Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kluang Mari

On the 30th of December 2006, six of us - myself and my bf, Tham, SV, Angeline and her bf Eric - drove down to Kluang to attend our uni-mate Zoe's wedding lunch reception.

I knew Zoe while taking up the UTS twinning program at Taylor's college. Subsequently we became housemates in Sydney as well. After graduating, she worked in JB for a couple of years before migrating to Sydney to seek greener pastures. I guess she never knew if she would find her husband in Sydney too, but she did. We were all glad to attend her lunch reception, even though it was near financial year-end close for us (most of us are in either Accounting or Finance).

It was our first trip to Kluang. Not sure what to expect in this town. We were also worried if we could even make it at all, coz that time many parts of Johor were hit by the floods. Luckily, Kluang wasn't so badly affected, and the weekend there was - according to Zoe - surprisingly sunny.


Kluang is located in the center of the state of Johor. It got its name from the number of fruit bats which can be found in the surrounding oil palm plantation, which is one of the main indutries of this town. The population is estimated to be around 140,000 in the town itself.

We spent the night at Hotel Anika, which is located at the heart of Kluang town. The promo rate of RM98 per night for a two single-bed room, air-cond, breakfast and Singapore TV, is reasonable enough. That's compared to the RM218 per room at the Prime City Hotel, claimed to be the only 4-star hotel in Kluang. Prime City Hotel is also a significant landmark, being the tallest building in Kluang. It's located next to the BCB shopping centre and Kluang bus station. The photo below was taken from Anika Hotel. It may look very far, but it took us around 10 minutes to walk from Hotel Anika to the bus station (far left of picture)

Kluang town may seem like a sleepy little town, but upon closer look, they almost had the 'basics' of a established city. Tham observed that they had McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut (not bad) and a few modern bakeries; SV and I noticed insurance companies have set up HUGE shoplots everywhere (see below picture, left); my BF noted that most of the major banks (CIMB, Maybank, Public Bank, RHB, Alliance Bank) had established branches here; Link was pleased to find Hotlink and Digi had heated competition here. Other types of shops commonly seen around Kluang are shoe shops, uniform shops and optical shops. They even have a bowling alley and snooker centre! What's lacking is maybe a cineplex. People here are still using VCD players though, judging from what the shops were peddling. And The Store commands some presence here, opening up two outlets, one at Hotel Anika and the other at BCB shopping mall.

Probably the only thing missing were eatery outlets and mamak stalls. The shops here close very early too (as compared to KL). By 10pm, it looked like a ghost town already. There's no nightlife whatsoever. We kept ourselves busy by playing Chor Tai Tee with TWO packs of cards :-)


I attended two wedding dinners held in the suburbs in December itself prior to Zoe's lunch reception, and noticed that it's very different with those held in the big city. I'll share my observation here coz hers is similar to the ones I attended previously.

1) The people here are punctual. If you state there dinner starts at 7pm, you can be sure to begin by 7:30 pm. Same goes for her lunch reception. She was already late at 1pm, coz that was when it was supposed to begin. By the time we got there, it was 1:20, and almost everyone has arrived.

2) You have to find your own table. It was a culture shock coz I'm so used to ask "which table number ah?". In all instances, you find your own table, and make your own sitting arrangements. No wonder everyone is early. As we were considered late, we had to split the sitting to two tables.

3) Karaoke sessions. Can't live without them. Even before the wedding reception started, there were already a long list of people queueing up to sing their favourite chinese/hokkien/canto songs. Usually we just don't bother with their singing and continue eating, unless the singer is really good, or awful.

4) The Kaki Botol. He's the guy holding the Martell bottle, happily pouring away into your glass, even before you can say no to him. Usually the Kaki Botol will only doing the pouring, and not the drinking, so he can avoid getting drunk after going through each table and doing the "Yam Seng!!!". He's usually in good spirits, so no need to make him drink any further.

5) Tah Pau is most welcomed. For every dish that people cannot finish, they will happily take away (tah-pau), be it in plastic tupperwares, or plastic bags. It's a good thing, coz you prevent wastage, as compared to those strict regulations in the hotels. They will even sapu the gift chocolate if you don't want them. Zoe did the ingenious idea by putting plates of Aussie nougat instead of chocolates. I like that.

6) Shandy and Malta are common during happy occassions such as weddings or birthdays. I learnt to drink Malta during my Grandmother's birthday in Nov 06. According to my aunt, people like these drinks because they are slightly more expensive, and hence only got chance to drink during big occassions like this. Zoe's wedding had Tiger Beer and red wine served too, but i took Malta instead :-)

The only surprise I got was when we were waiting for desserts to be served. Usually it would be some pancakes, or a hot longan and sea coconut dish. However, I was stunned when the waitress placed a plateful of ICE-CREAM on our table. The other people on our table took it as if it was normal. It was only later Zoe clarified that in Kluang it is common practise to serve ice-cream for dessert. I guess it's good too, less hassle to cook, and can tah pau also :-)

See how the uncle and auntie enjoying their ice-cream. Note the Shandy and Malta cans.


The next morning we went searching for the famous Kluang Railway Station coffeeshop to try their coffee and roti bakar. This place was made famous in KL and PJ, due to their branches in 1 Utama and Ikano. I bet unlike the ones in 1 Utama, where you pay RM2.80 (or was it RM3.80?) for a cup of iced coffee, this place should be relatively cheaper.

After making countless rounds (oh, did I mention that Kluang has a lot of one-way streets?), we finally made it to the Stesen Keretapi Kluang itself, only to find that.....THE SHOP WAS CLOSED!!! (Sob! Sob!)

Not sure why it was closed. Perhaps it was New Year's Eve. Or maybe Hari Raya Haji. They never indicated why they were not opened on that day itself. Anyway, just took a photo of the humble coffeeshop itself. I noticed that they were selling their own T-shirts and had the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) sticker at the cashier, so I guess they must be the attraction of Kluang after all.

The six hungry ghosts ended up having Bak Kut Teh somewhere along another area in Kluang (recommended by Zoe) and we paid only RM8.50 per person for a delicious breakfast meal, although I was still dissapointed not being able to taste the original Kluang coffee and roti bakar.

As how Zoe puts it, this is Kluang, her hometown. I find it really interesting, more so with a group of friends as company. Our next trip will be Kota Kinabalu in August 07, where we will meet another old UTS friend Chee Jiat a.k.a CicakMan. Can't wait!!!

1 comment:

lilium said...

Interesting to have ice cream at a wedding reception. Probably shd do the same when I get marry .. =)
Seems like uncle and aunty are enjoying their ice cream