ISKANDAR has several new hotels and leisure attractions but locals will be quick to tell you that Johor has had fantastic food and shopping options all along, if you know where to look.
Just ask the bankers from the Iskandar financing unit at RHB Bank in Singapore, who are Malaysians themselves and travel frequently across the Causeway. Here is their low-down on what not to miss on your next trip to Johor.
Where to shop
KSL SHOPPING MALL
KSL is Johor Baru's most happening mall, located in the heart of the city centre and only five minutes from the checkpoint.
CITY SQUARE SHOPPING MALL
This mall has long been a hit with Singaporeans. As it is connected to the checkpoint, Singaporeans who come by bus can conveniently walk over after having their passports stamped.
AEON SHOPPING CENTRE
Aeon has two popular branches - one in Bukit Indah and one in Tebrau.
The malls have everything under one roof, from designer fashion to kitchenware. They each also have a cinema and a supermarket.
Where to eat
PISANG GORENG MAWAR
Noon until late afternoon
Where: Off Jalan Sungai Chat, next to Galeri Mawar and Kedai Bunga Kim Florist. Nearby landmarks are Thistle Hotel and the Johor Clock Tower.
Must try: Pisang goreng and nasi lemak
The famous pisang goreng is crispy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside and the batter is not greasy. Locals say the best way to eat it is with the accompanying spicy and savoury sauce.
The nasi lemak comes wrapped in old-school banana leaf and newspaper and has a strong coconut fragrance.
HIAP JOO BAKERY
8am to 6pm, closed on Sundays
Where: 13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Baru
Must try: Banana cake and coconut bun
Founded in 1919, Hiap Joo serves bread freshly baked from a wood-fired kiln.
The banana cake has no artificial flavouring or chemical essence and is fragrant and moist.
Most banana cakes leave you stuffed and bloated but Hiap Joo's are light and fluffy. The other star is the coconut bun - fluffy bread stuffed with fresh coconut shreds soaked in gula melaka. It is juicy and not overly sweet.
HUA MUI RESTAURANT
7.30am to 7.30pm daily
Where: 131 Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru
Must try: Hainanese coffee, French toast and Hainanese fried chicken chop
The popular Hainanese coffee and fried french toast set costs just RM3.40 (S$1.40).
Another star is the Hainanese fried chicken chop for RM10.80. The dish uses a whole piece of thigh which is flattened and coated with a light batter before being deep fried. The flesh is tender and moist and the skin is crispy. The gravy is light and flavourful.
NASI LEMAK @ WARUNG KURNIAWAN
Noon to 7pm daily
Where: On Jalan Kurniawan opposite Sekolah Agama Kebun
Must try: Nasi lemak, sup tulang and soto
The popular nasi lemak is tightly wrapped in banana leaf and oozes delicious kampung flavours for just RM1.50.
The soto soup is clear, not oily and mildly flavoured.
BUKIT CHAGAR ROTI CANAI
6am to 11am daily
Where: Junction of Jalan Bukit Chagar and Jalan Ungku Aziz (next to Pine View apartments and PDRM apartments)
The roti canai, or prata as it is more commonly known in Singapore, is crispy on the outside and fluffy and airy on the inside.
Locals say the roti canai here is thicker than those in Singapore.
Where to sleep
Where: Jalan Sungai Chat, 80100 Johor Baru
Price range: $113 to $184 a night
This five-star hotel has 380 newly furnished rooms, is near the Causeway and has a resort ambience.
KSL HOTEL AND RESORT
Where: 33 Jalan Seladang, Taman Abad, 80250 Johor Baru
Price range: $108 to $191 a night
With 868 rooms, this four-star hotel is the newest and largest integrated resort in Johor Baru. It has a cineplex and a golf course.
GRAND PARAGON HOTEL
Where: 18 Jalan Harimau, Taman Century, 80250 Johor Baru
Price range: From $96 a night onwards
This four-star hotel is a five-minute drive from the Causeway and is close to some famous back-lane hawker stalls.
SURIA CITY HOTEL
Where: No. 9R, Jalan Bukit Meldrum, 80300 Johor Baru
Price range: From $49 a night
This three-star hotel is in Johor Baru City. It is near malls, the duty-free zone and the Johor Zoo and Recreational Park.
Where: Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, 79000 Nusajaya
Price range: From $240 a night
Many of the hotel's five-star rooms face the upscale Puteri Harbour and the hotel is just next to the Hello Kitty theme park. Traders Hotel opens its doors to guests tomorrow.