It has been almost a year since my last visit to Johor Bahru as I have been deterred mostly by the congestion on the Johor-Singapore Causeway. However, I recently heard from a friend that the KTM Trains were amazing in this aspect as they help to cut hour-long wait-times to just five minutes (and she did not lie!). After getting through both Singapore and Malaysia immigration, I hopped on the KTM Train and quickly found myself in the JB CIQ in approximately five minutes. Granted the train did take around 10 minutes to actually start moving, the journey itself was unbelievably quick (especially if you have spent countless hours on the causeway previously).
Since I have checked out the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru on a few occasions previously, I have decided to check myself in to the relatively-new Amari Johor Bahru which is located in a much better location (since it is only 5 minutes away from JB City Square) for the weekend. The hotel is located directly behind KOMTAR JBCC (which is behind JB City Square) and getting from the JB CIQ to the Amari Johor Bahru takes you less than 10 minutes on foot. The main lobby of the hotel is located on a different level and therefore you will have to take a lift up to the lobby from the street level to check-in to your room.
I stayed in the crème de la crème room category here at the Amari Johor Bahru - the One Bedroom Suite. Even though I arrived slightly ahead of the official check-in time, I was informed that the suite was already ready for me and that I could proceed to my suite if I like. Fortunately for me, the suite that I was assigned to was located on the same level as the Executive Lounge (which I had access to).
The One Bedroom Suite here at the Amari Johor Bahru measures approximately 69sqm in size and it comes with a separate living area (that can be partitioned off), master bedroom, a private balcony, a walk-in wardrobe as well as a massive bathroom. As mentioned earlier, guests staying in this suite will also have access to the Executive Lounge which gives you privileges like complimentary buffet breakfast, all-day refreshments as well as cocktail hour in the evening. As part of my welcome amenities, I received a bowl of fruits, some chocolates as well as a personalised card.
There is a powder room that is located near to the entrance of the One Bedroom Suite so if you have guests over, they do not actually need to walk through your bedroom to get to the bathroom. The living room itself comes with a sofa, a chair by the window as well as a work desk if you need to get things done during your stay - WiFi is complimentary for all hotel guests.
You will find a 40-inch LED TV here in the living room of the One Bedroom Suite (there is another one in the bedroom) that is stocked with both cable and satellite channels. Capsule coffee pods can also be found here in the suite so you do not have to worry about dealing with freeze-dried coffee. Alternatively, if your room or suite comes with access to the Executive Lounge, I highly recommended heading over for a proper coffee.
The bedroom of the One Bedroom Suite is partitioned away from the living room and it is definitely quite roomy. There is a small dressing table that is located near the entrance of the bedroom if you need to dress up and as you would imagine, the main bathroom is connected to the bedroom via a small walk-in wardrobe where you will also find the safe and other travel conveniences like bathroom slippers.
The One Bedroom Suite here at Amari Johor Bahru also comes with a private balcony that you can walk out to - there is a small chair and table here (probably for people who smokes?). While I would probably not say that the view from there is to die for, a suite on a high floor (like mine!) offers sweeping views of the Straits of Johor.
As mentioned earlier, there is another LED TV in the bedroom so you can enjoy some programs from the comfort of your own bed. The door leading out to the balcony can be locked for security reasons and it is actually quite nice to enjoy a panoramic view of the view and straits from the comfort of your own bedroom.
The bathroom of the One Bedroom Suite here at the Amari Johor Bahru is quite large and it features both a standing shower area as well as a separate bathtub on the other side.
Double vanity sinks can also be found here in the bathroom so you do not have to worry about having to share in the morning or before bed (there is also a powder room outside if you have forgotten). The bathtub itself was not as deep as I had imagine and bath salts are not provided but having a tub to come back to after spending the afternoon outside is truly something to look forward to.
Bath amenities provided in the suite are in-house branded and there is no conditioner (you do get a bottle of conditioning shampoo though!) so please bring your own if you desire. After freshening up, I decided to leave the hotel to check out the surrounding area. If you are looking for suggestions, a few established food bloggers like Miss Tam Chiak has guides for cheap and good food around the area.
The reason why I am staying over at the Amari Johor Bahru is so I do not have to rush back home and since I am here for food and shopping, I want to take my time with things and not have to think about catching the train back to Singapore. I took an Uber ride (which was less than MYR 10 with surge pricing) to Mrs. Whó after hearing quite a bit about it from my friends and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of food there. The prices in Mrs. Whó were also extremely reasonable which is surprising since cafe food in Singapore can be quite costly. If you are looking for other restaurants that are nearer to Amari Johor Bahru, I really enjoyed the coffee from Roost Repurposed & Recycled as well as Flowers in the Window.
After spending the afternoon outside in the sweltering heat, I was thankful for a hotel to return back to (especially since I really wanted a shower). In fact, I was glad that the Executive Lounge was located on the same floor as the suite that I was staying it - this makes walking over for a drink a no-brainer. The Executive Lounge itself is quite sizeable and I honestly think it is the most beautiful one in Johor Bahru.
As I walked into the Executive Lounge, I noticed that I arrived just in time for evening cocktails and canapés (5:00PM to 7:00PM daily) at the lounge - this is complimentary for all registered Executive Room and Suite guests so make sure you take advantage of it. After I have settled down on one of the tables, I was handed a small menu that basically listed a number of alcoholic drinks, juices, tea, coffee and soft drinks - of course I have opted for an alcoholic drink because I am not five years old. The Amari Gin Tonic is made with Gordon Gin, tonic water and lime wedges - it was nothing special to be honest but still a decent G&T which was everything I needed after spending that much time in the sun.
If you prefer to make your own beverage, there is a rather impressive selection of liquor and spirits in the Executive Lounge (this is definitely the most extensive spread that I have ever seen in Johor Bahru). I was really craving for a negroni but they did not have that on the menu so I decided to make it myself since all the ingredients (well, except orange peel) that I required are there.
I got back to my room after a number of drinks and only started feeling hungry at approximately 10:00PM - thankfully for me, a number of restaurants around the Amari Johor Bahru open until the wee hours of the morning.
Guests staying in Executive Rooms and Suites will have the option of having the full buffet breakfast experience at Amaya Food Gallery or enjoy a more modest selection (but enjoy a lot more peace and quiet) at the Executive Lounge - I decided to go for the latter option since I got up later than usual and I was worried that the main restaurant would have been rather busy by then.
What impressed me further however was the existence of an a la carte menu (mostly egg dishes) here in the Executive Lounge. I could pick between having eggs done any style, Eggs Royale, Banana Bread French Toast or the Pancake Stack - if you are feeling hungry, feel free to order all of them on the menu since guests are not limited to just one (nope, this isn't the Conrad Tokyo).
Having stayed at the Thistle Johor Bahru, the DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru and now the Amari Johor Bahru, I can safely say that this is my favourite property amongst all three. The location of the hotel makes it easy to visit plenty of places without having to hop on an Uber and the Executive Lounge is definitely the best amongst the properties that I have stayed in in Johor Bahru. It is worth noting that the room rates here at the Amari Johor Bahru is higher on Saturday (possibly due to captive market pricing) but even then, it is still incredibly reasonable and it is at least half of what you would expect to pay in Singapore for a hotel of similar standards.
The Shutterwhale stayed as a guest of the Amari Johor Bahru.