The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Affordable staycation jollies minutes away from the Johor Bahru Checkpoint.

The must-dos (if any): Weekend dinner buffet at Amaya Food Gallery, cafe hop around the buzzy cafe cluster nearby, have a Mood Massage at Breeze Spa.

Intro: I recently had my virgin Johor Bahru staycation experience at Amari Johor Bahru, a fairly new four-star standard hotel situated just minutes away from the Johor Bahru Checkpoint and conveniently near both Johor Bahru City Square and Komtar JBCC as well as popular Johor Bahru cafes such as Flowers in the Window, Bev C, Shakespeare Milkshakes, The Replacement Lodge and Kitchen and Faculty of Caffeine. Thailand-trotting Singaporeans may generally only be familiar with the Thai-based Amari brand from the famous Amari Watergate Bangkok, but the Amari brand looks set to grow in Asia, with regional expansion plans in the pipeline. Amari Johor Bahru is the first of many to be launched in Malaysia.


The Executive Club King Room comes with access to club benefits at the Executive Lounge. The view from my high-floor room overlooks the causeway (which would be mighty helpful on Sundays). Purple accents remind you of the hotel’s Thai origins, while power points and USB ports are conveniently situated at your bedside. Elsewhere, the shower does not come with a bathtub (the kids can have their wet frolics at the pool instead) and the refrigerator is one of those which you have to remove the various shelves in order to store a bottle of wine.

Amari Johor Bahru - Breeze SpaThe obligatory Larvitar shot.

Amari Johor BahruIt was a gloomy, rainy day when I checked in…

Amari Johor Bahru…Which explains the bluesy vibes of the photos.


Being a Thai-based brand, the Thai influences are readily apparent in the design of the hotel, with many an elephant greeting you throughout the premises. The lobby floor comprises of the Amaya Cafe (the hotel’s lounge cafe, which also serves afternoon high tea featuring TWG tea), Amaya Food Gallery (the hotel’s restaurant), the Breeze Spa, banquet rooms, a study/work room as well as connected meeting rooms that are available for booking.

The Executive Lounge is situated on the highest floor, and serves breakfast in the morning, all-day refreshments, and light food and cocktails in the evening.

Amari Johor BahruThe lobby lounge gets crowded during check-in and check-out timings.

Amari Johor BahruA nicely-furnished and quiet reading/work area on the lobby floor.

Amari Johor BahruA very Instagrammable alley that leads you to the Breeze Spa. I have literally seen photos of bloggers posing “seductively” with their mammary glands pressed against the lovely green wall.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya CafeThe Amaya Cafe is the hotel’s lobby lounge cafe, serving beverages, cakes and afternoon high tea.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya CafeAfternoon high tea at Amaya Cafe.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya CafeThe lounge area.

Amari Johor BahruTrunks ahoy.

Amari Johor Bahru“Colours and Rhythms of Modern Asia”.

Amari Johor Bahru - Executive LoungeSome light food, sweet sake and a Gin & Tonic at the Executive Lounge.

Amari Johor Bahru - Executive LoungeThe Executive Lounge.


The Amaya Food Gallery was one of the highlights of the stay. I managed to try the weekend dinner buffet, and it was an enjoyable dinner experience for the variety at the price payable. There was a live noodles station, a sashimi/sushi station, a range of very culturally diverse Asian dishes with a strong Thai emphasis, as well as a selection of seafood and beef dishes. The Thai dishes in particular, such as the Tom Yum Seafood Soup, Stir-fried Prawns with Hot Basil Sauce, and Thai-style Half Shell Mussel with Chilli Paste, were memorable highlights (which might be a reflection of Amaya’s Thai origins), with the distinctive and feistiness of Thai flavours penetrating deep into the flesh of the seafood as opposed to being mere superficial flavour rubs.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryAmaya Food Gallery is the in-hotel dining concept found across all Amari properties.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryLive noodle station at Amari Food Gallery.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryButter grilled prawns.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryHerbal chicken.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryA cheese contraption to make pasta cheesier.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryRoasted Striploin.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryA fairly humble sashimi counter, with the slices often being as thin as the white blouse of a Circular Road bar temptress.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryThai Style Curry Crab.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryStir-fried Prawns with Hot Basil Sauce.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryThai-style Half Shell Mussel with Chilli Paste.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryTom Yum Seafood Soup.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryA platter of seafood greatest hits.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryIt is a very multi-cultural dinner buffet with Chinese dim sum, chicken tikka, Nasi Briyani etc.


Breakfast is available at both the Amari Food Gallery as well as the Executive Lounge. Whilst the Amari Food Gallery has a fairly extensive breakfast buffet spread, including big breakfast offerings (beef streaky bacon replaces the porcine usuals) and a range of self-serve local delights such as congee and nasi lemak, the Executive Lounge is more modest and limited in its offerings. It must be said, however, that the latter is significantly more private and quiet as a breakfast destination, and a meal there can serve as a quiet pick-me-up before your visits to the nearby buzzy cafes and Hiap Joo banana cake indulgences.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryBig Western breakfast from the breakfast buffet at Amaya Food Gallery.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryNasi Lemak from the breakfast buffet at Amaya Food Gallery.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryMorning cakes and pastries from the breakfast buffet at Amaya Food Gallery.

Amari Johor Bahru - Amaya Food GalleryMade-to-order soup noodles from the all-day noodle station at Amaya Food Gallery.

Amari Johor Bahru - Executive LoungeSmoked Salmon and Eggs at the Executive Lounge, which is made-to-order.

Amari Johor Bahru - Executive LoungeNasi Lemak from the breakfast buffet at the Executive Lounge.


One of Amari Johor Bahru’s greatest draws is their Deluxe Pool Access Rooms, which directly open to the swimming pool. I observed that the pool is primarily utilised by families with children, but there are pockets of time throughout the day where the pool is empty enough to be conducive for couple sexytimes (or as sexy as is possible when the pool is directly outside guest rooms).

Amari Johor BahruThe swimming pool at night.

Amari Johor BahruA fairly SAFRA-esque morning situation at the swimming pool in the morning.


The Breeze Spa offers spas, treatments and massages to guests, and features three single rooms, a double room with a Jacuzzi for couples, as well as a dedicated manicure and pedicure area. The signature feature of the Breeze Spa is their suggestively-named Mood Massage, which purports to bring you to your desired feeling – Dreamy, Serene, Rejuvenated, Invigorated or Energised – through a deep body massage.

I opted for the 60-minute “Rejuvenated”  Mood Massage. This was my first ever body massage – I do not particularly fancy strangers rubbing oils over my precious parts – so I went in there being fairly cautious and skeptical. The fact that I was instructed to put on nothing but what could charitably be described as a transparent, black hair-net over my family jewels did not start things on a good note.

“Do I only wear this? Not my underwear as well?” I asked incredulously.

“No, Sir, only this,” my massage therapist, Alex, responded.

I was stubborn, and wore the flimsy black net over my boxer briefs.

So I laid there on the massage bed with the towel over my body, with my head rested in the head hole. Alex approached the massage table, and peeled off half of the towel such that only my legs were covered. He then matter-of-factly rolled back my underwear/black net combo such that half my orbs of Luna were exposed, and squirted cold mandarin oil over my back before climbing on top of me and starting a very professional massage of my back.

As my experience with massages were limited to watching episodes of Monica on Friends, I was half expecting extreme sensitive discomfort and lip-biting to stop myself from screaming in tickled pleasure. However, the massage was professional – he steered clear of the nippular area – and very comfortable indeed. For that hour, it did feel that the world melts into the darkness (I had a coffee-scented eye cloth over my eyes when I was lying face-up) and nothing else mattered apart from the hands applying a most Midas touch on my body. I did not even feel particularly shy during the moment where the sides of my Goodwood Park mooncakes were pressed with such might that I felt bones that I never felt before. The fatty bits on my fatback and rolls on my torso were kneaded and compressed with gusto, the ends of my fingers and toes were snapped efficiently, and the beating of my back as I sat upright were like Chun Li-esque kicks in their succession and vigour.

The only moments where I did squirm and try not to cry for Mummy was when the base of my feet was being rubbed – it was the equivalent having your foot core stabbed with a bony doorknob spear –  and when my inner thighs were being massaged (y’know).

Before the end of the massage, Alex switched to a peppermint oil and started massaging my shoulders and scalp, which gave a most glacial Vicks-esque feel to the proceedings. I must say by the end of it all, I genuinely felt both relaxed and rejuvenated.

Amari Johor Bahru - Breeze SpaYou get to choose from various moods – Dreamy, Serene, Rejuvenated, Invigorated or Energised.

Amari Johor Bahru - Breeze SpaThe Couple’s room…

Amari Johor Bahru - Breeze Spa…which comes with an attached Jacuzzi, if you enjoy being naked with a loved one while staring at a mall through a window as sunlight streams in and caresses your naked forms.

Amari Johor Bahru - Breeze SpaThe Single room for a private massage.


While I concluded that the average profile of an Amari Johor Bahru guest appears to be “Singaporean member of a family which includes young children” (and the crowds suggest that word appears to have already gotten out to families that the hotel makes for a great weekend getaway that is fairly child-friendly), there are aspects of the hotel which make it appealing as a staycation destination for friends and couples alike, such as the good food at the Amaya Food Gallery (in particular, the weekend dinner buffet), the proximity to the Johor Bahru checkpoint, the availability of club benefits such as cocktail hour at the Executive Lounge for a higher degree of privacy from the normal guests, the couple packages at the Breeze Spa, as well as the proximity of the hotel to the buzzy Johor Bahru cafe enclave nearby. The newness of the hotel also make it more appealing as a Johor Bahru staycation destination than DoubleTree by Hilton. Definitely worth considering if you need a quick escape (and an equally quick return).

Amari Johor Bahru
No.82C Jalan Trus
80000 Johor Bahru
Johor, Malaysia

This was a hosted stay.


Shawn began documenting his food experiences since he started reading Law at the National University of Singapore. Initially he turned to food for solace from the rigours of university life, and food eventually became his safe haven away from the horrors of legal practice. However, it dawned on him one day that he has become sufficiently enlightened about the magic of discovering new and good food. Thus, he joined Burpple, a company with which his goals coincided - to help people decide what to eat. Secret Life of Fatbacks is an extension of Shawn's Instagram account (@Larvitar). For intellectual property reasons, he is unable to name the website anything related to the titular Pokémon character. Feel free to ask him in person what "Fatbacks" refers to. Shawn is not a professional food critic, food blogger or food photographer. He is simply a guy who loves food very much and (likes to think that he has) a quirky sense of humor. He enjoys combining them in his writing, and hopes to put a smile on some faces along the way.

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