Friday, February 27, 2015

Travel: Kluang, Johor's Hidden Gem Part 1 - Kluang Mall, Merdeka Hotel, Tong Huat Confectionery

More often than not, when people travel up north or down south, they have just their end destination in mind. Whether it's Johor Bahru, or Singapore, or Penang, or even Ipoh. Very seldom do people make other towns their destinations because, really, what is there to see?

Well, I'm here to let you know, there is a very interesting town a little up north of Johor Bahru, called Kluang. Yes, you might have heard of it, because that's where Kluang Coffee comes from, and is the origin of the much franchised "Kluang Station" because, surprise surprise, it is a coffee shop at the Kluang KTM Station (which is still in operations btw).

Kluang is about three hours (or two, if you're adventurous) drive from KL, and according to Wikipedia, "Kluang is a town and district located near the middle of the state of Johor in the southern portion of peninsular Malaysia. Kluang lies about 110 km north of Johor Bahru, east-southeast of Batu Pahat, west of Mersing and south of Segamat."

So to tackle the age old adage, what is there to see and do? I am bringing you a three-part post to what I did, ate, and saw at Kluang over a weekend (yes, 2 days, 1 night) :D More after the jump!

Firstly, where did I stay? The newly refurbished Merdeka Hotel, which hosts Kluang's very first elevator, since 1963! It is located at Jalan Mengkibol, and is only about ten minutes drive from the town centre. It's near town, but at the same time not too near the bustle of town life that it disrupts your beauty sleep with honking cars and traffic sounds.

Back to the elevator, it was so old school that even the controls had only buttons, and doesn't even light up when you press on it. So, you wouldn't even know if it registered which floor you were going to until it reaches your floor :p And by virtue of the fact that it's an old elevator, there will definitely be some quirks. For example, the elevator doors will close in only 5 seconds!

Yes, they literally just allow for one person to step in before they try to close on you :p So the first person going in better be quick to press that 'open' button, if you can find it >.<

Le bb and I got the deluxe room, and we were more than satisfied with it. The aircon was easily controlled (I don't really like cold), and the water pipes has hot water (two thumbs up from me!) One way how I would rate if a hotel is good enough is if the comforter they provided is large enough for me to cover up to my chin without revealing my toes, and if it keeps me suitable warm at night. I would say the comforter in Merdeka Hotel does manage to cover even my toes, and they keep me really warm, so much so that I had to flip over the covers to allow some cool air to come under the covers cos I was already perspiring hahaha

Merdeka Hotel

Address: 30, Jalan Mengkibol, 86000 Kluang, Johor

Phone: 07-776 9998

Price: from RM188 per night (according to Agoda)


So where did I go once I finally settled down? Of course being a city girl, I headed over to Kluang Mall for a bit of shopping :D Kluang Mall is the very first mall in Kluang, and has all the interesting shoplots as any mall in KL. Sure, there have been other shopping centres in Kluang, but this is the first mall in Kluang! I guess it's hard to explain how exciting it is, because I was thinking of my Spring Mall back in my hometown, Kuching's very first mall even though there have been ther shopping centres in the past. I was actually quite impressed with Kluang Mall's facade and architecture, as it was very clean and I could get my bearings very easily.

Kluang Mall is located at the epicentre of Kluang, and is a landmark that you will not easily miss. From their mall flyers I noted that for a small-town mall, they have certainly done quite a lot of promotional events, and even brought in celebrities for their celebrations. I think one of their more happening events last year was Getup! Kluang 2014, which was an annual event held sometime in the third quarter of the year, which was a series of activities for their shoppers. There were charity fun runs, outdoor activities, marching band performances, but what really struck me was that they even had hot air balloons! I mean, in KL, the only time you see hot air balloons are during the Hot Air Balloon fiesta and even for that you have to go all the way to Putrajaya. Personally, Imma thinking of going back to Kluang this year for their Getup! event :D

Another item that I think deserves a mention is their Kluang Food Street. Designed after the Lot 10 Hutong concept, I hear some of the stuff in their mall are donated by the older generation in Kluang, with the rest being sourced from Melaka. Walking in, it really gave me the antique feel, and I couldn't resist sitting in the little trishaw :D Met one of the people working in the mall, and they told me that it actually works! Looks rickety, but if it works, I wished I was brave enough to get someone to ride around with me hahaha.

I tried their beef noodles and le bb had their lui cha. The beef noodles were the dry kind, which was different from the normal soupy beef noodles that I'm used to consuming. It tasted really good, considering it was a change in my palate, and I wolfed it down very quickly :p

The sauce that was used was a special type of beef stock which was gelatinous, so it stuck to the beef and noodles, coating it with a burst of flavour each time you put a spoonful in your mouth :D Absolutely lovely.

The lui cha also wasn't what I was expecting either. My previous experience of having lui cha was very bitter, and I have refrained from having it since. But I braved a spoonful of le bb's dish, and it was a pleasant surprise that it wasn't bitter at all. If anything, it left a sweet aftertaste that makes it easy to consume :)

Kluang coffee!!!!! It's very kau, full of flavour, and very aromatic :) I sipped it up in seconds, and couldn't wait to have another :D

All in all, I was suitably impressed with the mall team for thinking of such great ideas for their mall, especially coming from a small town, they sure do dream big! Me likey :D

So one of the local snacks in Kluang is the salted mung bean biscuits made specially from Tong Huat Confectionery, located at Jalan Cinta. When we arrived I was already brought in by the delicious smells emanating from the oven. 

We made our way into the factory (which was more another shoplot), and I was blown away by their production line. It was really amazing to see the workers there putting together the mung bean filling with the batter, and it was so systematic, even the size of the biscuits are uniform! 

The production line or the biscuits. in the top right corner of the photo, the mung bean fillings have already been cut to cubes, and in the forefront of the photo, that big piece of dough is the batter for the biscuits. Each batter is measured precisely and flattened to a precise shape after which the filling will be inserted and the batter closed.

After a tray is completed, the biscuits are then glazed before popping them into the oven. This oven is an industrial oven, and reminds me of my time in one of the coffee houses last time, where we had one of these to be used to bake cakes and roast lamb :p

Out of the oven, these are the beautiful biscuits that smell divine. They are all the same shape, and I daresay they all taste exactly the same!

So when the biscuits have ben left to cool for a certain amount of time, the packing process begins. The biscuits are packed into packs of 6 (if I'm not mistaken), and they are ready to be sold! These fresh biscuits can last up to two weeks.

Enjoying my biscuit! haha of course I had to take a selfie with it first!

The inside of the biscuit, it's very crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside! check out the wonderful mung bean filling! I couldn't get enough of it, and took another one after I've finished :p

Tong Huat Confectionery

Address: Jalan Cantik, Kluang


Alternatively, you can key this in the FB search box- 東發餅家@新發餅乾糖果店

So that's the end of my first three-part blogpost about my wonderful travels in Kluang. Stay tuned for blogpost number 2!

Til the next time, stay beautiful!


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