Sunday, 8 March 2015

Review: Jalan-jalan Cari Makan at Kluang.

Hi guys,

Long time no see huh! This time i will bring you guys a blog post that is very unique than usual blog post, which im going to blog about FOOD. 

Are you excited already? 

Have u guys ever heard of Kluang before? like Kluang Station restaurant maybe? Its kinda popular in KL. 
So please allow me to bring you to discover more about Kluang, i bet you will be surprised as it is another food's heaven, other than Malacca and Penang. 

Okay, so the story starts from....... here. 

Kluang – Small in Size but Big in Charm

This is a late one, but as the saying goes ‘Better late than never’.

Last month, I was offered a weekend getaway to Kluang. Where, you say? Kluang is both a town and district located in the middle of the Johor state (in case you’re wondering, my geography sucks; I know this because of Wikipedia). The population of the district is more than 250,000 while the town itself has over 145,000 residents (again, Wikipedia). The name Kluang is derived from the Malay word ‘keluang’ which is a type of flying fox or fruit bat that can be found in large numbers in the district in the olden days but are now virtually extinct (don’t you just love Wikipedia?).

Alright, enough about the facts. As I was saying, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Kluang, and I must say I’m pleased that I got the chance. Who knew there were so many things to do and good food to eat? So, without further ado, here’s what went down during my time there.

Kluang Mall & Kluang Food Street

The first stop we made was Kluang Mall where we were whisked to the food court - Kluang Food Street - at the lower ground floor. I love nostalgic old-school designs and that was exactly what the food court looked like.

Nostalgia is in everything, from the stools to the floors to the stalls

It was designed with the intention of recreating the coffee shop setting from the colonial days of Malaysia and it has succeeded in that. Although the range of food on offer is limited for a food court, those that are available are delicious. I’ve been told that the beef noodles is a crowd favourite here and from what I gather from the compliments my travel mates who tried the dish, it is absolutely wonderful. However, as someone who doesn’t particularly fancy meat, I opted for the Hakka ‘lui char’ which is definitely one of the better ones I’ve had.

Kluang Mall during its annual GetUp! Event in 2013
Credit: Kluang Mall

After lunch, we were brought on a short tour around the mall by the management (the same peeps who organised the trip – thank you!). At first glance, the mall didn’t leave me with much of an impression. Being in the city for most of my life has left me immune to such shopping malls that grow like mushrooms in our backyard. However, I saw it in a different light when I realised that malls like this are hard to come by in small towns. Unlike us city folks, people in small towns do not have the luxury of popping into a modern shopping mall anytime they want. Brands that are household names to us are simply out of their reach.

Kluang Mall changed that by bringing in big city brands to the people. Case in point; the Starbucks joint located at the mall’s entrance is the first (and so far, only) one to come to town. Other outlets that are a fixture in cities who have set up shop here are Hush Puppies, Giordano, Secret Recipe and Sakae Sushi, just to name a few.

Thanks to the tour, I gained a new appreciation of the comforts of living in the city and an admiration for the people behind Kluang Mall who sincerely want the best for their town and are working hard towards improving it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the range of retail brands are my kind of brands!

Address: Jalan Rambutan, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Merdeka Hotel

After the mall, we checked in to the hotel where we stayed for a night. Although it was built in 1963, the hotel underwent refurbishments in 2014 so the place looks new. My main requirements for a good hotel is cleanliness and comfort and the hotel fulfils both criteria, and a little bit more. The lobby itself presents a lot of photo opportunities, and us bloggers started snapping away from the time we checked in right up until we were shown our rooms (we couldn’t resist, bloggers being bloggers).

The lobby oozing with classy elegance

Hmmm…wonder if this gramophone works

This phone works…I checked

Feel free to sit on one of these chairs and imagine that you’re a socialite…if you don’t mind people throwing weird stares your way

The rooms were not as fancy, but the designs were sleek and contemporary and that was enough for me.

Basic, clean and comfy…it's all I need

My only grouse was that there could be better utilisation of space in the room. The room I was assigned in looked sparse with just twin beds, a dresser, a wardrobe and a single-seat sofa. My opinion? It would’ve looked so much better if they had fit in a couch and a coffee table and maybe, even a work table.

Address: 30, Jalan Mengkibol, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Tong Huat Confectionary

We were brought around to a tau sar pneah factory and shop in town, where we got an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how the shop’s signature biscuits are made. It was quite an experience to see the work and skill that go into making those small little biscuits.

Each biscuit is handmade

Special mention goes out to the shop owner. As the head of the family, he shouldered the responsibility of carrying on the family tradition of making tau sar pneah. It was heartening to see him patiently explaining the steps and answering our queries. We even got to sample the biscuits and picked up a few packets before we left.

The owner himself carrying a tray of freshly-baked tau sar pneah out the oven

Address: No. 28 & 30, Jalan Cantik, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

UK Farm

The huge signboard greeting all visitors

UK Farm is not named after the country but the name of the owner itself. The farm is allegedly one of the largest goat and sheep farm in Malaysia and holds organised tours and overnight stays for interested parties. We were taken on a tour around the farm where we were given the chance to feed the goats and give milk to the calves and also take pictures with them. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me because it’s not every day I get the chance to see how goats are fed and milked, especially when you’re a city gal.

A huge goat and a hundred-year-old tree that gives you good luck if you kiss it (yes, I did kiss it)

This is how we got around the farm, in this stylish ride

Meal time

Thanks to modern times, farmers no longer have to milk goats using their hands; in fact, they use a machine that pumps the milk right out the goats

Pretty asses in a row (couldn’t resist, please excuse the bad pun)

Achievement unlocked: feeding milk to a calf

Of course, there are other things to see beside goats at the farm. There’s a mushroom farm where we get to see how mushrooms are grown and there’s an orang asli village where I got to climb up a tree house. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience for me as the structure seemed flimsy and unsafe. It’s hard to imagine that this is the home of a whole family of orang asli.

This is how mushrooms are grown

Entrance of the Orang Asli Kampung

Achievement unlocked: climbing a treehouse (so scary!)

A wishing tree; you’re supposed to write your wish on paper, place it in a pouch and throw it so that it gets hooked on the tree

A closer look; those colourful pouches hold people’s wishes

Address: Projek Pertanian Moden Kluang,, KM13 Jalan Batu Pahat, Kluang, 8, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Barney’s Restaurant

As I mentioned, I’m not really into meat and that leaves me very picky with my food because it’s hard to find good non-meat dishes. But Chef Barney manages to dish up both meat and non-meat dishes that tantalise the taste buds, as you can see from the pictures below (that said, I must apologise for the lack of pictures and captions as I was so caught up in eating that I missed Chef Barney’s introduction the dishes). It’s obvious he’s a master of his craft and the detail that he puts in makes me appreciate the food even more. At one point in the night, he wheeled out a huge chunk of beef so that we can see him slicing the meat. Obviously, Chef Barney loves a good show and we were definitely an appreciative audience!

Address: No 5 & 6, Jalan Yayasan, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Nineteen Eighties Music Bar Café

After the hearty (read: sinful) dinner, it was time to unwind with drinks and we were all bundled up in a van to head to a nearby bar. As the name suggests, this bar is set in the 1980s. It’s located on the upper floor of a row of shop houses but as soon as I started climbing up the stairs, out came the camera. There were a lot of vintage knick-knacks that went nicely with the interior décor to recreate the era. It really felt as if we went back in time. Unfortunately, the entirely place was packed and we were unable to get any seats. We had to retreat to the hotel terrace for the drinks session instead (where we still had a good time), but I believe this is all the more reason for me to return to Kluang some other time.

The exterior

The staircase leading up to the second floor where 1980s is located

Definitely not your ordinary wall decorations

Address: 2nd Floor, No. 36 & 38, Jalan Duku, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Kluang Rail Coffee

Charcoal-grilled roti kaya. Packets of nasi lemak and mee siam in just the right portion. Aromatic coffee and tea. What more can I say? After all, this is the original Kluang Railway Station. The best breakfast ever. Period.

Uncle hard at work

Each pack of nasi lemak and mee siam comes in small portions so you get to try a few packets without feeling overstuffed

Charcoal-grilled roti bakar

Address: Stesen Keretapi, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Gunung Lambak

Let me clarify; Gunung Lambak is a mountain, not a hill. So what I initially thought would be a relaxed walk turned into a full-on hike. We weren’t exactly the fittest bunch (save one or two of us) so some of us had our tongues hanging out of our mouths while we climbed. I must admit that I enjoyed it though. It felt good to sweat, knowing that I’ve had a good morning exercise, especially after all the delicious food I’ve been wolfing down since the trip started. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, only stopping for a (mandatory) group picture at the halfway point so I’m not sure if I would survive the whole trail but I would definitely love to try some day.

The trail up; this is what  I meant when I said full-on hike

Address: Gunung Lambak Recreational Forest, 86000 Kluang, Johor

Restoran Ikan Asam Pedas

This unassuming Chinese restaurant was our last food adventure before we left. It offers the typical Chinese dishes, which tasted really good (especially the sambal sotong) but one dish that really got me going for second, third, fourth (you get the picture) helpings is the steamed egg. It had a smooth texture to it and the taste was really delicious. I was surprised to find out that it costs only RM3. Now that’s an economic meal right there.

Some of the dishes that we had; the sambal sotong at the forefront is really good

Address: No 83 & 85, Jalan Lim Swee Sim, Johor, 86000 Kluang

Zenxin Organic Park

As the biggest organic farm in Peninsular Malaysia, we were taken on a tour around the farm where we were introduced to the different types of plants and their uses (some also had healing properties). We also got the chance to play with the rabbits in their enclosure. My advice to those of you who want to pay a visit is to check ahead first when manure day is. We were there on manure day and the smell can be quite overwhelming at times, particularly when the wind blows.

The park overlooks a man-made lake

One of the many trails in the park

Address: Plot 47A & 47B, Batu 9, Jalan Batu Pahat, 86000 Kluang, Johor.

Conclusion? I truly enjoyed myself. It was just the break I needed to get away from work and recharge myself. It also opened my eyes to the many wonderful places that Malaysia has to offer. I’m definitely going back for round 2.

How to get there by car: Take the Ayer Hitam exit on the North-South highway going south. The town is located about 25 minutes away from the exit. Proper signage will guide you easily to the town centre.

By the way, Ms Joann Lee is a guest author in my blog. 

See you guys soon,

Muacks, Silviana. 
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