Hometown Tourists

When photos of our visit to Johor Baru’s landmark crown arch at the entrance to Istana Bukit Serene were shared with our relatives here and abroad, they replied with comments like, “Eh? Macam tourists!”

Hometown tourists at Laman Mahkota
It was our first visit to Laman Mahkota since it was opened to the public in 2014.  And yes, we did feel like tourists among the throng of visitors, mostly armed with phone cameras and selfie-sticks to capture photo mementoes of this much-photographed view.

My brother and his family, visiting from Kuala Lumpur, decided to do this touristy thing, probably to renew his bond with his hometown and share their pride of being true-blue Anak Johor with others!

Laman Mahkota, the site of the crown arch with a bank of fountains and adjacent carpark, was presented by the Johor Sultan as a gift to the rakyat, to enjoy a relaxing park-like ambience outside his official residence.

Close-up of the giant replica of the Johor ruler's crown
The giant replica of the Johor ruler’s crown, that weighs several tons, rests on top of arches that resemble elephant tusks.  Close-up, we could see the “gems” that decorate the crown lit up in a glittering glow against the night sky.

Istana Bukit Serene may not be Buckingham Place but there was a prevailing sense of pride among the rakyat mingling here.  Groups or individuals politely took their turns to pose for photos – Malay, Chinese, Indian and foreigners – everyone just enjoyed the evening outdoors cooled by balmy breezes, a welcome relieve in the humid heat.

Visitors clearly appreciate the Johor ruler and wish to get a glimpse of the palace – and even the opportunity to meet members of the royal family – if the happened to pass through the gates!

Cool we-fie set up and taken by Brendon Loh
In the evening, Laman Mahkota was certainly a pleasant place to hang out with the family or with your date.  We saw groups and couples posing and taking we-fies together and were rather amused when a couple asked for a favour to help snap a shot of them!

It was an opportunity for my nephew, Brendon, to practice his photography skills and I must say he did quite well with back-lighting a we-fie of ourselves taken in the semi-darkness!

The footpath from the carpark to the fountains is paved but across the road, the access to the fountain area is too narrow for the daily volume of visitors and not user friendly to the elderly and wheelchair-bound.  This resulted in “human traffic congestion” and caused impatient people to carve out their own paths by the sides of the steps.  In the long term, this area is going to deteriorate and become ugly.

Reading the information plaque on Istana Bukit Serene;
[Seriously! See how my sister used her torch to see better!]
The garden landscaping appears well maintained but I wondered if it was necessary to go onto the grass when a wide footpath was provided to link the fountain area to the palace entrance and the crown arch.  There was plenty of paved space to sit but I spotted a couple sprawled on the grass.  Just thought about how the poor grass was being destroyed under them…

This is also a good site for the public to be educated in civic consciousness like keeping the place clean for everyone to enjoy.  There should be better enforcement of penalties for littering so that people will be compelled to use the dustbins provided.  If the volume of trash increases, this is a good place to station recycle bins and educate the public to put the various types of rubbish in the appropriate bins.

I cannot help but make these observations because public spaces such as this must be preserved in the long term, by the public’s commitment to a positive attitude.

It would certainly take a concerted effort to maintain Laman Mahkota as a destination that welcomes both hometown tourists as well as foreign guests and lets everyone leave with a positive impression of Johor and the pride of our royal family.

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