Wednesday, June 27, 2007


For firsttimers who would want their passports stamped by two countries in one hit, a visit to nearby Johor Bahru would be a nice thing to do.

Johor suffers from comparison with Singapore, of course, because it is the nearest Malaysian state to the city state. Many Filipinos who work or live in Singapore say that being in Johor is almost like being in the Philippines. Well, yes and no. The latest news from Malaysia say that Singaporeans are also crime bosses here in Johor. That's according to police reports.

Anyway, crossing the border can be quite an experience. Filipinos who are overstaying in Singapore are notorious for exiting via Johor and coming in again, so you cannot blame the officers on both sides of the border to be automatically suspicious. Besides, I just came in to Singapore and I was already exiting on the next day! Hmmm... Here's a snippet of my quick conversation with the Malaysian border police:

Officer: Your first time to Malaysia?
Me: Yes.
Officer: How long will you be staying here?
Me: Just for lunch.

Immigration police gave me an incredulous stare, shakes his head, smiles, and stamps my passport. Life is good. By the way, 2007 is Visit Malaysia Year.

The immigration shuttle bus just exited Singapore. You can already see Johor from here.

The change in architectural style heralds one's arrival in Malaysia. This is so different from the gray, fortress-like immigration office of Singapore, located at Woodlands.

Welcome to Johor Bahru!

An example of a phone booth in JB.

A glimpse of JB's sidewalks. Looks similar,er, familiar?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital city, is about 5 hours by bus from Johor.

There is always a sense of insecurity once you get out of Singapore. In Malaysia, you have to clutch your purse tighter and keep your belongings within sight as petty crimes such as snatching is very common here. This is mostly done by men on motorcyles. Anyway, we decided to have lunch in a nice mall here, City Square Mall, which is just beside the, uh, city square. This is shopping and dining paradise. Anyway, the name of this shop caught my eye on our way up. Not very keen on subtlety, 'no?

The extra ' before S had me in stitches for a minute, but it's a nice place to have lunch if you miss the usual food back home. At any rate, there are other restos in this mall which offer Malaysian dishes at reasonable rates.

After dinner, we went around and had Portuguese tarts for dessert. We have this in Manila already so no big deal. It's just like being home actually.

Malaysia is offcially an Islamic state, but true to its tag line as Truly Asia, it also is home to many others who pledge allegiance to other gods. This is a temple to Shri Ganesha, the Hindi god who looks like an elephant. Well, he has an elephant's head for a head to be exact. He is one of the best known and well-loved representations of divinity in Hinduism. He is worshipped as the lord of beginnings, of obstacles, patron of the arts and sciences, and the god of intellect and wisdom. I have always been fascinated by this god. I just might buy a statuette soon when I find one's that's affordable.

Main entrance to the temple's gate.

Just like in the Philippines, flowers are important aspects in worship here in JB. The Hindus may be dubbed the world's best florists judging by the artful - and skillful - creations used as offerings to the deity. The street near the temple is lined up with stalls full of these bright necklaces.

Fantastic, yes? I really wish to learn how to make one.

Even in faith, there is inequality as to who can afford to buy a better floral offering. Of course it's cheaper to get one that has more leaves than flowers. Just like back home in India, poverty remains to be a reality among Hindus here in Johor.

Behind the temple, one can already appreciate the State House of Johor Bahru. It's a terribly hot day so we didn't bother going up the hill anymore.

A painting of Shri Ganesha outside the temple's gates. After this, we rushed back to the Immigration for our return trip to Singapore because it was already past 4PM and we have to get home before the rush hour, which is between 5-9PM. During this time, it's close to impossible to find a seat on buses or get a cab in the city state.
After clearing Immigration, we went down to the shuttle services that will bring us back to Woodlands Immigration office. Well, hope to explore more of Malaysia in the future! Thanks for the warm welcome and hopsitality!

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