Holiday Inn Express & Suites' first Ramadan


Holiday Inn Express & Suites Johor Baru presents its first breaking-of-fast buffet at the Great Room in the theme, Selera Kampung which features traditional Ramadan favourites with a range of dishes that reflect authentic Johor flavours.


Grilled lamb Briyani Rice is served from
a live-station at the top of the stairs

Fresh from its recent grand opening, the hotel’s culinary team has planned exciting menus for diners to break their fast with a mouthwatering buffet spread that comes with live entertainment by a four-piece band.


Diners who arrive by staircase from the lobby to Level One, will be greeted by the fragrance of grilled lamb with Briyani Rice along with condiments like lamb gravy, raita and papadam crisps, served from a live-station at the top of the stairs. A helpful staff will be on hand to carve the lamb and serve.


Traditional sambal dip sauces to choose from

The breaking-of-fast meal begins with a range of appetizers like dried dates, ulam-ulaman kampung or local greens topped with a choice of sambal sauces, and a selection of kerepek and keropok crisps to munch on.


In addition to jars of traditional pickles, there are Rojak Tahu and Kerabu salads as well as Western-style salads to assemble and savour with dressings of your choice.


Tender meat in the Sup Tulang Rawan Berempah

Another Ramadan favourite are skewers of grilled satay in choices of beef or chicken, accompanied by essential condiments like sliced raw cucumber, onions and nasi empit or rice cubes, to savour with peanut sauce.


With your appetite whet for more, enjoy Sup Tulang Rawan Berempah, a warm and comforting beef bone soup and don’t forget to fish out some of the tender meat to enjoy with the tasty soup.


Condiments to top Johor Laksa before 
adding the rich, fish gravy

Unlike other laksa which are made with noodles, Laksa Johor – a uniquely Johor specialty – is made with spaghetti, topped with condiments like chai-poh, a Chinese preserved vegetable, cucumber slivers and chopped daun selasih, before adding on the rich, fish gravy.


In the hot buffet, familiar dishes are prepared for diners to enjoy eating with steamed white rice. In addition to rice, there is also Mee Goreng or fried noodles to enjoy.


Assam Pedas Kupang

A must-have is Johor-style Assam Pedas, a hot and spicy gravy prepared in three choices of main ingredients, Daging (beef), Sotong (squid), and Kupang (mussels).


Humble dishes that families enjoy in village homes include Nangka Muda Masak Lemak Daun Selasih or young jack fruit cooked in coconut milk and basil leaves.


The range of home-style dishes continue in Ikan Tenggiri Gulai Nenas or Tenggiri fish braised with pineapple, Daging Salai Masak Chili Api Berkentang or smoked beef with bird’s-eye chili and potatoes, and Ayam Masak Bunga Kantan or chicken with torch ginger flower, a fragrant version of tasty chunks of chicken.


A range of cakes, puddings and pastries

The daily Ramadan buffet menu will rotate to provide diners with a variety to enjoy even when they made repeat visits to dine here.


The prawn dish, for instance, may alternate between Udang Goreng Nestum, prawns fried Chinese-style in Nestum (an oat mix) and Udang Masak Lemak Rebung or prawns in coconut milk with bamboo shoot.


Thirst-quenchers come in a choice of cut fresh fruits, a range of refreshing cool drinks as well as hot coffee and tea.


The Selera Kampung Ramadan buffet comes
with live music entertainment

For a sweet ending, pick from cakes, puddings and pastries and assemble your own refreshing Ice-Kacang, a shaved ice specialty with your choice of condiments.


The Selera Kampung Ramadan will be served at the Great Room from April 5 to May 1, 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Prayer Room is provided for diners’ convenience.


Rate at RM88 nett per adult and RM48 nett per child aged five to 12 years.


Take advantage of the Early Bird special rate at RM68 nett per adult for vouchers bought before April 1.


For every 10 vouchers bought, one voucher will be given Free.


The Great Room is on Level One of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Johor Baru, located at Lot 512, Jalan Syed Mohd Mufti, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor.


For reservations, Tel: +607 218 3333 or +6018 9176199 and +6013 7382737.

Grand Opening of Holiday Inn Express & Suites


After its soft opening on 15 December 2021, the first Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Malaysia was officially declared opened in Johor Baru in a simple ceremony on 24 March 2022.


At the grand opening event [L to R] Melanie
Rahayu, Ivan Ting, Datuk Mohd Noorazam
Osman and Sandra Kloprogge

The grand opening of Holiday Inn Express & Suites, a collaboration between the OSK Group and the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), was witnessed by Johor Baru Mayor, Datuk Mohd Noorazam Osman, Chief Operating Officer of OSK Group, Ivan Ting, IHG Regional General Manager for Malaysia and Singapore, Sandra Kloprogge, and hotel General Manager, Melanie Rahayu.


In his opening address, Datuk Mohd Noorazam said that the timing for the hotel’s official opening was just right as it was only a week ahead of the border reopening with neighbouring Singapore on April 1.


The ceremony, which kicked off with a Malay cultural dance, closed with the signing of a commemorative plaque by Datuk Mohd Noorazam and the presentation of a souvenir in appreciation for his presence at the event.

Datuk Mohd Noorazam presenting his
Opening Address at the grand opening event

Located at Jalan Syed Mohd Mufti, Holiday Inn Express & Suites is close to shopping malls like KOMTAR JBCC and Johor Baru City Square, the Persada International Convention Centre, government offices like KWSP or Employees Provident Fund, and the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) as well as walking distance to the city’s charming heritage quarter.


The hotel is also a short walk away from the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration & Quarantine (CIQ) Complex which houses the checkpoint into Singapore and the railway station, and the nearby Singapore-Johor Baru Rapid Transit System (RTS) terminal, which is currently under construction.


Facade of the hotel at Jalan
Syed Mohd Mufti in Johor Baru

The 203-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites is where leisure and business travellers can expect efficient and seamless experiences with a speedy check-in, a good night’s rest, power showers and the convenience of complimentary Wi-Fi connection.


“We are delighted to be able to bring the brand experience of IHG and integrate it with the best of Malaysian hospitality,” said Ting who is confident that guests who want a smart, simple and comfortable place to stay, will make this hotel their first choice among others.


Meanwhile this hotel is also the latest addition to one of the world’s largest hotel loyalty programmes, IHG Rewards, and Kloprogge was pleased that members can earn and redeem points at this hotel and nearly 6,000 hotels in more than 100 countries within a family of 17 hotel brands.


A burst of confetti after the commemorative
plaque was signed by the Johor Baru City Mayor

“I am excited to unveil Holiday Inn Express & Suites as the latest addition to the IHG Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio of hotels in Johor Baru, one of the most vibrant cities in Malaysia,” said Melanie.


“Our hotel concept will enable even more business and leisure travellers to experience a smarter way of travelling as we provide what matters most to travellers,” she added.


This hotel aims to be the smarter choice among travel-savvy guests who are seeking a simple and engaging place to rest, recharge and get a little work done.


A convenient footpath that links Jalan Syed 
Mohd Mufti with Jalan Dato Dalam

Comfortable accommodation is provided in a range of Standard Rooms with Queen or Twin beds, One-bedroom suites and Two-bedroom suites and there is even a spacious Accessible Room, specially equipped for physically disabled and elderly guests.


While this may be a smaller hotel, it is equipped with a restaurant, a Meeting Space, ideal for hosting corporate and social events for up to 120 people, as well as Fitness Centre and Laundry Room, both open 24 hours for the guests’ convenience.


As the world adjusts to new travel norms and expectations, the hotel has adopted the IHG Clean Promise standards to maintain cleanliness and provide guests with greater confidence and protection.


In addition to the IHG Clean Promise, the hotel also uses new, science-led protocols and service measures in partnership with industry leading experts like Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey.


The happy hotel team in a group shot after the grand opening event

The hotel has the advantage of dual road frontages so while its entrance is from Jalan Syed Mohd Mufti, access to the carpark is through Jalan Dato Dalam.


Guests who arrive on foot by way of Jalan Dato Dalam can take a convenient footpath via a flight of stairs and covered walkway, located next to the building to reach the front of the hotel at Jalan Syed Mohd Mufti.


Holiday Inn Express & Suites Johor Baru is located at Lot 512, Jalan Syed Mohd Mufti, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor. For reservations, Tel: +607 218 3333 or email to:


For more info and latest news, visit the hotel’s Newsroom or follow the hotel’s page on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

My Johor Stories at Anantara Desaru Coast


Since the Anantara Desaru Coast Resort and Villas opened in December 2019, I was keen to visit because I was delighted that Desaru Coast was the resort group’s choice for the first Anantara in Malaysia.


My Johor Stories in Anantara Desaru Coast

It was 2020 when I had my first experience at the resort for a preview of their Ramadan spread, hosted in restaurant, Tumeric.


My relationship with Desaru Coast dates back to its early development by the South East Johor Development Authority or KEJORA, into a holiday destination known simply as Desaru.


Long before the arrival of international brand hotels and resorts, Desaru was already a familiar destination as our family made many memories from our staycations here.


The Library at the lobby level of the resort

Back then, the two-hour scenic drive via Kota Tinggi was part of the fun and excitement of our day-trips and stays at Desaru.


As a Travel writer, I had the privilege to participate in countless Familiarisation Trips hosted by Tourism Malaysia, the resorts and hotels, to visit the many attractions dotted in the Eastern part of Johor and to share my stories with readers.


The opening of the Senai-Desaru Expressway significantly reduced travel time and when Desaru Coast was developed as the region’s first premier beach destination, I participated in many events hosted at the international brand hotels and resorts.


View of the South China Sea from the entrance
of the Library at Anantara Desaru Coast

It was also my privilege to witness grand opening celebration for Desaru Coast, officiated by His Majesty the Sultan of Johor.


In 2021, I had the pleasure to join Roslina Arbak, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Desaru Development Holdings One Sdn Bhd, for a breaking-of-fast meal at Tumeric (again!)


At this event, I met with Anantara Desaru Coast’s General Manager, Christian Gerart, and I distinctly remember his enthusiastic expression as he shared his pleasure in visiting Johor Baru’s heritage quarter.


With GM Christian Gerart in the Library

It was a subject close to my heart and I was pleased that he discovered some of the local attractions at the Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk, like the Red House, the two traditional bakers – Hiap Joo and Salahuddin – who still baked bread and cakes in a woodfire oven, as well as the much-touted Best Chicken Chop in Town from It Roo CafĂ©.


Fast-forward to 2022 when inter-state travel was reopened and dine-in was allowed, I accepted the invitation from Public Relations & Marketing Communications Manager, Carol Chin, for a Saturday Seaside Brunch experience at Sea.Fire.Salt, the beachfront restaurant at Anantara Desaru Coast.


One for the album: At entrance of the resort

When I arrived at the restaurant, I remember meeting with Daniel Firdaus, her PR & MarCom team member, but I must confess that I was absolutely blown away by the captivating ambience and delectable meal designed in the seaside escapade theme.


Over our leisurely lunch, I had the pleasure of introducing the Johor I know to Carol, who is not from Johor, and was delighted to learn that she had started the process to order my books for the resort from MPH Kuala Lumpur.


Her order included my 2017 Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, and its sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational Places.


Signing my books for the resort

In February, when Carol informed me that their order for my books was safely received, she also invited me to join the preview of their Ramadan spread at the Tumeric. However, for personal reasons, I had no alternative but to decline.


Some resorts and hotels here, who know that guests liked to stay in a place with a story, have placed my books in their better rooms and suites for their guests’ reading pleasure.


Reading My Johor Stories in the comfort of their rooms certainly enhances the guests’ stay and (I was told!) some guests at one of these resorts probably enjoyed my stories so much that they conveniently packed my books and took them away…


When I had arranged with Carol to autograph my books and meet with GM Christian at the resort, I arrived at their Library ahead of our appointment and had time to look around – and spotted stacks of my books there.


Signing my books for Anantara
Desaru Coast Resort & Villas

It was good to (later) learn that Carol had already read Book One and was now reading its sequel, while it was Daniel’s turn to read Book One.


As many team members in resorts and hotels were not from Johor, it was ideal for them to get acquainted with Johor heritage by reading My Johor Stories and equipping themselves with some knowledge to respond to guests’ queries and impress them with interesting snippets of info on Johor culture and heritage.


When we met again, I had the pleasure of briefly sharing with Christian, my exciting experiences on how My Johor Stories have been connecting people to Johor. In fact, some of these unique experiences were shared in, Connecting People through My Johor Stories, my TEDx Talk presented in 2019.


With the help of Carol and Daniel, who doubled up as stylists and photographers, we had a comfortable photography session before I got down to signing my books.


Thank you Daniel, for your photos!

While some books will be in the Library for the guests’ reading pleasure, Christian said that autographed copies of My Johor Stories will be premium gifts, presented to distinguished guests, to let them take home a slice of Johor as an extension of their stay at Anantara Desaru Coast in Johor.


When the last copy of my book was signed and safely stored away, I was invited to lunch at the Tumeric. While I enjoyed the meal and the company, the best bit was when Daniel presented me with a pen-drive filled with copies of our photographs.


Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas is the Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas group’s first luxury hotel in Malaysia, located at Persiaran Pantai, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor.


For reservations, Tel: +607 – 8280 888 or email:

For more information, visit webpage:


Photo Credit: Anantara Desaru Coast, PR & MarCom Team

Heritage flavours with Selera Warisan


This Ramadan, diners who are homesick for familiar favourites can satisfy their cravings at the Selera Warisan Dinner Buffet, from a menu inspired by traditional recipes served at The Mesh Restaurant in the Four Points by Sheraton Desaru.


Thirst-quenching chilled drinks to choose from

Chef Jiro and his culinary team are confident that these familiar dishes will not only tantalize the diners’ tastebuds but also give them that longed-for comfort and taste of tradition.


The team have drawn on their collective experience to prepare the most popular recipes in a menu of appetizers, main course dishes, live-cooking stations as well as a choice of refreshing drinks and delectable desserts.


By serving a rotating menu, diners who enjoyed their breaking-of-fast meal at The Mesh may return again and again with friends and family to savour another menu of comforting flavours, throughout the month.


Freshly grilled prawns to savour
with the dip sauce of your choice

After all, there are more than 100 dishes in this generous spread of traditional and international favourites for the breaking-of-fast meal here.


For a start, the restaurant observes the Standard Operating Procedures and provides disposable gloves for diners to wear while they handle common serving spoons and tongs at the buffet.


Begin at the Appetizer section with a choice of preserved dates followed by the fruit and vegetable Rojak salad and mouth-watering traditional salads like Kerabu Ikan Bilis (anchovies), Kerabu Daging (beef), Kerabu Betik Muda (young papaya) and Kerabu Ikan Goreng Nenas (fish fried with pineapple) and a range of Western style fresh salad topped with a choice of dressings.


Fresh ingredients to assemble your own
appetising salad to savour with spicy sauces

There are also choices of local crisps like keropok and papadam to munch on as well as pickled fruits to whet the appetite for more food from the hot buffet.


At the Soup Section, traditional Bubur Lambuk is a quintessential favourite while

there are choices of Sup Tulang (beef bone broth) and Sup Ayam Berempah (chicken soup with spices).


Among the highlights featured in the Selera Warisan menu are Arabic inspired carved lamb served with Arabic rice, Couscous, Tabouleh and Yogurt, prepared in The Mesh’s secret recipes.


Piping hot Gulai served in 
a choice of beef or chicken

For a taste of the Tandoor, choose from a selection of marinated poultry, meats and seafood, best savoured with a drizzle of lime juice, pickled onion, chutney and raita.


In the Charcoal and Grilled Station, the must-haves include traditional Ayam Percik (chicken), Otak-otak (spicy fish paste), beef and chicken satay (skewers of grilled meat) and smoked Angus brisket and lamb shoulder.


Don’t miss the dishes in the hot buffet that feature Pan-Asian items like pan-fried Fish fillets with Arabic spices on pumpkin, Rotisserie Chicken with Pineapple Tom Yam Salsa, sliced beef with caramelized onion and green chilli, and Sweet and Sour Prawns, just to name a few.


Meanwhile, seafood lovers can choose from the selection of fresh seafood like slipper lobsters, scallops, mussels, tiger prawns and flower crabs from the Seafood-on-Ice spread to savour with their choice of dip sauce.


Chef Jiro carving a portion of
Tandoor marinated Lamb

At the Sweets and Desserts Corner, a wide array of attractive cakes, tarts, puddings and pastries are designed to tempt while an assortment of local kuih and bubur or sweet broths vie for equal attention.


Diners can choose to quench their thirst with a variety of chilled juices lined up on the counter or they can assemble their own shaved ice ABC-Cendol dessert with their pick of ingredients.


Traditional fizzy Ayer Katira is a cool favourite while the hot beverages feature a range of quality tea by Boh Tea and choices of coffee served from a dispenser.


Selera Warisan Ramadan Dinner Buffet is served daily from 6pm to 10pm at the Mesh Restaurant from April 7 to May 2, 2022. Prayer rooms are provided.


The Mesh Restaurant is on the
lobby level of the hotel

Rate at RM128 nett per adult and RM64 nett per child aged six to 12 years and seniors aged above 60 years.


Take advantage of the Early Bird deal for vouchers purchased from now till April 6, 2022 at RM88 nett per adult and RM44 per child aged six to 12 years and seniors aged above 60 years.


Enjoy a group deal of one Free when you buy 10 vouchers for adults.


Guests can also enjoy the Eid Kareem Stay & Dine Package, available for booking from April 7 to May 2, 2022. This is an all-inclusive stay with Selera Warisan buffet dinner and Sahur or early breakfast for two adults and two children aged below 12, exclusively at RM399 per night.


The Mesh Restaurant is on the lobby level of Four Points by Sheraton Desaru, located at Jalan Kempas 2, Taman Desaru Utama, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor.


For reservations, Tel: +6017 2399163 or log onto

For more info, visit webpage:

JARO, an established Johor brand


In a recent conversation with someone who is not from Johor, I was asked what the shortform, J-A-R-O, represented.


JARO is located off Jalan Sungai Chat
in Johor Baru, Johor

She did try to hazard a guess (but failed to get it!) so I was happy to confirm that JARO was the shortform for Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation.


I am familiar with JARO because my family have been using JARO products for years – from furniture to potholders – presented their handicrafts as gifts to visitors and even brought them abroad to proudly present to friends and family as genuinely Johor-made souvenirs.


JARO was founded by Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a Chest Physician in the Johor Baru General Hospital, as a rehabilitation centre for recovering tuberculosis patients, in 1952.


Entrance to the Lim Kee Jin Wing of JARO

As the Johor Baru General Hospital was then a unit of the Malaysian Anti-Tuberculosis Association, this centre was first known as the Johor Anti-Tuberculosis Rehabilitation Organisation.


In 1970, JARO was registered as a charitable society to manage a sheltered workshop that caters to the rehabilitation needs for physically and intellectually disabled, spastics, visual or hearing impaired, the chronically ill and those who for personal reasons, have difficulty in getting regular employment.


While I was covering news for various publications, it was my privilege to share about the community events organised by JARO and in turn, I was often invited to their gatherings arranged to celebrate annual festive seasons with their staff.


The old photo album...

Among the many events JARO organised and hosted with visitors at their premises were Heritage Fairs, Open Days, Green Markets and Art & Craft exhibitions.


In 2013, I had the privilege to witness the event where part of the JARO building was officially renamed the Lim Kee Jin Wing in honour of Dato Dr. Lim Kee Jin, for his dedication and contribution to the development of JARO.


In 2015, I was also there when the then Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Allan Yarrow, visited JARO with his wife while he was on a two-day working visit to Johor.


With Mrs Sumedha Sehgal [Left] and 
General Manager, Joseph Roy Arputham

Yarrow had a special bond with Johor and JARO because he was born in Johor Baru in 1951 and lived his first six years here.


The work of JARO and other charitable organisations for people with disability, was close to his heart, not only because his mother, Paula Yarrow, once volunteered at JARO but also because his son also suffers from cerebral palsy.  


They lived in Johor when his father, Colin Yarrow, founded Metal Box Company, a can making factory in Woodlands in 1948. And from 1955 to 1956, C. D. Yarrow took over the role of Chairman of JARO from the founder, Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith.


This important snippet of history was recently discovered when JARO Honorary Secretary, Mrs Sumedha Sehgal, and JARO General Manager, Joseph Roy Arputham, pieced the information together from old documents and photographs they found during the building renovation.


It was good to verify the facts on JARO with them

While preparing the manuscript on the JARO story from the wealth of information and my experience with JARO, I too joined the dots and figured this out about Mr Yarrow’s link to JARO.


When I met with Sumedha to let her review my manuscript and verify the information I had written into their story, she also invited Joseph to join us in the meeting room, located in the refurbished section of the building.


JARO had firmly established itself as a Johor brand and I am pleased to include the JARO story in the contents of Book Three of My Johor Stories, that will feature a collection of stories on Proudly Johor brands.


Sumedha was confident that I was familiar enough with JARO but it was good to review the manuscript together, to get the chronology of events and all the facts, right.


Joseph brought along an old photo album from which I read a brief history – a version typewritten on a manual typewriter – recorded by Dato Dr Lim Kee Jin.


Inside were Black and White and coloured photographs and we agreed that the B&W photos have kept better than the coloured ones, which had faded with time.


Reviewing my manuscript together at JARO

One of the best shots I saw was one B&W group photo with Mr C. D. Yarrow, captured in front of the original building used by JARO, located within the Johor Baru General Hospital compound.


Another good photo was a landscape view of the current building in its original form when JARO moved into its premises at Sri Gelam in 1968.


With their permission, I will publish these precious photos with my story and preserve a proud Johor heritage in My Johor Stories, Book Three.


Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO is located at No. 18 Jalan Sungai Chat, Sri Gelam, 80100 Johor Baru, Johor. Website: