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Introducing Johor Bahru

After years of being criticised as a dirty, chaotic border town, Johor’s capital Johor Bahru has been repaved and replanted and is suddenly a lively, appealing place to hang out. Even the sketchy watch salesmen and down-and-out sidewalk lurkers who congregated along Jln Tun Abdul Razak have been swept away by an increased police presence. Just off this main drag you’ll find bustling food hawkers, interesting old architecture and wide, clean sidewalks. The city still has more crime compared with most Malaysian towns, but there's a real urban buzz and some surprisingly cosmopolitan corners to explore.

JB is connected to Singapore by road and rail across a 1038m-long causeway, across which Singaporeans flood for shopping and excitement on weekends and holidays. However, other than just for changing trains, planes or buses, few foreign travellers linger here although it has great potential as a budget base for Singapore.

As one of the five ‘economic zones’ of the Iskandar development project that will radically change southern Malaysia over the next decade, JB is in for more than a makeover. Danga Bay is a 720-hectare area, 5km from the Causeway, that is poised to be a financial and commercial centre with the lofty hopes of being as scenic and enticing as Sydney’s Darling Harbour, although for now it's a bleak sprawl of construction.