Far from Ordinary
Far from Ordinary
WRITER: Angela Chew PHOTOS BY: Ernest Goh
Far from Ordinary 25. March 2024, by Angela Chew, Photos by Ernest Goh
Best known as being a gateway to its surrounding islands, Mersing is a destination in itself—charming visitors with a laid-back vibe that offers respite from the modern world.

After hours of travelling through small towns and along winding roads lined with palm oil plantations, visitors will take their first steps into Mersing. With its convenient spot along the South China Sea at the mouth of the Mersing River, the idyllic seaside town in southeast Malaysia is a natural springboard for trips to offshore islands, the most popular of which is Pulau Tioman.

Often, divers and families alike will brave drives in the wee hours of the morning to arrive just in time to hop onto awaiting ferries. But in truth, Mersing has more to offer and is a perfect pit stop for weary travellers to recharge after their journey.

The quiet town was once a base for the British Royal Army during World War II as British-led Allied forces tried unsuccessfully to fend off the invading Japanese army, in what became known as the Battle of Endau.

Today, little remains of its turbulent past. Despite being a developing city centre, Mersing is still very much a fishing village at heart. Here, the old and new collide as quaint attap houses with their iconic zinc roofs stand juxtaposed against concrete structures housing modern amenities and fast-food chains. True to its fishing heritage, fresh seafood is the town’s pride and joy. Ask around and locals will readily direct you to famed restaurants serving up Chinese, Cantonese or Malaysian fare.

Traditional wooden homes with zinc roofs

Boats moored on the Mersing River

Dotting Mersing are many go-to attractions. From a legendary mosque and ornate historic temples that date back around 100 years, to forest reserves and beaches that promise to thrill nature lovers and water sports enthusiasts, the small coastal town presents its guests with an eclectic mix of experiences, allowing them to escape from the chaos of city life.

Cobbler mending shoes by hand near the fresh food market, Pasar Segar Bandar Mersing

But go deeper and you’ll find Mersing town has more to offer. And the best way to explore it is on foot. Traversing its streets and pathways, you can uncover traditional shops and local delicacies only its residents know about. Turn a corner and you could chance upon a bustling local market or find yourself watching boats bobbing in the Mersing River. Don’t discount venturing to the outskirts of the town centre or wandering down quiet lanes as some of its well-loved secrets reside in the most unexpected places.

Skewers of meat being grilled to perfection at Satey Teluk Iskandar

Mr Kan Keng Sam, owner of Mersing Gu Zao Wei, and his wife sell traditional snacks and breakfast items from their home

One of the many well-loved traditional snacks from Mersing Gu Zao Wei

So, if you’re headed to Tioman, don’t be in a rush to jump on the ferry. Take a day or two to stretch your legs and have a look around. Who knows? Mersing might just surprise you.

Satey Teluk Iskandar
Kampung Paya Tinggal
86800 Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 19-767 0853

Mersing Gu Zao Wei
7 Jalan Jeti, Mersing Kechil 86800 Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 18-226 2834