Being in such close proximity to Singapore, Malaysia is perfect for road trips and getaways – so much so that we wondered why we don’t do it more often, especially with the favourable currency exchange rate. So we jumped at the chance for a little jaunt across the border into Johor Bahru to check out its new four-star Amari hotel. Located in the heart of town – directly opposite City Square Shopping Mall,  Komtar JBCC, and and the Persada Johor International Convention Centre – Amari Johor Bahru is perfect for casting anchor.

Amaya Cafe

It wasn’t long before we were all checked in – those taking public transport will be glad to know that the hotel is almost immediately in sight upon leaving the checkpoint – and were having scones over a cup of tea at Amaya Café. Refreshed, and strolling through the hotel, we notice the high ceilings and large open marble-clad spaces, tastefully accented with turquoise couches and fuchsia orchids. To balance the green, walls are either swathed in a deep purple or embellished with a brassy bronze finishing – both invoking the regal intricacies of Thai décor. It’s certainly a nod to the brand’s almost-sterling reputation in its birth country.

In line with the city’s transition into an international business hub, Amari Johor Bahru is well-prepared with a ballroom, two function rooms, and a pre-function foyer that is perfect for business events. All of them are situated on the same floor as the Lobby, Idea room, Library, and the Amaya Food Gallery for the convenience of guests. The entire hotel has stellar Wi-Fi service – tried and tested – as well.

Superior King

Amongst the seven room categories spread across 242 rooms, the Deluxe Pool Access digs are the most coveted, since guests have their own private terrace and access to the pool (literally just steps from the bed, too). That said, we put up in the Executive Club room for the extra space, which range 28-32 square metres (301-344 square feet), and comes with full access to their Executive Lounge. Situated on the 20th floor, the lounge boasts a great view of the cityscape and the causeway (for those prone to homesickness). Along with the impeccable personalized service, the lounge is equipped with a minibar, a coffee machine, and all day refreshments. Look forward to complimentary evening cocktails and a buffet spread in the morning so you can avoid the buzzing breakfast room.

One highlight of our stay was walking down to the on-site Breeze Spa. The dreamy corridor, decked out in pastel green and chinese-inspired lanterns, led us to a 150-minute timeout we sorely needed. The Johor Bahru Energy Boost Package (RM450) started with a full body coffee and citrus scrub. If the combination of the energizing properties of caffeine and the detoxifying effect of citrus fruits isn’t enough, the treatment continues with a massage that utilises techniques from Thai massage and Ayurveda. Our therapist was definitely skilled, and extremely thorough, in her search for knotted muscles and sore joints. Those looking for a quick romantic getaway, their couples’ treatment suite has its own private Jacuzzi.

Breeze Spa

Outside the hotel lies a heritage trail, traditional bakeries, museums, old coffee shops and tons of trendy cafes that will keep you occupied should you wish explore the neighbourhood. For instance, we managed to try Hiap Joo Bakery’s delectable banana cakes that are baked to perfection in a hole-in-the-wall wood fired oven and explored the Bazaar Pasar Karat, where you’ll be able to find cheap knick knacks and tasty home made treats. The latter is one of the best way to explore the town at night because it stretches across the city, weaving intricately through the lanes of the Heritage Trail, part of which includes Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

Stay, meet, eat, or play, we’re quite certain that Amari Johor Bahru is one of the best hotels in the city.

Amari Johor Bahru is located at 82C, Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, +60 (7) 266 8888.