Malaysia's southern gateway, Johor remains a favourite destination for Singaporean visitors.
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Johor is the southernmost state of Malaysia, and the birthplace of the independence movement in the country. The state does not offer many tourist attractions when compared to other Malaysian states. However, Johor, along with its capital, Johor Bahru, is a favourite destination for visitors from nearby Singapore, who travel over during the weekends. The favourable exchange rate, the scarcity of land in Singapore, and the close proximity of Johor Bahru to Singapore are some of the reasons that Singaporeans flock to the state.
Nevertheless, Johor still has its fair share of attractions that will be bound to entertain its visitors. The state has a rich culture, complete with mesmerizing folk dances and intriguing myths. Its capital, Johor Bahru is worth exploring, with a couple of interesting landmarks to see, including the royal palace, the only royal residence open to the public. The city is also a good place to experience some local culture and be introduced to Johor cuisine, although a trip to the famous fishing village of Kukup is required for those who wish to experience a true culinary adventure.
The state is also currently embarking on efforts to promote other attractions, like the Endau Rompin National Park, and also its lovely Desaru beachfront, a stretch of lovely golden white sand facing the South China Sea, in efforts to widen its tourism appeal.
Like Perak, Johor traces its origins back to the fall of the Malacca Sultanate at the hands of the Portuguese in the early 16th century when Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II, the son of the desposed Malacca Sultan, established his base of power there. He became the bane of the Portuguese as he constantly plotted to recapture Malacca. He finally was successful after building up strategic alliances with other sympathetic Malay states and another foreign power eager to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, the Dutch. The eviction of the Portuguese in 1641 would mark the acsension of Johor as a regional power, its influence expanding to encompass the entire Pahang region, parts of Sumatra island, and the present day Indonesian territories of the Riau archipelago.
The current Johor royal dynasty began in the 19th century, at a time when the Johor-Riau empire had split into two factions controlled by the Bugis people in Sulawesi and the Minangkabau people in Sumatra. An ambitious nobleman, Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, saw this as an opportunity and through deft political maneuvering, engineered an agreement between the British, who were the predominant foreign power in the Malay Peninsular at that time, and Sultan Ali of Johor. Ali was acknowledged as the rightful ruler of Johor, which was reduced to its regions in the Malay Peninsular, with the exception of Kesang region, which finally was finally incorporated into Johor in 1877. His power now consolidated, Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim established his administration at the tip of the Malay Peninsular, at Bandar Tanjung Puteri, which is now the site of the present day capital of the state of Johor.
His son, Dato' Temenggung Abu Bakar, succeeded him as ruler of Johor, first with the title Seri Maharaja Johor, and then later in 1886, Sultan of Johor. Like his father, Sultan Abu Bakar was a visionary and an astute man, overcoming initial skeptism surrounding his lineage to become a highly respected figure among the Malay rulers. Whether he was driven by his intuition or his desire for the betterment of his people, Sultan Abu Bakar constantly sought new ways and methods to bring improvements to the administration of the state. He was impressed by Western civilization, and set about modernizing his state by setting up court structures and postal services, establishing the Road Works Department and the introduction of public amenities like schools, hospitals and roads to his people. He was also wary of foreign intervention and used his penchant for diplomacy, including a close friendship with the British Queen Victoria, to stave off British ambitions on his state. In recognition of his great vision and wise reign, Sultan Abu Bakar is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Johor.