JB is taking the word ‘hipster' up a few notches and giving Kampong Glam a serious run for its money.
By Khalil Adis
When the Singapore authorities announced in October that Blu Jaz Cafe's entertainment licence is cancelled, it marked another dent for the entertainment industry in the hip Kampong Glam enclave.
Home to Zam Zam Restaurant, the historic Sultan mosque, bars and restaurants, Kampong Glam is a popular hangout destination among locals and tourists alike.
However, since the banning of shisha in July 2016, the area has lost its lustre as many businesses were affected.
One in particular, called Cafe Le Caire, was a popular watering hole but is now no longer in operation.
What still remains are the textile and carpet shops.
With one less entertainment outlet in Singapore, JB's heritage area is fast coming up as a viable alternative.
Once associated with sleaze, Jalan Dhoby is now home to a number of hip establishments which are popular among the young and the young-at-heart.
In addition, the shophouses are decorated with funky street art almost reminiscent of Georgetown's.
With two weeks shy of 2019, here are our top picks to explore within JB's heritage area.
#1: Restoran Hua Mui
No.131, Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Restoran Hua Mui serves a good mix of Western and local dishes and is popular among Johoreans and Singaporeans.
Unfortunately, it gets especially busy during lunchtime and that is when service standards drop.
I would recommend coming here to have your breakfast instead before exploring the rest of the heritage area.
The chicken and eggs sandwiches come highly recommended with a dollop of Lingham's Chilli Sauce.
#2: Explore the pre-war shophouses at Jalan Trus
Located at the intersection of Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Trus, the shophouses were built during the 1800s but has now been given a new lease of life thanks to the creative facade treatment.
There is also a shop here that sells vintage clothing and apparels.
Whichever you decide to check out, the shophouses here will certainly appeal to photography buffs and those looking to update your #ootd Instagram shots.
Who knows? You might just find an outfit at the boutique here!
#3: Hiap Joo Bakery
13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Hiap Joo Bakery is one of JB's best-kept secrets that it reportedly counts the Sultan of Johor as one of its fans.
Renowned for their coconut buns and freshly made banana cakes, many locals make a beeline for them in the morning.
In fact, their coconut and kaya buns are so popular that they usually run out by noon.
What makes Hiap Joo Bakery authentic is its old-school method of cake-baking which it inherited from its former British owner.
All the cakes and buns are baked in a classic wooden kiln which leaves them with a unique charcoal aftertaste.
If you still can't get enough of its freshly made cakes and buns, fret not!
You can buy its very own kaya spread to savour it from the comfort of your home.
#4: IT Roo Cafe
17, Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
For lunch, just head to IT Roo Cafe located just around the corner.
Touting itself as having "the best chicken chop in town", you can choose to have it either grilled or fried with a choice of mushroom or black pepper sauce.
The dish comes complete with a serving of coleslaw and fries.
Aside from its signature dish, IT Roo Cafe also serves up popular local dishes like fried rice and noodles.
Be sure to arrive early as it can be difficult to get a seat during the lunch hour.
#5: Chaiwala & Co. Container Cafe
Lot 2180 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru Johor, Malaysia
Owned by a former sailor, Chaiwala gets its namesake from a disused shipping container which has become its signature look.
In fact, it has spawned a number of copycats within its immediate vicinity making it a draw among photographers and hipsters alike.
Some of its signature drinks include Thai milk tea and Vietnamese coffee served hot or chilled.
You can even customise your drinks with a base comprising either tea, milk tea, coffee, fresh milk or smoothie with a range of flavours.
The only drawback is there is no wifi here so it is best to stick to taking your Instagram shots.
#6: Cafe Al-Fayeed
Off Jalan Pahang, Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Fancy a serving of shisha?
Well, look no further than Cafe Al-Fayeed which is also located within walking distance.
Prepared by tattoed servers with technicoloured dyed hair, there are many flavours to choose from with an option to have it served with ice at just RM11!
Cafe Al-Fayeed also serves up popular side dishes such as fries to go along with your shisha.
For those who prefer a heartier portion, the cafe also offers a wide selection of Western and local dishes at very reasonable prices.
Music can get a tad bit loud with popular hip-hop tunes and EDM club bangers blaring from the speakers.
Ok, we don't really have a specific address here but it will be hard to give this wellness establishment a miss as it is housed within a red-hot container along Jalan Dhoby.
Offering foot massage and traditional Malay urut, Santai2 is a welcome respite after all those walking.
Foot massage starts from around RM45 while a full body traditional Malay urut is priced from RM65.
Both male and female therapists are available.
#8: Pasar Karat
Jalan Segget, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Stock up on those pomades in various fragrances or shop for handphone covers at this night market located just a stone throw's away from the heritage area.
Pasar Karat, which means rusty market, comes alive from 7 pm onwards and attracts a strong Johorean crowd.
Selling just about anything from exotic pets to Malay kuehs, the night market gets especially busy during Ramadan as many would throng the market as they gear up for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
An independent analysis from yours truly