For most a trip is not complete without a spot of shopping and visitors will discover that Johor has a range of souvenirs and products that are not only decorative but also functional and fashionable as well as good to consume.
I’m proud to share with visitors, a little about the local produce and products that have become synonymous with Johor towns and districts. While some products have been exported abroad and may be available across the nation, there is something special about buying products from their places of origin.
Talk about choices! With more than 40 shops selling textiles along a one-kilometre stretch of Jalan Payamas, Tangkak earned its nickname, Textile Town, the shopping destination for quality fabrics.
In the early 1990s, a group of young cloth merchants who had learnt their trade from working in other parts of the country, decided to apply their skills by starting a textile business here. These local traders successfully secured fabric deals from the world over and were able to resell them at competitive prices.
The wide range and good prices garnered a regular clientele who enjoy shopping for fabrics in a virtual textile heaven, particularly during pre-festive seasons. Be prepared to be dazzled by the choices because there are fabrics for every purpose, from home décor, drapes, outfits, trousseaus to handicraft needs.
Muar is renowned for otak-otak, a boneless fish delicacy made from ground fish meat mixed with flour and sauces with a blend of spices like turmeric, chilli and curry powder. The Malay word for otak means ‘brains’ while some Chinese simply call it, otah.
This boneless mixture is traditionally wrapped in sticks of coconut palm leaves with both ends stitched together by tiny toothpicks before being grilled on a stove. Connoisseurs of this spicy delicacy agree that the toasted leaves add to the fragrance of the otak-otak.
Besides enjoying this delicacy at stalls and restaurants, visitors often buy takeaways either grilled or frozen. Frozen pre-cooked otak-otak in hygienic packages are now available from halal vendors in varieties made with main ingredients of fish, prawn and cuttlefish, and even fish-head with bones.
Do you know that Malaysia’s leading producer of a full range of high quality fine English earthenware is in Johor? Oriental Ceramics, a subsidiary of the Claytan Group of companies is located at Jalan Kluang, near Batu Pahat while its sister company, Claytan Fine China situated in Ayer Hitam produces stoneware, vitreous china tableware and art-ware.
These products are manufactured in compliance with international quality standards and guaranteed to be lead and cadmium safe as well as oven, microwave oven and dishwasher safe. Complete sets of elegant tableware in various designs are available for sale in their showroom and in leading department stores nationwide as well as the Claytan Fine China ceramic centre along Jalan Johor at Ayer Hitam.
This ceramic centre is stocked with a wide range of product over-runs offered at competitive prices and in spite of the warm outdoors, I enjoy browsing around here. Just keep a tight budget of your time and purse but don’t be surprised to find useful odd pieces that will complement your tableware!
In the 1970s Aw Pottery made such a strong impact that ceramic enthusiasts the world over may never part with their Aw pieces because these are now valuable collectibles.
Some of the award-winning ceramic sculptures by renowned potter and founder of Aw Pottery, the late Aw Eng Kwang, are showcased in the Aw Museum while two of its main attractions – the garden and its uniquely designed restrooms – are refurbished and restored to its former glory.
You cannot miss the entrance to Aw Pottery Studio in Macap, distinguished by a giant pair of traditional dancers decorated in pottery, with the man wearing traditional Baju Melayu and the lady dressed in Baju Kurung complete with a selendang draped over one shoulder.
The art by Aw and his family members on display were created using traditional methods from China combined with local and modern designs in a distinctive Malaysian style. For an idea of how these ceramics were baked, take a peek into the traditional 50-meter long wood-fire kiln, dubbed the dragon kiln, to see disused heating containers lined against its walls.
Long before hipster cafés became trendy, Kluang had a coffee-shop culture that started since pre-war days where coffee-lovers would linger over cups of brewed local coffee to chat about current news. At all times of the day, coffee shops here are filled with regulars, enjoying their brew with a meal.
The best part of this tradition is a special harmony where people from different cultures and all walks of life, are able to sit together to enjoy a good coffee. While coffee shops serve a range of local coffee blends, two of the most popular brands of coffee are Kluang Rail Coffee (since 1938) and Kluang Coffee, Cap Televisyen (since 1966).
Kluang Rail Coffee is still served and packaged for sale at its original Kluang railway station canteen as well as from outlets at Jalan Duku and Jalan Tasik 1, Pusat Perniagaan Tasik. The Kluang Coffee Powder Factory at Jalan Mersing welcomes visitors to watch them processing their quality coffee-beans and products are for sale at a showroom.
Dubbed the King of Fruits for its size, thorny shell and pungent smell, the durian earned a notorious reputation for its scent and is prominently banned from airline cabins and hotel rooms. But during the fruit season, connoisseurs will head to the Land of the King of Fruits for their regular durian binge.
Durian lovers prefer local durians from Segamat and don’t mind travelling the distance for their durian fix. In the old days, recommendations about quality durians were passed through word-of-mouth but now, orchards are promoting their fruits through social media, providing details of durian buffets and even directional maps to their orchards.
There’s something about the King of Fruits that makes fans go all out to have their fill of the fresh fruits like the preferred Musang King among other hybrid species like D101, D13 and XO. Its sheer durian-heaven to sink your teeth into the thick and creamy, yellow durian flesh and savour its distinctive flavour to your hearts’ content.
For fresh and juicy pineapples, it must be Parit Sikom, Pekan Nanas and Ayer Baloi where the area is covered by hundreds of acres of pineapple plantations. The pineapple industry in Pontian developed several hybrid species including the popular Josapine, a cross between the Johor and Sarawak pineapples that resulted in juicy fruit flavours that are ideal for eating fresh.
In the early 20th century, businessmen made their fortunes planting pineapple as a cash crop and helped sustain rubber plantations which took at least five years to mature. Pineapple plants thrive on the peaty soil here and with a successful pineapple industry, Johor was then the world’s largest producer of pineapples.
The Johor Pineapple Museum showcases valuable information about Johor’s pineapple industry with live exhibits of various pineapple species grown in its vicinity. Besides pineapple souvenirs, visitors can buy fresh pineapples, freshly canned pineapple jam and bottled pineapple juice.