The capital city of Johor, Johor Bahru sits in the shadow of neighboring Singapore, almost like a little sister to the massive, modernized, and more expensive city, separated only by the Straits of Johor (a kilometer wide body of water traversed by the Johor Causeway). With a metropolitan populace of around 2 million, Johor Bahru is a sizable travel destination in its own right and is responsible for about half of the Malaysia's high tourism numbers, many of them travelers from Singapore lured by Malaysian culture and inexpensive eating, dining, and accommodation alternatives.
As far as touchstones of culture go, Johor Bahru has stately landmarks, like the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque or the clock tower at Dataran Bandara or the majestic glass of the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple. Much like the city itself, its collection of buildings aren't the most intriguing part of this part of the world. More importantly to the Embark-style traveler, you'll be approximate to a selection of gorgeous island paradises, mountain treks, and a plenitude of adventure settings. Excellent hikes can be found just a day trip away through the rainforests of Endau Rompin or Gunung Pulai, while you can dip your feet (or whole body, depending on the activity) in ocean locales like Pantai Desaru or in the proliferation of islands northeast along the coast. Combine a quick drive to Mersing with a ferry ride and you can be snorkeling off of Pulau Tioman or Pulau Sibu in no time. Then again, one could also enjoy the pleasures of sand and sun by setting out from Singapore via catamaran to Indonesian beach destinations like the Riau Islands or Bintan Island. In this part of the world, you're rarely far from a majestic postcard paradise.
For those looking to test the mettle of a people through their appetites, the cuisine here is a reflection of the diverse cultures that have come to make their home here, with dishes and restaurants that have combined the best of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cooking. It's hands-down one of Johor Bahru's true highlights. Also, as is the case with much of Malaysia, the nightlife can be great fun if you take the time to look (through our nightlife listings; see how we did that?), but it is by no means a haven of massive clubs and world famous DJ's. That being said, you'll still have plenty of opportunity to sing karaoke!
By no means just a cheap place to stay when visiting Singapore, Johor Bahru is a destination that chooses to speak for itself through its great food, ever-improving infrastructure, and proximity to coastal adventures rather than through the overcompensation of a billion dollar skyline. If JB sounds like your jam, check out our activities, pictures, and videos and start putting together your next experience.