Elizabeth Gilbert may have only coined the maxim of “eat, pray, love” in the title of her bestselling memoir, but for many, the “prayer” part—or, the search for deeper spirituality—has long been a capstone of international travel. It’s no wonder that temples, churches, mosques, and other sacred sites remain among the most visited tourist attractions; after all, it is in these places that people can get to know the story of a foreign culture, engage with its values and principles, and find threads of common humanity that will enrich them long after they leave that foreign place and go home.
In Malaysia, there’s one city that’s well-suited to such pilgrimages: Johor Bahru, the capital of Johor State. The highly urbanized city of Johor Bahru may be known to the world as a transport and manufacturing hub, but there are several places here that tourists can flock to for their spiritual respite. If you are one such traveller, make sure that at least one of the following religious sites is included as a stop in your holiday the next time you book a Johor Bahru tour package.
- Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. Arguably the first place of worship that you should visit is the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, declared by travel experts as one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia. Built just before the dawn of the twentieth century under the rule of its namesake, the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque is a product of English, Arabian, and quintessentially Malay architectural styles. While taking in a view of its sheer and solemn beauty, visitors will also get to know the history of the Islamic religion in Malaysia.
- Masjid India. In contrast to the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, the Masjid India or India Mosque is a modern-looking structure that incorporates lots of tinted glass into its design. Its primary dome and twin minarets are accented in handsome blue and silver. From its looks alone, visitors will understand why this mosque is conducive to prayer for Malaysia’s resident Muslim Indians.
- Church of the Immaculate Conception. The Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception is Johor Bahru’s oldest church—and one of the oldest structures still standing in the city—with its original frame built way back in 1883. The church’s soaring blue and white steeple is hard to miss and pleasant for travellers to photograph. Moreover, Catholics from around the world will enjoy the lively services that take place around the same time as Pongal, the Tamil festival of thanksgiving.
- Roufo Old Chinese Temple. The Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple, also known as the Roufo Old Chinese Temple, is a landmark structure in Jalan Trus. This intricate and colourful building is said to be the home of five deities separately worshipped by the Teochew, Hoklo, Hakka, Cantonese, and Hainanese ethnic groups. Thus, it is an important gathering place to celebrate not only the power of the deities, but of the unity among Chinese Malaysians.
- Arulmigu Sri Raja Kaliamman Hindu Temple. The Arulmigu Sri Raja Kaliamman Hindu Temple is a major attraction in Johor Bahru, being one of the oldest places of worship in the city and the only glass temple in Malaysia. Though entrance is open to visitors of all denominations, they must follow the temple’s strict dress code of no shorts, short skirts, slippers, or caps before entering the main prayer area. It will be a delight to study the temple’s ornate Dravidian architectural details with a high-resolution camera.
Travellers of all faiths, nationalities, and walks of life will find something of wonder waiting for them here. Come visit these places of worship, and be one with what is sacred to the people of Johor Bahru!