Today, 26 April 2012, Firefly flies direct from one state capital to another, one up north in Kelantan and another down south in Johore. For the first time, one East Coast capital, Kota Baru is linked to another, Johore Baru.
However my flight was from KLIA, not Kota Baru and I had to arrive at KLIA by 6.15 am as the flight was 7.30am. At Senai Airport we received a warm welcome though the main thrust was for the passengers on Firefly's inaugural flight from Kota Baru which arrived at 10.10am. I flew on Malaysia Airlines though which owns Firefly.
Most passengers were unaware they were on the historic flight but they were soon made aware when they received a goodie bag and a Malay orchestra was waiting to serenade them. Passengers going to Kota Baru from Johore Baru also received the goody bags.
After the simple ceremony we were driven to Johore Premium Outlets which is a Shopping Village of world class standards with minimum discounts of 30% while Oroton was offering sensational discounts of up to 70% for their bags! Entire rows of bags were marked down a luscious 70% while most were 50% off.
Designed like a resort with abundant plants and water features, Johore Premium Outlets is almost like visiting a resort
Fountains like this play nonstop, giving Johore Premium Outlets a Mediterranean ambiance
Top brands like Burberry and Zegna call Johore Premium Outlets home
Other big brand names like Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Armani, Burberry and Zegna were mostly 30% off which is a big deal as their KL boutiques offer no such thing!
I was looking for a computer bag and almost bought one at Fossil since the bag was splattered with images of keys which happens to be akin to my name Kee! Then I realise I have tons of bags at home which have never left Palladium condo!
Then we were taken to Kota Iskandar, the new administrative and political centre of Johore, the 13th such centre since modern Johore. Named after the late Sultan Iskandar, this is the home of Malaysia's first 'parliament' open to the public. Ever wondered how politics in Malaysia works?
Then visit Kota Iskandar's Grand Assembly Hall or Parliament that is open to the public! Watch as Johore's leaders discuss the state's most important matters under the grand skylight shaped like a pineapple. The natural light streaming in represents transparency and openness and shines on Johore's economic prosperity and spiritual progress.
The architecture is inspired by Mooroish buildings like Alhambra in Granada, southern Spain where the Moors from north Africa ruled for over 800 years, the only time when Muslims ruled a part of Europe. It was a glorious period where arts and sciences flourished as the Rulers welcomed the leading intellectuals of the day regardless of creed.
In the 17th century, Johore Empire was one of the strongest and largest in Nusantara and Kota Iskandar reflects this glorious epoch. Here the splendid past, present and glorious future of Johore intertwine in the magnificent buildings and parks.
What a grand and auspicious start to a new life as husband and wife as the happy couple pose in front of the State Secretariat housing the Johore Menteri Besar's offices
The newly weds pose atop their wedding car in Kota Iskandar
Kee Hua Chee feels compelled to wish them a life of bliss
The Grand Staircase in Jauhar Atrium leading to Parliament Hall
Side view of Jauhar Atrium
The skylight of Jauhar Atrium is designed like a faceted diamond as 'jauhar' means 'diamond' or 'precious stone'
Kee Hua Chee insists he also sparkles like a diamond and is always loaded with bling
Dramatic view of Jauhar Atrium
The graceful arches and elegant pillars are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain
Notice the Kiblat which points to the direction of Mecca as the entire Kota Iskandar is aligned to the Holy City
Jauhar Gallery showcases the history of Johore and its monarchy
The dramatic shadows cast by the Jauhar Atrium move with the sun
Stunning interplay between light and shadow
Grace and beauty abound everywhere in this Johorean/ Moorish/Andalusian architectural marvel
Water features, pools and fountains are integral in Islamic architecture
The gigantic diamond represents all that is good, precious and rare
The patterns formed by the skylight's faceted panes are truly stunning
My guide explaining Johore's State Crest; the crown represents the progress under the monarchy, the 2 tigers symbolise strength, the 4 stars the original 4 provinces though now there are 10 and in the centre is the crescent representing Islam which is the national religion
Kee Hua Chee in front of Johore's State Crest
The spectacular skylight shaped like a pineapple that allows natural light to stream in
The Sultan of Johore sits below the State Crest which is surmounted by the Holy Koran in an alcove to symbolise Islam's supremacy over all
Kee Hua Chee in front of the throne which is blue rather than the usual yellow in other states with a Ruler
Note the Holy Koran at the top followed by State Crest and throne
Ninety percent of materials are local but this marble is from China
The grand Assembly Hall or Parliament of Johore
Beware fake or false politicians of which this is a prime example
Black pepper and pineapple motifs are reminders these woth gambier were once Johore's economic mainstays
The pineapple shaped skylight dominates Johore's State Assembly Hall
There are only 6 Opposition members here
Kee Hua Chee almost felt like entering politics to enjoy such magnificent surroundings
But was informed he would be forbidden to wear garments featuring his own faces so he gave up politics
Dramatic architecture that is unique in Malaysia
Note the blue throne glistening under the state crest and Koran
Johore's Grand Assembly Hall or Parliament, the only one in Malaysia opened to the public
Last admiring look
Looking out from the main entrance of Bangunan Sultan Ismail
The cannons given by the British Royal Family
The front entrance to Bagunan Sultan Ismail
Johore's State Secretariat
END OF PART 1