The trip to Malaysia was unplanned, it is actually fault to Airbnb that it kept directing me to Johor Bahru when I was looking for accommodation in Singapore that wasn’t a hostel or any sharing type of accommodation, but still wouldn’t break my bank balance. The location pin kept moving further away from Singapore to a place that’s about 30 – 40 minutes away from the country, and this further curbed my curiosity and enthusiasm about this city, and it turns out that it was in Malaysia.
Getting to Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Relatively cheaper than Singapore, Johor Bahru proved that although not hot on the Asia travel list, can be quite a city for one to visit. After my arrival at Changi International Airport, immigration was swift and it came with a fair warning of watching my back as a solo female traveller, because the city tends to be rough around the edges. From the airport, I took a shuttle to Johor Bahru, Malaysia which cost S$10 which would take me to Woodlands CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) which would then need me to take a bus to Johor Bahru CIQ which was another S$1 to get my last passport stamp. I then left the Johor Bahru CIQ for my apartment at Suasanna Residences with a cab where I paid double the market cab rate, of course, I didn’t know any better and I was the gullible jet-lagged tourist who just wanted to get to her apartment.
As you may have figured out already, I ended up with Airbnb’s advice and booked an apartment in Malaysia. This decision was also motivated with being budget friendly, and Suasanna Apartments being really central to the city and about five minutes away from Johor Bahur Sentral and closer to the location of the activities that I’d planned to do.
New Experiences, New Travels
I arrived in the city around 11h45 and had some breakfast at one of the local restaurants and because I was in the city, finding an ATM to withdraw Malaysian Ringgit was no trouble at all. First mission was to go to Johor Zoo which is about about a 5 minute drive from where I lived, and cost RM2 entrance fee. Slightly underwhelmingly unkept, I did get to see the biggest lion and lioness that I’ve ever seen in my life (and this coming from an African lady, it should tell you), and for the first time, was able to see and feed a camel, and a tiger. This place also became my first experience of the Asian fascination with black skin, it became annoyingly heigtened when the pictures that were being taken were slyly taken with no consent, my tolerance and appreciation for my patience were practised severely here. From wives wanting this object of desire for their husbands to kids having a stare down with you, it comes in all shapes and manners.
The Culture of New Food
Because it was already mid-afternoon, I‘d been told that Danga Bay Country Gardens was the best lunch strip, and that I’d be doing myself a disservice if I went anywhere else. I delighted in a Wantan Soup and a Sweet and Sour Fish from a local, family eatery that tasted heavenly and was quite filling too. I paired that with a Heineken because it was the only beer that I recognised, but I swore to taste another one that I’d never had, and it was Tiger beer which was slightly sweet but enjoyable nonetheless. My driver then advised me to head over to Medan Selera Meldrum Walk which was about 5 minutes from my apartment, to grab a souvenir and although I didn’t get anything, it lived up to the buzz and craze of what a market is supposed to be.
For my last Johor Bahru adventure in a day, I really wanted to have an early dinner at Whisky House but unfortunately jetlag got the better of me and instead decided to order from the restaurant upstairs from the apartment building a Lamb Rendand Tok, which is a traditional sow cooked spicy Malay lamb dish that’s served with steamed rice, and while I waited, took a short dip at the rooftop of the apartment building, now THAT was a way to end off an evening.
Solo Traveler in a Day?
So, Malaysia in a day you wonder? This is how I did it, with unsettling jetlag!
I definitely wish that I had more time to explore the city and even see the many other treasures that I’m sure makes Johor Bahru a city worth the exploration.
Have you been to Johor Bahru? Or any parts of Malaysia? Id love hear from you about your Malaysian experience, solocation or not!
It happened! Exactly a month ago on the 24th of July, I turned 24 years old, and as you’re aware – it was my crown birthday and since those only come once in a lifetime, a birthday solocation seemed the only reasonable way to celebrate this new age. Early in 2018, I had planned a trip with a girlfriend of mine, which unfortunately didn’t work out, but I was determined to add another stamp onto my passport and see at least one country in Africa; this was the birth of Birthday Solocation. I’ll admit, this adventure cost a little more traveling alone (around R20 000), but the picturesque island of Mauritius and the friendliness of the Mauritian Rupee to the South African Rand were pretty compelling arguments for me. The adventure awaited …
Traveling to an African island is on my 2018 vision board, so I had started saving earlier to actualise this goal, and it was between Seychelles (which my budget wasn’t ready for unfortunately), Mozambique (the unfortunate failed trip) and Mauritius. After some research and comparative pricing with flights and accommodation, I settled on an Africa Stay package (assisted by Karlien) which included return flights with Air Mauritius (and airport transfers), a 5 night stay at 3 star Tropical Attitude Hotel (all inclusive) and complementary activities to mention a few. I’ll admit, the reason why I chose to go via the agency route is because I was intimidated at the thought of navigating a foreign place on my own, this option also saved me time, and it was with a reputable firmUpon my arrival on the evening on July 26th in Mauritius (+2 hours ahead of South Africa), I had the chance to have a walkabout at my hotel, and after I was settled, very pleased to find that they stock and import a lot of South African wine, so I was right at home. Through Kreola, I was assigned an incredible agent, Marie, who came to my hotel and helped me choose a series of activities over the duration of my stay and making a decision to not do them all was one of the toughest I’d had. Two of my favourite trips including island hopping (including Ile au Phare, Ile de la Passe, Ile aux Aigrettes) on The Love Boat (did I mention the Nigerian and SA playlist was fire?), a tasting and private tour of at Premium Distillery Rhumerie de Chamarel and visiting the capital city of Port Louis and Pamplemousses Garden which is not too far from the capital.
I could not have asked for a better way to usher me into this new chapter into my life, perhaps learning a bit of French or Kreole before I left for Mauritius might’ve given me a bit of an edge as a tourist, but these are a part of the learnings of traveling. Traveling alone as woman in a foreign, I ofcourse was worried about my safety, which was another reason why I chose to do this trip via agencies, I needed that confidence – and I have to say, I felt quite safe in the Mauritian streets, even in the evening. Coming from the airport, I even forgot my bag which had my laptop, router, wallet, passport and just about everything my life was about but I went to the Airport Police Station the following morning and ALL my belongings were intact.
I definitely would love to do this more, inside my country and outside my continent, not only to add more stamps to my passport but to add to the confidence of traveling alone and enjoying being challenged by one of life’s great litmus tests. I’d definitely love to commit to another birthday solocation next year for my 25th birthday, I’m thinking Thailand and cruising on their islands, the gorgeous Caribbean or the undisputed Contiki trip across a couple of European countries. Where’s your next vacation? I’d love to hear more from you!