Also known as Bandar Maharani, this Johor town is certainly more than just otak-otak and ghazal music. Ewe Paik Leong recommends 10 things to do here
GERSIK HOT SPRING
The canopy-covered hot spring consists of a centre pool, an outer concentric pool and a second concentric pool. The outermost pool is warm, the second pool is hot and you can cook an egg in the centre pool. Water is pumped from the second pool to a children's pool nearby. A surau, toilets, a children's playground and hawker stalls complete the picture. This hot spring is located at Kampung Sungei Gersik, about 15km from Muar.
ENJOY GRILLED FISH AND BIRDWATCHING AT PARIT JAWA'S LEKA BEACH
Never mind that Leka Beach comprises grey sand, pebbles and mud and is overrun with mangroves. Visitors come here to bird-watch during the migratory months when it's winter in the northern hemisphere. Of course, any time is also a good time to enjoy grilled fish and asam pedas at the halal restaurants here. Non-halal seafood is also available. You can also take a stroll along the jetty or sit in the children’s playground to admire the glorious sunset before the culinary pleasure.
DON HU JURASSIC GARDEN
It's free! That's the main draw of this theme park which is packed with lifesized stegosaurus, triceratop, iguanodon, tyrannosaurus, among the other species of dinosaurs. Many of them can roar, turn their heads and move their jaws. The park earns income from the sale of souvenirs such as plastic toy dinosaurs, food and drinks.
Opens only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 8am to 8pm.
This theme park is located in Muar's Kampung Sabak Aur at Jalan Pintasan.
HAWKER'S FOOD AT JALAN HAJI ABU
Muar's Jalan Haji Abu is known as "Glutton Street" because of its many hawker stalls. They sell braised duck rice, satay, otak-otak, oyster omelette and countless types of snacks. However, many gourmands make a pilgrimage here just to sample Hainanese curry rice at Kedai Kopi Lu Shan. A mouthful of the rice delivers an invigorating jolt of coriander and star anise to your tastebuds.
STROLL AND EAT LOCAL DELIGHTS AT TANJUNG EMAS PARK
This is a well-maintained park with shady trees, flowers and neatly trimmed lawns and offers a soothing view of the Muar River. The food court serves wallet-friendly fare and, of course, the must-eats are mee bandung Muar (stall no. 9 is famous!) and asam pedas. After your meal, why not snap a selfie or wefie at the Bangsa Johor mural which graces the wall of the clock tower building? For a bit of diversion, go to Tanjung Ketapang, just adjacent to the park. There is a mangrove swamp populated by macaques.
CRUISING ON THE MUAR RIVER
As the boat cruises down to Kampung Sabak Aur, you feel the wind in your face as you take in the sights of the Clock Tower, Sultan Ibrahim Mosque, Sultan Abu Bakar Building, Pekan Rabu Muar, Marine Police Jetty, mangrove swamps, fishing boats and other interesting structures. Ticket prices are RM12 for Malaysian adults; RM6 for children; RM15 for foreigners. The jetty is located within Tanjung Emas Park.
JIN YE SHI TEMPLE
Located at Jalan Sulaiman, this Buddhist temple houses the office of the Muar branch of the Malaysian Buddhist Association. Lord Buddha is worshipped in the main altar alongside Taoist deities and the Eighteen Lohans, who were his original followers. The roof of the temple features dragons and phoenixes which are associated with Taoism and also a reverse swastika on its pediment symbolising Buddhism. Four stone kylins, two stone elephants and three decorative pagodas stand in a row in the front compound.
POSE FOR A SELFIE AT THE LOVING SISTERS MURAL
This is the biggest portrait mural in Malaysia as verified by the Malaysia Books of Records. It depicts Nur Najwa Alisyah Abdul Rashid and her sister Nur Najiyah Armani, which Russian painter Julia Volchkova took 12 days to complete. Volchkova has also completed two other murals in George Town, Penang. The Loving Sisters mural graces a wall of a four-storey building in Jalan Arab near a roundabout.
NATTUKKOTAI CHETTIAR TEMPLE
Located on Jalan Meriam, this is the oldest Hindu temple in Muar and features Dravidian architecture. Its attention-grabber is a multi-tiered pyramid-shaped gopuram or tower gate which is packed with a mind-boggling number of colourful figurines. The walls of the temple are adorned with niches housing statues and are finished in soothing beige to complement the colour of the verandah pillars. Opening hours are as follows: 7.30am to noon and 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
Mee siput was purportedly invented in the 1950s when it was originally sold in school canteens. Today, it is available in many retail stores. Apart from Muar, this snack is also popular in Batu Pahat and Ledang and resembles the mee cracker sold in convenience stores. To eat, break a slab into small pieces and dress it with chilli sauce, sambal tumis or curry. Restaurants serving mee siput include Restoran Rabbit Home at Jalan Sisi and Kafe Sai Kee Kopi 434 at Jalan Bakariah.