Thursday, December 23, 2010

Travel: Muar

Muar new Clock Tower

Muar River

Muar District is a district in the state of Johor, Malaysia. The name "Muar" is also used for the name of its district, which formerly sub-divided between the Town of Muar and the sub-district of Tangkak. Tangkak sub-district has been upgraded into a full district known as Ledang District. 

Muar district formerly borders Malacca on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Upon the upgrading of Ledang District, the Muar District now covers only the area on the southern portion of Sungai Muar, whilst the northern side is now within Ledang District. However, both administrative regions are still collectively called Muar by their residents.

Muar District formerly covers 2346.12 km2, with a population of 328,695 (2000). The name originated from the word Muara or estuary in Malay.

Muar Town or Bandar Maharani is a town geopolitically situated in the Muar District in the region or area of Muar in northwestern Johor, Malaysia. It is the main and biggest town of the bigger entity region or area of the same name, Muar which is sub-divided into the Muar district and the new Ledang district, which was upgraded into a full fledge district from the Tangkak sub-district earlier.

Muar also known as Bandar Maharani is said to have other name earlier and the name itself Muar is believed to have originated and derived from its geographical location at the mouth or estuary of Muar River as the following different version of theories:

TELUK DALAM : Muar was formerly known as Teluk Dalam meaning "the deep bay" may be derived from its location at the estuary or the structure of the mouth of the Muar River which is wide open and deep; based on a sentence in one part of Hikayat Malim Deman; as in :-

MUAR belum bernama MUAR , MUAR bernama TELUK DALAM.
(MUAR has not been named MUAR , MUAR called TELUK DALAM.)

MUARA :Muar name is said to be the summary for this old Malay word Muara meaning "the wide open estuary".

MUAK :Means "bored" or "tired" in paddling the boat travelling along the river which is large and curvy by the peoples in the early days. The peoples started calling the river and place Muar deriving from the word Muak after a long time since then.

MUNU-AR/MUAR/MUNAR/MU-ARU :Muar may be a combination of the Sanskrit Hindu language words Munu meaning "three" and Ar which means "river". The old Tamil word Mu-Aru also means three rivers. There was a large state in South India which have three important rivers merged into one called Muar or Munar('Three Rivers State'). When the Indians traders came to this country to trade and look for gold during ancient time, they found the three rivers; the Sungai Muar, Sungai Serting and Sungai Pahang meets and merged into Sungai Muar just like in the state of Munar in India, thus they named this river as Muar copying the name of Munar in India. Muar name is said to be derived from these words and names.

BUKIT MOR :There is also a hill not far from the Muar near Parit Jawa in the south of the "Padang" area called Mor Hill or Bukit Mor which may be the origin of the name of Muar.

BANDAR MAHARANI :Modern Muar Town was officially opened and conferred Bandar Maharani title by Maharaja Abu Bakar meaning the Town of Empress the namesake of Maharani Fatimah who also graced the grand inauguration ceremony of the new town on 12 August 1887, to symbolically representing and recognizing the prominence status of Muar as the 2nd important and biggest town and district of the state of Johor after the Johor Bahru capital city in those days.

There a few famous old historic legends which evolved around the area of Muar namely, Hikayat Malim Deman (Epic of Malim Deman), Legenda Lembing Awang Pulang Ke Dayang (Awang's Spear Return to Dayang Legend) and Legenda Puteri Gunung Ledang (Mount Ledang Princess' Legend).

Muar is rich in history as mentioned in many historical records and archeological evidences. It is believed that the history of Muar started much earlier than the Sultanate of Malacca. There were many accounts recorded and said about the early history of Muar. 

In 1361, it was claimed Muar as a colony part of the Majapahit empire. Another account had also stated that Parameswara, upon his exile from Temasik before proceeding to found Melaka, had established a settlement at Kota Buruk, Pagoh, Ulu Muar, Muar witnessing the beginning of the Malacca Sultanate empire. Historically, Muar was also where the deposed heir of the Malacca Sultanate escaped to in 1511 following the invasion of the Portuguese, launched from Goa. 

During the Portuguese's Afonso de Albuquerque invasion and attack in 1511, Muar played a role in resisting the Portuguese occupation of Malacca, the Kubu Bentayan fort was built by the last Sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mahmud to repel seaborne invasions, before he was defeated and retreat further to Pagoh. 

This time witnessing the fall of the Malacca Sultanate empire. During the Portuguese occupation era, the Portuguese had built a fortress named Fortaleza de Muar to defend the colony against the attack of Dutch and Aceh instead at the same strategic site of Bentayan. The colonial British did just about the same thing at the Muar River site near Bentayan in defence against the advance of Japanese Imperial Army in the Battle of Muar in the 2nd World War. 

Muar is also the home for the one and only tomb of the 7th Malacca Sultanate, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah I (1477–1488). During the time of the beginning of Bugis immigration from Sulawesi Indonesia and their influence in Johor Sultanate, the famous five Bugis pioneer prince-brothers sea-warriors or rather pirates from Sulawesi, Indonesia; Daeng Marewah, Daeng Parani, Daeng Celak, Daeng Manambun and Daeng Kemasi said to have come to reside in Liang Batu, Lenga, Muar before they and their descendants become the influential Temenggungs and even rulers later.

How to Get There?
Besides federal roads, Muar is also accessible via the North–South Expressway, Malaysia through the Tangkak and Pagoh interchanges exits which are located 20 km and 30 km from the town, respectively.

Nearest airports to Muar are the Malacca's Batu Berendam International Airport, Johor Bahru's Senai International Airport and the Sepang's KLIA and LCCT airports. While the nearest train railway stations are Segamat or Seremban and Kluang. Transfer by bus or taxi has to be taken from these airports and rail stations to redirect to Muar.

There are also express bus coaches to all the nearby towns and the major cities of Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Malacca, Kuantan, Ipoh, Penang etc. and also Singapore and Hat Yai (south Thailand). There are two bus stations in Muar; Hentian Maharani Bus Station and Bentayan Express Bus Station (formerly Pagoh Bus Station).

Ferry services to Dumai, Sumatra, Indonesia is also available on regular basis, departing from the Custom Jetty. Muar is the only district (besides the state capital Johor Bahru) in Johor that has its own Custom and Excise Duty Department office and checkpoint at its own jetty.
Traveling in town easily can be done by walking, or by taking a trishaw, public bus and taxi.

Infrastructure and Architecture
Sultan Ismail Bridge, the first bridge across the Muar River is the landmark of the town, build in 1960 and completed in 1962 to replaced old ferry services in 1960s.

The new Muar Second Bridge connecting Parit Bunga at the north and Sabak Awor at the south across the river is part of the 13 km Muar Bypass highway that was completed in 2005 is the latest landmark of the town. The highway that traverses through the outskirts of the town has ease the journey by diverting the traffic from Muar town.

Muar with status as an important trading and administrative town in the state of Johor for both the colonial British and the old Sultan's Johore State governments in the early days has contributed in shaping the landscape of the town.

In the town centre, rows of well preserved pre-war commercial buildings still dominate the town’s architecture. There are many old shop houses and Chinese guilds and associations buildings with unique and beautiful elements in their structure and achitechture still preserved in the town.

Further up the town along the river where the main government administrative area located at the Jalan Petrie, Jalan Othman, Jalan Junid and Tanjung Emas area, many magnificent government buildings with the British colonial achitechture influence are easily visible. 

The Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim mosque, the Sultan Abu Bakar Building, the High Court Building, the Police Traffic Department building, the Muar High School building, the old Telekom building, the Jabatan Kerja Raya(JKR) building, the 2nd Battalion Rejimen 501 AW's territorial army camp building, the Custom Department building and the official District Officer resident and others government official resident houses are the many old, heritage and historic buildings still standing in the area. 

The Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim mosque with the English Victorian style architecture and its identical Masjid Jamek 2 Sultan Ismail mosque on the opposite side of the river provides a majestic view. Appreciating the splendour these the priceless heritage buildings accompany by the beautiful colonial influenced landscaping of rows of big shady trees by the riverside garden at Tanjung Emas park now would bring one’s memory back to the nostalgic yesteryears colonial times and also the past glory of the town.

Muar being the northern royal town of Johor have an official royal palace with a helipad situated at the Muar river bank at Jalan Petrie near Tanjung Emas.

Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim, Tanjung Emas - completed in 1930 and was officially opened by Johor's Menteri Besar, Dato Mustafa bin Jaafar to replace the old wooden building build in 1887. Located along Jalan Petri, close to mouth of Muar River. The building captures an unusual combination of the Anglophile's Victorian and Moorish architectural influences similar to the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque in Johor Bahru will be of interest to any visitor with a fine eye for aesthetics.

Masjid Jamek 2 Sultan Ismail

The view from Muar River Cruise

Masjid Jamek 2 Sultan Ismail, Tanjung Agas -built in 1999, on the opposite bank of Muar River in Tanjung Agas, is exactly an identical replica of the Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim. The 2 majestic mosques are just like reflection image of each other on the other side of river is a breathtaking sight at the mouth of Muar River. This 2nd mosque can accommodate 5,000 Muslim congregations at any time.

Bukit Kepong Police Station

Gallery and the story of Bukit Kepong tragedy

Balai Polis Bukit Kepong - This police station at Bukit Kepong with a history museum is famous for the brutal attack by the notorious communist terrorists on 23 Februari 1950 in the Bukit Kepong Incident during the Malayan Emergency period.

Kubu Bentayan - The last fortress of the retreating last Malacca Sultanate's Sultan Mahmud Shah before it falls during the attack of the Portuguese in the 15 century situated at mouth the Sungai Bentayan, the Bentayan Express Bus Station (formerly Pagoh Bus Stand) location now. Another fortress but built by the Portuguese later, Fortaleza de Muar was also believed to be situated at the same area.

Makam Panglima Lidah Hitam, Parit Sakai - The grave of a legendary Malay warrior Panglima Lidah Hitam (the Black Tongue Warrior) or Baginda Zahiruddin from Padang Pariaman, Minangkabau, Sumatera, Indonesia; the founder Silat Lintau, whose tongues was black in colour when he died and buried in Parit Sakai Laut, Jalan Junid, Muar.

Makam Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah I, Kampung Raja, Pagoh - The tomb of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah I, 7th Sultan of Malacca Sultanate from 1477 to 1488 is located at Kampung Raja, Ulu Pagoh.

Tapak Sejarah Kota Buruk, Jorak - The Kota Buruk fortress historical site located at Tanjung Selabu, Jorak, Bukit Pasir, Pagoh, Muar is where the founder of the Malacca Sultanate, Parameswara, stayed for more than 10 years upon his exile from Temasik before proceeding to open Malacca. It is said another historic fort 'Biawak Busuk', opened by Parameswara, is also located just nearby.

My friends and me at Grisek Hot Spring

Grisek Hot Spring - The natural wonder of hot springs can be found in the district of Muar, about 10km from Parit Jawa town. Like many other hot spring spots in Malaysia, the Grisek hotsprings is more popular with local visitors who believe in the benefits of the hot mineral waters to soothe musle aches, and provide some relief to certain skin ailments. The hot spring area has chalet, bathing and parking facilities, a children's playground and some shops.

Replica of Durian

An old locomotive train

Tanjong Mas Clock Tower

Muar Asam Pedas

Tanjong Mas Food Court

Tanjung Emas Park - If you're Muar and looking for a quiet place to lay out the blanket and enjoy reading a book in the warm morning sunshine, Tanjung Emas recreational park overlooking Muar River is the place to go. This recreational park has a food court offering local delicacies if you get a little hungry- try the ikan asam pedas (fish cooked with tamarind sauce and chilli paste) for which this town is famous. There's plenty of rest shades if the sun gets too hot and also a children's playground to keep the little ones amused. Nearby, there is a government rest house offering accommodation in a garden environment for visitors looking to stay in Muar overnight.

Wooden chalets

Asam Gelugor tree

A tram provided for visitors

Nasuha Herbal Restaurant

Nasuha Herbs and Spices Farm - The farm is located at the 19 Km of Jalan Muar Pagoh, Johor and was featured in the “Jalan-jalan cari makan” TV3 program. The farm covers an area of over 3200 acres, known to be the largest Herbs and Spices farm in Asia, producing 6 to 10 metric tonnes of raw herbs and spices each day. The farm is planted with 135 types of herbs collected from all over the world.

The farm practises organic fertilization technique to prevent chemical contamination. There are a restautant, a herbal SPA, a resort and a processing plant inside the farm. Nasuha Herbal Restaurant beckons visitors with it’s uniquely crafted decorations that touches on nature and health-themed creations. The restaurant serves a variety of spicy and herbal cuisines with 8 selection of herbal teas based on individual specific health needs or merely just for general health.

Dormitary, villa and cottage can be rented from RM30 per person for dormitary up to RM600 for a cottage.

The Therapeutic Health Spa consist of 3 lodges. Each of these lodge has 2 sauna rooms that can accommodate 2 to 4 persons each time. These lodges are built from a combination of designs from Japan, China, Korea, Finland, Egypt to obtain the most effective herbal sauna. The saunas are heated using steam from underground. The rocks are slowly heated to 90 C. Herbal infused water is then splashed at the rocks to produce steam, thus giving a refreshing aroma and formation of negative ions which is beneficial to health.

Group tour can be arranged to visit the farm, bird watching, hiking, etc. and stress management course is also offerred to public members.

Location - From PLUS highway,  get out at Pagoh Interchange and follow Jalan Muar-Pagoh to Muar direction. Nasuha Herbs and Spices Farm is at about 5 Km from Interchange and is situated on your left hand side. From Muar city, take the Jalan Pagoh to PLUS  highway, the farm is at 19 Km.

Muar Market

Muar 2nd Bridge

Muar Traders Hotel

The new commercial centre

Fisherman complex

Muar 2nd Bridge

Muar Marina

Muar River Cruise - Muar river cruise from Tanjung Emas to Second Bridge is a refreshing experience for locals and tourists as well. The cruise takes about 40 minutes and tickets are priced RM10 for adults and RM5 for children below 12 years old.

The boat is made from cengal wood with a full capacity of 40 persons and safety jackets  must be wore at all times during the cruise. This cruise is ran by a private company since 1997.

Tanjung Mas Jetty

Tanjung Mas Jetty - The jetty is river cruise landing and departing point, located at the Muar river estuary. The Muar marina club is beside the jetty. It was opened on 13 August 2002.
Along the cruise journey, you are able to view the skyline of Muar city with a several Muar famous historic buildings on the riverbank. 

Muar and Johor Cuisine

Muar Putu Bambu

My favourite, Muar Cendol

Local delicious Malay foods; Mee Bandung, Rojak Petis, Satay and Asam Pedas are the signatture foods of Muar. And don't forget delicious Javanese foods like Soto, Mee Rebus, Lontong and Nasi Ambeng. 

Locals are famous of eating goreng pisang(fried banana) and goreng tempe (fried Javanese fermented soya bean cake) with thick soya sauce with hot chili deeping. The local version Nasi Beriani Gam is good dish too. Ikan bakar; freshly catched, delicious dan cheap grilled fish and sea foods like prawn, squid, crab, mussel, clam etc., best eaten with banana leaf wrapped Nasi Lemak are available at Medan Ikan Bakar Sabak Awor, Jalan Bakariah and Medan Ikan Bakar Parit Karang, Kesang every evening. Mee Siput; a local delicious snack eaten with sambal, local chili paste condiment; only can be available in Muar. 

Johor Laksa is another delicious local food. Here are some tips: Eat Satay and Mee Rebus as the locals do for breakfast in the morning, mee bandung for lunch, rojak petis for afternoon and asam pedas at Parit Jawa for dinner.

Putu Piring Muar

I love it!

There are also many Chinese restaurants and Malay food stalls offering variety of delicious foods on their menus. On different days of the week there are Pasar Malam or night markets and Pasar Tani selling many local foods at different locations of the town. 

We can also can find some good Indian continental cuisine like Banana Leaf Rice, Nasi Kandar, Mee Rojak, Rojak Mamak, Putu Mayom, variety of bread like Roti Canai, Roti Telur, Roti Sardin, Roti Prata, Roti Jala, Tosei, Roti Nan, Murtabak, Kebab with their superb Indian curry and dal gravy; great soups like Sup Kambing, Sup Tulang and Sup Ekor; and not forgeting refreshing cold dessert; Ice Shaved Cendol with thick coconut milk and coconut brown sugar and Teh Tarik at some Indian foods stalls and restaurants.

Pau Maharani

Muar is popular for its Sirap Bandung (Rose Syrup with milk and optional soda and cincau) beverage which is normally served during Malay wedding reception, but also easily available at most Malay food stalls and restaurant. Do try the Corn Milk Drink at the Tapak Pasar Tani Lama by the bus stations. Pear Juice sold at the fruit stalls at Jalan Yahya is very special and refreshing.

Visiting some restaurants and coffee shops in Muar would give nostalgic experience since the environment and food/beverage being served have not changed since the 60s and 70s. Coffee bean and powder of Muar is famous among the locals and tourists, try out a cup of this aromatic Muar coffee, the butter and kaya spread roti bakar (bread toast) and half-boiled egg at Sai Kee 343 Kopitiam, located just opposite the bus station.