Eating, chilling and playing with sheep and goats in Kluang (Johor, Malaysia)
Kluang – a little town in Johor that most people would think of going to for neither career nor an exciting vacation. But for those who’re sick of the busy cities or every other mainstream tourism spots in Malaysia, Kluang might just be the perfect town for you as it is very quiet and relaxing, with many relatively unknown places that offer unique experiences, awesome foods, and glimpses of the heartwarming old days, which I miss so much. In January 2015 (yes, this post is long overdue and I’m so sorry!), I was hosted by the nice and informative people from Majupadu Development to a short two-day trip around their lovely town.
(All the photos below were from my phone, mostly raw and unedited. Sorry, no time to make them more presentable!)
Getting there from Kuala Lumpur and travelling around
The distance between KL and Kluang is about 270km. Taking the very limited KTM trains apparently takes 4 hours and a half to get there so taking your own vehicle there would definitely be quicker and of course, way more convenient to travel around in Kluang itself. We took a slow and safe van ride down from KL Sentral and yet we got there in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Where to stay
There are many affordable hotels and nice places to stay at in Kluang and some of them are historical as well. On this trip, we stayed Merdeka Hotel on Jalan Mengkibol that was built in 1963 with the first ever elevator in Kluang. The hotel was only recently renovated in 2014 with a refreshed room decor, lobby, cafe restaurant and terrace bar (where you can drink and watch football!).
The rooms that we got were spacious, absolutely comfortable and on the this higher floor we were on, the balcony holds a very nice view of Gunung Lambak, which shapes like a pregnant lady. It’s a nice little place to stay for a peace and quiet vacation if you don’t need a bath tub, gym or a swimming pool. Hotel rates per night starts from RM188 for deluxe king and twin rooms inclusive of breakfast. If you seek for history, why not stay in one?
Bandar Kluang is the commercial heart of Kluang where the shopping centres, hotels and banks are at. It is loosely bound by the old town centre on Jalan Mersing in the south, the KTM railway line to the west, Jalan Mohd. Salim/Jalan Rambutan to the north and the bus station to the east.
We could still see some buildings and rows of shop lots from the colonial days back then since 1915 when Kluang was the capital for British administration and military. These areas gives that unique old skool appeal. However, according to some of the locals I spoke to, preservation of heritage is a struggle for Kluang. There’s no investment or even slight interest from the state government to restore or to even keep these colonial buildings. If you’re lucky, you’d probably get to see them before they’re all demolished and totally commercialised, which would be a pity.
Our very first stop was at the largest modern shopping centre in town which features Pacific hypermarket, MBO Cinema, Ampang SuperBowl bowling alley and 160 tenants of usual national chain stores and fast food restaurants. The feel of the mall, if you asked me, wasn’t really grand. It’s pretty much equivalent to The Summit in Subang Jaya. But it seems like a good place to shop at ’cause some of the stuff they sell here, like clothing, shoes, glasses and jade/crystals, cost much lower than in KL. If you think it’s unlikely that you’d come here to buy anything, think again. My fellow bloggers bought themselves quite a number of stuff in our short visit.
The locally made Mika Charcoal & Milk Swiss Rolls are sold here. It looks delicious but too bad by the time I took mine back to KL, it’s already rotten so I can only imagine how it tastes. The famous food court Kluang Food Street is here as well on Lower Ground Floor. The mall’s located on Jalan Rambutan and is open daily from 10 to 10 just like most shopping centres in KL.
Tong Huat Confectionary
If you’re of Chinese descendant in Malaysia, you’d definitely at least seen before these iconic “tao sar pneah” or “kuih kacang masin” wrapped in pink paper. My mother used to buy them every now and then, especially around Chinese festive seasons. You’d probably thought that they’re all produced by automated machines right? Well, no! It’s still all done by the hands of the hardworking and friendly people at the Tong Huat Confectionary shop on Jalan Cantik.
In this rare occasion, we were allowed to go to the back and see how they work their magic to make these delicious… errr… biscuit cakes? I dunno what to really call it in English. Anyway, if you’re quite an ignorant banana like me who literally know nothing about the whereabouts of these awesome snacks, Tong Huat Confectionary is the place to visit. They also sell many other similar food products produced by others. Visit their Facebook Page here (all written in Chinese though).
UK Agro Farm
Up to this point, our trip has brought plenty of old memories and warm nostalgia. But where we went next was the kind of place I don’t usually go to – an agriculture farm. The destination (Project Pertanian Moden Kluang, KM13 Jalan Batu Pahat) isn’t the easiest to get to, and the road is bumpy as hell, but going to a genuine farm was definitely something different for a change and I think most people would enjoy whole farm tour experience as much as I did. I’d consider this place the main tourist attraction of Kluang.
As soon as we got there, we were mesmerised the scenery of the massive green, green land. So beautiful and peaceful… and smelly as I should’ve expected as this is probably the largest goat and sheep herd around with over 4,000 of them here. The sheep and goats weren’t standing around on the green field for us to chase around. Instead, these poor adorable fellas were mostly caged and managed to ensure proper, humane and hygienic production of fresh milk and meat (lambs). Like any visitors, we were shown how their food are produced, how milk are squeezed out of their boobies, and we got to feed and pet them, and hold a billy (apparently baby goats are called billies).
Of course, this farm doesn’t only have sheep and goats. We fed ostrich as well, looked at large variety of mushrooms and checked out the “Jakun Village” were a real indigenous people gave us a short demonstration on how they used to live. It was a very interesting short tour for me and if you wish to have a weekend of fun farm experience, you can come stay at their chalet and go for their organised tours. The basic entrance fee is RM55 for adults, and RM45 for children. For more info, log on to their website here.
Gunung Lambak (Mount Lambak)
In the morning on the next day, we did a little exercise climbing the top natural attraction in town where it is usually crowded on the weekends by fitness-minded locals. Translated as “Flea Mountain”, Gunung Lambak has two peaks with the highest rising up to 1,673 feet (150 metres).
The entire trek to the summit is around 1.5km and for people with moderate fitness should be able to reach to the top within 90 minutes. Although it may be literally breathtaking to some visitors, this mountain is actually quite easy to climb with the pathways and wooden bridges given, no equipment required at all. However, the jungle trek does get a bit steeper and it would be challenging if it’s wet.
I thought it felt great climbing this mountain. The air is refreshing as expected with all the trees and plants around, the environment was very clean compared to other places like Templar’s Park in KL-Rawang and more surprisingly, there were no leeches. Unfortunately, due to the tight schedule of this trip, I didn’t get to go all the way. But we did manage to get to the signage (ha-ha!). My girlfriend hated it ’cause she’s not fit for these kind of activities, but I’m definitely coming here again for a jog next time. By the way, admission is free!
Zenxin Organic Farm
Kluang’s main attractions are definitely the organic farms. Like UK Agro Farm, Zenxin is one humongous zoo of organic production. It is considered to be the largest vegetable farm in Peninsular Malaysia with over a scenic of 100 acres. Zenxin’s “Back to Nature Educational Fun” allows visitors to learn and have a close look at organic growths such as dragon fruits, mulberries, mushrooms, Horti plants, herbs and plenty more.
There are also activities and programs where visitors could harvest vegetables themselves, play and feed cuddly animals, fish-catching, cycling and archery. Basically you could experience being an organic farmer all day. There’s also an organic restaurant and a farm mart for you to taste the fresh productions yourself or purchase some back home. Zenxin is truly a one-stop organic experience.
The farm is open daily 8.30am to 6.30pm. The entrance fee is only RM10 for adults, RM8 for children and RM12 for cycling. Guided tours are available as well. We were lucky to have the marketing manager Mr. Tan Wee Leong for our visit as his enthusiastic tour has really made us learn a lot of things we didn’t know about vegetables and herbs. For more info, visit there website here.
Best places to eat
Kluang Food Street
A place of a local flavours in very nostalgic setup of recreated coffee shop setting with portraits of classic movies and artists and oldies music that plays in the afternoon. And the pricing is shockingly cheap as well. I believe my beef noodles and soya drink only cost around RM5 or so and it was satisfying for a light meal. As mentioned above, Kluang Food Street is located in Kluang Mall on the Lower Ground Floor.
This hidden gem deserves a standalone article as it was one of the very best Western restaurants I’ve ever been to in terms of taste, value and service. Located on Lorong Yayasan, Barney’s is the most established Western restaurant in town with a wide range of Western favourites and probably some of the best cakes around as well. The friendly restaurant owner and chef, Barney, is a passionate man when it comes to the subject of food. He uses French culinary techniques to treat his customers to creations from his periodic travels. Everything I tasted here, from the steaks to pizzas to the desserts, was absolutely delicious.
It is advisable to call for reservations when Barney is around. If you share your preferences with him, he will prepare something unique just for you so don’t be shy! Barney’s is open everyday from 11.30am to 10pm except selected public holidays. The pricing is very fair compared to most Western restaurants in KL. If you are in Kluang and you are a fan of Western cuisine, you must, I repeat, MUST, come and dine here.
Kluang Rail Coffee
Located on Jalan Stesen Keretapi inside the KTM Kluang railway station, this is the original kopitiam opened since 1938. It has kept its old rustic ambience and traditional menu featuring aromatic Kluang-style coffee, charcoal-grilled roti bakar and other local favourites such as nasi lemak and mee siam. Customers may also purchase the coffee bags to go.
If you go at the right time just before the train arrives, you could experience the atmosphere of the yesteryears. It is open from 7am to 12pm and 2.30pm to 6pm. Closed on Tuesdays. There’s an alternate outlet with air-conditioners at Rail Hotel but why go there when you could enjoy the authentic environment here?
Restoran Ikan Asam Pedas (Spicy Sour Fish Restaurant)
This is a home-town favourite coffee shop that specialises in Asam fish head. Offering extremely good value and freshness, I couldn’t believe how affordable each dish was. The customers are recommended to go to the kitchen at the back to personally select your own fish and other seafood off the fridge. If you want to taste some great seafood but you are low on budget, this air-conditioned place is the one to go to. It is located on Jalan Lim Swee Sim, open for lunch 12pm to 3pm and dinner 5.30pm to 9.30pm. If you go late, you might need to wait for table as it’s usually full.
Ah Fu Satay / Tan Ching Hing Restaurant
I didn’t actually step into this hawker-style food centre but we did get to taste its nice pork satay for supper. Not only they’re nice, the meat of satay here is bigger and far more satisfying than the ones I tried in Malacca. The place is located on Jalan Sekolah Chong Hwa and it’s open 6pm to 12am daily but closed on Mondays.
Other places to visit
There are many other recommended places we didn’t have the time to go to, like the Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm, Yean Kean Kluang Beef Noodles, Star Coffee House & Restaurant, One Two Eight Seafood Restaurant and 1980’s Music Bar Cafe (where there’s Open Mic Night on every fourth Wednesday of the month to support local music). If you’ve been to these places and any other ones that we should had, let me know about your experience. I’d probably explore these remaining hidden gems the next time I’m in Kluang for an affordable, quiet and nostalgic vacation.