We arrived by bus from Pontian at a roadside. Batu Pahat has a bus station, but apparently there’s no service between Pontian and Batu Pahat. We had to take a Mayang Sari service that goes to Muar and drop us off as it passed through Batu Pahat.
Unfortunately that also means there’s no direct way to get back to Pontian. To get back, we would have to take the Coastal bus to Benut, and then change to the yellow bus that plies the route from Kukup – Pontian – Benut. We ended up extending our stay in Batu Pahat and took the Causeway Link Express back to Singapore via Larkin.
Batu Pahat is a fairly large town in Johor. It is the second most populated town in the state, now surpassing Muar which used to be in second place. Its population is about 62% Chinese, 36% Malay, 2% Indian. It was really hard to find a decent roti canai stall.
The commercial area is arranged in rectangular blocks of land. There are many junctions with one-way roads but it also makes it easy to explore as it’s very well organised. Further from the commercial area, the suburbs are also arranged in fairly rectangular, and much larger, plots of land, bordered by major roads. The land development department in the government did a good job with organising this town.
Like many towns in Malaysia, it’s very… flat. There’s lots of land so there’s no need to build vertically, although there are exceptions. Most of the town is filled with 3-storey shophouses and landed property. There are very few tall buildings and apartment buildings. The bus station, for example, is a tall building that can be seen from far. Other tall buildings included our hotel The Silver Inn, and Katerina Hotel
The commercial area of Batu Pahat seems to be the area around the bus station. It’s about one square kilometre of town area that has lots of interesting food stalls that open at various times of the day. So you really have to walk the whole place 3 times — once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once in the night — if you want to try everything. You also need 3 stomachs.
However, we learned from experiments that even though Google Maps ranks it as 4+ stars, the food is just so-so. For comparison, KFC here is ranked at 4.1 stars, so you can guess the standard of the food. We’ve tried a bunch of food such as wanton mee, cendol, sup kambing, kway chap, claypot rice, char kway teow, but the food isn’t impressive, just average. Everything in Batu Pahat seems average, even the popular stalls with long queues.
There is another area further up northeast of the commercial area. It’s where the Square One shopping mall and BP Mall are located. BP Mall is the big shopping mall in Batu Pahat. So if you go there and experience it, you’ll know that gives a measure of the town. Square One is smaller, but the surrounding area is more interesting. There’s a lot of night life around the area.
During dinner time at around 7-8pm, the restaurants are filled with diners. There was a bbq and steamboat buffet that is quite good value for money (RM36 per person), with a 50% discount for those celebrating their birthday. We got this discount because it’s Baby Tilapia’s birthday, so our bill came to RM54, or S$18. It’s a steal to get such a good meal for just S$9 per person.
One interesting thing about this bbq restaurant is that they use a sheet of greaseproof paper, which absorbs a lot of the oil, and so that the grilled food doesn’t stick to the pan.
Night life in the pubs start at around 9-10pm. If you go earlier, there’s no happy hour and the pubs are completely deserted. But if you go a bit later, they are actually full of life.
We went earlier at around 8pm the first time round, and found the pubs lacking in customers. How did they survive, we wondered, if the scene was like this on a Saturday night? But after going back at about 10pm the next night, we found that Batu Pahat does actually have some night life and isn’t the dead town we thought it was.
Near our hotel, there is a soup shop called Sup Sitam. It was a night when the temperature outside was actually colder than inside our hotel room with the air conditioning on. On some nights, we actually slept with the window open.
The shop sells a variety of soups, with the menu stating descriptions such as urat (veins), lidah (tongue), kaki (feet), and gearbox.
What is gearbox?
That is what we asked the shop staff, and he said it’s tulang. Until then, we had no idea what soup it was, what animal we were going to eat! But once he said tulang, ohhh, it’s mutton. Whew. It wasn’t some exotic animal.
The soup shop had lots of business, so service is very slow. But there were people who came after us who could not get a bowl of soup because they had already sold out. It’s that popular. And it’s very spicy, perfect for a cold day.
It’s been raining a lot these few days in Johor. According to the news, 7 districts have been affected by floods – JB, Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Segamat, Kluang, and Batu Pahat. The drains are rather full of water, but we haven’t come across any flooded areas here yet.
Perhaps it’s all the developments and plantations that has caused poor water drainage. Because Johor seems to alternate between water shortage and water surplus. A good state level drainage system should go a long way to alleviating water shortages in dry months and reducing floods in wet months.
We’ve got a few more short stories about Batu Pahat which will come later. We’ll just close off with a night photo from our hotel room.
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