Johor is on the southernmost tip of Peninsular Malaysia. The name Johor was purportedly taken from the Arabic word, 'Jauhar', which literally means 'Precious Stones'. This is probably related to the early Arab traders who traded spices in Johor. The name has certainly brought prosperity as today the state is among the most developed in Malaysia.
Its close proximity to Singapore, especially its capital Johor Bahru (JB), has turned the state into a favourite weekend getaway for the people of the republic. They not only shop but also take the opportunity to visit other attractions such as the beaches, waterfalls or to simply enjoy the food!
Johor is also the only state in Malaysia that has a coastline both along the Straits of Melaka and the South China Sea.
Before you proceed to other parts of Johor, take time off to visit interesting places in the state capital. The Royal Sultan Abu Bakar Museum and Grand Palace with its beautiful and well-manicured garden make a splendid background for photographs. The dome of the Royal Sultan Abu Bakar Museum is reflective of the European influence that manifested itself during the colonial days. On the other hand, the Johor Art Gallery displays a wide array artefacts that relates to the rich Malay heritage.
And if you're looking for souvenirs to bring home, stop over at Mawar Gift Shop and Johor Tourism Information Centre (JOTIC). After touring the city, perhaps you need some cooling fresh air and what better way to relax than to visit the waterfalls in Kota Tinggi. About 45 minutes drive from JB, Kota Tinggi though rapidly developed, has not lost its natural charm. Chalets are available for those wishing to stay overnight. If you're in for seafood, Kukup with its fishing village provides fresh seafood at reasonable price. Here you can even visit the fish farms.
And for those seeking jungle adventure, the Endau-Rompin National Park is an ideal place. The park is home to many unique varieties of tropical plants. The Endau Rompin National Park covers some 488 sq. kilometres of forest and is gazetted as the country's second national park. This haven for nature lovers is one of the few remaining lowland forests in the country and possibly the oldest. In 1985 and 1986, a scientific expedition identified 25 new species of plants within the area and its rocks and hills have been estimated to be 248 million years old. But that is not all, its various legends and myths add up to its overall appeal.
After enjoying Endau-Rompin lush greenery, perhaps it's time for some fun on the beach. Desaru is the place to be. Its 25 kilometre-stretch of sandy beach and the waves of the South China Sea make you yearn for a longer holiday. You can choose from a few hotels operating at the resort. Besides lazing under the sun and tanning your skin, you have an array of activities to while away your time…you can go fishing, snorkelling, windsurfing, boating, canoeing, swimming and jungle trekking.
Johor is also known for the islands off its eastern seaboard. Take your pick from these wonderful islands - Rawa, Sibu, Aur, Besar and Pemanggil. They will definitely make great escape from modern bustling life in the city.
A visit to a new place is not complete without exploring its art and crafts. Ayer Hitam offers a wide range of ceramics, porcelain and potteries. If you're already in Ayer Hitam, then proceed to the quaint town, Muar. This serene town is a good place for you to sample delicious and inexpensive food at the foodstalls and restaurants. The waterfalls at the foot of Mount Ophir (Gunung Ledang) are also accessible from Muar.
If you want to taste Johor's famed pineapples, hasten to Pontian, about an hour's drive from Johor Bahru. The town is also the staging point for visitors going to Gunung Pulai - a place for waterfall picnic and jungle trekking.
Just like any other states in Malaysia, Johor food is not to be missed. Among the popular ones are Laksa Johor, Briyani Gam and Otak-otak. Laksa Johor is a combination of spaghetti-like noodle, fish gravy and condiments such as cucumber, onions and salad. If you want the extra spicy "kick", add some sambal, a special chilli paste to go with the dish.
You should also try the Briyani Gam - special rice cooked with spices and eaten with chicken, beef or mutton. If you want something light, then try the Otak-otak. Otak-otak is a traditional grilled fish cake wrapped in coconut leaf - good to be eaten as appetiser. While you're savouring the food, perhaps you'll also get to enjoy the well-known traditional dance - kuda kepang. You'll be mesmerised by the charm of the dancers and their graceful movements.
With such fascinating features of Johor, there is no reason why you shouldn't visit this southern gem of peninsular Malaysia.