Hello Kitty Town in Johor Bahru attracts many thousands of families from Singapore every year. But does it offer good value for money? Is it easy to get to from Singapore? And will we become heroes in the eyes of our children for organising a day trip to see Barney, Dora, Bob and others? Imtyaz, DirectAsia.com’s CFO, found out…
I’m not sure who was more excited when we decided to visit Hello Kitty Town in JB. My 2 year old daughter Aisha offered no reaction to start with, while my wife was a tad over excited. And myself? I must confess I was also pretty thrilled by the prospect of meeting Kitty and Barney the Dinosaur!
Despite her cool initial response, for my daughter to meet her current obsession Barney the Dinosaur (that’s the big purple and green, larger than life children’s character) was a dream come true. Those whose children have been seduced by this over-sized monster will understand the excitement. It’s like meeting Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer – all rolled into one!
“Wow Daddy’s just so cool!” (okay, she didn’t actually say that, but I sensed it’s what she felt!)
Planning for this trip across to JB is rather easy; just pick the right time to wake the kids. If you get that right then the day will be great; get that wrong, and the whining and “I’m tired” will all be too much!
So having decided we would go according to Aisha’s timetable, there we were, my wife and I all packed ready and waiting at 7.00am. Aisha was still sleeping – madam loves her sleep – and so we waited and waited. If you’re travelling by yourself it’s fine, no bookings to worry about, no schedules, free to go when you want. But with a 2 year old in charge…
Once Aisha decided to wake, the trip to JB was straight forward. Of course, we could choose taxi, bus or MRT to Woodlands, then across the causeway by road, rail or walk. We chose a taxi this time, then a bus across.
Discovering you didn’t pack your passport/Singapore ID at this point could put a downer on your day trip…so put it on your check list, just above Ringgits You Didn’t Spend Last Time. And of course, making sure your travel insurance is up to date is a very good idea too, for that extra peace of mind.
As most of us will be aware, as long as you avoid rush hour and public holidays like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya, you won’t encounter big queues; especially tiresome with a young child in tow! Aisha’s lie-in actually helped us beat the rush this time.
Once through, you know you’re in Malaysia. It is a different country after all. JB Central is like going back 10 or 20 years, nothing major to discover here, a few shopping malls – cheaper than Singapore if shopping is your thing. But we had more excitement planned than JB, we thought: Hello Kitty here we come!
Getting a taxi to Hello Kitty Town is easy and hassle-free if you catch one from the taxi counter at JB Central. They have a flat fare of 40 Ringgit. If you’re brave enough to get a taxi elsewhere, then prepare to haggle or insist that the meter be switched on. This is not Singapore – you are a little out of your comfort zone here!
Hello Kitty Town is about 30 minutes’ drive out of JB, in a new development area called Iskandar. All very impressive, great roads and infrastructure, just waiting for the next lot of investors to put up the homes, offices and shopping malls. A lot of land – it goes on for miles – but coming out of Singapore that’s an obvious reaction. Our taxi driver pointed out the roadside pictures of Hello Kitty Town, but still had no idea where he was going. After several wrong turns, I had to tell him which way to go. If only he followed the signs rather than pointing at them as he drove past!
The development of Hello Kitty Town is in an area known as Puteri Harbour, another new development, still being built – but Hello Kitty is complete.
Entrance tickets are expensive for Malaysia at around 120 Ringgit, but it’s all indoors on several floors, and air conditioned. The whole area is brand spanking new and was not too busy considering it was the weekend.
It’s aimed at younger kids, aged 1 to 8, and certainly struck a chord with our Aisha. From the moment she saw the posters of Barney she was off. I think in all she ran around for about 5 hours, which for a two year old is quite impressive.
The live Barney Show was initially too much for her. She sat in awe or shock – I’m not sure which – probably wondering how this dinosaur got out of the iPad and DVD, and into the real world. But she loved it all.
The rest of the day was taken up with little themed play areas such as Hello Kitty, Bob the Builder, some frilly ballerina, and then of course back to Barney. There were a few small rides for kids of Aisha’s age on the third floor – Aisha insisting upon several rides on each. I felt rather sick after going round and round in a cup and saucer; it’s fun for a two year old but not so fun for grown adults. But hey, it has to be done, it’s Hello Kitty Town!
A great day out for Aisha, she ran around in complete excitement for the whole day. By the end she accepted Barney was for real and danced along to his final performance. All the kids loved it!
The day ended with a Hello Kitty parade, and all was well with little Aisha.
Overall verdict: for kids of Aisha’s age it’s a great place to go, well worth the trip across to JB. If you’re up to it you can do some shopping on the way back, but to be honest after meeting Barney we didn’t need anything else!
Same trip as the morning but in reverse – there was a big queue at the causeway to get a bus. My tip is to aim for any bus, or the yellow or red causeway coaches; see which one has the shorter queue, and get on. None cost more than a couple of dollars, but have some loose change or the driver will not thank you.
Next trip is to Legoland, yippee! But Aisha is not quite ready for that, so I suspect we will visit Barney a few times more before then.
Living in Singapore has superb benefits and the ability to do these short trips to other countries is great. Whether it’s a long weekend or a day trip, there’s a lot close by to Singapore.
All that remains to be said, or rather to be sang is: Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination, and when he’s tall, he’s what we call a dinosaur sensation…come on please sing along, or at least hum if you don’t know the words!
For more info about Hello Kitty Town Malaysia
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