One of those things my family does frequently is to drive across the causeway for a whiff of the kampong air. While we were there, my father never fails to remind me that Malaysia looked like Singapore in the 80s. Well since we were once part of Malaysia, it is no rocket science that we were strikingly similar before. Being smaller, we’ve managed to move quicker and it’s going to take a while yet for our neighbour. But yet it’s a good thing the elders can cross the bridge to feel a moment of the past. It’s really one of those things that bond all my relatives together with the ‘back to the future’ kind of trip.
Well when it comes to driving to Malaysia, there’ll be 2 types of people who would have exactly the opposing views. The first type would say ” No no, never go, wait you kanna rob or your car kanna stolen!”. The other type would say ” Scared for what? I go so many years already also bo dai ji!”. Now there are really no grey area here and there is no in betweens. It’s either you’re scared of going because you’ve heard too much stories or you’ve been there done that and know even those stories are true, those robbers just won’t touch you somehow.
Now the truth is my family had been making trips there on a monthly(sometimes weekly) basis since the early 90s and nothing of those crimes we have heard had happened to us. But what is also true is we do practice certain precautions while we are there. I’ve compiled it into a checklist below.
1) Do not wear the prettiest clothes you have. Infact, wear really really lousy clothes for the trip.
2) Do not wear any jewelleries, not even watches. Keep all your rolexes at home!
3) When you’re in the car, lock all the doors.
4) Never park in a secluded area. Places like basement carparks or backstreet carparks should be avoided at all cost.
5) Before moving off from parked location, always check for anything unusual that is attached to your car. It could be drugs waiting for you to bring back to Singapore and they’ll come look for your car once you cleared the custom. And if you didn’t, you go take the charge for them.
Basically, if you flaunt what you have, then you’re obviously going to invite them. Another good thing for us is we’re only driving common sedans, nothing too eye catching.
If you ask any Singaporeans who visit Johor often what they go there for, then basically they will tell you a few things. Pirated disc, chewing gums, groceries, bakuteh, char kway teow, KFC blah blah but it’s just mainly 2 things for my family – durian and seafood.
My dad being a durian lover will really go once every few days when it’s in season. He will say “Aiya! Here so fresh and RM$4 per kg, in Singapore you pay $20 per kg for same quality, they charge premium for transport fees.”
Now if you are going and it’s a holiday in Singapore, you die die must take the 2nd link even it cost 10 bloodie dollars to cross it. If you want to save the $10 and go by Woodland’s causeway instead, then you should bring your packed lunch because you are going to have it in your car. You will never make it to the bakuteh or chap cai peng stall there by lunch time even if you set off at 8am. You’ll probably reach there just in time for dinner.
But we were stuck at the 2nd link a few weeks ago on the Good Friday for a good few hours. For those that have crossed the 2nd link before, you know that the bridge is very very long. I’m not exactly sure how long it is but I think it’s close to 5km or more. The speed limit is 120km/hr and I always need a couple of minutes at that speed to reach the Malaysia custom. So a few weeks back we got a shock when just after we crossed the Singapore custom, we saw something that looked like millions of cars filling up the road infront of us. Imagine a road 5km long and all filled with cars, we were moving like a tortoise in that queue for a good 2 hours until we decided to hijack the bus lane on the left and miraculously we reached the custom in lesser than 20 mins after. It is with this tactic in mind that we still dare to go on a Friday even if it’s a holiday :O
Yesterday we were stuck there for something like over an hour. A reasonable time for a holiday queue. If you love seafood, Kukup in Johor is the place to go. The setup is something like the old seafood place at old Punggol jetty(for those who remembers).
It is actually very near to Singapore and you can even take a ferry there but when if you’re driving there, then it’s a bit of detour.
The good thing is the driving journey is not all that boring, you get to drive past all kind of fruits plantation and when in season, you see them all lining up by the road selling their harvests at a fraction of what you pay in Singapore, so it’s no secret that half our car boots would be filled up with things like banana, pineapples and durians.
Well if you say “Banana is so cheap in Singapore why get from Malaysia?” Well simply because it’s much more cheaper in Malaysia, you pay $2+ for a bunch in Singapore, you pay the same amount for the entire cluster or the tier. So you can bring back here and cut them into 10 bunches and give to your neighbours, aunties, uncles, road sweepers, strangers and pretend that you’re a generous person.
Now along the way to Kukup, we’ll come across this little town called Pontian. Pontian is a fishing village and it’s at this junction where you make the turn to the famous Batu Pahat.
Sometime ago, a few good kind Malaysians told us that we can save considerably if we were to purchase our seafood from the wet market at Pontian before heading to Kukup because seafood sold at that market is really really cheap. If you want to know how cheap, it’s half the price of what we’re paying in Singapore. So we start practicing that until the restaurant owner at Kukup si bei tu lan us because we kept bringing our own seafood and obviously in that way, his earnings were cut.
We then decided that we’ll just get the fish(grouper usually) and order every every other items from the restaurant. In that way, it’s still very cheap ok?
For RM$150 you get a grouper, 2 big plates of crabs, lobsters, prawns, sotong and all other local delights like sambal lala, sambal kangkong, otah otah, fried kampong chicken and the usually mee goreng, char kway teow and stuff. Our meal yesterday was enough to feed 7-8 hungry adults and yet we only paid around SGD$60!
Where in Singapore you get that? Maybe in Pulau Ubin if you are friend with the kelong owner there.
Now if you’re going there for the first time, I will highly recommend you the kelong restoran at the end of the road and on the right side.
That is one of the few restaurants there managed by a chinese and the owner is a Teochew ah hia who still insist on doing all the cooking himself. The other restaurants are practically using cheap local labours as cooks who are probably dishing out the same standard as what you’ll get at hawker centres.
The whole journey to and back will take something like 300km and if you think for that is a lot for petrol money, it cost us just mere RM$19 to refill the tank at Johor Bahru before we crossed the bridge back to Singapore. And that’s when we went in with a full tank. You can go in with 3/4 full and make more money there when you top it up to full.
The petrol station there is literally handing you money to buy their petrol.
The Malaysian government is technically inviting you for free lunch over at their Kampong. Imagine the Malaysian government ask you to eat at Long Beach restaurant at East Coast and order every good food on the menu and when the bill comes up to $400, they hand you $350 and you just need to pay $50.
That’s the deal you’re getting when you go to Johor for a day’s trip.
Recommendation: All sambal dishes
Conclusion: Cheap, authentic food. Can’t ask for more.
Likes: All sambal dishes.
Dislikes: Hygiene standard can be improved.