Flying for the First Time Since the Pandemic: Johor Bahru


It was a litmus test, sort of. Since the pandemic happened, our first flight came days before Easter in 2022. The last time we flew was in November 2019, when we spent our birthdays in Melbourne. 

We did not hesitate. We were excited to experience the plane again despite the short distance. It was an early 40-minute domestic flight to Johor Bahru. 

This post chronicles how we spent our three days there. Watch the videos for some of our activities.



Day 3

What stood out in those days?

I am happy that I had eliminated the awkwardness to fly again. It took me a while to decide if we were going to book a short flight or a long bus ride. So, to experience both options, we booked the flight on the way to JB and rode the bus back home. It was a good decision, apparently. The bus ride was not inconvenient at all, albeit long. You can see in the video the comfortable amenities inside the bus. I enjoyed our top-deck lazy boy seats. 

I mentioned in the video that Breeze Spa is a highlight. Every time we travel, we try to include a spa in the itinerary. This one was a superb choice. Aside from being at Amari Hotel (a luxury hotel), the spa has several branches in other parts of the world. Our room was clean and cozy. Most of all, the massage was one for the books in the hands of our skilled therapists.  

Johor Bahru's cost of living is almost the same as, or even higher, than Kuala Lumpur. We noticed the prices of food are pricier than in Penang. One local said that this is because of its proximity to Singapore. Many Singaporeans visit JB for a quick out-of-the-country trip on weekends or holidays. This explains why many businesses, such as malls and restaurants, emit a certain high-end vibe. Their market includes Singaporeans or Singapore residents with money to spend.

Speaking of food, we had lunch at a dim sum place called Tasixi Hong Kong Dim Sum. JB is known for its Chinese settlers since its early history. That is why JB is a good place to explore the best dim sum and dumplings in town. Since it is my comfort food, we decided to search for the best dim sum, and the GPS pointed us to this place. It was packed, but we did not wait that long to be seated. Because we were hungry and excited, we forgot to take photos of the large array of dim sum and dumplings we ordered for lunch. The funny thing is, it only cost us RM50+ for the entire lunch composed of about 10 dim sum varieties. Maybe, reasonably-priced dim sums are rare in the city, that is why this place is a hit among diners. 

The queue at the famous Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory

One of the food places we visited is Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory. We bought two trays of banana cake, one of its best sellers. This neighborhood bakery has been in town since 1919 and is known for its hand-me-down recipe from its first family bakers. To be honest, we did not find the banana cake extraordinary. We tried to lower our expectations since it was only RM12 for a tray. So, why the blockbuster line? We wondered.

On our last day, while waiting for the bus, we decided to watch the movie The Lost City at the upscale Midvalley Mall. I liked it there because it was not crowded. 

My overall impression of Johor Bahru: it is like a mini-Singapore, with very clean surroundings, organized streets and roads, nice malls and public places, and expensive food.

When we revisit, we'll explore its beachside called Desaru Coast.