Travel Diaries: Things to do in Muar, Johor
Muar is a quaint little town just about an hour’s drive from Melaka. After the Sultan of Johor awarded Muar with the status of a royal town, Muar gained a new nickname: Bandar Maharani. After spending a fair amount of time in the ever-bustling Melaka, we decided to cross the state border to experience a slower pace. Here are some of the things to do in Muar, Johor which we enjoyed on our family trip.
Drive to Parit Jawa for Its Scrumptious Asam Pedas Fish
We started off our Muar adventure with a drive to the fishing village of Parit Jawa, about 20 km south of the city. Our aim was to get there early so we could get first dibs on Parit Jawa’s specialty – “asam pedas.”
Many asam pedas shops were located right in front of the dock — a good sign that they use fresh catch for each dish. Each stall was cooking, and occasionally stirring, their “asam pedas” fish in huge steel cauldrons with an equally gigantic ladle.
The red snapper we ordered was wonderful! Within seconds, the fish flesh melted in my mouth! The asam pedas broth is a stew of chilli, tamarind, lime and all sorts of spices. Equal parts sour and spicy, it was so addictive that we wiped the whole plate clean.
Check in to our Muar Hotel
With happy and full tummies, we headed back to the city centre and checked-in at Muar Traders Hotel. It is one of the few tall buildings in Muar and the only hotel located right by the riverside, serving an unfettered 360o panorama of the city.
We specifically asked for a room facing the Muar River. It was a sight to behold – the gaping wide river flowing into the Straits of Malacca, with the gorgeous Masjid Sultan Ismail beaming from a distance.
Savour Muar’s Very Own Coffee at 434 Kopitiam
After resting in our cozy room, we dropped by Sai Kee Kopitiam for a much-needed caffeine fix before our evening stroll. This coffee shop is known for its 434 Coffee where the coffee beans are roasted with butter to give it a rich and creamy taste.
At first, we were surprised to see the shop looking like a hipster café instead of a typical coffee shop. The menu has both traditional and modern items – we tried the old-school “kopi ais” as well as the hipster ice-dripped coffee.
Stroll along Tanjung Emas Recreation Park
We then drove all the way to the other end of Muar for one spot: Tanjung Emas Recreation Park. A clean and lovely park by the banks of the Muar River, Tanjung Emas Recreation Park is well-loved by locals. When we were there, we saw many families spending time together, either jogging or picnicking.
We decided to take it easy and strolled along the riverbank to enjoy the breeze. Several anglers were fishing by the river too! We just couldn’t leave without taking a photo with the yellow clock tower, the classic icon of Johor.
Muar Food: Do As the Locals Do and Eat Satay for Breakfast
In Muar, if there’s light smoke coming out from a restaurant early in the morning, it most likely comes from a satay shop!
We started our second day with breakfast at R&H Café Sate Maharani. The restaurant was already packed by 8 in the morning so we shared a table with an elderly couple and engaged in small talk while waiting for our satay.
Once the plate of chicken and beef satay arrived, we quickly worked on finishing these sticks of yumminess. I loved the smoky flavour and the marinade, not to mention the thick “kuah kacang” aka peanut sauce. The meat was so tender that it easily fell off the sticks as well. After breakfast, we felt ready to take on the world!
Embark on a Self-Guided Heritage Walk of Muar Town
Our next destination was the self-guided heritage walk of the city. We began at Nan Hai Fei Lai Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Muar. Then we proceeded to Padang Nyiru, a pocket park with an antique English clock tower.
We side-tracked onto Jalan Meriam to check out another Muar attraction – Nattukottai Chettiar’s Temple, a mainstay of Muar’s Hindu community. There were a bunch of colonial-era buildings along the same road such as the old Courthouse, Police Station, District Office and the High School.
We ended our walk at the century-old Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim, a blue-and-white royal mosque that looks more like a small palace with its brilliant mix of Eastern and Western architecture in its columns, domes and façade.
Muar Food: Slurp on Muar’s Iconic Mee Bandung
After a long morning of walking, we navigated through Muar’s busy streets to Restoran Abu Bakar Hanipah. Our goal was to try Mee Bandung, a staple among most Johoreans.
“Bandung” means “to mix” in local dialect and Mee Bandung is indeed a mixture of everything! The sweet and savoury broth is made of groundnuts, dried shrimp, chilli and onions. The mee bandung that we tried also had poached eggs and tofu, creating one hearty bowl of goodness.
Amongst the Dinosaurs at Don Hu Jurassic Park
Muar is also well-known for its eccentric attraction: Don Hu Jurassic Park garden. We decided to “travel back” to prehistoric times and walked among the 30 dinosaurs dominating the landscape.
From the scary Tyrannosaurus Rex to the long-neck Brachiosaurus, we were amazed at how realistic the sculptures were. A dinosaur mascot was roaming around the park, scaring children along the way!
Photo credit / Don Hu Jurassic Garden Muar
Photo credit: Don Hu Jurassic Garden Muar
Admire the Beautiful Masjid Sultan Ismail at Tanjung Agas
On our last day in Muar, we drove across the river to visit Masjid Sultan Ismail. This beautiful mosque was built right by the river and is a “mirror image” of Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim, with similar colours and design.
After spending some time taking photos of every corner of the mosque, we returned to shore to admire the city’s skyline while boats and ships tugged along the river. Finally, a time to rest and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of Muar!
Hop On the River Cruise and See Muar from a Different Angle
We drove back to Tanjung Emas and hopped on the Muar River Cruise, a 45-minute boat ride up and down the river. We encountered plenty of fishing boats on the way back, all loaded with catches.
Our guide on the cruise was really informative, giving us a brief history of Muar while pointing out prominent buildings like the Sultan’s palace and Customs and Excise Building. As the cruise went right along the lines of the two mosques, it created the mirror illusion that I had been waiting for.
Muar is a small town with a big heart. It brims with charm and warmth, from its home-cooked food to the friendly people we spoke with. Planning only a day trip to Muar from Melaka would do this city an injustice — I highly recommend spending a few days here to truly soak in the town’s charm.