All-new Y Space within an old mansion


This morning, I received a WhatsApp message from my friend, Barney of Kluang Rail Coffee, who showed me a poorly taken photograph of my books, My Johor Stories, Books One and Two, shot through reflecting glass panels of an antique cupboard.


Books One and Two of My Johor Stories, 
displayed for sale at the Y Gallery in Y Space

He captioned this shot briefly with the words, Y Gallery.


I cannot help but shared his pride in spotting my books in this gallery because their Kluang Rail Coffee heritage trade story was featured in My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.


It was just recently in July when I had the pleasure to witness the celebration held in the Kluang Railway Station where the Kluang Rail coffeeshop was recognised by the Malaysian Book of Records as the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in the Nation.


Such a recognition never failed to excite me because I had the privilege to document their family’s heritage trade story – along with stories of other Johor heritage traders – in My Johor Stories.


The forecourt of Y Space arranged for the
Ribbon-Cutting ceremony on its official opening

I quickly replied Barney with a (ahem!) better shot of my books that I saw, displayed within a charming antique cupboard (with the spotlights on!) when I was at Y Space the day before to celebrate its official opening.


Earlier, Think City Johor Baru – along with MPH Group Publishing Kuala Lumpur – who supported me in the publication of My Johor Stories Books One and Two, had informed me about their plan to place their small stock of my books at Y Space.


So it was good to see my books displayed in this wooden cupboard, an antique which reminded me of the old cupboards in grandfather’s house that were used to showcase a large collection of trophies including silver cups of various sizes, won in badminton tournaments.


Speaking of badminton, two family stories on Badminton Glory Days and Growing Up in Grandfather’s House, are shared under Memories in Book Three, the final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


When I arrived at Y Space for the event, I was warmly welcomed by Qun at the forecourt – now beautifully paved – unlike how it was when this property was used as a private school.


It was good to reminisce about a time when I used to come here every week day, driving in and out of this property on that steep slope of its driveway to pick up Brendon, my nephew, after his school hours.


I recalled that when my car appeared on the driveway, the children (who easily recognised my car with my name emblazoned on the spare tyre cover!) would shout, “Brendon, your mummy is here!”


And my nephew would reply with an equally loud shout, “She is not my mummy!”


He was right because I am his aunt…


It was so good to be back here again, this time to see the property tastefully restored to its former glory.


When I was introduced to Max Chia as a director of Y Space, I was pleasantly surprised when he reminded me that we had met before and that I had written a feature about his hotel in Muar!


I had an instant flashback to 2018 when I went on a road trip around Johor to meet with the subjects whom I had planned to feature in Book Two of My Johor Stories.


While I was staying in the Muo Boutique Hotel in Muar, I met with Max.


This stay-experience then developed into a travel story, More than a stay, published in Life & Times, a section of The New Straits Times, on 28 June 2018.


In our conversation, I told Max that I am familiar with this area because the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus – as it was originally called – located across the road from Y Space – is my alma mater where I spent 11 years, from Primary to Secondary school.


I was pleased to tell him that I have featured the Johor Baru Convent, proudly as the only Convent School in Johor Baru in Book Three, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now.


Watercolour artists drawing and painting a
side view of the building facade at Y Space

Still feeling amused by such a pleasant surprise of meeting Max again, I was told that the Malaysia Watercolour Society was holding their Annual Show right here at Y Space, the first time outside of Kuala Lumpur.


Their 2022 Annual Show in the theme, Borderless, was even more meaningful because it was a charity show where proceeds would benefit the Yayasan Raja Zarith Sofia, a charity foundation in Johor.


Then Qun directed guests to observe the artists who were sketching and painting a side view of the building façade.


As we approached them, one of the artists (who was wearing a mask) turned to me with a friendly greeting.


I had yet to recover from the pleasant surprise with Max so I did not hesitate to ask the artist to please remind me where we met before.


He was all smiles when he removed his mask and told me he was Lee Chin Chian, whom I recognised as one of the organisers of The Art Journey of Pekan Nanas in 2019.


Lee congratulated me on my soon-to-be-released Book Three of My Johor Stories, (because he follows me on social media!) so I responded by reminding him to get his own copy of this final instalment of My Johor Stories when it was released by MPH nationwide on 15 December.


My Johor Stories Books One and
Two among other books displayed
in an antique cupboard in Y Gallery

Qun then ushered the guests indoors and upstairs to await the arrival of the event VIPs, namely Johor Baru Mayor, Dato Haji Mohd Noorazam bin Dato Haji Osman, as the Guest of Honour.


In the moments when I stepped into this 120-year-old mansion, I politely asked Qun to show me where my books were displayed.


And she led me to where an antique cupboard with glass panels showcased a collection of books, including My Johor Stories, Books One and Two, that were published with the support of Think City Johor Baru.


Among other titles, I also saw the book, JOHOR Local History, Local Landscapes 1855 – 1957, by Datin P. Lim Pui Huen, the great-granddaughter of Johor pioneer, Wong Ah Fook.


Datin Pat, as she is fondly called, is a historian by profession and the contents of her book provides invaluable information that helped readers piece together a clearer picture of Johor in a bygone era.


A section of the original wall 
was carefully preserved under
a protective acrylic sheet

When the VIPs were welcomed into the upstairs event hall, I was delighted to see Datin Pat walking in after the Guest of Honour, Mayor Dato Haji Mohd Noorazam.


The event kicked off with Words of Welcome by Max and his speech opened formally with salutations that acknowledged the names and titles of the Guest of Honour and a list of other VIPs…


… and I was deeply humbled when I heard my name mentioned at the end of his list.


Next, Qun introduced the meaning of “Y” in Y Space which sounded similar to, “Why?” in a presentation that explained the reasons why they restored this old mansion into an attractive and functional space.


Y Space was restored and refurbished in consultation with Think City Johor Baru and it was interesting to see how they have wisely preserved a section of the original wall in the building for visitors to see and touch – through a hole opened on a protective acrylic sheet – for a feel of the texture of the clay-brick wall with lime plaster.


Two views of the old mansion: As it looked
before and its restored facade as Y Space

In the Past Story of Y Space, a presentation by Mr Gan of Think City Johor Baru, he shared old photographs and historical facts on the building to provide a better understanding of this old mansion built on Bukit Kurnia, along Jalan Yahya Awal.


From their research into the background of this building, they discovered that the property was once a residence, then used as a restaurant before it accommodated different schools including a secondary school, an art school and a private school.


And now this old building was revitalised with new life as an inspired space in Johor Baru that offers endless potential and possibilities for creative use.


A chart with the timeline for Y Space since 1902

From a map featured in Datin Pat’s book, JOHOR Local History, Local Landscapes 1855 – 1957, he pointed out that this old mansion was already a landmark building indicated on this 1902 map.


At the close of his presentation, Gan graciously invited Datin Pat to share a few thoughts so she used this old map and pointed to several buildings to share a clearer perspective of the development in that bygone era of Johor.


She explained that life revolved around the Istana Besar or Grand Palace, designed with a collection of palaces and mansions built in the same compound as meeting halls and residences for the Johor Royal family and included a palace for Sultanah Fatimah.


Datin Pat Lim shared a few thoughts with
reference to the map from 1902

I was pleased that she mentioned Sultanah Fatimah because very little is known about this Chinese lady who was the third consort of Sultan Abu Bakar while he was then Temenggong Abu Bakar Sri Maharaja.


To better appreciate her role in Johor heritage, I have featured a story on Sultanah Fatimah under Culture and Heritage in Book Three of My Johor Stories.


When Datin Pat ended her time of sharing, she mentioned that she and her late husband, Dato Dr Lim Kee Jin, had a life-long passion in caring for the disabled community through the NGO, Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO.


Incidentally, JARO is among the proudly Johor brands featured in Book Three.


Johor Baru Mayor, Dato Haji Mohd Noorazam
declared Y Space officially opened

Datin Pat was pleased to present her book, One-Legged Football and Other Stories, inspirational stories on people with disabilities, to the Guest of Honour, Max and Qun of Y Space and Gan of Think City Johor Baru.


I am familiar with this book because I had the pleasure to review it when it was published and my review of One-Legged Football and Other Stories, was featured in The Iskandarian on 21 January 2021.


In his speech, Mayor Dato Haji Mohd Noorazam, who was formerly the District Officer for Muar, declared that he was proud to be involved with the restoration projects that Max was challenged to accomplish in Muar and now in Johor Baru.


He thanked Datin Pat for the fresh insights he received from her sharing and spoke about the importance of preserving old buildings and heritage sites in the city.


Electrical switches from a bygone era
carefully preserved in Y Space

Among other things, he discussed the deplorable state of the Johor Baru Jail, a landmark building located diagonally across the road from Y Space and expressed his desire for this precious relic in Johor history to be restored and given a new life.


[Incidentally, Datin Pat’s great-grandfather, Wong Ah Fook was the building contractor who was credited for building the Istana Besar and the Johor Baru Jail.]


In 2005, I had the privilege of a conducted tour of the Johor Baru Jail when it was briefly opened to visitors and have documented my experience in a story which is also published in Book Three of My Johor Stories.


At the close of his speech the Mayor formally declared Y Space as officially opened.


Then Max escorted the Mayor and VIPs on a tour of the premises that ended at the forecourt of the building for the Ribbon-Cutting ceremony.


Finally, in a traditional opening ceremony where a pair of performing Lions danced to the beat of drums and crashing cymbals, Y Space was officially opened to welcome visitors and organisers to host their events here.


Y Space Johor Baru is located No. 2, Jalan Yahya Awal, 80100 Johor Baru, Johor.

Open from 11am to 9pm daily. Closed on Thursday.


For enquiries on planning and hosting your events at Y Space, email to:

Weekend High Tea indulgence at Causeway Cafe

It’s the weekend again and with the coming festive season, the mall was packed with a throng of shoppers, many just window-shopping while some were seriously shopping.


Diners at the entrance of Causeway Cafe,
located within St Giles Southkey

Weekend shopping is fun but with a long shopping list, it was often quite a rush to complete everything at one go.


So, it was good to take a break from browsing – and rest my tired feet – to indulge in a leisurely lunch at the Causeway Café, the all-day dining café in St Giles Southkey.


It was easy to find the entrance to St Giles Southkey by following the signages that pointed to its lobby, located on the Ground Level of the Mid Valley Southkey Mall.


A section of diners in Causeway Cafe

When the elevator doors opened on Level Six of the hotel, I was greeted by a queue of diners who were waiting for their turn to reach the entrance to the café.


I craned my neck and spied members of the kitchen team who were putting the finishing touches to the buffet spread and this queue, inching its way into the café, just increased my anticipation of the meal I would be enjoying at leisure here.


At a glance, I saw popular local and international dishes in the spread that ranged from soups and salads, sandwiches and bread rolls to savour with a choice of cheeses, Chinese dim sum and fried snacks like Cucur Ikan Bilis, Curry Puffs and Samosas.


A section of the buffet spread in Causeway Cafe

There were also sections that served Chinese, Western and Japanese cuisine and live-cooking stations for Noodles and Teppanyaki Hotplate items.


A peek at the Noodles Station revealed that it served a choice of Noodles in Chicken Emperor Soup and Assam Laksa.


Meanwhile, I observed diners making a beeline to the Japanese section to help themselves to a range of sushi and sashimi (within a chiller!) along with complimentary condiments of Japanese soup and salads.


Sushi and sashimi served at the Japanese section

In a separate section, Japanese dishes that were served under a warmer included Tempura Prawns, Vegetables and Crabmeat, Chicken Katsu, Saba Fish Fillets and Okonomiyaki.


For diners who must eat rice, there was steamed white rice to enjoy with a range of Asian specialties in the hot buffet.


There was Mixed Vegetable braised with Garlic Oyster Sauce, Beef Briyani, Buttermilk Chicken, Squid Sambal, and Lamb Tandoori topped with Mint Yogurt.


Juicy barbecued Lamb Balls

At the Western section, I read the label, Firecracker Sausages, next to the sausage rolls and thought this name was rather interesting as it was reminiscent of something rather explosive…


These sausages were in the section for Western cuisine, along with Pasta Aglio Olio and other mouth-watering items like Softshell Crab to savour with Spicy Chilly Coriander Dip, Barbecued Lamb Balls and Nut Breaded Chicken Fingers to enjoy with Chilli-Mayo Dip.


Hot buffet in Western section

As diners helped themselves to their favourite items, I was pleased to observe that the kitchen staff was alert to replenish the buffet items and ensured that there was always food to serve to the next diners.


It was also good to see coffee dispensers located in strategic spots around the dining hall for diners to help themselves to their choice of hot coffee brews.


Mmm… a hot cuppa was just right with a nibble of dessert at the end of a leisurely buffet meal such as this.


In addition to cakes and pastries, there were tarts, puffs, puddings and local sweet treats like Roti Bengali to dip into Bubur Durian (I could smell it from afar!)


Be prepared to wait in an orderly
 queue to enter the Causeway Cafe

For something cool and refreshing, diners can have fun creating icy treats using a range of ingredients topped with shaved ice.


Comfortably full from indulging in this high tea buffet spread, it was best to walk off the extra calories. And there was no better way than to head on back into the mall to continue with more browsing around and shopping for the best buys.


This Weekend High Tea Buffet is served from 12pm to 4pm at the Causeway Café on Saturday and Sunday from November 2022 until further notice.


Rate at RM88 nett per adult and RM44 nett per child aged six to 12 years.  


For every two (2) paying adults, one (1) child eats for Free.


Make your payment with Maybank Cards to enjoy 15% off your bill.


Causeway Café on Level Six of St Giles Southkey is located within Mid Valley Southkey Mall at No. 1 Persiaran Southkey 1, Kota Southkey. 80150 Johor Baru, Johor.


For reservations, Tel: +6016 662 9321 or email to

For more info, visit webpage:

Weekday buffet lunch at Spice Kitchen


I was last at the Spice Kitchen in 2019 for my taste experience of chaat, a pure vegetarian Indian street food and a refreshing but filling snack popular in North India that locals would eat on-the-go.


It was good to be back at Spice Kitchen again

Spice Kitchen, a restaurant renowned for their menu of Indian, Indian-Chinese and Thai cuisine, had set up a live-cooking station dedicated to serving freshly-made chaat.


More than two years had since passed so I was delighted to receive a call from Sumit Kumar recently with an invitation to experience the buffet lunch at Spice Kitchen on Tuesday.


He shared with me that Spice Kitchen had launched their weekday lunch buffet in early 2020 and it was doing very well until the global pandemic compelled the restaurant to cease operations temporarily as the nation went into lockdown.


A section of the dining hall in Spice Kitchen

That Tuesday as Sumit welcomed me into Spice Kitchen again, my thought was, “It was good to be back again.”


I believe this sentiment was echoed by regulars who frequent the Spice Kitchen for a familiar taste of good North Indian cuisine.


From the way some tables were grouped together, I guessed that these were for group diners and Sumit confirmed that one was a reservation by a group who chose to dine here almost every week.


The live station that serves
freshly-made chaat

He explained that as the economy reopened, people were back at work in the offices located within Wisma S P Setia. So (I privately thought!) this accounted for the full carpark and a good crowd in the restaurant, seeking a tasty business lunch.


Early diners were already trickling in as Sumit escorted me around the buffet to show me the various sections laid out for Appetizers, Salad, Curries, Rice and Dessert while Naan and Chaat, he said, will be freshly made at the live stations.


While it was not a huge range, I thought this spread was just right for a weekday lunch. The menu will change daily so that regulars can savour a different choice of dishes even if they dined here every weekday.


I recognised the familiar sight of plump Delhi Samosa next to the Kolkata Fish Cutlets and the Dry Cauliflower Manchurian among the appetizers just made my mouth water because it was an all-time favourite for many.


The live station that serves freshly-baked
breads with the Dessert counter in front

In the fresh salad section, there were fresh ingredients like lettuce, cucumber, mango and tomatoes with dressings choices of Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Garlic, Cream Basil and Honey Ginger for diners to create our own salad.


I was getting impatient to discover what else was served in the hot buffet and was delighted to see that there was Briyani Rice to savour with gravies like Chicken Butter Masala, Chicken Vindaloo Curry, Keema Matar, Dry Chilly Chicken, Sweet & Sour Fish fillets, Chicken Tandoor Kebabs and Roasted Chilly Eggs.


A serving of Sev Puri Chaat

Assured that the Spice Kitchen always used fresh ingredients to prepare their dishes, I helped myself to small portions to enjoy the individual flavours.


Each item was so full of flavour and I only tasted a hint of spicy-hot in the Chicken Vindaloo.


While I was happily distracted by the fragrance from the food, Sumit offered to serve freshly-made Butter Naan and Garlic Naan to my table so that I could savour the breads with gravies like Dal Tarka, Palak Paneer and Kadai Vegetables.


Diners helping themselves
to items in the hot buffet

When the traditional breads were served, I was reminded to save some space for the chaat that was being freshly prepared in the live station.


The Sev Puri Chaat was a serving of six tiny deep-fried puri stuffed with refreshing ingredients.


Sumit smiled widely when he heard me telling my lunch partners that the way to eat the sev puri was to pop the entire puri in the mouth to experience an explosion of flavours.


My friends were familiar with the Japanese way of eating sushi – by putting the entire sushi in the mouth – so they were ready to eat the whole puri in one mouthful.


Small portions to savour each flavour

It was their first taste of chaat and when they found it rather agreeable, just wished that they had more space in their stomachs to order another round of the same…


There was still dessert to enjoy and it was good to help myself to portions of familiar sweet items like Gulab Jamun, Kesari, Carrot Rice Kheer and Ras Malai, milk solids soaked in clotted cream and flavoured with cardamom.


This weekday buffet lunch is served from Monday to Friday, 11.30am to 3pm.


Tasty gravies to enjoy with naan bread

Rate at only RM39++ for single diner and RM69++ for two diners.


The Spice Kitchen [Halal] is located at No. S3-0120, on the ground level of Wisma S P Setia, Jalan Indah 13, Taman Bukit Indah, 81200 Johor Baru, Johor.


Convenient car-parking facilities available in the nearby Lotus’s Bukit Indah carpark.


For reservations, Tel: +607 – 237 3311 and +6012 788 4047.

Taste the world at the Global Taste Fiesta


Do you know that Qatar, the host country for FIFA World Cup 2022, is the first host country that had never played in the World Cup before?


Well, now you know.


Get a taste of salads prepared from recipes
popular in nations around the world

As this will be the first World Cup tournament hosted in an Arab nation, Chef Harmandah who specializes in Middle-Eastern cuisine, was inspired to create an exciting menu that highlights the cuisine of the Arab nations in the Global Taste Fiesta served at Dine@Eight in the Holiday Inn Johor Baru City Centre.


The Global Taste Fiesta dinner buffet presented on Friday and Saturday evenings, will offer diners a taste of some 70 popular dishes from 16 countries in the world.


It was a wonderful opportunity to discover items – both familiar and new to me – from soups and salads to items in the hot buffet and delightful desserts that will let me have a taste of food from various nations.


Chef at the Shawarma 
live station

When I made a quick survey of the buffet spread, I was pleased to read the labels arranged next to the dishes, designed with a small flag, to inform and educate diners about its country of origin.


As I looked at the collection of flags, I thought this was also a good way to get acquainted with the national flags of countries from around the world.


At the Salad Bar, there was a selection of salad recipes like Insalata Caprese and Caponata Salad from Italy, Tzatziki and Roasted Pepper Salad from Greece, Cob Salad from Spain, Eggplant Salad from Morocco, Luke-warm Prawn Salad from the United Kingdom, Spring Rolls from Vietnam, Pecel from Indonesia and Malaysia’s own Rojak Buah or fruit salad served with peanut sauce.


Freshly-made naan in
tandoor oven

A choice of hot soups included Red Lentil Soup, a popular soup in Turkey and Cyprus, Italian Seafood Minestrone and our Malaysian Sup Daging Berempah.


Local diners may be familiar with Italian pasta served with a swirl of cheese in the Grand Padano cheese wheel but it was good to see a wide choice of pasta – from spaghetti, penne, fettucine, farfalle, tagliatelle, fusilli to vermiglioni – to pick from to mix with Alfredo or Pomodoro sauces and toppings.


Another live cooking station was the Tandoor and Shawarma section where chefs were preparing to bake traditional breads in the tandoor oven and serving freshly-baked naan with Tandoori Chicken or slices of Chicken Shawarma complemented by a choice of sauces and condiments.


Nearby, the Cotton Candy station offered a fascinating experience of watching how multi-coloured cotton candy was created and served on a stick.


A wide choice of pasta to pick from at the
Grand Padano Pasta Station

It was interesting to discover dishes in the hot buffet like Al-Kabsa, a traditional rice and chicken dish from Saudi Arabia, Russian Beef Stroganoff, Coffee Lamb from Taiwan, Egyptian Bamia Basti – an okra and meat stew, Korean Dak Gang Jeong – sweet, crispy fried chicken, Kashmiri Gaadh – a fish dish from Pakistan, along with Chinese dishes like Tri-Colour Steamed Eggs and Dry Butter Prawns and Malaysian Nangka Masak Lemak or Jackfruit braised in coconut milk.


A chef at the Carving Station helped to serve cuts of oven-baked Leg of Lamb with Briyani Rice for diners to savour with a range of sauces.


Twirl and whirl an umbrella
of cotton candy!

At the Kids’ Corner, all-time favourites served include Chicken Nuggets, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Cheesy Wedges and Grilled Chicken Sausages for the kids and all who are young-at-heart.


There was a choice of hot coffee or tea to enjoy with a sweet selection of desserts that have their origin in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Spain and Morocco.


It was easy to identify Turkish delights like Baklava, Halva and Baked Pumpkin with Tahini, cups of Italian Tiramisu and Crème Brulee, a French favourite.


This array of desserts continued with assorted cut fruits, small cakes and pastries, and sticks of cut fruits and marshmallows to dip into a chocolate fountain.


Choices of delightful desserts

So come, taste the world at the Global Taste Fiesta weekend dinner spread served every Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 10pm at Dine@Eight.


Rate at RM128 nett per person with a Buy Five-Free One deal, 50% off for children aged six to 12 years and 30% off for seniors aged 60 years and above.


IHG One Rewards members will enjoy 20% discount.


Dine@Eight is on Level Eight, the lobby level of Holiday Inn Johor Baru City Centre, located in Johor Baru City Centre Mall, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor.


For reservations, Tel: +607 207 8888 or +6011 3603 3163.


Catch the World Cup fever at The Lobby Lounge which will be transformed into a sports bar from Nov 20 to Dec 18, and open from 6pm to 6am to celebrate the FIFA World Cup season with a one-for-one beverage promotion all night long for only RM35.


Watch your favourite teams in action on big screens and enjoy snack bites presented in creatively themed names like Free-Kick Chilli Con Carne, Saved Akkawi Manakish, Beef Shawarma Hattrick, Mid-fielder Truffle Chilli Fries, Defenders Honey Chicken Wings and of course, the World Cup Champion Platter.


For more information, visit the Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre official Facebook and Instagram pages for holidayinnjbcc or website: