A day trip to Muar (July 2016)

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Muar is the second biggest town and district in the state of Johor, and is situated on the west coast. It is well worth a visit but the 2.5 hour drive from Johor Bahru didn’t become interesting until we left the main highway (to Kuala Lumpur) and drove along Route 24 into Muar. The endless views of palm trees disappeared to be replaced by a more varied landscape as one drove through small towns and villages, and drove passed trestles laden with fruits of all kinds. 

As with most places of interest in Johor, food features highly in Muar. However, we visited Muar during the fasting month of Ramadhan, so many of the eateries were closed during day time. There are two other special features of Muar; its coffee and its historical buildings of the pre-war era.

We parked just before the bus station on Jalan Maharani, then crossed the road for lunch in Sai Kee Kopitiam; a coffee house specialising in Elephant brand coffee.

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Next, our aim was to walk along the Muar River front down to Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim, but it was far too hot on this day. We popped into an air-conditioned bookshop to cool down then got as far as the Muar Traders hotel before turning back into the town centre via Jalan Meriam. Finally, we drove to Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim for a splendid view of Masjid Sultan Ismail Muar just across the river. 

Muar is a spendidly colourful town with buildings themed in pink, pale blue, yellow or grey and white. Here are some examples:

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On Jalan Merium at the intersection with Jalan Sulaiman is the Nattukottai Chettiars Hindu temple. The pastel colour scheme of this temple complex blends in well with the colours of the shop houses in the town centre.

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The oldest Chinese temple in Muar is the Nan Hai Fei Lai Temple on Jalan Maharani. 

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One of the few non-pastel painted buildings is the Customs House on the river bank, which is really quite striking.

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The Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim sits in park land at the western end of Muar city centre, and is a lovely calm space along the river bank.

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Looking across the Muar River, you can see Masjid Sultan Ismail Muar, which has a more delicate appearance.

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I understand one can take a trp on a river boat, but we opted not to do this. Still, this is an active working river and the first things we noticed when we parked our car were the variety of fishing boats moored near by.

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We also noticed what we thought were bus stops, but later saw taxi drivers around some of these strange street props, so may be they were taxi stops?

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One delightful aspect of Muar were the smells! You knew you were approaching an Indian shop long before you saw it, and similarly for the fresh fruit shops.

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I was just about to take a photo of a flock of sparrows which had been pecking away on the pavement, when they all flew away as someone else approached. The Chinese lady in the nearby shop saw what had happened, and gestured for me to wait a moment. Then her assistant appeared and threw a handful of rice onto the pavement for the birds so that I could take a photo. This was clearly a regular routine on this part of the street as the Indian shop owner next door also came out to feed the birds.

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So, if you do visit Muar, remember to come in the many months either side of Ramadhan to see the place at its busiest. And, if you can, visit in the late afternoon when the sun is less fierce.

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