Why you should stop at Muar, a town by the river, on the coast of the Straits of Malacca? "Food". Muar is absolutely famous for its asam pedas fish (spicy tamarind) and otak-otak (curried fish paste wrapped in banana leaves), both we didn't manage to try (unfortunately). But we went to the Muar-famous Kopi 434. I could vouch for that!
We tried the "Elephant Coffee", AA Malaysian coffee beans cultivated in Johor. We're coffee lovers and indeed, it's a MUST try, so different from other local coffee we've ever tried. Uniquely rich and aromatic flavour and taste, as rich as its long history since 1953. The toasted kaya-butter bun was also near perfect. Pricing was reasonable but higher than the local coffee shops. Good ambience too.
Many people would have simply overlooked or bypassed Muar, but indeed there're more than good food here. We're actually searching for the paddy fields of Sg Balang, about 30 km from Muar town. There were so many directions given by the folks, and they're all different!
This place is criss-crossed by canals or parit that have drained the coastal swamps to enable paddy, oil palms and coconut trees to be grown. We have seen other paddy fields, but Sg Balang is actually teeming with numerous birds that dwell along Johor's coast.
The most prominent birds were the bald-headed Lesser Adjutant Storks. We saw one or two raptors, egrets, pigeons, but there're too many birds we could not identify with our limited knowledge. Good place for swiftlet farming for the bird's nest delicacy.
Barn owls are effective to control rats in paddy fields, that's why, it's common to see this nest box built in paddy fields.
A barn owl in the nest box.
We decided to move on to the mudflats of Parit Jawa, supposedly a good location to see various shorebirds and waders. It's a small fishing village with lush green mangroves resided along its coast. We walked along the jetty, but we got there when the tide was high, right in the hot afternoon. So we couldn't see the mudflat. Even in this small town, there're many seafood restaurants and inns and a watch tower, signs that it's a popular spot.
Very peaceful and serene
We spotted the Lesser Adjutant straightaway, observing these birds in their natural surrounding was very different from seeing them in the national zoo.
Many fishermen were resting in a shed near the jetty, mending their nets and catching a nap, and it's good to talk to them to find out more about this place and the folks. This is the place for "asam pedas" and you could find more than 100 shops and stalls selling this dish in Parit Jawa alone.
It's a very very nice place to walk around when it's not so hot, there so many things that would captivate you everywhere. There were the lovely bee-eater birds with their combination of rainbow colours flying upside down! And hundreds of waders descending upon the muddy shores to feed. This water was certainly not safe cos the sea jellies were everywhere, also the mudskippers flapping about and spotted a fish that looked like puffer fish??
It's worth to come back again to see the wildlife in this muddy coast, definitely!!