My generous aunt, Mommy Becky always treats us with travels (see My Adventures – My First Remembered Travel and Bohol Day Tour). She always wants us to also experience her vonggacious life (see Home – Fitness First)! In this regard, she gave my cousin Vian and me a trip abroad as a gift for our graduation in 2005!
Our destination – Singapore! I was so excited upon hearing the news! Wow! Going out of the country! What a great privilege! Then we were booked to travel on June 9, 2005 with Danica Nikka San Diego, our neighbor and Vian’s classmate. She was also given by her aunt the same gift as we had.
But I won’t be writing about Singapore now. I was more privileged enough to visit this country thrice so better watch out for my SG stories next week! What I’m going to tell you now is about our little side trip to a city of another country adjacent to Singapore – Johor Bahru, Malaysia!
Malaysia is composed of 13 states that has a Partial Monarchy Government. Partial because aside from its King (having a term of 5 years only), it also has a Prime Minister with the Cabinet. Moreover, the 9 Sultans from the 9 royal families also dominate the country. According to our tour guide, it is a complicated thing to discuss so she didn’t elaborate any further. I need not elaborate this also because it is beyond my capacity to discuss politics. Being a who-cares-about-politics person, I think I don’t have the right to do so. And if you wish, just visit www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Malaysia for more information about it.
Anyway, what we had been to was just a tiny part of Malaysia. Johor Bahru comes from the Arabic word jauhar meaning precious stone or jewel. It was founded in the early 1500s by Sultan Ahmad Shah. It only has a population of 1,855 people dated June 2005 (good thing I took notes of our tour guide’s fast facts). It is located in Peninsula Malaysia and is easily reached from Singapore through the linking bridges and roads. Because of this, it receives 50% of Singapore’s annual 22 million foreign tourists up to this day.
Our first stop was the Cottage Industry Center for Batik-Making. Malaysian Batik is exceptional not just for its large floral motifs and leaves but also for its use of animal images (Islam norms forbid animal images as decoration). Aside from this, it is also famous for its geometrical designs. Nowadays, Malaysian Batik is used as a national dress to every level of the general population in the country.
Our second stop was the Masjid Sultan Abu Bakar, the state mosque of Johor. The mosque was built in between 1892 and 1900 under the direction of Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor’s Sultan during those years. It was inspired by English Victorian architecture with more of the Moorish architecture elements. It has very colorful glass mosaics inside. Plus it sits on top of a prominent hill overlooking the Straits of Johor that gives a breathtaking view.
Our third stop was to visit a Malay Common House. It was just like a typical Filipino house for we are almost the same with Malay people (take note, we originate from them). Inside the house, we were being introduced to Malay kitchen utensils and the manners they do before, while, and after eating. They just wash their hands in the table wherein they use the kendi, a water vessel that is being passed around from person to person. They eat by their bare right hand while their left hand is used to handle the serving spoons provided for each dish.
Along the way, we also had a glimpse of the Tower Clock at Dataran Bandaraya that was built to commemorate the proclamation of Johor as a city in January 1994. Since then, important public events are being held and celebrated here wherein cultural performances are presented.
We also passed by Sultan Abu Bakar Mausoleum. As a whole, Malay cemeteries possess a unique tranquil beauty of their own but this mausoleum symbolizes the luxurious and splendid lifestyle of the royalties. The elaborate burial chambers of the members of the royal families are one of a kind. Unfortunately, sight-seers couldn’t get inside the gates.
With all the significant places I’d been to at Johor, I could say that my side trip in Malaysia was worthwhile. I had experienced a little bit of the country for a while – from culture to food and people. It was great visiting a foreign land and Johor Bahru had made my first trip abroad a memorable one!
For more information about Johor Bahru, visit www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johor_Bahru.