Johor Story 3: A Day Trip to Pelangi & KSL City for Local Food
After the land-border reopened between Singapore and Johor on 1st April 2022, I made my first day-trip to Johor Bahru after 2 years for grocery and to find out more about the situation there. I used a long weekend to avoid congestions at the immigrations.
More than a month later, I made another day trip to Johor Bahru, specifically Pelangi and KSL City area, for local food and to get some groceries. I chose a Sunday this time to re-experience how it would be to go over the causeway like I used to do before the COVID pandemic.
On 29 May 2022, I left my house at around 7:30am and made my way to Woodlands Checkpoint using SBS Transit Service 160. The service took about 25 minutes directly to the checkpoint, skirting the need for me to queue for Service 170X at Kranji MRT Station.
It took about 10 minutes to clear Singapore Immigrations, crossed the causeway without hurdle and reached JB CIQ. However, less than half of the counters in the arrival hall were manned, resulting in some queues. It took me around 30 minutes to clear immigrations. Looking back behind me as I left the immigration counter, the queues had became longer.
It was the first weekend of the mid-year school holiday, so I expected some surge in the number of day-trippers to Johor. My next trip to JB would probably be after the June holiday.
When I reached the bus terminal below JB Sentral, none of the buses to Pelangi was in the bus bays since I was later than usual. When Bus 39 arrived a few minutes later, I boarded it, paid RM1.30, and waited for almost 15 minutes on it before it departed from the bus terminal.
By the time I reached Taman Sri Tebrau, where Dai Mah Garden was located, it was already 9:40am. I made a beeline for Restoran Wang Xiang Noodle (万香生肉面), right at the end of a row of shops along Jalan Keris.
I had tried Wang Xiang's kueh teow soup with sliced meat a couple of times before and I came specially for their dried kolok mee with dark sauce version this time. Again, I opted for sliced meat and pig livers as add-on. It was a set meal priced at RM10.50. I also ordered two pieces of their Hakka yong taufu (客家酿豆腐, RM2 per piece) to try and a cup of kopi-o (RM2.80).
The dark sauce of the dry-style kolok mee was not sweetened and went well with the fresh and tender sliced lean meat and pig livers. I liked the yong taufu too, specially the fleshy binjal in its sweet sauce. Not wanting to waste the sauce, I added some to the noodle. It was a great meal to start the day.
After breakfast, I would need to do something to allow time to digest the food before lunch. My usual activity would be to go for grocery or shopping if I had things to buy.
As usual, I made my way to Pelangi Leisure Mall for grocery. The sun was hanging high and scorching-hot, and I started sweating within minutes. It was the hot-and-dry season from May to July but it started as early as April this year.
After reaching Pelangi Leisure Mall 10 minutes later, I went to Mr DIY on the second floor to look for digital alarm clock but was not able to find a desirable one. I bought a set of cabinet bumpers before leaving the shop.
Stepping out of Mr DIY, I took a quick look around and noted that most of the shops had closed down with rental notices pasted on their shutters. Only a handful of shops were still business as usual. I went to Giant supermarket on the ground floor.
For grocery, I bought two different packets of instant noodles, a loaf of bread, Thai basil sauce (something new), frozen chicken nuggets, frozen chicken patties, roti canai and a can of insecticide. All items were either local produces or local-made. The total cost was RM60.45 which was less than S$20. I packed everything into my backpack and a cooler bag that I brought specially for frozen food.
It was only 11:40am when I exited from Pelangi Leisure Mall. Too early for lunch in Pelangi, I decided to take a walk to KSL City Mall. I walked down the row of shops along Jalan Serampang, checking out each of the shops and taking mental notes of the cafes, restaurants, hotels, massage spas, etc. A couple of cafes and eating places seemed interesting and I would probably visit them some day.
It was slightly less than 2Km's walk from Pelangi Leisure Mall to KSL City Mall, but my destination was Ming Ang Confectionery behind the mall. It was shorter to skirt around KSL City Mall than to walk through the mall.
Ming Ang Confectionery (明安特产专卖店) was my usual haunt for traditional pastries. I would usually get their freshly-baked wife cakes (老婆饼), chicken char siew buns (烧包) and their signature sesame heong peah (芝麻香饼). For this visit, I bought a box of chicken char siew buns (8 pcs for RM19.30), a pack of sesame heong peah (RM12) and a pack of mocha heong peah (摩卡香饼, RM12.70, first time trying this). Unfortunately, wife cakes were sold out.
I did mention that this trip was solely for food. After buying the pastries, instead of running into KSL City Mall to get out of the afternoon heat, I walked along Jalan Pelanduk and turned left into Jalan Kancil. The restaurant, with a giant roasted duck hoisted above it, was where I was heading to for lunch. The time was 12:22pm — just 2 hours after breakfast but I was ready for some food thanks to the calories-burning walk.
It was not the first time I had patronised Restoran Hao Bi (好比鸭王), but it was the first time after the border reopened. Before entering the restaurant, I noticed a new cafe right next to it. It was called August Drip Coffee (八月咖啡工作室). I would be sure to visit it on my next trip.
I ordered a dang gui herbal duck rice with roasted pork (RM10.60), lotus root soup (RM7.80) and their home-brewed water-chestnut drink (RM4). I seldom go for cold drinks, but as the weather was so hot and I was sweating profusely, I made an exception. The ingredients for making the cooling drink could be seen at the bottom of the glass — 真材实料!
For just RM10.60, there was quite a large portion of the herbal duck and roasted pork. The duck meat was tender and separated from the few bones easily. I liked the mild herbal taste. The roasted pork was crispy and did not have the "porky" smell that had stopped me from eating fatty pork for many years. It was only in the last few years that I began to appreciate roasted pork again — only if I was told beforehand that there was no "porky" smell.
After lunch, I retraced my steps to Ming Ang and then to KSL City Mall and went straight to the main entrance. A F100 shuttle bus to JB Sentral was waiting and I boarded it, paid RM1.50 for the fare and got a ticket that was printed as RM1.40. It was the same scenario as the last time. I made a note to ask the driver for the actual fare next time (Yup, the actual fare was RM1.50 alright).
The shuttle bus reached JB Sentral at 1:30pm and I headed straight to JB CIQ. As it was a Sunday and the first weekend of the June school holiday, it would be better to return to Singapore early to avoid any congestions at the immigrations.
Fortunately, the queues were quite short at JB immigration, but it still took about 15 minutes to go through. Below JB CIQ, I went to the bus bay for SBS Transit Service 170 to Woodlands Checkpoint. Since I would be using Service 160 later to get home, it would be cheaper to use EZ-Link card and made use of distance charging.
After less than 10 minutes at Singapore immigration, I exited from Woodlands Checkpoint and on my way home using Service 160. The time was 2.15pm. I had accomplished all my objectives for the day.
Technically, it could be considered as a half-day trip, but peak hour congestions at the immigrations could result in 2~3 hours of time lost in queuing. It was either to return early or to include hours of queuing time to make it a "full-day" trip or to return after 9pm or even later.
Actually, I made another trip between the two day-trips to Pelangi and KSL City Mall to visit Muar, in northern Johor, for more local food and local products. Check it out.