A trip to Johor Bahru, Malaysia might not excite most Singaporeans. But for me – being an expat in Singapore, I was quite excited to cross the border via coach, which is something I haven’t done before; I was keen to check out what this place so close to Singapore has to offer.
I was hosted at the Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel, a lifestyle brand within the Marriot International Group. The hotel is strategically located between the city of Johor Bahru and the industrial port of Pasir Gudang, and is the first five-star hotel to open its doors in the area. I was quite impressed with the standard of the rooms as well as the facilities.
The hotel lobby is grand with high ceiling and white walls contrasted with beautiful shades of dark brown on the furniture. There are seven different room types to choose from depending on one’s budget from deluxe and club rooms to junior and presidential suites and then my favourite, the pool terrace rooms which open up to the beautiful pool area of the hotel. Each room is equipped with a 42-inch LCD television and high speed internet access. I was set up in the lovely Club Room which is about 35 sq metres with a king-sized bed or two single beds if you prefer.
The hotel’s four restaurants and bars include the all-day-dining Cafè LBD, Cantonese restaurant Wan Li Restaurant, The Chocolate Cake Company which showcases the hotel’s own baked cakes, breads and pastries, and R-Bar which offers exclusive entertainment.
Cafe LBD, where I dined most of my time, features decor with warm and rich welcoming tones. The seating area is super spacious and comfortable. Although lunch is normally served buffet-style, we were served a set menu by the restaurant chef so we could try out a few of their signatures dishes. I also set out on a walkabout of sorts to explore to the wide variety of international and local cuisine available. The buffet features a central open-concept kitchen in the heart of the restaurant and you can watch the talented chefs cook up a storm right in front of your eyes. The layout of the food around the area features the cuisine of different countries.
Later in the evening, we were served dinner at the halal-certified Wan Li restaurant on the hotel premises. The decor is described as contemporary minimalist with large intricate chandeliers overlooking warm and welcoming circle shaped tables which add intimacy to the setting. I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m not much a fan of Cantonese cuisine so I found the dishes all a little unfamiliar, but at the same time it was interesting to try something new and experience a different type of dish.
In terms of leisure and relaxation, I really loved the outdoor swimming pool and fitness center. For the business traveller, the hotel boasts seven impressive meeting rooms all equipped with state-of-the-art technology which can be customised according to the guests requests.
On our final day, we went on a tour to explore Johor Bahru and visiting everything from the Sultan’s home to the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque – some really lovely sights. Unfortunately, the palace was not open to the public but it is worth a stop just to see the majestic entrance – a giant replica of the Sultan’s crown perched atop a very impressive arch that resembles giant elephant tusks!
We ended our tour at the Cacoa Rich chocolate factory where we were introduced to a history of chocolate and also treated to some samples of their delicious products. I probably woudn’t spend longer than a weekend in Johor Bahru, but if you’re looking for a quick getaway just across the causeway, give Johor Bahru and the luxury Renaissance JB Hotel a go.
No., 2, Jalan Permas 11,
Bandar Baru Permas Jaya,
81750 Johor Bahru, Malaysia