Night markets, or pasar malam in Malay, is not an unfamiliar term to Singaporeans, as well as in neighbouring countries like Indonesia & Brunei. As the name implies, night markets are street markets open in the evening, usually in residential neighbourhoods. Back in the old days when I was still a kid, I remember looking forward to visiting a pasar malam when a tentage for such a makeshift market was set up near my house. Besides plenty of street snacks to munch on, we could have some fun at the games stalls or take a kiddy ride on the carousel & the likes.
Gone were those happy days, as the Singapore pasar malam scene seems to be getting more boring with stalls looking the same everywhere. Well, I do note that there have been improvements in recent years into reviving the lively night market scene with more interesting food stalls, but… somehow most of them can’t seem to pull in the crowds like the good old days. Anyway, based on what I’ve read online about Johor Bahru (JB) night markets, they appear to be quite interesting with so many night markets happening every day, selling all sorts of products you can think of. In fact, I had been wanting to visit the one near KSL for a long time, given the accessibility. I was also happy to find out that there is a regular night market near Renaissance Johor Bahru happening every Sunday. Just nice for us! So finally, we checked out both night markets on consecutive nights. Here’s a recount of our experiences over 2 consecutive nights. 😉
Sunday night market: Jalan Permas Jaya, Masai
Turn left at Renaissance Johor Bahru hotel’s main entrance, walk past a petrol station & you will be able to see makeshift stalls being set up from around 5pm every Sunday evening. The stalls stretch all the way up to in front of Alliance Bank, where there is an overhead bridge that links to Aeon Permas Jaya, the only shopping mall in the area.
Being my 1st night market tour in JB, I was quite excited to see the long stretch of stalls here, selling all kinds of products, from fresh fruits & vegetables, local hawker delights including cooked seafood like crabs & lobsters, to clothes, accessories & so on. It was especially fun to see so many mouth-watering street food that we had some problems deciding what to try & fill our stomachs with. 🙂
Despite the night market being crowded & filled with people at 7+pm, exploring from stall to stall wasn’t too difficult, as stalls weren’t cramped together. While there were queues at some popular stalls (typically the yummy food), we didn’t have to wait too long in line before our turn. We bought food from 5 stalls as our dinner for that night, which didn’t look a lot for 3 pax:
But surprisingly, our dinner turned out to be quite filling! Mochi, fried carrot cake, grilled chicken meat, grilled enoki mushrooms, grilled long beans, takoyaki & yam abacus, which was our favourite? So hard to pinpoint just one favourite, as we all like the melt-in-your-mouth mochi, the delicious grilled stuff & chewy yam abacus made with real yam! In fact, we even went back to the yakitori stall close to 9pm to buy more of the grilled long bean sticks as it was really good. By that time, some of the stalls were already closing & the crowd had dispersed. Luckily the grilled long beans were still available, albeit just a few sticks left. We didn’t really like the overpowering sweet taste of JB’s fried carrot cake though. FYI we didn’t ask for black (sweet) version, that was the only version they have. As for the takoyaki, we thought there was too much flour such that we couldn’t really taste the ingredients. 😦
Couldn’t remember the exact prices for each, but the total food cost was not more than 40 MYR, which means <S$13 for 3 pax. 🙂 To summarise, it was an enjoyable experience at this lively Jalan Permas Jaya night market.
Monday night market: Taman Century Garden (Jalan Seladang)
The Monday night market that starts from the street right outside KSL City Mall’s ground floor all the way to Taman Century Garden is very popular, given its accessibility to one of the hot tourist spots in JB. I visit KSL frequently but never had a chance to visit the famed night market happening every Monday. Traffic around the shopping mall would be diverted on Mondays to make way for the market, and it is common to see jams around the mall from the late afternoon. We were also caught in a slight jam that fateful afternoon we checked into Holiday Villa Johor Bahru City Centre at 4+pm.
This night market is much bigger than the one near Renaissance. Partly due to the bad weather (drizzling on & off), we didn’t manage to check out the entire stretch of stalls. Another reason was also because unlike the Sunday market, the stalls here are quite packed together, leaving little room for visitors to walk. Vehicles could also still pass through the street where the stalls are being set up, so we had to constantly watch out for oncoming traffic as well. The massive crowd didn’t help the cramped situation either, probably because this is a more accessible market for foreigners, since a shopping mall was right next to the market. It was also hard to see where the end of the market is with so many people jostling for space (+ umbrellas)…
Having to squeeze with the hordes of visitors, join long queues at popular food stalls, as well as fighting with the drizzle & open umbrellas, somewhat dampened our spirits. The variety of products being sold here were similar to the one near Renaissance, although this time, we also spotted a number of durian stalls, & even bedding stuff + fortune telling stalls! There were also many food stalls we saw at Jalan Permas Jaya that came here too, including the legendary mochi & yam abacus. But the queue for the heavenly mochi was horrendously long, so we didn’t get to try it again. But we did buy the yam abacus again, although it was crowded, but not like the mochi stall. 😉
There were some interesting new finds at this Monday market though, such as the crunchy crackers at the ever-crowded Malay stall facing KSL, gigantic steamed buns, delicate mini cupcakes & yummy chicken wings stuffed with rice. We tried the crackers (in the middle tray of the top left pic) & they were really crunchy & tasty! Not sure what they are called, but it only costed 1 MYR for 3 or 4 pieces (S$0.30). Also bought the grilled boneless chicken wings stuffed with rice (鸡翅包饭), at 4.50 MYR a piece (S$1.40/pc). There were 5 flavours to choose from: sausage rice, oatmeal rice, sesame oil rice, vegetables rice & glutinous rice. We tried the 1st 2 & while both are nice, the sausage rice was especially fragrant. There were many stalls selling the Apam Balik, or Min Chiang Kueh as Chinese call it, which means “turnover pancake” in English. Although this is a snack commonly found in SEA, I still bought one to try, from a stall called “Umi Resipi”, as it seemed to have a constant stream of customers. I must say it was pretty good, & I like the addition of sweetcorn (“Jagung” in Malay) on top of the usual peanut filling we typically have in Singapore.
Glad that I managed to check out 2 night markets in a row in JB. I prefer the Sunday market which was bustling with activity, while not jam packed with both human & vehicular traffic like the one near KSL on Monday. To a certain extent, I thought it was quite dangerous to allow vehicles to continue to use the road alongside the numerous stalls that were already cramped together. Furthermore, Permas Jaya district is less touristy compared to Jalan Seladang district, hence the atmosphere there felt more local & neighbourly. 😛 But for convenience, the Monday market near KSL is still worth a visit to try lots of appetizing local delights, be it innovative new eats or traditional old school delicacies!