Often erroneously perceived as just a transit
point to Singapore, Johor in fact has a lot to offer visitors. Johor Bahru, the
capital, boasts of several dazzling shopping malls; a plethora of night spots;
and Zon, the largest duty-free shopping complex in Malaysia. Just an hour's
drive away lies the golden beach of Desaru, dubbed
the "Last Unspoilt Corner of South East Asia".
The pristine islands of Pulau Besar, Pulau Sibu,
Pulau Rawa, Pulau Aur and several others are perfect
destinations for scuba diving and snorkelling. The Endau Rompin National Park is
a haven for rare species of flora and fauna, and there are six others
recreational forests to boot. Johor is also a golfer's paradise as it is the
state with the most golf courses.
Johor was founded in the early 16th century by the son of Sultan Mahmud Shah,
the last Sultan of Melaka when the capital was captured by the Portuguese. At
its peak, the Johor empire stretched to the Riau Archipelago. In the 18th
century, the Bugis of Celebes and the Minangkabaus of Sumatra controlled the
political powers in the Johor-Riau empire, but in the early 19th century, Malay
and Bugis rivalry dominated the scene. Even today, Johor, and Riau lie on the strategic sea route passing from the South China Sea
to the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Malacca.
In 1819, Stamford Raffles capitalised on
their inter-faction rivalry to acquire Singapore for the British.
As a result, the Johor-Riau empire was broken into mainland Johor, controlled by
the Temenggong, and the Sultanate of Riau-Lingga, controlled by the Bugis. In
1886, Temenggong Abu Bakar elevated himself to Sultan. He was succeeded by his
son, Sultan Ibrahim. In 1914, the British Adviser to administer Johor until the
Japanese Occupation in 1945. In 1957, Johor joined the federation of Malaya.
Note: the Riau Archipelago comprises three main islands - Batam , Bintan and Bulan. Batam is just 20 kilometres from Singapore and 415 km2
Sultan Abu Bakar
Johor's economy is based on a mix of
agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, and tourism. It is the nation's major
producer of palm oil, rubber, pineapples, and bananas. Bauxite is mined in
Pengerang, and Pasir Gudang is growing into an important international port.
Many industrial estates are found in and around Johor Bahru and other major
towns. Here, the factories produce electrical appliances, furniture, textiles
and petrochemical products.
The eastern coast of Johor has a string of
beautiful islands fit for scuba diving and snorkelling. One island that is
easily reached is Pulau Sibu, just two-and-a-half
hours by boat from Mersing. A faster way to reach Pulau Sibu is from Tanjung Leman, 20 km south of Mersing.
Apart from Pulau Sibu, the other islands with accomodation are
Pulau Rawa, Pulau Pemanggil,
Pulau Besar, Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Dayang, Pulau
Sibu Tengah and Pulau Aur. Closer to the shore, Pulau
Hujung and Pulau Tengah are visited mostly by day-trippers.
For back-to-nature experiences, one can venture
to several recreational forests around the state. The most popular is
Gunung Ladang Recreational Forest, the site of
Johor's highest mountain, Gunung Ladang. Challenging treks to the summit of the
mountain and overnight stays at the impressive Sagil Waterfall are main
activities here. At the base of the waterfall are camping sites, changing rooms
and the Gunung Ledang Resort. According to the legend, Gunung Ledang was the
home of a Johor princess who was wooed by the Sultan of Melaka in the 15th century.
About 30 km northwest of Johor Bahru is the Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest
which has several waterfalls, and also jungle trails leading to Mount Pulai, 654 metres high.
Other recreatinal forests include the Gunung Arong Recreational Forest, Gunung
Berlumut Recreational Forest, Gunung Lambak Recreational Forest and Sungai
Pencarang Recreational Forest.