Category: About Muar

Visit Muar

MUAR is a laid-back town and not quite the usual foray of visitors. But for those who venture there will find Muar colourful and unique in its own way.

Located at the northern part of Johor, Muar was the first town visitors come across when driving from Malacca to Johor Baru, before the North- South Expressway was built. Today, motorists can exit the highway after Malacca and have a pleasant 45-minute drive to Muar, enjoying the sights of kampung houses and swaying coconut trees. In the evenings, the road is lined with pisang goreng (banana fritters) sellers.

Muar and its villages hold some of the most fascinating history of the Malay Peninsula.

Muar was mentioned in historical annals as early as in 1361, the district being one of the states of the Majapahit Empire in the Malay Peninsula.

Parameswara, the founder of the Malacca Empire, stopped and built a wooden fort in Pagoh, now a village, after his exile from Temasik (now Singapore) for killing the king.

Much of the history of Muar is centered around Pagoh. The tomb of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah I, who ruled Malacca from 1477 to 1488, is here. Many rulers also moved through Muar, prominent among them was Sultan Mahmud Shah, son of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah and the first Sultan of Johor.

In 1511, the Malacca Sultanate fell to the Portuguese. Sultan Mahmud Shah fled south to a village in Muar, where he built a fort in the hope of returning to fight the Portuguese. From 1511 to 1519, Sultan Mahmud Shah clashed with the Portuguese army, but in 1519 at Sungai Bentayan, he was finally defeated.

Sultan Mahmud Shah’s bravery is not forgotten. Today, the Sungai Bentayan memorial stands majestically in Muar reminding visitors of the strength of his resolve.

Under the Johor sultanate, Muar became a prominent port, with betel nuts, coconut, sago, coffee, fruits and pepper being traded through it.

Recognising its importance as a trade centre, Sultan Abu Bakar (Father of Modern Johor) accorded Muar the status of a state and it became the busiest administrative and trading centre in western Johor. In 1887, Sultan Abu Bakar renamed Muar as Bandar Maharani (maharani meaning queen in Hindi) in honour of of his Sultanah.

Muar continued to prosper with the encouragement of Sultan Abu Bakar to the Chinese and Javanese communities to engage in agricultural activities. The prosperity of Muar brought about much development in the early 1900s, best seen along Jalan Petrie where many buildings with neo-classical architecture still stand.

Muar district is also rich in culture. Arab traders who came to Muar from as far back as the 14th century brought with them spices to trade and left behind a legacy of culture which today has characterised Muar and Johor. The cultural heritage includes the zapin and ghazal music.

From the Javanese migrants, Muar and Johor inherited the kuda kepang dance.

Muar’s charm is its laid-back lifestyle. Visitors should take a slow boat cruise on the river, ending in Bukit Kepong where communist insurgents attacked the police station there in 1950.

Muar is famous for its mee bandung. Try it any time of the day at the Tanjung Emas recreational area facing the Muar River. Other delights are also available.

After a meal, those with children can head to the playground nearby, stroll along the river to enjoy the scenic view or head to the Tanjung Emas Golf Club for a round of golf.

Alternatively, drive to the Kesang Recreational Park or Taman Rekreasi Kesang which boasts the largest replica of a trishaw in the country and the villages of Kesang, Tanjung Gading and Sarang Buaya which are noted for agro-tourism.

A stroll in Muar itself will bring visitors to historical buildings – the High Court (built in 1885 as a resthouse for Sultan Abu Bakar), Royal Customs and Excise Building (built in 1909 and once served as a train station), the majestic Land and District Office (built in 1927) and Muar High School (built in 1904 but moved to its present premises in 1909) which was the first English School in the town.

In Tanjung Emas is the beautiful Masjid Jamek. Construction of the Masjid Jamek started in 1884 and completed in 1889. It was rebuilt in 1925. To cater for the increasing congregation, a second Masjid Jamek was built near Tanjung Agas. Viewed from the original Masjid Jamek, the second mosque looks like it is floating on the river itself.

Outside Muar is Gunung Ledang, known by its colonial name of Mount Ophir.

Then there is Tangkak which is noted for its immense number of textile shops, while Parit Sakai is famous for its silat.

Those who like ikan asam pedas (hot and sour fish) must take the trouble to stop at Parit Jawa.

The Grisik Hot Water Springs is another popular destination in Muar.

[New Straits Times, 2004]

Category: About Muar