Sorry about the flying deer. The deer didn’t fly, we flew. It was to be a one-day trip to Kluang. A literal whizz-through the little town in 10 hours and back ─ hence the, er…flying. At breakneck speed.
But we did see them fly past the window of our car so technically, that qualifies the statement.
The Green Green Grass of KluangKluang, for all that’s known about it, is a great place for…well, investment (if you’re the business sort) for agricultural and industrial purposes. Even for a tour of Speedy Gonzales haste ─ the landlocked district smack in the middle of huge Johor (it is bordered on all sides by Segamat in the north, Batu Pahat in the west, Mersing in the east and Pontian, Kulai and Kota Tinggi in the south), has vast tracts of plantation and farm land used for all kinds of cash crops like palm oil, coconuts, organic farming and animal husbandry like livestock farming.
There is an Institut Vetinar there ─ I swear that’s where I saw the deer! There was a herd of them grazing on the spread of grassland behind the fencing or maybe those were goats (we were going too fast for my eyes to verify) ─ or maybe they were the goats and deer belonging to the UK Agro Farm and Resort next door which has goats, sheep, ostriches, horses, and even a petting zoo.
FlashbackFlashback a little bit and I’ll tell you I have been to Kluang twice in my life. This is my third time actually. The first was when I came to visit a horse farm. I was writing for an equestrian magazine and the story was to focus on the job of farriers. I remember being shown a field of brown geldings, lots of the bottom of hooves and quite a bit of shodding and tinkering about in the ensuing background. It was quite the experience.
The second time I came to Kluang was to do a story on the flourishing furniture industry. At the time, Chua Jui Meng was the deputy minister of International Trade and Industry, busy promoting SMEs in his constituency of Johor in a press conference. He was up and coming then and we were so excited to meet him. And excited to buy Kluang coffee afterwards. We heard it was famous.
This Time AroundWe couldn’t find the coffee this time around and we didn’t have time to visit the UK Agro Farm that we passed but like the coffee, we heard the farm is quite famous. There are other organic farms along the stretch of Jalan Batu Pahat like the ZenXin Organic Park along with a mix of government bodies and buildings dedicated to agriculture such as the Kementerian Pertanian and the Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Kluang and many others.
And then there are the factories located in the industrial area. We were in Kluang to visit the opening of one actually. Along the way we saw lots of schools too. They look large and stretched out over vast green grounds. All these buildings flank both sides of the main artery of Jalan Batu Pahat straight up to the town’s very flamboyant roundabout and then some before it changes name to Jalan Mersing. You’ll see some of busy Kluang town in the video below.
Take a quickie tour in a video (shot and put together by Yours Truly).
Kluang TownKluang town has grown up since the last time I came. It’s neater now and looks more modern and busier when compared to its more languid outskirts. But town is definitely where everything gets huddled in the epicentre: The Balai Bomba, the Train Station, rows of not very tall but rather shabby shoplots housing traditional businesses, offices, banks, even fast food joints (we saw a Mac Donald’s Drive-in!)…. You could say Kluang town is where the old and new jostle for space and attention in the middle of haphazard traffic crisscrossing a web of narrow roads ─ some of which still have railway tracks running across them complete with signal lights and bell to stop cars when the train needs to cross! How quaint.
But hungry by the time we reached town, we set about hunting for lunch.
“When in Kluang, you must eat Kluang food,” said my travelling companion.
How right! But we had no idea what Kluang food was and we had stopped at a parking lot next to KFC and Pizza Hut ─ definitely not the choice of the day. So we decided to explore on foot. But no sooner had we stepped down when I spied a backlane with street art! I made a beeline for it.
Behold ─ Street Art
The lane showcasing Kluang’s creative side is called Laman Kreatif Kluang, an artistic venture by Majlis Perbandaran Kluang or the Kluang Municipal Council to turn the back alleys of Kluang town into a tourist and recreational spot. I mean like ─ why waste those backlanes, right?
Apparently the programme was carried out only last year. It wasn’t a very large effort ─ the lane runs only about 500m or so although it must be said that it has lent some colour to the otherwise timeworn town. The said back alley is along Jalan Dato Kaptain Ahmad, opposite Pizza Hut and OCBC bank in the centre of town. It is barricaded by screwed-down metal and plastic bollards to stop cars from driving in, and the colourful umbrellas hung on top serve to “landmark” the place as well as afford some shelter to tourists. All around the street art lane are also many building facades painted with murals and the like to be in keeping with the theme of the place.
Dream of Beef BallsNow here is where I start talking about those beef balls. Did we get to try Kluang’s famous beef balls? I’d like to say yes but in truth, sorry again, No. We only found out how famous they were after we’d eaten lunch.
See, after sightseeing the street art, we stepped into the next restaurant that wasn’t fast food. We ate at a cosy western/eastern fusion restaurant called Loading Bay. It had a nice décor. I ordered breadcrumbed fried dory fish with spicy spaghetti. It was good and different. At least, I can now say I tasted a Kluang original (I have never eaten spaghetti done this way in KL).
I can’t remember what my companions ate but more than the food, what we really tasted was true blue Kluang hospitality. The lady proprietor was very friendly and helpful, taking the time to point out places of interest to us, checking on Facebook to get the addresses, bringing out a directory to introduce us to more places and taking the trouble to draw us directions and maps.
It was then that she mentioned the beef balls.
“The restaurant is just by the Railway Station just up the road, which, by the way, is another famous place you should visit.”
But we had just eaten.
Back in KL while writing this article, I do some research and Wham! I find out those beef balls are World Famous!! And we missed them! Dang!
Look what this reviewer in Tripadvisor said:
“Best in the World!”
Yean Kee Beef Noodle Restaurant is located at 4, Jalan Murni 3, Taman Murni, 86000 Kluang, Johor. Tel: 012-773-3088. You might want to Waze that if you’re in these parts. Here are the pictures taken from Google Maps guides of the feast we missed.
Moral Upliftment, Divine Contemplation and a Wishing WellBut not to cry over spilt beef noodles, we did manage to get to visit a magical garden of grace and serenity as consolation. The said magical garden was at the Che Luan Khor Moral Uplifting Society, a famous landmark of Kluang as told to us by the friendly café proprietor of Loading Bay. She said we could go and take pictures and walkabout there to while away time since we were in a dilemma as to what to do while waiting for the launch (we were hours early). Che Luan Khor is open to all, she told us, “people always hold gatherings there and at night, the garden is lit up and becomes very pretty”.
We hastened there. And indeed, the playground, laid out with Bonsai, bougainvillea, dripping willows, lilies, lotus, ponds with Koi, landscaping complete with walking tracks and welcoming, smiling deities, was very, very pretty, even by day.
The Che Luan Khor Moral Uplifting Society or Persatuan Memperbaiki Akhlak Che Luan Khor is located at no: 88, Jalan Lambak, 86000 Kluang (Tel: 607-771-0515). You won’t miss it should you want to visit because it is next to two very large Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Chong Hwa 1 and Chong Hwa 2.
Go Ahead, Make a Wish
More Hits & Misses
Soon, it was time to head to the purpose of our journey to Kluang ─ the factory launch. And just in time too to leave the outdoors because it started raining cats and dogs soon after. And we sped back to KL immediately after that. There wasn’t enough time to see all that Kluang had to offer and I am sure we missed a world of charm in the haste of our round trip.
Looking back now, I am reminded there was yet one more thing we missed by a hair’s breadth: a cup of important Kluang heritage called Kluang Rail Coffee ─ the original hand-roasted coffee still located in the Kluang Railway Station. Kluang Rail Coffee, a family business now in its third generation since 1938, is still operating there. Today, you’ll see the replicas of the cafe everywhere, franchised all over the country but for those in the know, they still travel all the way back to Kluang Railway Station just to savour the authentic aroma of the one and only. And yeah, we missed it.