Celebrate Mid-Autumn with Wan Li mooncakes


It was good to be back at Wan Li, the Chinese Restaurant at Renaissance Johor Baru, for a preview of their traditional handcrafted mooncakes and snow skin mooncakes.


A charming display in the Mid-Autumn Festival
theme at the Mooncake Counter in the hotel lobby

It was also a pleasure to meet with hotel General Manager, Kanit Sangmookda, and to tell him that it has almost become an annual tradition for us to enjoy a preview of the lovely mooncakes by Wan Li at each Mid-Autumn Festival.


Once again, the restaurant will present 16 varieties of handcrafted mooncakes, both traditional baked and snow skin mooncakes, available from the Mooncake Counter, conveniently located in the hotel lobby, from now till 10 September 2022.


In the weeks prior to the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese have a tradition of presenting each other with quality mooncakes as an expression of affection and auspicious wishes.


Traditional baked mooncake stuffed with
Jade Custard, is among the popular choices
of Wan Li mooncakes

This is because the Mid-Autumn Festival is another reason for family reunions over a grand feast and to enjoy eating mooncakes with sips of quality Chinese tea, while the children have fun exploring the moonlit darkness in the garden by the light of their lanterns.


With its central location in the hotel lobby, the Mooncake Counter drew immediate attention, with its décor in a charming Mid-Autumn Festival theme that showcased a variety of traditional baked mooncakes as well as snow skin mooncakes, along with a range of quality Chinese teas, recommended to pair with the mooncakes.


Chef Pei Shi presenting her
demo in making traditional
handcrafted mooncake

This year, the elegant gift boxes for mooncakes from Wan Li are designed in Tiffany Blue and are used along with similar gift boxes designed in a soothing shade of violet.


At Wan Li Chinese Restaurant, all eyes were on Chef De Partie, Lim Pei Shi, as she presented a demonstration of a handcrafted mooncake, stuffed with lotus paste and a single egg yolk.


I am familiar with Chef Pei Shi and have tasted the traditional baked mooncakes and snow skin mooncakes from Wan Li, filled with fresh, quality, natural ingredients and flavours, that were made without preservatives.


It was also good to see a display of the various ingredients that went into the stuffing for their range of traditional mooncakes.


As I listened to her commentary for the step-by-step demo, I was pleased to note that this young lady has gained much confidence, not only in public-speaking but also in her demonstration skills while she and her demo were the focus for a group of eager photographers and videographers.


Some of the ingredients in the stuffing for
traditional handcrafted mooncakes

When Chef Pei Shi had carefully sealed the pastry and its filling into the traditional wooden mooncake mould, there was a tiny pause as she searched for a firm space on the counter on which to knock the mould against – once on its left and once on its right – before a final knock on the upper part of the mould, to release the neatly shaped mooncake from its wooden mould.


These wooden moulds are custom-made for the Renaissance, designed with a distinct identity of a capital letter ‘R’ for Renaissance.


I thought this demo was both informative and educational, one that offered a better appreciation for the culture and tradition of making and sharing of mooncakes with family and friends, in a range of delicious delicacies that are now available in Halal versions for all Malaysians to enjoy.


A platter of Wan Li snow skin mooncakes

I can recognise the square-shaped baked mooncake which is stuffed with Assorted Fruits & Nuts while the round-shaped baked mooncake is filled with fine quality, Pure Lotus Paste with a sprinkle of toasted melon seeds or kuaci.


The Lotus Paste and Green Tea Paste mooncakes come with a choice of Single or Double yolks. Other popular choices of traditional baked mooncakes are Red Bean and Jade Custard, the jade green derived from the natural flavour of fragrant pandan leaves.


Their creative range of snow skin mooncakes include Golden Peach Truffle and Blueberry Truffle along with Orange Truffle, Strawberry Truffle, Green Tea Matcha Truffle, Chocolate Crunchy Pearl, Taro Paste Truffle and Peppermint Chocolate Truffle, as well as premium snow skin mooncake filled with Durian Truffle.


A range of quality Chinese tea recommended
to pair with the traditional mooncakes

To better appreciate the fragrant taste and smooth texture of each flavour of these delicate pastel-coloured mooncakes, snow skin mooncakes are best savoured chilled.


A set of eight Wan Li snow skin mooncakes within a gift box is priced at RM128 nett, a set of four baked mooncakes is priced at RM128 nett while snow skin mooncakes stuffed with Durian Truffle is priced at RM148 nett in a box of eight.


Enjoy attractive promotional deals for the purchase of mooncakes in a single receipt: 10% discount for early-bird buys from now till August 11, 15% discount for purchases above 25 boxes and 25% discount for purchases of above 100 boxes.



Small slices of a range of Wan Li
traditional baked mooncakes for our tasting

Club Renaissance JB members will enjoy 15% discount.


For advance orders, please call, Tel: +607 – 381 3388 or send email to: henry.lee@renaissancehotels.com


Enquiries and orders may be sent by WhatsApp to Tel: +6012 – 771 9056 from 11am to 9pm.


Handcrafted mooncakes by Wan Li at Renaissance Johor Baru are also available on Shopee, Lazada and Oddle (https://wanlirestaurant.oddle.me/en_MY/) platform.


Wan Li Chinese Restaurant (Halal) is on the lobby level of Renaissance Johor Baru, at No. 2 Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750 Johor Baru, Johor.


For more info, visit website: www.wanlichineserestaurant.com and sign up for exclusive updates and to enjoy special deals.

A taste of Awagyu at TD Central


If you were invited to dine at a café or restaurant located at TD Central in Taman Daya, please don’t make the mistake of confusing TD Central with TD Point in Taman Daya, like I did.


Facade of Awagyu Yakiniku at TD Central

A great deal of development had happened in Taman Daya (that I was unaware of!) so when I arrived at the Japanese restaurant a little later than the appointed time, I was graciously forgiven for the mix-up because it was a genuine mistake on my part.


I liked that the TD Central commercial precinct was designed for drive-through convenience and (to save time searching for parking space!) there were peripheral parking lots close to the cluster of shops, cafes and restaurants here.


Trained chefs carving cuts of Tokushima wagyu
at Awagyu Yakiniku, TD Central

It was easy to spot Awagyu Yakiniku and on arrival, I was ushered into a private dining room and invited to sit on a cushion (instead of a chair) around the low table where I could comfortably tuck my legs into a space under the table.


Designed for Yakiniku dining, the rectangular table had two built-in stoves neatly fitted with barbecue grills, ready to be fired up to grill the restaurant’s signature meats prepared with No. 1 A5 Premium Wagyu beef from Tokushima, Japan.


Restaurant Manager, Kelly Mok, introduced me to Tommy Yeow, one of the restaurant partners and Chef Eric Chai, who was delighted to introduce me to the restaurant’s most popular choices among diners here as well as at their flagship restaurant in the city at Jalan Dato’ Abdullah Tahir, Taman Abad (Century Gardens).


Chef Eric Chai with the brand's
Halal certificate

Chef Eric explained that they imported the whole cattle from Tokushima to prepare more than 10 wagyu cuts to match the diners’ tastes and budget.


He explained that different cuts presented different tastes and with this wide range of meat cuts to prepare different dishes priced from RM28 to RM185, Awagyu Yakiniku has a menu of quality beef dishes that was affordable for all meat-lovers. 


And because their A5 wagyu is Halal certified for Muslim diners to savour with confidence, their tagline is #rasasayang because after each satisfying Awagyu meal, diners will literally feel so loved.


The perception that Wagyu Beef is the most expensive beef in the world is not wrong because these cattle are bred and raised to strict standards, along with special care in a stress-free environment, and fed a rich diet so that their fat marbling grows to the highest score and quality.


Preparing thinly sliced wagyu

For carnivores who cannot travel all the way to Japan for this satisfying taste, Awagyu is pleased to serve quality cuts of Tokushima A5 Wagyu Beef, guaranteed for a unique tasting experience right here in your own neighbourhood.

When Awagyu opened in Johor Baru in 2019, it was not long before the global pandemic reached our shores and the nation went into lockdown.


While they provided takeaways, Awagyu also pivoted to online marketing of their quality wagyu beef as retail and wholesale suppliers and survived the challenges to emerge stronger because their regular customers soon turned into regular diners.


Kelly chipped in to say that their online marketing also involved educating viewers on the various cuts of wagyu and its preparation for the preferred doneness as well as guiding diners on its seasoning for the most satisfying taste.


A platter of wagyu cuts are clearly labelled
for tasting and comparison of taste and textures

Tommy was pleased that they are able to deliver daily, freshly cut meats to customers in destinations, not only locally but also nationwide.


He was so delighted that Awagyu was living up to its mission statement (borrowed from a popular airline brand), Now everyone can afford wagyu!


While it was a difficult time during the nationwide lockdown, Awagyu managed to keep their loyal team together and committed themselves to carrying out their Corporate Social Responsibility – twice – in providing Bento set meals to taxi drivers and frontliners like the Police and other government agencies who were manning the roadblocks.


Choice cuts of A5 wagyu beef

As I listened to how the restaurant sustained themselves and their team through the challenges in the past two years, I also saw their passion and commitment in creating a menu of dishes with quality meat that appealed to a wider range of diners.


Chef Eric reiterated that because they imported the whole cattle, they are able to feature various meat cuts in the menu that matches with the budget of all diners.


All this talk about quality meat was making my mouth water so it was good to see them light up the grill to prepare morsels of wagyu for my tasting experience.


Premium cuts of wagyu beef

Kelly guided me to start with a taste of grilled Premium Ichibo, an A5 wagyu slice of steak, lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of ground pepper and salt, so that I could compare its taste and texture with the next piece of Premium Sirloin.


This sampling platter of fresh wagyu is clearly labeled for diners to be aware of what they were tasting so they could decide on their preferred choice of cuts to savour from the menu of wagyu meats.


As the slice of grilled Premium Sirloin melted in my mouth, I agreed that such juicy meat needed the lightest seasoning of salt and pepper and nothing else.


Sukiyaki, grilled thin-cut slices of wagyu
dipped into soft-boiled egg

For diners who wanted more taste, Awagyu has created their own-made dip sauces with a mix of honey, apple and banana, as well as a spicy Green Sambal dip for those who liked a bit more zing.


Another way to savour these quality meats was through enjoying Sukiyaki, where grilled thin-cut slices of grilled wagyu were dipped into soft-boiled egg.


Chef Eric then shared with me, his exciting experience of going to Tokushima to visit the cattle farms and processing centre, and meeting with the butchers who handle the Halal preparation procedures.


Japanese Hotate is among the popular items

He and his team had the privilege of being trained by a Japanese Master Butcher with more than 40 years in the industry, who came to Johor Baru to train them.


It was rather amusing because their local team of Malay and Chinese chefs could not understand Japanese but with the convenient use of Google Translate, they were able to get a grasp of what the Master Butcher aimed to teach them.


While Awagyu was proud of their menu of authentic Tokushima Wagyu, they also serve popular items like fresh Japanese Hotate and Tokushima oysters, air-flown from Japan.


Sushi topped with wagyu and sea urchin

Tommy explained that while their TD Central outlet may mainly serve a Yakiniku menu, their flagship outlet in the city also features a Seafood and Teppanyaki menu.


He was also pleased that in spite of the prevailing economic climate, Awagyu had maintained their menu prices consistently for the past three years since their first opening in 2019.


The positive reception of Awagyu and its menu of authentic wagyu from Tokushima has encouraged them not only to persevere but also plan for opening more outlets to serve more fans of wagyu throughout the nation, in the near future.


Awagyu Yakiniku [Halal] is situated at TD Central, Taman Daya, Johor. Open for lunch from 12pm to 2.30pm and for dinner from 5.30pm to 10pm. Reservations via WhatsApp Tel: +6011 5662 5403. Private Rooms are available for hosting events.

Oldest Railway Kopitiam in the nation


I am familiar with the legendary tale of how Lim Huan Hee started a small business, running a canteen within the Kluang railway station in 1938, with just one kati of sugar and a few cans of milk.


Barney [Far Left] and Jack [Second from Right]
honoured their long-serving staff at the event

This railway canteen was open early to serve commuters and travellers when the first train arrived in Kluang and its location close to the Police Station, post office, telecoms office and Government offices, made this a convenient and popular spot for breakfast.


Over the years, the canteen developed into a coffeeshop under Lim’s son, Lim Heng Yong and his grandson, Lim Jit Chen, better known as Jack, established the Kluang RailCoffee brand and took the business to the next level.


In 2008, Jack partnered with his cousin, Lim Jit Tong, also known as Barney, to build the business and expanded the menu to include more local and international items.


Notice the overhead bridge that carries
the all-new, dual-track rails

Over the years, I covered many stories on the Kluang Railway Station coffee-shop that featured Jack and as I became more familiar with the Lim family, it was only natural for me to document the Kluang Rail Canteen story under Heritage Trades in My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, published in 2018.


At my book launch event in December 2018, I had the privilege to meet with the son of Jack, Lim Ben Winn, the fourth-generation family member who was injecting new blood into the family business.


Fast-forward to July 2022 when I received a message from Ben Winn or Ben in short, with a VIP invitation to the Kluang Railway Station coffee-shop for the induction ceremony for this kopitiam, recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records as the Oldest Railway Coffee Shop in Malaysia.


 “Congratulations!” I promptly responded as I was absolutely thrilled to hear of such a recognition. What followed was a quick exchange of messages to learn more about what was planned for the event.


My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places
and Inspirational People

Ben agreed that it was fitting to present the VIPs invited to the event with copies of, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, that features the Kluang Railway Canteen story on page 118, as a token of appreciation and went on to discuss their order with MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur.


After two years of uncertainties where many lives and livelihoods were lost, it was so refreshing to know that the Kluang RailCoffee coffeeshop not only weathered the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, but it had also gained recognition as the oldest coffeeshop with 84 years of serving their classic coffee and menu of comfort food to coffee-shop connoisseurs.

To avoid over-crowding, the event was planned for 10am on Monday, the usual day on which the Railway Station coffeeshop was closed for business.


After a smooth drive from Johor Baru to Kluang via the North-South Highway, it was interesting to enter the old town via the scenic route but with a difference.


Barney Lim Jit Tong [Left] 
with Jack Lim Jit Chen [Right]

The railway crossing gates were removed because the all-new, dual-track rails were constructed on an overhead bridge that passes the new railway station, now under construction at Kampung Masjid Lama.


When I arrived at the Kluang Railway Station, it was good to see the familiar, original building that was built in 1909, where one wing was the coffee-shop and the other, was still being used as the railway station ticketing counter and offices.


A festive feel prevailed as was seen from a pair of feather flags that fluttered in the wind and proudly announced the Malaysia Book of Records event for the recognition of Kluang RailCoffee opened since 1938, as the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in Malaysia.


An archway of balloons decorated the entrance to the coffeeshop and staff, dressed in the event T-shirt with the proud recognition of the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in Malaysia by the Malaysia Book of Records, emblazoned across the T-shirt’s back, busied themselves in welcoming media personnel, some who had arrived from Kuala Lumpur.


A modern cafe in the Kluang Railway
Station with a replica of the railway
track designed into its decor

After I was warmly welcomed in, Barney filled me in on the developments in the vicinity since my last visit to the Kluang RailCoffee outlet at the station.  


As more guests were arriving, I watched as Jack and Ben welcomed and ushered in VIP guests who were the assemblywoman for Mahkota, Datuk Sharifah Azizah Datuk Syed Zain, as representative of the Johor Menteri Besar, CEO of KTM Berhad or Malayan Railways Limited, En Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin and the CEO of Perbadanan Aset Keretapi or Railway Assets Corporation, En Adam Abu Hanipah.


The Lim family who operates Kluang RailCoffee at the railway station, have always valued the strong partnership they share with the authorities in the Kluang Municipal Council, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) and Railway Assets, the owner of the railway station building.


My order of Kaya Toast with Kopi-C

The convivial mood continued as guests were invited to place their orders for a choice of beverage and snacks from the menu, on free-flow specially for that event.


When I was reminded that they sell between 5,000 to 6,000 sets of Kaya Toast every day, I decided to place my order for Kaya Toast to enjoy with a hot cup of Kopi-C.


Looking back, I probably learnt more about the coffeeshop culture in our community from the good people at Kluang RailCoffee who helped to educate me with kopitiam jargon like Kopi-O, Kopi-C Kosong, Kopi-Kaw or Kopi-Cham etc, the phrases and permutations used to order your favourite cuppa.


One for the album [L to R] Ben, Barney,
En Mohd Rani Hisham, Datuk Sharifah 
Azizah, En Adam, Jack and Jwan Heah

In course of our conversation, Jack remarked that the Kluang RailCoffee kopitiam was an institution in Kluang that united the multi-cultural community here.


He recalled that Datuk Sharifah Azizah’s father, Datuk Syed Zain, a former Speaker in the Johor State Assembly, used to meet at this kopitiam at 11am daily with other regulars who included school headmasters and politicians, to enjoy their coffee and conversation.


This kopitiam was the destination of choice not only for coffeeshop connoisseurs but groups of hobbyists like car and motorcycle enthusiasts who chose to drive or ride to Kluang and hosted their weekend gatherings here.  


The VIPs received My Johor Stories Book Two
as a special memento for this significant event

In fact, recently some 100 Porsche car owners arrived at the Railway Station kopitiam and because it was impossible to accommodate them here, the group was separated into batches and invited to go to the other outlets in Kluang.


Jack lamented that theirs was such a humble beginning that through the early years, it was a matter of making ends meet and nobody ever thought of capturing any photographs of the original canteen.


Around the early 1980s, when Jack joined his father in the business, he saw the value of their heritage trade and did everything to preserve and promote the nostalgic charm and ambience in the coffeeshop.


Jack and Barney presented an
event T-shirt to Jwan Heah after
they received the Malaysia Book of
Records National Record certificate

While this recognition by the Malaysia Book of Records was a treasured honour and a deeply motivating inspiration to do better for the image of Kluang, Jack aspires for more to be done to preserve their 84-year-old coffeeshop in that heritage building when the new Kluang Railway Station went into full operation.


He looks forward to the opportunity to expand the premises with better facilities and landscaping to welcome more visitors as the Kluang RailCoffee kopitiam becomes a must-see tourist destination here.


Meanwhile, Barney paid tribute to his wife, Choon Yann, who worked behind-the-scene to write the Employee Handbook that essentially guided the team in their daily tasks and was key in the implementation and execution of tasks. (She was not present to witness this significant event because she was a close contact to a Covid positive patient.)


While the Lim family attributed the success of Kluang RailCoffee to the strong and sustained support from the people of Kluang, they also acknowledged the contributions and commitment of their hardworking staff.


Autographing my book for
Datuk Sharifah Azizah at the event

I was pleased to observe that the highlight of the event was an award ceremony for their long-serving staff who were each rewarded with a Certificate of Achievement, a sports jacket and a token of appreciation within a Red Packet.


They were Mohd Rezal Mohammad, Azman Ahmad and Zorimi Abd Hamid, who each clocked 15 years of service, Rizal Sukardi who was with Kluang RailCoffee for 16 years and Lai Teck Cheong, the longest-serving staff who was with them for 25 years.


In the next part of the event, I was deeply honoured to be acknowledged when they presented my book, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, to each of the three VIP guests.


Barney and Jack pose for a current
shot of the same pose published in
My Johor Stories 2: Interesting 
Places and Inspirational People

Then, for the moment we had been waiting for: Barney and Jack received the Certificate for the National Record as the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in the nation that was officially presented Malaysia Book of Records Marketing Officer, Jwan Heah.


Barney and Jack, the two Lim cousins who were responsible for the growth of the family business, each took their turn to express their appreciation and support to everyone involved for their contributions that led to this momentous event.


Then it was a fun time for photos to capture the excitement as I autographed my books for the VIPs and then, Barney and Jack were asked to stand in the same pose at the doorway of the kopitiam that was published in my book, for a current shot.


Together with the original Railway Station kopitiam, Kluang RailCoffee now has three other outlets in Kluang located at Jalan Duku, Jalan Tasik and Sri Impian, that serves a signature menu of specialties that pair perfectly with freshly brewed coffee.


The next chapter for Kluang RailCoffee would involve bringing this Johor brand to other parts of the country and by September, an outlet should open in Shah Alam, Selangor.


Kluang RailCoffee coffeeshop [Halal] is located within the old Kluang Railway Station at Jalan Stesen, 86000 Kluang, Johor. Open daily from 7am to 6pm, closed on Monday.

A Centre for Johor Malay Heritage


Some 15 years ago, I was introduced to the elegance of Johor Malay traditional costumes when I experienced a fashion show presented by Yayasan Warisan Johor or Johor Heritage Foundation, and found it both charming and fascinating.


Johor zapin dance performance at Rumah Limas

Looking back, it was 2005 when I learnt more about the timeless elegance of Busana Johor in this presentation that showcased Johor Malay traditional costumes.


While the commentary was in Malay, I managed to learn more details in English from Hj Shafie Ahmad, my go-to person for Johor Malay culture and heritage and whose personal contributions made Johor Malay culture and traditions, clear and interesting to me.


My interest in Busana Johor was so ignited that I even joined a training session for sewing the Malay costume – Kursus Jahitan Busana Johor – and discovered more about the design of Baju Melayu Telok Belanga, a style of the Johor Malay costume that had royal origins.


It was good to be back at the
Johor Heritage Foundation again

I learnt more about Busana Johor in 2012, when I joined the Johor Baru chapter of the International Women’s Association for a Johor Malay culture experience while the Foundation premises was located at Jalan Mariamah.


Then in 2015, I published my feature, Stitched in Tradition, in Life & Times with The New Sunday Times newspapers on Jamil Sukaimi of Telok Belanga Design, to share with readers nationwide, more about this style of Johor Malay traditional costumes.


Over the years, I had the pleasure to participate in numerous Malay culture and heritage experiences hosted by the Foundation where Hj Shafie, a fountain of information and an exceptional host who provided me with relevant info in English.


After a visit to Galeri Tenun or Weaving Gallery – housed in the heritage building within Komplex Warisan Sultan Abu Bakar – my feature, Reviving the Tenun artform, was published in Life & Times, The New Sunday Times newspapers in June 2016.


An array of Johor specialties displayed
on a woven mat, spread on the floor in
the Rumah Limas Johor
Built more than a 100 years ago, that was an old palace once named Istana Tunku Fatimah, the former residence of the younger sister of Sultan Sir Ibrahim.


In 2018, I was a guest (again!) with the Johor Baru chapter of the International Women’s Association for a Johor Malay cultural experience at the Foundation located in its current premises at Jalan Sungai Chat.


In 2019, I was proud to witness Haji Shafie being recognised for his consistent contributions in the promotion of Johor culture and heritage, as the Individual winner in the Arts, Culture & Heritage category of the Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Award.


Around end 2019, the Foundation presented visitors to Johor Baru with a One-Stop Malay Cultural Centre experience in a conducted tour that included hands-on activities like batik painting and traditional games, that ended with light refreshments.


Meeting with Deputy Director, Pn Sarina Taslim
and her team at the Foundation in June 2022

At last, there was a one-stop destination to enjoy and experience Johor Malay culture and heritage, where visitors could watch traditional zapin dance performances and learn the dance steps, as well as visit the Weaving Gallery to observe traditional weaving and buy souvenirs.


About the same time, I was preparing the Contents for Book Three of My Johor Stories and decided to include a story on the proud heritage of Baju Melayu Telok Belanga under the Culture-Heritage section.


Once again, Hj Shafie was my friend at the Foundation whom I could count on to help review my manuscript on the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga.


It was good to know that 
My Johor Stories were in the
Document Resource Centre

While the global pandemic compelled us to stay home to stay safe, I made good use of time and technology to research, refine and ready my manuscript for Book Three.


As the economy reopened after more than two years of uncertainties, I reached out to the Foundation to let them know that I will be featuring the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga in Book Three of My Johor Stories.


[After Book Two of My Johor Stories was published in 2018, Hj Shafie told me that the Foundation had stocked my books in their Document Resource Centre.]


In June 2022, I was at the Foundation to meet with Deputy Director, Puan Sarina Taslim and her team, to share with them the Contents for Book Three and how my story on the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga would fit in beautifully in the theme, Proudly Johor.


[Meanwhile when I met with Johor Royal Court Council president, Dato’ Abdul Rahim Ramli, whom the Foundation was working closely with to document Johor culture and heritage, Dato’ graciously volunteered to share with me, his valuable knowledge and experience on the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga.]


The Baju Melayu Telok Belanga features
a round flat collar, hand-stitched and
fastened by a single stud

Recently, the Foundation planned an event to relaunch the One-Stop Malay Cultural Centre experience and I was delighted to receive an invitation.


And when I joined them at the event, I was warmly welcomed by none other but the Foundation Director, Sharil Nizam Abd Rahim. Over a cup of tea, we reminisced about life in old Johor Baru and where he used to live at Kampung Mohamad Amin.


I was pleased that the event agenda included a visit to the Rumah Limas Johor, Art Gallery, Galeri Tenun or Weaving Gallery and Document Resource Centre, along with interactive activities and of course, a taste of Malay specialties.


Wearing a Johor-style songkok

After two years of travel restrictions due to the global pandemic, it was good to meet with tour and travel government agencies as well as travel industry players again.


Back at Rumah Limas Johor again, we were introduced to the traditional building architecture, Johor Malay food specialities and Johor Malay traditional costumes.


It was a pleasure to meet with an event participant, Fairuz, a tour guide who introduced himself as a regular reader of My Johor Stories and who was familiar with my stories on Johor culture and heritage, stored in my blog.


When we were invited to explore the house, I did not hesitate to visit the inner sanctuary – the room – where the traditional Malay costumes were displayed.


I was pleased to see the hand-sewn details on the flat collar of the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga where the edges of the collar were hemmed in tulang belut or eel bones stitches, and fastened by a single stud – a signature feature in this outfit.


Two ways of wearing
 the Johor-style
Baju Melayu Telok Belanga

Nearby, I spotted a staff who was wearing the Johor-style songkok, a version taller in height than a typical songkok.


When we were ushered to the other Rumah Limas for a zapin dance performance, I paused to speak to two young men and asked for permission to snap a photo of them.  


This was because they were each dressed in Baju Melayu Telok Belanga in the uniquely Johor-style Baju Melayu.


While one wore a calf-length kain dagang or samping (sarong) over the trousers but under the shirt in the Baju Melayu berkain dagang dalam style, the other wore the Baju Melayu berkain dagang luar style where the sarong was pleated with a single pleat at the front-center and folded down twice with a neat, flat waistband. 


The shirt or baju of the young man who was dressed in the Baju Melayu berkain dagang dalam style, featured three pockets: one small breast patch pocket on the left and two palm-size, right and left pockets on the front bottom edge of the shirt.


Hands-on activity at the Art Gallery to create
your own tie-and-die masterpiece

At the Art Gallery, exhibitions by local artists will be changed from time-to-time but I was told that there were permanent exhibits in the gallery that included an abstract piece in acrylic by Johor artist, Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal entitled, Hujung Tanah.


Among the paintings to admire here were two attractive pieces by Her Majesty Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofia and a priceless piece by her mother-in-law and mother of His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, YAM Enche’ Besar Hajjah Khalsom Abdullah, a 1976 etching entitled, Malay Wedding.


A collection of old magazines and newspapers

At the Document Resource Centre, we learnt that the Foundation had a section dedicated to the preservation of old but valuable books on Johor because the preservation of documents like books and magazines, will provide future generations who were seeking documentary proof of the past, a very precious resource.


While observing a demonstration of the electronic equipment used for the digitalisation process, I was pleased to recognise a familiar book, A History of Johore by R. O. Winstedt (1878 – 1966) that was being digitised. 


The print on its cover indicated that this old book was its sixth reprint, proof of how his research and discoveries documented of a bygone era, was of such great value.


My Johor Stories in the Johor section
of the Document Resource Centre

And while the others were still browsing, I sought the help of the Foundation staff to escort me to the Reference Books section in the Resource Centre and Fatin guided me to the Johor Section where there was a collection of Malay and English books.


No, I do not count myself along the ranks of Winstedt but I was ridiculously pleased to see My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People among the collection, which Fatin told me, were often used by visitors who needed references on old Johor.


Fatin holding up my books,
One and Two of My Johor Stories

Back at Galeri Tenun, it was refreshing to see some changes in the display and to discover that there was a new product – smart tailored shirts – that featured panels of the exclusive Johor-style fabric, woven in lovely colours and designs.


While the woven fabrics were typically designed in a check or square pattern, I learnt that the distinctive Johor fabric design was distinguished by woven motifs in gold threads or threads made from pineapple leaf fibres, positioned at the points where the squares meet.


Upstairs, I was pleased to see in glass showcases, ladies’ accessories like anklets and hair pins traditionally worn to complete the ensemble, and mannequins – both adult and children – that displayed a range of Johor Malay traditional costumes in the style of Baju Melayu Telok Belanga and Baju Melayu Cekak Musang. 


Our Johor Malay Cultural experience at the Foundation aptly ended with lunch hosted at the Rumah Limas that was served with live music entertainment provided by their band and singers, as well as zapin dance performances.


Dancers of this zapin dance performance were
wearing Johor Malay traditional costumes

I probably had the privilege of the best-seat-at-the-table, closest to the dance floor to capture some good shots of these exciting performances.


While I enjoyed the music and songs, presented in a pleasant inang melody, the cherry on top of this cake, was the finale: a traditional zapin dance performed by dancers who were dressed in Busana Johor, a range of elegant Johor Malay traditional costumes.


Yayasan Warisan Johor or the Johor Heritage Foundation, is located at Komplex Warisan Sultan Abu Bakar, Lot 888 Jalan Sungai Chat, 80100 Johor Baru, Johor.


For group tours and enquiries, write in to Email: corporate.ywj@gmail.com


For more information, visit Yayasan Warisan Johor official pages on Facebook, Instagram and website: www.ywj.gov.my