Dave Worland is hungry in Johor Bahru, Malaysia after a long flight from Vancouver via Singapore …
I arrived at my hotel — the Marriott Renaissance hotel in Johor Bahru — very late and tired after a long travel day which ended in a frustrating moment arranging my taxi to the hotel. My hosts, Grand Banks Yachts, (I work for Grand Yachts Inc, the Canadian dealer) had arranged for a car to take me to my hotel, and they didn’t show up. After a call and some waiting, and another call, and some mis-communication, I decided to just take a taxi.
Sounded simple. But the taxis at Singapore’s Changi airport are not licensed to go to Malaysia. And despite the several credit card stickers on their windows, they take all credit cards except Visa, which as it turns out is the only card I carry.
After speaking with four or five taxi drivers, we determined my best bet was to take a taxi to Queen Street in Singapore, and transfer to a Malaysian taxi.
I awoke at 10:30 am, showered, and went down for breakfast. The Marriott Renaissance is beautiful, resort / business style with several restaurants and superbly friendly service. It was a little late for breakfast, and a little early for lunch so I asked the valet if there was somewhere I could walk to for a simple coffee, while I pondered what to do for the day.
I wasn’t expecting much, since when I arrived last night, it was dark, I thought the only thing around me was highways and concrete. Turns out, just two blocks away was a bustling commercial area with tons of shops and restaurants. All catering to locals (I was clearly the only white guy around). I grabbed my book, phone and iPad, and walked and criss-crossed a dozen blocks learning the area’s offerings. I first went into a cell phone store and got a local SIM card. 28 MR (about $9 CAD) for all the phoning and data I’ll need while I’m here.
Back to the food, it was past noon and I was getting a little hungry. The phone thing took longer than it should have because I needed my passport for the transaction, and I had to go back to my hotel to get it.
I chose a medium-sized place with shaded sidewalk tables, filled with young Malaysians talking and eating, little kids running around. The server was very busy, but patient in helping me choose a noodle dish with pork dumplings and some kind of small salty fish filet, like a dry chewy anchovy. What? No beer? But it’s so hot out, and I’m about to have a hot spicy soup! Oh well, I still haven’t had my morning coffee, and it was after noon, so let’s do that.
OMG, that was luscious coffee. Very black, very strong, and just sweet enough. I didn’t ask for sugar, but it was in there, and it was the perfect amount.
Then the Tom Yam soup. It had home-made noodles, like ramen, and a slightly fishy broth, some green onions, and those juicy, tender pork dumplings. I slurped and slobbered like a pro.
The total price was 7.40 MR (about 2.40 CAD). Tipping is not expected.
I started walking again in search of a cold beer. Surprisingly not that easy to find. There were lots of hotels with lounges, but I wanted an outside sidewalk beer. With local flavour. I saw a sign across a street that I thought said “beer cafe” but I when I got closer, I saw that it said “beef cafe”. No beer there either. But a very helpful young woman pointed me to the corner bar, outdoors, full of locals, and they served beer! I had a Tiger beer, read my book for a while, and smiled.
Photos and text by David Worland