When we think of Johor Bahru, we think of cheap makan, cheap groceries, and cheap car washes - all good reasons to brave a potential traffic jam just to get across the Causeway.
But what if you're looking for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life instead? Enter Traders Hotel - a 4-star brand of the Shangri-La Group - which is located right beside the waters of the Puteri Harbour.
While the hotel's target clientele are businessmen making a pit-stop in Johor, it also works as a destination for Singaporeans who might want to just relax for a weekend. And, of course, having free speedy Wi-Fi, private massage spa, and access to a rooftop infinity pool never hurt anyone.
For now, the hotel can be accessed via a half-hour car ride from the Tuas Checkpoint in smooth traffic. But more transport options are slated to open up soon, once the Puteri Harbour International Ferry Terminal begins direct trips to Singapore's HarbourFront Ferry Terminal - a development that was intended to materialise this June.
But other than accessibility, another reason the hotel makes a great choice for a getaway is that its location boasts a scenic view of the harbour that, for a second, makes you feel like you're in a totally different part of the world.
To maximise this view, the rooftop of the hotel features an infinity pool facing the harbour, as well as the SkyBar restaurant, where you can have a sitdown dinner and drinks against a sunset backdrop. If you prefer an indoor dining option, then you could grab a bite at the Lobby Lounge, or check out The Harbour Cafe for your daily buffet breakfast.
The latter seats up to 250 people, and on most nights it serves an international dinner buffet - RM98++ (S$38) per adult. The highlight, however, is the impressive spread of cold and hot seafood that the cafe serves on Friday nights, complete with sashimi, Alaskan King Crab and a delectable dessert bar (RM 108++ per adult).
But if you feel like venturing out for food instead, there are restaurants, cafes and even a Starbucks outlet - all within a five-minute walk along the harbour.
As for the hotel's 283 rooms, they might not be considered luxurious but they are definitely well-lit and spacious. The large windows face either the harbour or the courtyards, and the view can be comfortably admired from a handy bay window sofa.
And since it was just built last year, the four-storey hotel has adopted a clean and modern look that matches its four-star image, while its hallways are decorated with batik-inspired artwork mostly made out of wood.
For families with restless kids, the hotel also happens to be conveniently located near attractions such as Legoland (five-minute drive) and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town (three-minute walk). Otherwise, a five-minute drive will bring you to Kota Iskandar, where you can take a tour to see the pineapple-shaped dome where Johor's state parliament takes place.
Alternatively, you could hop into a cab for the Johor Premium Outlets (about RM70 per trip) which are just a 10 to 20-minute drive away. There you will find over 80 brands such as DKNY, Hugo Boss, Guess and Salvatore Ferragamo. These entertainment options are in fact the main reasons that half the business hotel's clientele have been leisure-seekers.
As general manager Sigi Bierbaumer puts it: "Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour, is the perfect place for a staycation just across the border of Singapore, especially for those who have a need to get away from the busy city." And he just might be right.
This article was published on May 24 in The Business Times.
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