So you planned a staycation to JB, now what?
Staycations are called such because they involve staying in a hotel within the locality. However, JB staycations have fast gained traction in the holidaying minds of locals. I love JB staycations – there are so many things you can do! And, they won’t all cost you an arm and a leg. Here are 7 things you can do while enjoying a 2D1N stay in Johor Bahru. If you’re not really in the mood to spend 2 days in JB, then you can do all these on a day trip as well. All of these places are reachable with a quick cab ride from City Square, which is where you’ll end up after clearing the JB customs. Taxi drivers tend to haggle their rates, but increasingly more of them are beginning to rely on the meter.
Food at Soul Thai – City Square
It should come as no surprise that almost half this list is about food. Let me start with Soul Thai – this place is not a hole in the wall, it is located conveniently in City Square shopping centre, directly after you clear the customs. It’s a great place to pit stop for lunch before checking into your hotel, as check in is usually at 2pm. While this place is run by Malays, the cooks are certainly Thai. Have I met them? No! How do I know this then? I know Thai food when I taste it, you can call it my gut instinct, perhaps? . The tom yum soup and green curry immediately transported me to another world – a Thai world. Okay, not so much a world, but to Bangkok. Thick and delicious, the gravy was luscious to the last drop. Try their steamed/fried fish dishes, as well. They have a weekend set lunch menu, which includes a drink. A fair warning though, the soup portions are pretty large but you won’t regret it. Promise!
Level 2, Jb City Square
Massage at Thong Thai – Holiday Plaza
Thong Thai is located at Holiday Plaza, a very old shopping complex known as much for its shady past as it is for its lack of security. So please be careful when you head here, and do not drive. I have to mention this massage parlour though, because it’s the closest you can get to a Thai Massage without having to pay for a flight ticket to Thailand. The masseurs are from Thailand, and the damage for a full-body Thai massage for 60 mins is RM80.
Level 4, Holiday Plaza
Manicure/Pedicure, also at Holiday Plaza
A full gelish mani and pedi is RM120. Need I say more? You can get Mani/Pedi services at this price in shops at KSL or Holiday Plaza. I recommend Nail Studio at Holiday Plaza, which is right next to Thong Thai.
Level 4, Holiday Plaza
Hair Cut at KSL
Getting your haircut is no light issue, especially with the increasing popularity of treatments. I normally get my hair done by the senior stylist at Tanz Hair Salon for RM50. The guy (Keith, my hairstylist) does a great job and remembers me, which is great customer service. The Tanz Salon is well known among many locals for their friendly staff and expert hair styling, too
Level 2, KSL
Seafood Dinner at Waterfront Bay, The Zon Waterfront
Now, the salted egg yolk prawns here are unbeatable. And what’s better? The Mantou. My friend went to the extend of asking where the buns are from, and if they get it from a packet can they please tell us where we can get it too (if you’re wondering, we never got a straight answer to this question). Almost every dish here is very delicious, vegetables, seafood and chicken. Try the black pepper crab, salted egg yolk prawns and kailan in oyster sauce. You can read more about the awesome food here on Trip Advisor. I know these dishes have been done to death, but this place lends them a special touch. If you’re ordering the Tom Yum soup though, don’t have high expectations (especially if you’ve already been to Soul Thai earlier in the day).
Tai Son Seafood, Berjaya Waterfront
Café Hopping at Jalan Dhoby
JB has its fair share of cafés that you can hop around. Artisan coffees seem to be a thing now, along with quant (and I mean quaint) coffee houses located behind art galleries. For a complete list of the cafés around JB’s hipster Jalan Dhoby, check out Exploding Belly’s coverage on Café Hopping in JB. Featured here is House of Caffeine, which serves as an introduction to the JB café scene if you were to walk towards Jalan Dhoby from City Square, past Kotaraya Shopping centre. House of Caffeine is located behind Putri Pacific Hotel, in case that’s where you’re putting up for the weekend. Expect all-day breakfast platters with turkey bacon, herb sautéed mushrooms and a very delicious sunny side up.
Jalan Dhoby is a short walk from Gurdwara Sahib at Little India, straight down the road away from the temple. Ask the locals, they’ll be happy to help.
Shopping – KSL & City Square
Shopping is of course a primary activity in Johor Bahru. KSL and City Square are two distinct malls catering to varied audiences. City Square has shops that cater to the more Singaporean crowd, with Jean Yip as the preferred hair salon, MPH and even Uniqlo. The stores here don’t quite provide an experience, it’s much akin to being in a local mall in Singapore. KSL, however, is a more Malaysian shopping experience. Expect bargains all over; this is where I get my handphone and ipad screens replaced and get spanking new casings for the likes of RM10. They have a large hypermart in the basement, and an awesome store that sells sweet potato fries with truffle mayo and a soft drink on level 2. Not to be missed! However, I would not recommend KSL as a place to eat lunch or dinner. Other than the usual Pizza Hut and KFC (which aren’t very good here), restaurants tend to be pricy while the food is lack lustre at best. As always with JB, get out of the mall and walk around, you’re bound to find great food on the streets!