PARADIGM MALL JOHOR BAHRU
- Jalan Skudai, Johor Baru; open: 10am to 10pm daily; www.paradigmmall.com.my/jb
There are now more reasons to make a trip across the Causeway, given the new attractions that have opened in Johor Baru recently.
In November last year, two new places were unveiled for you to spend your ringgit at.
One is Paradigm Mall Johor Bahru, billed as the largest shopping mall in the state of Johor. It boasts several "firsts", such as the first ice-skating rink in Johor Baru as well as the first HomePro outlet - selling bathroom, home accessories, furniture, electrical appliances and renovation items - and the first Camp5 indoor climbing gym in Johor.
The second attraction is Ikea Tebrau, the biggest Ikea store in South-east Asia.
With 54 room sets and about 8,000 products - some of which are cheaper than their counterparts in Singapore - a trip up north is well worth the effort.
Later in the year, you can also look forward to one of the largest indoor theme parks in the world opening its doors. It is expected to start operations later this year at the Capital City integrated property project.
Professor of marketing Jochen Wirtz from the National University of Singapore feels these new attractions in Johor Baru will likely be popular among Singaporeans.
He says: "Johor Baru is already a very popular weekend destination for many Singaporeans, as many services - such as haircuts and getting your car fixed - are cheaper there.
"Rents, construction costs and staff costs also tend to be much cheaper in Johor Baru compared with Singapore and this usually trickles down to the consumer in the form of lower prices."
The first ice-skating rink in the city and the largest cinema in the state - many parts of the two-month-old Paradigm Mall Johor Bahru seem superlative or supersized.
With 1.3 million sq ft of retail space, it is billed as the largest mall in Johor Baru and dwarfs VivoCity, Singapore's biggest shopping centre, which has more than 1 million sq ft of retail space.
Paradigm Mall JB's anchor tenant is Parkson, with a 200,000 sq ft department storewhich features fashion and lifestyle brands and sells products such as clothes, perfumes, cosmetics and food. The store also has a children's playland, a juice barand a yoga studio.
The mall also has a 20,000 sq ft ice-skating rink and 12,000 sq ft indoor climbing gym.
The largest cinema in Johor, at 65,000 sq ft, opened in the mall last month. Called Golden Screen Cinemas, it can seat 2,000 people and has 16 screens, including two 3D theatres and two premier halls as well as a 4DX theatre, the first of its kind in Malaysia. 4DX is a new cinematic technology which brings movies to life through motion and environmental effects.
In the mall, there is also a 35,000 sq ft Village Grocer outlet, which is the biggest premium supermarket in Johor.
There is also the first HomePro outlet - which sells home products - in the state.
Some brands in the mall - such as woman-focused brand Mixxo and shoe brand Shoopen as well as South Korean sandwich and toast shop Isaac Toast & Coffee - are not found in Singapore.
The seven-storey mall is built on the site of the former Kemayan City, a mega shopping complex which was in development, but was eventually abandoned, according to reports.
Paradigm Mall JB is developed by WCT Hartanah Jaya, a subsidiary of WCT Holdings.
Ms Selena Chua, chief executive officer of WCT Malls Management, which manages the mall, said its soft opening last November was met with a "positive response" from tenants and shoppers.
She added that the opening is also timely as Malaysia gears up for its tourism campaign, Visit Malaysia Year, in 2020.
"The mall can play a role in positioning Malaysia, specifically its southern region, as a venue for shopping and recreation."
There are bus services from Singapore's Woodlands Checkpoint and Tuas Checkpoint to the mall and back.
For Chinese New Year, the mall's management team has put together family-friendly activities and performances. For example, a girls' pageant called Little Miss Cheongsam will take place on Saturday at the main atrium at 3pm. Winners will get WCT cash vouchers; admission tickets to theme parks Sanrio Hello Kitty Town and Thomas Town, which are located at Puteri Harbour; as well as a sash and a tiara.
There will also be a Lego - Beyond Imagination contest on Feb 10 at 5pm, where the winner with the most creative arrangement will walk away with WCT cash vouchers and admission tickets to Legoland Malaysia Resort in Johor.
Singaporean Siew Mei Chun, 49, visited the new mall last month with her husband and elder sister.
The secretary, who bought clothes, photo frames and gifts for her friends, says: "I went because I was curious about this new mall. In general, I like shopping in Johor Baru because the price is almost always cheaper, and it is refreshing to visit places outside Singapore."
She got to the mall by public transport - first taking a bus from her home in Bukit Panjang that took her across the Causeway, then switching to another bus that took her to the mall.
She says: "Perhaps one aspect that can be improved is if the mall can be better connected by public transport.
"After all, not everyone goes there by car."
33 Jalan Harmonium, Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Baru;
open: 10am to 10pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 10am to 11pm (Fridays, Saturdays, public holidays, eves of public holidays and replacement holidays which fall on Mondays); ikea.my/Tebrau
Unleash your inner domestic goddess at the biggest Ikea store in South-east Asia, which opened last November in Tebrau, Johor Baru.
Spanning 502,815 sq ft, the store has 54 Swedish-inspired showrooms and sells about 8,000 types of Swedish home furnishings.
Some items found there are also sold at a lower price than in Singapore.
For example, according to Ikea's online catalogues, a 2.4m-long handwoven Stockholm 2017 rug, which is available at both Ikea Tampines and Ikea Alexandra, is selling for $399.
But the same rug is going for RM999 (S$337) at Ikea Tebrau.
The store does not offer delivery to Singapore, so Singaporeans who want to shop there will have to transport the items back home by themselves.
Those who buy big-ticket items should also consider that they would have to declare these at Customs. Singapore Customs has issued an advisory to remind travellers that GST is exempt only for certain values. If you travel out of Singapore for less than 48 hours, then you will not have to pay GST for goods valued up to $150.
But one thing that makes an Ikea visit more pleasant is a meal at the store's restaurant and the one in Ikea Tebrau is huge - large enough to seat 750 people.
Present on the menu are the signature Swedish meatballs, as well as other delights such as salmon fillet and lamb shank.
Or you could take home a bit of Sweden from the Swedish food market which sells items such as chocolate-flavoured toffees and lingonberry jam.
Those looking for a snack can pop into the bistro, where one can get frozen yogurt for RM1.50 (50 Singapore cents) a cup.
Young ones will love the supervised play area inside the store.
A 20-minute drive from central Johor Baru, this is Ikea's third store in Malaysia. Its other stores are Ikea Damansara in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, and Ikea Cheras in Kuala Lumpur.
Ikea, which was founded in Sweden, is the world's largest home furnishing company with more than 400 stores worldwide.
The new store in Tebrau has an indoor and outdoor carpark with a total of 1,771 parking spaces.
Customers who do not drive can take a free shuttle from Larkin Sentral bus terminal (in front of Selera Johor food court) and Kereta Api Tanah Melayu museum (beside Johor Bahru Sentral) to the store.
Singaporean Alicia Toh, 29, and her husband Alan Chin, 30, drove from Singapore to Ikea Tebrau last month.
She says: "I think this Ikea is larger than the ones in Singapore and it is less crowded. The prices also seem slightly cheaper than in Singapore.
"For example, I bought a cabinet at Ikea Tampines for $120. I found the same cabinet here at $100. So I am going to buy a second one."
Mr Chin, an operations executive who is a Singapore permanent resident, adds that they typically visit Johor Baru about once a week.
"It takes only about 45 minutes to an hour to drive here from our home in Singapore, if there is no traffic jam along the way. We use our car to transport whatever we buy home and it is a great day out for us."
One of the largest indoor theme parks in the world will be launched later in the year at Capital City, an integrated property project in Johor Baru.
Comprising three sections called "planets" - Movie Planet, Cartoon Planet and Music Planet - the theme park has a gross floor area of about 500,000 sq ft.
The attractions in the entertainment complex are designed to appeal to different audiences.
At Movie Planet, scenes of popular movies will be brought to life on 10 screens with different themes such as "dinosaur world", "Hollywood stars" and "haunted house".
Visitors can enjoy an immersive experience of being in the featured movies - such as walking through a haunted house or travelling around the world - using both augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (VR) technology.
The young and the young at heart are the target demographic of Cartoon Planet, where cartoon characters come to life in interactive and educational games, suitable for kids and adults, powered by AR and VR technology.
Finally, music buffs will have a ball of a time at Music Planet, which features a combination of circus, theatrical and musical performanceslive on stage.
The theme park is located along Jalan Tampoi, a 15-minute car ride from the Causeway and a 30-minute drive from Senai International Airport in Johor Baru.
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 28, 2018, with the headline New malls to check out in JB. Subscribe