MacGregor's, a double award winner in 2022



This September marks a very special month for MacGregor’s Johor Baru when it was recognised among the Top 30 Bars in the nation and awarded the Guinness Top Beer Bar of the Year 2022, the only winner from Johor Baru and the Southern Region.


MacGregor's Irish Bar proudly features
Guinness, a popular black ale

Malaysia’s Top 30 Bars, an annual award event, was the first in a series of events to recognize the Top Bars in 2022 along with the inaugural award to honour the Top Beer Bar in the nation.


If you are familiar with Johor Baru’s main street, you will find MacGregor’s, opened on the street level of the Zenith Lifestyle Mall, the only fun pub in the heart of Johor Baru that enjoys a view of the promenade designed along Jalan Wong Ah Fook.


Opened in 2018 as an Irish bar, MacGregor’s was named after Irish mixed martial arts fighter, Conor McGregor, and remains true to its Irish heritage as an ambassador for the popular black ale, Guinness.


MacGregor's owner, Kevin Goh [Centre]
accepting the Top 30 Bars award

Over the years, MacGregor’s has evolved into a favourite watering-hole for both locals and visitors to Johor, and inevitably earned its tagline, Internationally Local.


This image is clearly reflected in their menu of food and beverage as well as the music playlist and live entertainment which keeps regulars coming back for more.


Recently, MacGregor’s expanded its premises with a section specially catered to diners who preferred a more family-friendly dining experience.


This popular chill-out spot in the city lives up to its reputation for serving up a menu of exciting food and drinks, along with an exciting vibe that often spills out into the city street.


Poster for the Rhythm & Grill event on Sept 28

While MacGregor’s is a favourite hangout to watch sports telecasts on big screens, it is also the choice for celebrations and entertaining guests, casual get-togethers and if the music lifts your spirits – to dance the night away.


For your mid-week fun, drop by at MacGregor’s on Wednesday, September 28, for Rhythm & Grill, a partnership event with Jameson Ginger & Lime to enjoy barbecued food, drinks and fun activities. Happening from 9pm to 11pm for one night only.


MacGregor’s Irish Pub is located at #G-06 Zenith Lifestyle Mall, No. 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor. No pork or lard are used in these premises.


Open daily from 3pm to 12am. Live music entertainment starts after 9.30pm daily. Tel: +607 – 266 3723.


For info updates, visit MacGregor’s official pages on Facebook and Instagram.

St Giles Southkey Johor Baru is now opened!


On a recent visit to the Mid Valley Southkey Mall, I discovered that the much-anticipated St Giles Southkey Johor Baru was already opened and did not hesitate to wander in for a look-see.


The hotel entrance from the Ground floor
level of Mid Valley Southkey Mall, Johor Baru

[Incidentally the name, St Giles was heard in the news quite frequently after September 8 when Queen Elizabeth II had passed.


Her remains were brought from Balmoral Castle to St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of the ceremony in the nation’s mourning.]


The weather was overcast that day but it did not dampen the cheerful ambience in the ground-floor lobby at St Giles Southkey JB where I was met by two helpful staff, one of whom was non other than hotel General Manager, TeeKay Goh.


A section of the Reception
at the hotel lobby

I must confess that I am a fan of hotels opened within a mall because it was the ultimate pleasure of shopaholics (like me!) who enjoy exploring the mall (Read: shop-till-they-dropped) and return to their rooms to deposit the best buys before going out to shop again.


This was doubly fun when the mall had a good shop-mix of quality merchandise that matches with my tastes so I could browse around at leisure, knowing that I could take my time to pick and choose, to try on any items before making a decision to buy.


My hotel stay experiences within massive malls were most memorable, not only for the good shopping and comfortable stays but also for my most unforgettable parking experiences.


Double-bed in a well-appointed room

I chatted with Goh while standing in the hotel lobby and my eyes were riveted to a door nearby which opened for guests to enter. I realized that the door led in from the mall carpark.


As thoughts flashed to my own carpark experiences, my concern increased for fellow car drivers who might have travelled a long way to reach the hotel and what they did not need was another challenge to find their way to the hotel lobby from the carpark.


This prompted me to share with Goh about my own hotel-carpark-experiences-within-massive-malls and the absolutely essential need of clear signage inside the equally massive mall carpark to help hotel guests with directions to park near the hotel lobby entrance.


Twin beds in a comfortable room

When Goh heard about my Human GPS experience, he agreed with me about the importance of proper signage for such directions in the carpark because it would serve to enhance the guests’ hotel experience, which starts upon their arrival.


I hoped that by sharing my experience in a complicated (and unfamiliar!) carpark to reach a hotel within a massive mall, it would help the hotel in its effort to welcome guests and give them a better stay experience from the very start.


A section of the Causeway Cafe 

As I was escorted on a brief tour of the hotel facilities, I was reminded of travel writing assignments when I worked in partnership with new and established hotels in various destinations and how I enjoyed sharing my Traveller’s Tales published in the Travel Times that were funny, quirky or annoying but true tales.


When I stepped out of the hotel – back into the mall – I was pleased that this was only the beginning for St Giles at Southkey and there was much more to explore and experience here.


Renowned for the St Giles quality standard of service in their properties opened in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sydney and New York, I am looking forward to my own experience of the same in Johor Baru.


St Giles Southkey Johor Baru is located within Mid Valley Southkey, No. 1 Persiaran Southkey 1, Kota Southkey, 80150 Johor Baru, Johor. Tel: +607 – 336 8818


For more information, visit website:

The Japanese Film Festival is here again!


The highly anticipated 18th edition of the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) returns in 2022 from 8 September to 9 October at participating GSC cinemas, bringing the best of Japanese cinema for all to enjoy on the big screen!


JFF 2022 is held in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the “Look East Policy” established in 1982.


The Festival will open in the Klang Valley and travel to GSC cinemas located in Penang, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.


The JFF will be celebrated at GSC Paradigm Mall in Johor Baru from September 22 to 25, so get your gang together to immerse yourselves in a Japanese film experience.


This edition of the annual celebration brings over 12 titles ranging from a variety of genres – drama, documentary, romance, youth and animation – highlighting various aspects of the Japanese culture through the films while satisfying the cinematic cravings and capturing the minds and hearts for film fans and newcomers alike.


The highlight of the festival is the Malaysian release of “Just Remembering” directed by MATSUI Daigo, which tells a story of a couple recalling their sweet memories together.


Anime fans will get to enjoy two titles, a coming-of-age story “BLUE THERMAL” by TACHIBANA Masaki and a period drama “INU-OH” by YUASA Masaaki.


Family-themed titles include “And So The Baton Is Passed” by MAEDA Tetsu based on the novel that won the 16th Japan Booksellers’ Award in 2019, a beautiful documentary filled with love “I Go Gaga: Welcome Home Mom” by NOBUTOMO Naoko, and “INTOLERANCE” by YOSHIDA Keisuke that highlights the intricate portrayals of the behaviour and psychology of people caught in extreme situations.


Festival goers will also be able to collect rewards while enjoying the festival by collecting stamps which they can use to redeem exclusive goodies and stand a chance to win Books Kinokuniya Malaysia vouchers.


In addition to that, JFF this year will be including GSC The Spring for the Kuching leg of the nationwide tour.


Tickets for JFF 2022 will be sold at an affordable price of RM9.50 except for “Just Remembering” which will be sold at the prevailing ticket price.


Tickets for the screenings can be purchased ONE (1) week before the first screening at each region via GSC Ticketing Kiosk, GSC e-payment at or GSC Mobile Apps.


All films presented will be in Japanese with English subtitles.


A complete listing of JFF film synopses, showtimes, and general information is available at and


To all movie-buffs, Happy Japanese movie-bingeing!

At NATIVE for more artisanal gastronomy


It was good to be back at NATIVE, a boutique restaurant, and a gorgeous retreat from the blazing sun outside.


A section of the interior at NATIVE

The cool ambience within was created by a blend of subdued lights and stripped-down jazzy instrumental music that featured the sound of keyboards and trumpets.


By its very name, I had guessed that the cuisine served in this restaurant would include ingredients that were wholesome, rustic and indigenous.


On my first visit to NATIVE last year, I met co-founders, Michael J and Chef Shangkar, who share a common interest in the culinary arts, particularly in creating new recipes that used old and traditional ingredients like herbs and spices.


A serving of Native Green

Then I discovered that traditional ingredients, native of nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India that uniquely showcases our Asian identity, are being used in modern cooking techniques to create an interesting epicurean experience.


I was delighted to learn that just nine months since NATIVE opened, interest in this restaurant continued to grow through word-of-mouth and social media because diners were keen to share, not only about the fine food but also about their pleasant dining experiences.


Connoisseurs of good food are clearly not deterred by travel distances especially when the dining experience was better than good.


Pan-seared Foi Gras

It was no surprise that NATIVE had the pleasure to serve repeat customers who came from across the city and even from afar like Kuala Lumpur and Penang.


“When the food is good, people will not hesitate to travel for it,” said Michael who was determined to give diners what they deserved in this post-pandemic era.


When the menu was presented, Michael discreetly recommended two choices of meat for our main course – lamb and beef – and suggested to start with a popular salad aptly named, Native Green.


My preference of Foi Gras on a piece of bread

This will be followed by an entrée of pan-seared Foi Gras and Butternut Squash soup before the main course. And then to end with a delightful dessert of Cooked Cream.


At NATIVE, the staff would serve each course of the meal from a portable folding table, set up unobtrusively close to the table. After each course, when the dishes were cleared away, any crumbs on the placemats and table would be gently removed.


It was all very civilized and I appreciated how Mahendran, or Mahen in short, discreetly approached our table to do his duties, without interrupting our conversation.


Butternut Squash soup was served from a flask

Mahen politely enquired for our choice of drinking water, whether still or sparkling, and served it according to our picks. Throughout the meal, I was pleased to observe that our glasses of drinking water were refilled without any need to request for refills.


NATIVE makes their own bread rolls and the bread-of-the-day was Charcoal Sourdough. So a lightly buttered, warm slice each was served along with an interesting Carrot-Oatmeal dip.


As in my previous dining experience, Michael would present each course of our meal and describe the ingredients and preparation processes with such a flourish that it would set our mouths watering and our hearts eager for a taste of that dish.


A serving of Butternut Squash soup

Just as its name described, Native Green was a platter of artfully arranged, familiar leafy greens I recognised as Ulam Raja, Daun Selom and Daun Pegaga, rolls of ripe yellow Mango and drizzled with a refreshing Honey Cardamom Vinaigrette.


I know I would better appreciate the rich taste of pan-seared Foi Gras, served on Peach and Citrus Coulis with Raspberry Jam, spread on a slice of sourdough bread, so I asked and Mahen swiftly served it up.


Knowing the NATIVE way of tweaking recipes to use ingredients native of Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, I anticipated a different taste in the Butternut Squash soup.


Pan-seared, grass-fed Rack of Lamb

To serve, a flask of warm soup was poured over a cake of Sri Lankan crabmeat, garnished by spiced coconut cream and a crispy stick of sourdough, decorated by edible flowers.


From the first spoonful, I tasted the subtle aroma of a blend of cinnamon, star anise and cardamom, and in the next spoonful, I added a morsel of crabmeat along with the soup.


After I had finished the soup, a spicy heat throbbed at the back of my throat. I soon learnt that this was derived from the cake of crabmeat which was flavoured by fresh ground pepper from Sarawak.


It was not uncomfortable for me while it could be for some, but this warm sensation quickly passed or I forgot about it when I saw the next dish.


A 250gm of grilled grain-fed Striploin,
sliced into two for sharing

This was our first main course item of pan-seared, grass-fed Rack of Lamb coated in Parmesan Pistachio Crumble served on a bed of Natural Jus and a side of Fondant Potatoes and Heirloom Tomatoes.


After Mahen removed our empty plates, I eagerly anticipated the next main course item which we were ready to share and savour the taste of the 250gm of grain-fed Striploin grilled over hexagon charcoal briquette, served with scallions and a side of Onion Chutney, Mardon Sea Salt and Smoked Salt.


While the Onion Chutney tasted naturally sweet, the two choices of salt were provided for diners to savour with the grilled meat.


It was up to diners to add more flavour to the juicy meat, if they so wished, because to many, the meat was so well prepared that it was, “so good, you could eat it on its own!”


Cooked Cream, a smooth and creamy confection

Our leisurely lunch was ending with the last course, a much-anticipated dessert of Cooked Cream.


I must confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of this smooth and creamy confection made with French Vanilla, topped with Pandan Tamarind Compote, Frangelico and Gula Melaka, palm sugar, in a most delightful dessert.


Besides serving an ala carte menu, NATIVE also serves three or four-course Executive Set Lunches. For more info, visit website:


NATIVE is located at No. 26, Jalan Pendekar 13, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, 81300 Skudai, Johor. Open for lunch from 12pm to 2.30pm, and for dinner from 6pm to 9.30pm.


Car-parking is conveniently available in the covered carpark of the mall located opposite. Closed on Mondays. No pork or lard are used in these premises.


Walk-ins are welcome but to avoid disappointment, please make reservations by calling Tel: +6011 1099 1976 or email to:

Exhibition dedicated to medical frontliners


When my friend, the cultural activist, Tan Chai Puan, gave me the dates a travelling exhibition that was dedicated to frontline medical workers worldwide, would be in Johor Baru, he was quick to tell me that it was bi-lingual in Chinese and English.


Door-gifts to visitors at the Exhibition
dedicated to frontline medical workers worldwide

Tan, who often helped me with Mandarin-to-English translations, knew that I would be interested in this exhibition so he reassured me that the info was also provided in English for the benefit of visitors (like me!) who do not read Chinese.


I made a note that the Commemorative Exhibition on Dr Wu Lien-Teh held from August 19 to Sept 2, was showcased at the Tan Sri Datuk Chang Joo Chiang Museum and Art Gallery in the Southern University College, Johor Baru, and checked my calendar to ensure that I could go to this exhibition.


Dr Wu Lien-Teh was dubbed the Plague Fighter and whose life’s work was brought into focus in 2019 when the world was gripped by the global pandemic caused by the Coronavirus known as Covid19.


The Exhibition poster with
logos of the co-organisers

Dr Wu’s research and experience found that the plague was spread by breathing and wearing a mask could stop its spread.


He designed a thick yet simple mask made of common surgical gauze with cotton layers inside and had this mass produced for the use of frontline workers.


Tied behind the head by gauze bandages over the ears, this came to be called, Wu’s Mask.


In 1911, the spread of plague in Harbin, North-East China, was brought under control by the strict enforcement of wearing the Wu’s masks and this simple but very effective measure, saved countless lives.


Wu’s Mask was the prototype of the modern-day masks we use that had proven its efficacy in preventing the rapid transmission of the Covid19 virus infections.


A portrait of Dr Wu Lien-Teh
and a summary of his life's work
presented in Chinese and English

On the morning of Sept 1, a day before the exhibition should end here, I was at Southern University College to ask my way to the Museum and Art Gallery.


Once I got directions to the building, I reached the lobby where I spotted posters for the exhibition which was held in the Museum and Art Gallery, located on the first floor.


A young lady welcomed me in and presented me with a door gift that were two pieces of face masks that were embossed with the event logo – a portrait of Dr Wu Lien-Teh.


She pointed to the ground, marked with arrows that guided visitors on the direction to walk so that we could better appreciate the information presented in the exhibition.


I stopped to admire a portrait photograph of Dr Wu and started to read the meticulously assembled information on the posters.


A formal family photo with Dr Wu Lien-Teh
[Standing Back Row, Far Right]

Wu Lien-Teh’s parents were overseas Chinese who were married in 1857 and lived in Penang, Malaya. They had 11 children and Wu, their eighth child, was born in Penang on March 10, 1879.


Wu studied in the Penang Free School from 1886 to 1896.


In 1885, Sir Cecil Clementi-Smith who later became Governor of the Straits Settlements, founded the Higher Scholarship system to sponsor gifted students in Penang, Melaka and Singapore to continue their studies in Britain.


A medical paper prepared
by Dr Wu Lien-Teh
on Pneumonic Plague

This scholarship was later renamed the Queen’s Scholarship and in 1896, Wu was the only student who received the Queen’s Scholarship to continue his studies at Emmanuel College in the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Wu then became the first Chinese graduate who completed his PhD degree in the history of University of Cambridge.


In October 1899, Wu won a three-year full scholarship for clinical studies at St Mary’s Hospital, a prestigious research hospital in London.


His career in medical studies continued when he was a resident doctor at the Royal Brompton Hospital in 1902.


In 1903, Wu continued his research studies in the University of Halle in Germany, and left for Malaya by steamship in mid-July and arrived in Singapore in September.


An early quarantine centre in China

On his return, he worked with the Institute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur to carry out research on fatal epidemics like malaria and beri-beri, diseases that were prevalent in South East Asia.


In 1904, he opened a clinic at Jalan Chulia, Penang, to practice medicine.


In July 1905, Dr Wu married Ruth Huang in Singapore. She was an author of a few English novels and introduced Chinese classical beauties like Yang Kuei-Fei to English readers.


Medical frontliners wearing the Wu's Mask

After they were married, she lived with Dr Wu in Penang before they moved to Peking, China. They had three children but she passed away due to illness in 1937.


In 1910, an outbreak of plague in the North-Eastern province of China killed more than 60,000 people in just four months.


Dr Wu, who was then just 31 years old, was appointed the Chief Medical Officer by the Qing Dynasty (Manchu) government to take full charge of the control and plague prevention in the North-Eastern province.


The autobiography of Dr Wu
Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter

He eventually identified the pathogen of this plague and successfully controlled its spread. Through his research and experience, Dr Wu established quarantine and epidemic prevention measures and advocated the wearing of masks.


It was interesting to learn that Penang-born Dr Wu was a pioneer of modern medicine, renowned for his work as a preventive medicine scientist, medical educator and social activist, and recognised internationally as the founder of public health.


In 1911, Dr Wu proposed and implemented comprehensive epidemic prevention measures as follows:


1]  Organised professional anti-epidemic teams that comprised medical professionals, army and police personnel among other frontline professionals.


Dr Wu at his clinic in Ipoh, 1950

2]  Invented and popularized the use of multi-layer gauze masks, established disinfection spots with corresponding regulations while promoting plague prevention measures.


3]  Established anti-epidemic quarantine zones as well as quarantine compartments for suspected patients and epidemic diseases hospitals.


4]  Established standard procedures and regulations for epidemic inspection, reporting, and case registration.


5]  Established strict steps for transportation of corpses using special procedures and equipment, and the cremation of plague patients to eradicate the source of infection.


A section of the Exhibition at the
Southern University College, Johor

Dr Wu was married again, this time to Lee Suk-Cheng and they had five children. Their home in Shanghai was still under construction when it was destroyed by a Japanese bomb during the full-scale war against China.


In 1937, Dr Wu and his family moved back to Malaya and lived in Ipoh where he opened a clinic and continued his medical practice.


In 1959, Dr Wu wrote about his proud contribution to healthcare in China in his book, Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician.


Written in English, this became an important reference book for studying the medical history of modern China and was widely circulated in China and abroad. It was reprinted in Malaysia and translated into Chinese.


In 1960, at age 81, Dr Wu passed away due to illness.


A photo memento with Tan Chai Puan
whom I met at the Exhibition

My reading of the series of informative posters came to an end and I saw that the text for the exhibition, was prepared by He Yurong.


There was a lot of information and it felt deeply moving to discover that our mandatory wearing of face masks in the past two and a half years while the world battled the Covid19 pandemic, had its humble origins in the research and experience that developed the Wu’s Mask.


And the Wu’s Mask was an invention by Dr Wu Lien-Teh, a Malayan medical doctor.


On Wednesday, September 7, Malaysia dropped the mask mandate in open spaces but should still be worn in public transport, medical facilities and other indoor premises.


This exhibition was co-organised by the Tan Kah Kee Foundation, Persatuan Persahabatan Malaysia-China, Dr Wu Lien-Teh Education Society Malaysia, Southern University College and the Centre for Research on Communicable Diseases, UTAR, in collaboration with the Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association, a host of Chinese organisations in Johor Baru, and supported by the Singapore-China Friendship Association.