Muar, fondly known as Bandar Maharani, is a royal town at the northern reaches of Johor. It is historically intertwined to neighboring Melaka, playing a part in the founding of the Melakan Sultanate and beyond the kingdom’s fall to the Portuguese conquistadors.
Muar still retains that laid-back charm and is perfect for a day trip from Melaka, seeing it is just an hour away. Here’s a one-day itinerary to maximise your time in Muar.
8:00 a.m. – Depart Melaka
The best part about small town life is locals truly appreciate their breakfast. Save your tummy for Muar and get on Federal Route 5 from Melaka heading south. The road spans the coast before it cuts inside, passing through fishing villages such as Umbai, Merlimau and Sungai Rambai.
You will get a glimpse of rural life in the morning as bustling farmers’ markets line the town centres, selling all sorts of produce from fresh fishes to jungle herbs. Upon entering Johor, a further 20-minute drive would lead you across Sultan Ismail Bridge, built in 1962, into Muar.
9:00 a.m. – Satay for breakfast
Johoreans can be a bit quirky with the way they eat their food. While the rest of the country treats satay as an evening snack, they consume these succulent skewers as a core component of their breakfast. You can easily spot eateries serving satay by the amount of smoke emanating from the store front.
R&H Café Sate Maharani is a popular haunt for locals and outsiders alike. Located right across the bus terminal and wet market, it specialises in satay from beef and chicken to stomach and tripe. If satay is too light for your morning fix, R&H Café also serves other southern delicacies like Mee Jawa and the famous Tauhu Lentok which is fried soft tofu, slice cucumbers, jicama, and bean sprouts served with a thick, sweet and spicy sauce and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.
10:00 a.m. – Heritage Walk of Muar
Burn off your calories with a pleasant walk along historic Jalan Maharani. Start at Nan Hai Fei Lai Temple, on the same row as R&H Café, which is the oldest Chinese temple in Muar. A five-minute walk would lead you to Padang Nyiru, a quaint park near the riverbank with an old English clock tower as its centrepiece.
Make your way to Nattukottai Chettiars’ Temple on Jalan Meriam and witness devotees seeking the divine blessing of Lord Sri Murugan, a mainstay of the Hindu community in Muar. Finally, end your walk at Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim, a brilliant blue and white mosque greatly influenced by both Colonial and Oriental architectures.
12:30 p.m. – Asam Pedas lunch at Parit Jawa
Drive 20 minutes south to Parit Jawa, a fishing village known for its Asam Pedas – a sour and spicy fish stew – for lunch. Catch of the sea like mackerel, red snapper and stingray are cooked in a chili and tamarind stew, accompanied by various spices and vegetables. It’s a savoury sight for hungry souls as the fishes are cooked in a huge bubbling cauldron!
You can capture the rustic feel of Parit Jawa as the river is flanked by rows of fishing boats while the air of saltiness lingers around. Nearby is Pantai Leka, an important landing ground for migratory birds escaping winter. The beach has become a popular spot for bird-watching especially the endangered Lesser Adjutant Stork.
2:30 p.m. – Cool down at 434 Kopitiam
Drive back into town and cool down at Sai Kee Kopitiam, a local institution that put “434 Muar Coffee” on the roasters’ map. The kopitiam did away with its old world charm for a modern look and packed with a cornucopia of coffee beans, sold in the form of raw beans to ready-made individual bags.
Sai Kee Kopitiam serves different variations of coffee from the classic kopi ‘c’ ais of coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar to the more sophisticated iced-dripped coffee. A cuppa is best paired with traditional kaya buns, made either grilled or steamed. Both methods produce equally good buns so there’s no harm in ordering both!
3:30 p.m. – Hop on the Muar River Cruise
Make your way down to the Tanjung Emas jetty and hop on the Muar River Cruise. You will be given a tour of the city’s famous landmarks in the context of Muar’s fascinating history. The 45-minute ride will take you upstream to the town’s second bridge before making its way back to the mouth of the river.
The cruise will give you an access to a view of the Sultan’s palace, the old Customs building and the seafood haunt of Sabak Awor. The highlight is definitely the two mesmerising mosques mirroring each other across the river – the aforementioned Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim and the newer Masjid Jamek 2 Sultan Ismail.
4:30 p.m. – Enjoy the evening at Tanjung Emas Recreation Park
Once you get back on-shore, spend the rest of the evening at Tanjung Emas Recreation Park. The park is perfect for an evening stroll, family picnic or just people-watching as you get swept away by the sea breeze. The park is beautifully landscaped and is graced by yet another grand clock tower.
One of the famed street snacks at Tanjung Emas is Rojak Petis, a rojak drenched in a sweet sauce made from shrimp with a molasses like consistency. It’s no surprise to see tempeh and tofu in this rojak as Muar has a large population of Javanese descent.
6:30 p.m – Return to Melaka
After your trip, you’ll have plenty of time to return to Melaka for an evening meal or just a drink. Or you might want to just lay down on the sofa after a jam-packed day of culture and sightseeing!
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