I am actually quite a classy girl…honest…however, there is nothing I like more than popping over the causeway for a general stock up in JB, whether we are talking handbags, a Tescos shop or getting a bunch of pictures framed at a can’t-be-beaten price. Here’s what we did when we were over there last weekend…
I can’t help feeling that living in Singapore and shopping in Johor Bahru is a bit like living in Cheltenham and shopping in Gloucester, although with slightly more traffic precautions and warnings from people who tell you that you are going to get shot, mugged or carjacked than you would expect for a day’s shopping in the county town of Gloucestershire.
1. We left early for our Saturday day trip as I don’t think there is anything much worse in life than queuing on the causeway. We were out the door by 7am, checking the Woodlands traffic cameras briefly before leaving, just to make sure there was not a monstrous pile up or that I hadn’t forgotten it was actually a public holiday that weekend (in which case we’d have aborted, the traffic would be hellish).
2. We sailed through all the checkpoints and reached Malaysia in record time. We headed straight for the highly unlikely haven, the Thistle Hotel (pictured above…yes, REALLY) as none of the shops open until about 11am and you need somewhere to lurk. It doesn’t sounds like it’s going to be up to much, but it is ultra civilised. We rocked up in time for the very reasonable buffet breakfast followed by a swim in their almost empty pool – which they kindly let us use after we’d eaten, although they didn’t have to.
3. At 11am we drove and parked at the Mutiara Hotel and walked all of two seconds to Holiday Plaza – the mecca of malls for handbags of all varieties (note the obvious word I am not saying), mani-pedis, bargain blow dries, reflexology and amazing thai massage (on the top floor; if you want one, go here first to book an appointment as it fills up fast). Shops at Holiday Plaza are generally open pretty late, until around 9pm.
4. For lunch, we headed back to the Mutiara and took the escalator to their level 2 Chinese restaurant called Meisan which is surprisingly good. Our order included a whole peking duck which was great value and really very respectable in terms of taste. (On another note ladies, the loos here are good and significantly better than Holiday Plaza’s rather ropey offerings).
5. Tesco is just across the road in KSL City, however, be warned…DO NOT be tempted to go to the branch here. Firstly, the actual Tesco store was a nightmare to find once you are inside this monolith of a mall (KSL is the most gigantic mall I’ve ever had the misfortune of going to) and secondly, it was very hard to get out of (the supermarket was hidden away in the basement and there was only one working lift to get us back to the overcrowded carpark).
Instead, go to the Tesco near Jusco at Tebrau City that is slightly out of town but miles better. It’s not only a larger store with bags more choice, but parking is easy. (Jusco has a near empty branch of Topshop, among other things, with good places to eat on the top floor).
6. My lovely friend C who used to run an art rentals business here in Singapore introduced me to Jackson Framer who is based in a suburb of JB and is very reasonable for framing. I used him when we moved house and had over 30 things that I needed framing. He did a beautiful job (I am quite fussy about corners matching up and well cut mounts and like it all to be perfect) so we popped back to get a few new paintings done. He does not have much choice in the way of elaborate frames, so if you want unusual ones, he is probably not for you.
Jackson can be found at 40 Jalan Hang Tuah, 37 Taman Skudai Baru, Johor, Malaysia
T: (018) 6019 7133 639
You need to get in touch with him before you turn up as he works from him home and may not be in. The best bet is to drop him an email in simple English, otherwise a straight forward SMS will also do and elicits a speedier response. His English is actually quite good, but better in person than on the phone.
Thistle JB image courtesy of thistle.com