak-otak.
The black pepper wanton noodle had mild peppery flavour but spicier than expected. Nevertheless, it was delicious and better than chilli-spicy noodle that was spicy but lacked fragrance. The otak-otak was nicely grilled and complemented the wanton noodle really well.
After the meal, I headed over to Pontian Bus Terminal. Two buses, Maju 96 and myBAS T50, serviced the route between Johor Bahru Larkin Sentral and Pontian, but at different time intervals. A Maju 96 bus was waiting in a bus bay when I reached the station and boarded it. The fare to Pekan Nanas was RM2.
30 minutes later, I alighted at the bus stop outside Dewan Tunku Ibrahim Ismail, an event hall, in Pekan Nanas. I crossed the road and walked towards my only destination in the small town — Platform Coffee & Homestay, a cafe cum homestay.
Before reaching the cafe, I walked passed a wooden house with a big pineapple painted on its wooden wall. "Pekan" meant "town" and "nanas" was none other than pineapple. Thus, Pekan Nanas was also known as "Pineapple Town". I was told by the lady boss of Platform Coffee later that the structure was a 1st generation residential house in Pekan Nanas with original steel roof. Before the pandemic, the house was called Art Stage 01 (藝術连心 一号) and was opened to the public, but it had not re-opened.
Another 100-metre walk and I was at Platform Coffee & Homestay. Stepping into the cafe was like traversing in time back to the Stone Age. Behind the cafe was the house of the couple, Ah Ping and Ah Liang, who managed the place as their own home and homestay. Apart from being a cafe and homestay, Platform also had a small workshop for interested customers to experience making ceramic wares.
I ordered an Americano and was considering something light from the menu to go with it. Ah Ping recommended her favourite sour dough and I accepted. Being the only customer at the cafe at 12pm, I picked the only table on a knee-high platform outside the house — it was the best spot to me. I seated myself few minutes before a group of 5 walked in — they actually wanted the same table but had to pick another table inside the house.
The utensils used at the cafe were all hand-made from clay. They made the coffee and sour dough looked beautiful and photogenic. I felt like I was having coffee with the Flintstones. Ah Ping made really nice coffee — I wondered which coffee bean(s) she used. The sour dough (黑豆葵花子欧包) was lightly heated and the crust coated with sesame seed was crispy. The bread was also crunchy with black beans, sunflower seeds, olive oil, etc.
Platform Coffee was really a unique and lovely cafe. I liked this place a lot, especially its rusticity and coziness. I relaxed at the cafe for nearly 2 hours. I would be back another time to try their special alcoholic coffee — Bailey's latte.
At 2pm, I had seafood noodle soup at the foodcourt besides the main road, just opposite the bus stop where I alighted earlier. I over-ordered and ended with a large bowl full of various seafood, bitter gourd, pig livers and kidneys that costed me RM22. It was not bad-tasting but I could not finish it.
After the late lunch, I went back to the bus stop that I dropped off earlier, waited and boarded a Maju 96 bus that came along. The fare to Paradigm Mall was RM3.70 and took about 30 minutes.
I wanted to have dinner in Johor Bahru before going back to Singapore, so I spent some time window-shopping in Paradigm Mall and to digest the food. At 5:30pm, I took myBAS T31 from Paradigm Mall to JB Sentral for RM2. I had been to Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk for food several times but had not been there in the evening. I decided to go there for dinner and to check out the night scene.
At 6:30pm, I walked into IT Roo Cafe and ordered their root beer float and fried rice. I had been to IT Roo Cafe for their fried and grilled chicken chops and wanted to try their fried rice, which should be good since it was named the "IT Roo" fried rice.
The Chinese-style fried rice was cooked with chicken, prawns, egg, onions, spring onions, etc. It was nicely-fried and tasted great with smoky wok flavour. No wonder it was another highly-recommended dish.
After dinner, I walked around Jalan Tan Hiok Nee with hordes of activities going on. The locals were setting up stalls for the Pasar Karat night market that was held from Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm to midnight. Stalls were setup along the roads and spanned quite a large area.
I walked around the area for an hour, found nothing of interest and decided to head home. I was at JB CIQ at 8:30pm and was on Singapore ground in less than 30 minutes.