Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Malaysia - Johor Bahru

Thursday, October 24

We had all afternoon and evening to kill in Johor Bahru, and didn't want to spend it in the huge 6-storey mall enclosing the railway station. A woman I had talked to on the bus from Singapore had warned me against leaving the security of the mall. JB , she said, was full of thieves and con men who would find us easy targets. Nevertheless, after storing our bags in some conveniently-located luggage lockers, we made our way down several escalators and out into a busy street. It was not an attractive area and the day was sweltering, but with the help of a map we negotiated our way among cars, bicycles and other pedestrians towards the massive fort looking out over the water towards Singapore. Unfortunately it was not open to the public, but we admired it from the outside where it cast some welcome shade.

From there we found our way into JB's small heritage district and visited the Chinese Historical Museum, three floors of an old shophouse with assorted dusty exhibits explaining the role of the Chinese people in JB history. Pretty dry stuff, in every sense, but yet with some interesting information. No photos allowed, although there seemed no-one on guard.
When we emerged, dark clouds were gathering and thunder rumbled overhead. A few heavy drops of rain caused the few people in the streets to hurry for cover.

However, the clouds dissipated quickly and we got back to the mall without getting wet or, for that matter, encountering any thieves or con men during our travels. On the way, I looked back towards the fort, outlined against the setting sun.

 Feeling hungry by now, we made our way to the mall's roof-top food court, chilly with air conditioning and almost empty.

 Fortunately there was an outside area, cooled only by large fans. There was an odd system in place where you loaded a card with a certain amount at a central cashier and used it for purchases. After eating, you reclaimed any unused cash minus a $3.00 fee. We had some chicken satay and Thai fried rice plus two bottles of water for a total of 18 MR (about $6 Canadian). Cheap and good.

To while away the rest of the time, we considered going to a movie. however, of those on offer at the mall's multiplex all were either violent kung-fu stuff or saccharine romance. Perhaps we should have picked one anyway because we ended up sitting in a waiting area where I read and wrote in my diary, Michael worked on his sketchbook.

By the time 11:30 rolled around we were bored, tired and desperate to get into our berths on the train. These were narrow and covered by a sheet and cotton blanket. The sheet didn't go all the way to the bottom, so your feet stuck out the end.
We thought nothing could keep us awake, but the cabin was stuffy and from time to time the train ran over loud, rattling sections of track (bridges?) so it was a fairly disturbed night.

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