Pass on the smiles

Dubbed the Smiling Bus, the bright yellow Causeway Link buses are living up to their name by bringing more smiles to visitors in Johor Baru through the the Travel Bus Pass.

Comfort and convenience with the Travel Bus Pass
The pass allows unlimited travel for two-day or three-day trips to 31 destinations in Johor Baru and Singapore.

It gets better as the service now has a new pick-up point in Kuala Lumpur. From the Swiss-Garden Hotel, a Causeway Link express bus cruises for a comfortable and convenient four-hour ride to two designated points in Iskandar Puteri, Johor. 

Pass holders will then board Causeway Link coaches on various routes  - including five major transport hubs in Singapore - through the Woodlands and the Tuas checkpoints.

So here I am at Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in Puteri Harbour, raring to try out the bus’s two-day pass.

SANRIO HELLO KITTY TOWN

One of the highlights of visiting Sanrio Hello Kitty Town must be the thrill to meet with Hello Kitty, the adorable cat with a giant red bow, and her charming partner, Dear Daniel.

I hear the announcements reminding visitors of the time of the performance so I find my spot opposite The Purrfect Stage, an ideal place to wait for the start of a colourful showcase dubbed the Candy Parade.

The Candy Parade performance featuring
Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel
The lights dim and shifting spotlights herald the arrival of the dancers, wearing colourful costumes as clowns and dolls, whirling and twirling on wave-boards and Segways (motorised two-wheeler stand-on scooters). They dance around in waves of colour, reminiscent of cotton candy puffs.

Then comes the moment everyone is waiting for – the appearance of Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel – who dance along in a cleverly choreographed routine. 

When the dance draws to a close, I join the others to happily receive tiny bags of jelly beans, candy and lollipops handed out by the dancers.

As the dancers take their leave, I watch in fascination as fans of the adorable cats patiently wait in queue to have their souvenir photo taken with Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel at the Dream Photo Garden.

Over at Wishful Studio, groups of visitors with young children take their turn to join in the fun activities like painting a face on a cookie shaped in Hello Kitty’s head, decorating a small paper-bag with Kitty-themed stickers and colouring a design and having it punched into a souvenir badge.

Then it’s time to visit Hello Kitty’s House, a walk-through experience to see her sitting room complete with piano, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, dressing table as well as wardrobe and accessories. I join die-hard fans in the walkabout and pose for souvenir photos.

THOMAS TOWN

Youngsters in the audience participating in a song and dance
scene with the cast of 'Sodor Surprise' at Thomas Town
We are just in time for the ‘Sodor Surprise’ show. Staff ask visitors to make themselves comfortable on the beanbags scattered in front of the stage but I find myself a good spot in front of Barney’s playhouse, directly opposite the stage. 

This colourful musical performance thoroughly captivated the audience with its songs and dances and when the cast invites the audience to participate, it’s heartwarming to see the youngsters leap to their feet and follow the movements in the action song.

Some of the fun rides at Thomas Town are suitable for all ages so off we go to Knapford Station where Thomas Train takes us for a ride around the track. The ones with stronger stomachs try out Colin Crane Drop and Bertie the Bus while the others take a ride on Harold’s Helitours.  

Budding ballerinas enjoying a dance lesson led
by Angelina Ballerina in her dance studio
But everyone just cannot resist the Bumping Buffers Steamies & Diesel Ride and have a go at bumping each other on the dodgem cars!

Then I’m back on the second floor to enjoy other attractions with favourite characters like Bob the Builder, Barney, Pingu and Angelina Ballerina.

I congratulate myself because I’m at Angelina’s Dance Studio just in time as Angelina starts her class with budding ballerinas. So I join parents and guardians to watch the cute dancers, each dressed in a tulle tutu and mouse-ears headband, trying to follow the simple dance steps led by Angelina!

LEGOLAND MALAYSIA

Our group boards the Smiling Bus in front of Puteri Harbour for a short ride to the Mall of Medini where we alight to walk to the Legoland Malaysia Resort entrance. At the mall, we pause to look at the cute Causeway Link ticketing booth, designed as a little coach.

You can't miss this cute ticketing booth for the Causeway
Link's signature Smiling Bus at the Mall of Medini
I remind my new friends from KL to head to Miniland for a look at the newly upgraded Kuala Lumpur cluster and have fun trying to identify some of the familiar landmarks. From the towering Petronas Twin Towers, Tugu Negara national monument to the archway that leads to Petaling Street, I can hear them marveling at the minute details replicated in Lego bricks!

There really isn’t enough time to explore every nook and corner of the resort, so the park map is an excellent guide to get to the activities of choice in the shortest possible time.

The Land of Adventure is a must-visit destination for laser-blasting fun at the Lost Kingdom Adventure and a more extreme experience at Dino Island with a splashing log-boat ride!

A view of the Kuala Lumpur Cluster in Miniland
The weather is bright and warm as the group splits up to enjoy various attractions and rides at Lego Kingdom, Lego City, Lego Technic and Imagination sections of the park while I’m reminding them not to miss Ninjago the Ride experience over at the Lego Ninjago World.  

I was among the first to enjoy this experience when this ride was launched last year and insist that it’s another must-try ride here.

At the appointed time to leave the park, we are to meet at the pick-up point in the Mall of Medini to go to our next destination. Everyone is feeling tired but exhilarated and I notice a few who are looking drenched but drying-off after their wet and wild experience at Dino Island!

ANGRY BIRDS ACTIVITY PARK

The Angry Birds Activity Park is located within KOMTAR JBCC, a premier mall situated along the city’s main road, Jalan Wong Ah Fook.  This is a no-bus route so Causeway Link takes us on a scenic drive to JB Sentral in the Sultan Iskandar Building for our drop-off. 

Meet Chuck the canary!
A brisk walk through the building with escalator rides and on an overhead bridge leads us into the mall. We follow the signposts with the iconic Red Bird character that points us to the first indoor Angry Birds Activity Park in Asia, located on level three.

At the park entrance, we are welcomed by Flock Members featuring Chuck, the yellow canary mascot, in an infectious hip-hop dance routine that gets our feet tapping and ready to head into the park. 

But first, we are reminded of their socks-only policy so after our shoes and bags are safely stored, we explore the activity park designed with a host of fun activities for everyone from toddlers and kids to youths and adults.

At the Red Bird Sona, I see it’s not all about physical actions because visitors are challenged to do mental sums to solve the puzzle before they can leap to the correct answers and score!

Follow this map to enjoy the activities in the park
While the Space Drop Airbag, Anti-Gravity Trampolines, Spinning Time Machine and Air Parkour Track are clearly physical challenges, the Spacemine is an interesting activity that tests our skills in physically maneuvering through a dark cave which is crisscrossed by laser beams!

It’s reassuring to see staff posted at various stations to guide visitors as to the fun and safe way to enjoy the activities. I realise that it’s only natural even for adults to succumb to the pull of posing with the display of Angry Birds characters, especially the roaming giant mascots.

JOHOR PREMIUM OUTLETS

Tired but satisfied shoppers at Johor Premium Outlets
An outing is not complete without shopping so we use the Bus Pass again at the JB Sentral pick-up point to board the bus to Johor Premium Outlets.

At the Information counter, we collect a copy each of the map and directory after which the group disappears in various directions to explore the High Street and Low Street, in search of the best buys. 

When the group meets again, it’s time to head to the meeting point to board the express bus for the return journey to KL.  Everyone seems tired but I there are smiles of satisfaction on those with their hands full of shopping bags. This, we all agree, is a fitting end to a comfortable and convenient trip to a choice of interesting JB destinations with the Bus Pass.

The Travel Bus Pass aims to ease the burden of local and foreign visitors who are keen to visit places of interest in JB without the hassle of driving and parking.  An introductory promotion offers visitors the choice of a 2-day bus pass at RM46 (original price RM55) and 3-day bus pass at RM66 (original price RM80).

Visitors from KL can take advantage of their bundle package of the direct coach service (RM57 one way) in a return ticket deal plus the Bus Pass at an attractive price of RM114 + RM15 for 2-day bus pass and RM114 + RM20 for 3-day bus pass.

The express bus service from KL operates a direct route to Legoland Malaysia Resort and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town & Thomas Town at Puteri Harbour in Iskandar Puteri, and return from Johor.

Every purchase of Bus Pass comes with an illustrated bus route map and entitles holder to enjoy benefits and discounts at participating travel partners provided in a handy little booklet of vouchers.  So all you have to do is to tap the Bus Pass on an electronic gadget at the top of the steps while boarding the bus.

Details at: www.causewaylink.com.my or Tel: +607 – 360 2244.

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 27 April 2017