Street Photography: Johor Bahru

Here are some photos taken along the busy Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia.  There are a few budget hotels here and cook food are within easy reach.  For fast food just head for Johor Bahru City Square, that’s the mall on the right side of the pic of the woman in black and the top pic on the right column.

The Birds At Lido Beach

Lido Beach, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

I have been frequenting Lido Beach a few times now to photograph the birds there. Lido beach is situated in the city of Johor Bahru on the left side of the causeway facing the Strait of Tebrau which lies between the State of Johor, Malaysia and Singapore. Sadly the water now is not what it was like in the 70s. Then the water was clear and green but now it is murky and dark. Blame it on industrialisation and the causeway which exacerbates the condition by impeding the free flow of the water. Given the right quality of water, the strait is perfect for breeding marine life. It is well protected from the harsh environment of the open seas.

The intention of this article is to show the variety of birds that can be seen there as the images that I have are not good enough. I am still figuring out what is lacking, be it on my part or the equipment that I have. The shooting distances are quite far and the Egrets take flight if I come too close. I do not want to be looked like I am camping there as I do not want to attract attention. Already by just being casual with a long lens, I got a few friendly approach by people to chat with me.

You get to see many species of birds at Lido beach if you stay long enough. One just fly pass along the strait to the east and return in the evening flying west. This is what the White-bellied Sea Eagle is observed doing. Some at times stay awhile, a case of the Red-backed Sea Eagle (or Brahminy Kite). Others make Lido beach part of their hunting or play ground.

Here are some pictures of the birds shot at Lido Beach. I have yet to get images of crows, pigeons and if possible swiftlets. Swiftlets fly non-stop after leaving their nests, never perch, and they are small, dark and swift. Just perfect for a blurry image.

White-bellied Sea Eagle flying along the strait

Red-backed Sea Eagles resting

Duck flying alone (found out it was cormorant)

Love to see these cormorants fly, skimming just above the water. Amazing speed

Javan Mynas

Kingfisher with crab

Heron in flight

Egrets in flight

Another kind of long neck, the Milky Stork

Little Tern

Here’s the rest that I yet to know the species;

I don't think its the sparrow (Scaly-breasted Munia)

The rest are quite camouflage (Sandpiper)

Very agile

Looks like a kind of Raven (Glossy Starlings)

Accommodations & Getting Around Singapore and Beyond

Cavenagh Bridge and Fullerton Building (presently being used as a hotel), two of the old icons of Singapore

Singapore is an island city state that it is possible to visit various locations in a day thanks to the excellent public transport. All you need is just an EZ-Link Card to travel around by the local buses and trains services. These trains services are termed the Mass Rapid Transit, or the MRT for short. The EZ-Link Card can be bought at any 7-Eleven convenience store or any train station for S$10 or S$12 with an initial value of S$5 or S$7 respectively. You need to top-up the stored value for another S$10 at least if not more. It depends on the frequency of your ride and note that if you top-up at 7-Eleven store there will be a service charge of S$0.50 as of this writing and no additional charge if you top it up at any train station. Past midnight you only have taxis for transport and there is a surcharge of 50% on top of the meter reading.

Robinson Rd not busy as Orchard Rd. Exit at Tanjong Pagar MRT Station

There is a new dormitory hostel that I had just found out called City Backpackers in Chinatown area. Previously I only knew of the one in Bencoolen Street which has been around for ages. For budget hotels, go look for it at Changi Road. These hotels are a walking distance to the train station plus you can find many local eateries nearby and some open past midnight if not 24 hours. There are many budget hotels in Geylang Road just after Changi Road towards the city but look for one near the junction of Paya Lebar Road (near the Paya Lebar MRT Station.) The other hotels in Geylang Road further down the road between Lorong 1 and Lorong 22 may be attractive to some. They are in a district associated with a certain colour and besides the full daily rental they also rent out the room for 3 hours for lesser amount. It is not for transit passengers and I think you get the idea. Many budget and reasonable hotels can also be found around the famous Mustafa Shopping Centre (there’s a supermaket too) which opens 24 hours daily at Serangoon Road area otherwise known as Little India. Quite a number are found at Jalan Besar just east of Bencoolen Street and a walking distance to Mustafa Shopping Centre. Still, if you want to stretch your dollars further, then stay in budget hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and come to visit Singapore in the daytime and return to Johor Bahru by night.

Hotel 81 and Tristar Inn, a walking distance from Paya Lebar MRT Station

Another hotel along Changi Road, near to Eunos MRT Station

What about premium hotels? I don’t have to mention it, they are in abundance and mostly in the city and business district area, the popular tourist shopping belt of Orchard Road.

Typical settlement in Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

From Singapore, you can go travelling to the neighbouring regions. There are ferry services to Riau Archipelago, Indonesia at Tanah Merah and Harbour Front ferry terminals. You can go to Peninsula Malaysia (West Malaysia) by train, bus or taxi. There is a bus and taxi terminal at one of the ends of Queen Street that creates a T-junction with Arab Street. The other end meets Bras Basah Road. Here you can choose to go to Johor Bahru, Malaysia via express or non-express bus or taxi. Or, you can take the MRT and go north closer to the border to Kranji MRT Station where there are buses operated by two different companies that will take you across the causeway to Johor Bahru. The alternative to Kranji MRT Station is to go to Woodlands MRT Station and beneath the station there is a bus terminal, look for bus service number 950 to Johor Bahru. Please note that once you are done with the Singapore Immigration and Customs checks make sure you board the same bus (service number) or at least the bus operated by the same company. Failing to do so you will be charged for the fare again.

Queen Street Bus Terminal

Kranji MRT Station. The railing on the left is where the queue for the buses. There are two railings one for each of the two bus operators

Woodlands MRT Station. Below is a bus terminal. The railing ahead of the bus pictured here is where the queue for service 950 to Johor Bahru

There are other express bus terminals with buses that go to other states in Malaysia which you can read here. But frankly if you are on a budget it is best to go to Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru for express bus services to other states in Peninsula Malaysia. Not only there are more choices, it is cheaper too.

I did not mention specifically the train service from Singapore to Johor Bahru because it is a short distance and there is no shuttle service except for the daily schedule services to Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan with stopover at Johor Bahru, but then it is cheaper to get the ticket in Johor Bahru. From Malaysia you can continue with the train journey up to Bangkok at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia. This train travels overnight and takes about 22 hours to reach Bangkok. It sounds disheartening but at least it’s a train journey with sleepers and not a bus journey plus you save the price of a one night hotel stay. Do not expect the landscape to change dramatically once the train crossed over to Thailand because culture wise it is about the same within the border areas, the only difference is that you begin to see Thai temples come into view ever increasingly in frequency.

Hua Lamphong Train Station, Bangkok. The journey from Butterworth ends here. There are a few budget hotels along the road seen here on the right side of the picture. Picture shot from Station Hotel

If only there is a train link in Cambodia or Laos, it would then be possible to travel overland by train all the way from Singapore to Europe via China and Russia. At the moment, this is only possible if you can make it from Thailand to Vietnam via Cambodia or Thailand to China via Laos by whatever means you can overland. Its a dream that is not impossible.

Note: I write this article hopefully it will be of help to budget travelers like me. Wish you a happy and safe travels.

Update 11 October 2013

Well I have read it somewhere that they gonna built high speed rail from China right up to Singapore through Laos. It will be in phases. For starters one is from Laos to Thailand and the other from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and it will not be solely for passengers.  I don’t know if I have the chance to experience it but it is good to know it is in the pipeline. Cheers to it.

Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque

I was on my way to Singapore and decided to drop by Lido beach at Johor Bahru. My intention was to see if I could get good shots at the Herons and Egrets there since the lighting was good. It was high tide and so no Egrets wading to see. As for the Herons, I had never seen it wading. All the while they stood still on the floats put up by the road works contractor. I wondered how they feed themselves. A few moments of observing them I got to see it. The fish came in schools and all the herons needed to do was stand still on the float and when the fish swam under, they just picked it. There was also a lone duck cormorant. For whatever reason it was left stranded, it had made the Lido beach its hunting ground and made it clear to stay well away from the beach.

Later in late afternoon I decided to walk to Johor Bahru city centre, snapping away at some of its buildings. The sky soon turned overcast but I did stayed till twilight to get that blueness in the sky. When the sky was really dark, I set off for Bangunan Sultan Iskandar where the Immigration and Customs checkpoint to and from Singapore was situated.

Here are the pics:

Upgraded Roads

Lone Cormorant

A school of fish

Easy picking

Easy shot

Johor Bahru High Court

Johor Bahru City Council

Bus and taxi stop opposite the Post Office

Milestone…eh, KMstone…eh, Klikstone…hmmmm

Old shophouses

It was once a canal, covered and turned into a garden walkway

Budget hotels at Jalan Wong Ah Fook

City Square Tower

Promotional show at City Square atrium. Many from Singapore come here too

Jalan Wong Ah Fook, the heart of JB. Part of City Square building is seen on the left

Bangunan JB Sentral opposite City Square which housed the new JB Railway Station and linkway to Immigration checkpoint to and from Singapore

Train ticket counter at Bangunan JB Sentral

Update:

(Update to Update 20/07/2015:  The Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya has ceased to exist.  The place is now under development.)

Additional information and pictures for travellers. The Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya despite its name it is a bus and taxi terminal and situated at Jalan Trus which runs parallel to Jalan Wong Ah Fook. The taxis and buses here are for cross border services to Singapore. Bus service number 950 ends at Woodlands MRT Station, Singapore, while bus service number 160 and taxi end at Kranji MRT Station and Queen Street Bus Teminal respectively (update 22/12/2014: Bus services has been discontinued). A walking distance to the budget and premium hotels, and to the immigration checkpoint at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar which is just next (behind) to the JB Sentral building. There is also shuttle bus service to Senai Airport and as for buses to other states in Peninsular Malaysia, you have to go to Larkin Bus Terminal. If you are coming from Singapore by bus and intend to go to City Square, just walk after you cleared the immigration and customs clearance. Follow the crowd, there’s a Malaysia Tourism Office (open during office hours), turn left, walk along the corridor and walkway that lead to JB Sentral building. At the other side of the JB Sentral building (front), there is an overhead bridge connecting JB Sentral and City Square (see picture below).

Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya

Daytime view of JB Sentral building which also housed the Johor Bahru Railway Station. City Square (not seen) is on the left of the pic

The old Johor Bahru Railway Station just next (south end) of the new JB Sentral building