Johor Story 8: 3D2N to Batu Pahat, Pontian & Pekan Nanas (峇株巴辖+笨珍+北干那那) - Part 1
I had intended to make a series of day trips to visit the major towns of Johor, West Malaysia, after the border-reopening in April 2022. After about 15 day trips to Johor Bahru and a couple of trips to Muar and Kluang, I decided to go on a short 3-day-2-night journey to Batu Pahat, Pontian and Pekan Nanas — visiting 3 towns in one loop around western Johor.
Batu Pahat (峇株巴辖) is the capital town of Batu Pahat District, Johor. Pontian (笨珍) is another district in Johor with Pontian Kechil as its administrative centre. Pekan Nanas (北干那那) is a town in Pontian District about 30 minutes from Pontian Kechil town.
It was a Friday when I embarked on my first trip to Batu Pahat — a day before the Deepavali long-weekend holiday. It would be super-crowded on the Singapore-Johor Causeway over the long weekend, so I started a day earlier and in the morning.
7:00 - Departed from Kranji MRT
7:24 - Cleared Malaysia immigration
7:27 - Boarded Service 170 to Larkin Sentral
7:40 - Reached Larkin Sentral
All bus tickets at 8am to Batu Pahat were sold out, so I bought a ticket for the next S&S International (27-seater) bus at 8:15am at RM14.40. With 30 minutes to spare until boarding time, I bought a bread from a confectionery shop and gobbled it down and a quick visit to the washroom. At 8:20am, the bus departed from Larkin Sentral.
The 120Km journey to Batu Pahat was expected to be 2.5 hours. Yet, a 106Km journey to Kluang need only 1.5 hours. Unsurprisingly, traffic became much slower on the road leading to Batu Pahat after turning off the North-South Expressway. The bus "crawled" the last 2Km to the bus terminal in the town centre — too many vehicles on the road.
After alighting from the bus at Terminal Bas Express Batu Pahat, I caught sight of Nasi Pakistan No. 1 Batu Pahat at a nearby junction. I had read about the restaurant before the trip but did not expect it to be right next to the bus terminal. The time was slightly before 11am, but I was feeling very hungry.
Before going for the food, I wanted to secure a bus to Pontian Kechil the next day. I walked into the bus terminal, enquired at Mayang Sari’s counter and was told that there would be a bus at 12:30pm on Saturday to Pontian — there were no buses before 12pm. I wanted to book a ticket but was told to be at the counter by 12:15pm.
I walked into Nasi Pakistan No. 1 Batu Pahat and was surprised at how crowded it was on a weekday. Why was I so surprised? Because the most expensive set meal with Sultan lamb shank cost RM50! A cheaper set with sup tulang merah (lamb bones in red broth) costs RM24.
A staff showed me to the food stalls at the rear of the restaurant and pointed at the various stations in order. I walked to the first stall and took a tray of nasi Pakistan that was already waiting for me. Then I was motioned to the next stall where I asked for the Sultan lamb shank. And paid RM50 for the food at the payment counter.
I managed to find a vacant table and sat down to eat the sumptuous food. The aromatic and spiced long rice of the nasi Pakistan was delicious on its own. It tasted even better with the sweet red broth from the lamb shank. The chunky lamb shank was very tender and separated from the bone easily — no knife needed.
A small menu pasted on the dining table caught my attention. It highlighted that their sup tulang merah was a delicacy from Singapore — it was invented in Singapore about 60 years ago.
After the early lunch, I took a walk along the street, spotted a Mr DIY store and walked in to take a look. It was a rather big outlet occupying two levels. I spent about an hour in there browsing through the shelves, hoping to find something cheap and good.
Then, I made my way to Rengit Coffee cafe along Jalan Rahmat. Rengit Coffee, a coffee factory in Rengit, grew, processed, roasted and sold their own "elephant" or big-seed Liberica and Excelsa coffee beans via a chain of cafes in Rengit and Batu Pahat.
I bought two packets of elephant coffee — a 500-gram pack of Excelsa coffee beans that I requested to be ground and another 500-gram pack of white coffee. I did not know that they were the same except for the time period after being roasted. "White coffee" was coffee ground from roasted coffee beans without being pre-mixed with sugar and margarine (the latter was known as "black coffee").
It was time to check-in to the hotel but I wasted some time looking for it. The hotel's location as indicated on Apple Maps was wrong. The location in Agoda app, which I used to book the hotel, was wrong too. The location shown on Google Maps was of another hotel — turned out that the hotel I booked was inside that hotel without any indications on the exterior. The room was not fantastic also. Anyway, it was for one night only.
I hit the street again after checked-in to look for a cafe. It was slightly after 4pm. I was tired from waking up so early in the morning but I rather spent time in a cafe than in the room. I had passed by a cafe, called 9% Coffee House, earlier and made a beeline for it.
The fairly-new 9% Coffee House was housed in an old house and it tried to “blend in” with the old structure. The cafe might have an unfinished wall and broken roof but they were all part of the cafe's old-house-feel decorations. The "broken roof" is covered with glass panels and allows sunlight to seep into the cafe.
I ordered a hot caramel latte and lotus crepe cake and spent the next hour resting in the cafe sipping coffee and eating the cake.
While idling in the cafe, I browsed through the menu and was fascinated by a "black craft coffee" that I missed earlier. It had a Chinese name called "假装啤酒的咖啡" meaning "coffee pretending to be beer". I decided to have dinner at the cafe to try the special coffee along with a dish of aglio olio seafood pasta.
The black craft coffee was actually a nitro cold brew, where nitrogen gas was injected into cold-brew coffee to create the foaming effect. The black coffee looked very much like black Guinness Stout and tasted strong and bitter. It was my first time trying cold-brew coffee.
The aglio olio seafood pasta was tasty with big prawns and clams but a little on the spicy side.
The streets of Batu Pahat was dark from around 7:30pm onwards, many shops and food options were already closed by that time. Some streets were all-dark except for lights from lamp posts that lined one side of the streets. With not much to do at night, I was back at the hotel at around 8pm and rested early.
The Next Day...
I woke up at 7am on the Saturday morning and prepared to go out for breakfast. And, I received a couple of messages informing me of the "chaotic situation" at the border-crossing on Friday night and advising me not to go over the border. I replied that I was already in Johor.
I had found a rather famous restaurant near the hotel the night before, and walked to that restaurant after leaving the hotel. It took me around 10 minutes to arrive at Kedai Makanan Soon Ji (阿顺饭馆), also known as "Ah Soon" to the locals.
It was 8am when I stood outside Soon Ji, a chalkboard outside the restaurant stated that it would be opened at 8:15am. I hesitated but a staff informed me that they were already opened. I went in, placed my order at the counter, took a seat and waited for my breakfast. They did not have coffee.
After a while, my mixed pork soup (猪杂汤) with noodle arrived on a food-serving robot. Although robots were not something rare, it was my first time seeing one in Malaysia.
The dry noodle was topped with fried onions and crispy fried pork lard and mixed with fragrant lard oil. The soup was flavoured with salted pickled mustard vegetables and full of ingredients — fresh lean pork, minced pork, fish slices, pig liver, pig intestines and beancurd. It was delicious and a good start for the day.
After breakfast, I took a short stroll to Glutton Street but most of the stalls were closed — I did not know that Batu Pahat's Glutton Street was primarily a night market. It was still early in the morning and most shops were closed, so I went back to check-out of the hotel.
It was about 9:30am when I was back on the streets with my backpack. I needed some coffee, so I walked down the streets to find a nice coffee place. There were not a lot of cafes near the bus terminal and most of them were still closed. Then, I spotted Chop Mui Wah Kopitiam (美华咖啡粉茶室) at the road junction and settled for it.
I ordered a traditional breakfast set with a cup of kopi-o. The kopitiam was really busy at that time and my order took some time to come but I had a lot of time to spare till 12 noon. It seemed like I had lunch before breakfast this day.
With about 45 minutes to spare after my "lunch", I checked out an Eco-Shop outlet just next to the bus terminal. All items were sold at a fixed price of RM2.40, but I walked out of the shop empty-handed.
Then, I went to Mayang Sari's counter in the bus terminal a little before 12:15pm, and bought a ticket for RM5, but the 12:30pm bus was late. The Pontian-bound bus was actually servicing the route from Kuala Lumpur to Pontian and stopover at Batu Pahat but was caught in a traffic jam along the way. It arrived at around 1:10pm. A number of passengers alighted from the bus and only 5 hopped onboard in Batu Pahat for the last lap to Pontian.
The journey to Pontian Kechil in Pontian District was about 1.5 hours.