Old markets and bus teminals

Johor Baru’s first market, built on a small island off Sungai Segget and connected to shore by three bridges, closed when a new central market opened at Jalan Wong Ah Fook in 1964.

In 1964, Johor Baru had a new double-storey market
at Jalan Wong Ah Fook
Since the 1800s, the old market was the only market in south Johor with an adjacent bus terminal and taxi stand where people from other districts came to shop.  After it was closed, the waterways around the market was filled to form a plot of land bordered by Jalan Segget.
Construction on the new market started in 1962 and was completed in 1964.  This double-storey market was organised with stalls for the wet market on the ground floor while stalls for dry provisions were situated upstairs.

The earliest bus terminal was situated next to the old market at Jalan Segget.  When the market was relocated, the bus terminal also moved next to the market, on a site at the corner of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Station.  Between the market and bus terminal, there was a pasar baru or new market.

Shoppers could walk directly into the market by an overhead bridge
that was conveniently linked to Jalan Trus  
It was an era of modernisation in JB where the market moved into a modern concrete building and traders in temporary shelters moved into shoplots.  

Locals simply called the central market, pasar, while the adjacent pasar baru was a collection of small shops for clothes, shoes, stationery and household needs from hardware to home decor.  Locals called it the bazaar – a corrupted version of local word for market, pasar – but it was probably the best description for this one-stop shopping destination.

In those days, you could almost buy every food ingredient a household or business needs from the market.  The ground floor was organised with sections for live poultry, fresh fish and meat, fruits and vegetables.  The meat section was split into non-halal butchers and halal butchers for beef and lamb while the poultry section was easily identified by the prevailing pong of chicken poop!

The fish and vegetable sections in the market are distinguished by their perpetually wet floors.  This was because traders would sluice their products frequently to make them appear sparkling fresh.  It was always a challenge to pick your way along wet and often, slippery floors.  These water-logged floors became worn out over the years and it was even more challenging to walk around puddles of water collected in the pitted ground!

Designed with wide doors on the ground floor and walls of hollow bricks on the upper floor, the market was kept well ventilated.  Shoppers reached the two levels comfortably by broad staircases.

Upstairs, there were sections for dried and preserved sundry goods, groceries, freshly ground spices and chillie pastes as well as roasted coffee beans, ground to your requirement. 

JB's main bus terminal being upgraded in 1962 with a row of
small shops in the pasar baru; Construction of the Lumba Kuda
15-storey flats was in progress at the same time
At that time, there was virtually no suburban shopping facilities so everyone shopped for their fresh produce from this market.  Besides retail, there were also wholesale shoppers so the market was open from dawn until late afternoon for after-office shoppers to pick up their necessities before going home

The adjacent pasar baru, better known as the bazaar, was a popular shopping destination designed around one of JB’s first food courts.  It probably had a proper name but locals dubbed it “Round Table,” a name probably derived from the round tables here.

Round Table was a popular place for refreshing local desserts like ice-kacang and made-to-order snacks like rojak and grilled tahu or beancurd squares.  It was an ideal stopover for regular market and bazaar shoppers as well as for dating couples, families and a favourite after-school rendezvous for students.

While the central market, bazaar and bus terminal were being developed, JB’s first high-rise residential project started with the construction of the 15-storey flats at Jalan Lumba Kuda.  Affordable homes became available to families in town and it was a new experience for many to move into flats instead of landed properties.  It was also an educational process for residents to learn new things like the use of elevators, proper rubbish disposal and to live in harmony with their neighbours.

In 1973, there was still greenery in one of the busiest parts of Johor Baru: Between the central market
and the bazaar, and next to the former railway station and beyond 
As JB developed in the 1970s, the Town Council built overhead bridges to facilitate better pedestrian flow.  A bridge was built to link the 15-storey flats to the bus terminal and market while another was built from Jalan Trus directly into the first floor of the market.

While the population increased, residential areas were developed in the outskirts of town.  Some of the earliest housing areas were Kim Teng Park and Larkin Lama and Larkin Gardens, later renamed, Taman Dato Onn.  This was followed by Century Gardens (Taman Abad), Melodies Gardens (Taman Kebun Teh) and Taman Sri Tebrau.

After thirty years, the central market at Jalan Wong Ah Fook was stretched to its limits and a bigger and better market was needed to meet the rising demands.  In 1976, Taman Sri Tebrau was completed and as more people moved into this neighbourhood, a fresh market was planned here.  When the Taman Sri Tebrau market opened in 1981, even residents from the neighbouring areas came here to shop for their fresh produce.

Meanwhile, construction started on a spacious, multi-storied market in Larkin that could accommodate most of the stalls from the town market.  After the Larkin market was opened in 1994, the former market at Jalan Wong Ah Fook was demolished.

The bus terminal moved twice – in the 1970s to another site at Jalan Wong Ah Fook near the original Tun Abdul Razak Complex and in the 1980s to the corner where Jalan Trus meets Jalan Gertak Merah – before shifting to its current location next to the Larkin market.  The terminal and market complex was renamed Larkin Sentral.

As old businesses move to the suburbs and new enterprises open in old buildings, the city landscape is constantly changing.  Yet visitors to Johor Baru City Square at Jalan Wong Ah Fook may have trouble trying to imagine that this trendy mall sits squarely on the site of the former bustling central market, bazaar and bus terminal in the heart of old JB.

Photos courtesy of Johor Archives and JB Tiong Hua Association

A version of this was published in the July 2016 issue of The Iskandarian

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