Johor Bahru or JB, as it is more fondly known, is a city that faces the Straits of Tebrau (also referred to as the Tebrau Straits), a body of water that separates it from the island of Singapore.
Connecting the mainland to the island of Singapore is that historical landmark, commonly referred to as THE Causeway, which took 4 years to complete before being opened for public use in 1923. The 1-km Causeway is still in use today although for how much longer, nobody actually knows, as talks to have the Causeway replaced with a bridge to connect both Johor Bahru and Singapore is reported to be ‘on-going’. (As the talks have been ‘on-going’ for quite a number of years, it would not be wrong to say that talks are still ON but not necessarily GOING. But I digress!)
Driving out from the city centre and taking the coastal road heading towards the ward of Tampoi that is the Jalan Pesiaran Abu Bakar Sultan, will take you past the sprawling grounds of the The Istana Besar (or the Grand Palace), and next to it, nestled within the greenery that once used to be part of the sprawling grounds of the Istana Besar itself, you will come across the Johor Zoo.
As you drive further up the road, you’ll find, atop a hill, the Royal Blue-domed Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque (http://wp.me/p2FyzR-bh), and adjacent to it, the Sultan Iskandar Islamic Complex, followed by the red-bricked Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA) (http://wp.me/p2FyzR-bv).
Further up, you will come across the Dataran Bandaraya with its distinctive clock tower and the giant Johor state flag, and behind it, the 5-star hotel, The Thistle.
The Sri Gelam fields, where the state football (or soccer) teams have their evening workouts or training sessions, together with the Dataran Bandaraya complex provide the green lung to the whole place.
This, in addition to the smell of salt water carried in by the cool evening breeze, makes JB uniquely JB, where even the stress of even the toughest of days and the heaviest of traffic is made lighter by that mix of fresh air, cool breeze and a hint of salt in the air.
And as you travel further up the road towards the ward of Tampoi, passing by what used to be known as Lido beach, it makes for an unmistakable sight the reclamation and development works currently on-going, a prelude to the massive makeover yet undertaken of JB’s current waterfront on this side of the city.
Such is the extent of the ongoing makeover of JB’s waterfront this side of town that it stretches from the east of the city centre , passing by the Grand Palace all the way to Danga Bay on the western side of the city and beyond, in full view of the Istana Bukit Serene (or the Bukit Serene Palace), a total stretch of 25 km covering an area of 3000 acres.
So massive is the makeover that barges carrying sand for the reclamation works are a common sight nowadays compared to the days when the sight of even a single ship plying the Straits of Tebrau was not only uncommon but unheard of.
And should everything fall into place without any hiccups, for the makeover is expected to take up to 25 years, the people of JB would have witnessed a development that has seen the waterfront changed from a beach front with swaying coconut and mangrove trees to a waterfront lined with the luxurious condominium blocks and shopping complexes, bistros and international class eateries with enough space for the locals to still enjoy the cool evening breeze whilst taking a stroll along the newly elevated waterfront, all within a span of eighty years.
There is no doubt that JB itself will continually expand and develop. It will continually expand and develop, not only to cater for the people who have, for ages, called JB ‘HOME’ but also to cater for the generations of JB-ians to come.
For such a long time, JB’s relevance in the whole scheme of things at the southern tip of Malaysia had been questioned. Some even venture to term JB a ‘border town’, not that JB-ians ever disputed that for JB IS literally at the Malaysia-Singapore border, except for the tone and manner the term ‘border town’ was used.
The development and expansion of JB however is not something new. What will be is the manner that it expands and develops, for the world is littered with cities that have expanded haphazardly and without regard to the local population, either through ridiculously escalating costs of property or project or a combination of both, and as such have ended up as one big mess of a concrete jungle.
JB’s expansion and development, hopefully, would be the trigger that most, if not all, Johoreans have been patiently working for. A life full of promise and limitless potential to go together with a quality of life that one would aspire to, for all generation of Johoreans.
Date : 21 February 2014