Also known as Bandar Maharani, the old port town of MUAR is a calm and elegant place that attracts few tourists but should reward a day’s exploration. Legend has it that Paramesvara, the fifteenth-century founder of Melaka, fled here from Singapore to establish his kingdom on the southern bank of Sungai Muar, before being persuaded to choose Melaka. The town later became an important port in the Johor empire, as well as a centre for the sentimental Malay folk-pop called ghazal music, and its dialect is considered the purest Bahasa Malaysia in the Peninsula.
Today, Muar’s commercial centre looks like any other, with Chinese shophouses and kedai kopis lining its streets. Turn right out of the bus station, however, following the river as the road turns into Jalan Peteri, and you’ll find Muar’s Neoclassical colonial buildings. The Custom House and Government Offices (Bangunan Sultan Abu Bakar) are on your right, and the District Police Office and Courthouse on your left; they still have an air of confidence and prosperity from the town’s days as a British administrative centre. Completed in 1930, the graceful Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim successfully combines Western and Moorish styles of architecture. Further along Jalan Petri you’ll pass a jetty on your right, from where irregular river cruises depart.