It wasn't really in the plans, but once we crossed the Second Link from Singapore, I thought: "Hmmm, why not make a stop at JPO before we head back to KL tomorrow?" It was an interesting Hmmm moment, for sure.
And so, after being shown the new sort-of coastal highway earlier in the morning on Sunday by Hazrey, a freelance broadcast journalist who's also a regular contributor on MHI, we drove straight from Thistle to Kulaijaya. I wondered out loud if they'd be enough signboards to take us to JPO. The answer? Not really.
It wasn't until we were close to the Senai toll exit that we first saw the first JPO signboard. Come on lah, you wanna make this place a MAJOR attraction in Johor? Point people to it from miles and miles away! Make them feel like it's a true MUST-VISIT destination. And make it as convenient as possible for everyone!
And speaking of making things convenient, once you exit the toll, it's a pretty much straight forward drive to JPO, UNTIL... you approach the entry into the carpark.
No doubt there's ample space for parking, but I think they shouldn't try to make money from this. In other words, make parking free for all patrons! It should be one of the "attractions" of JPO. And guess what? There were only two entry points, and one of the points had a faulty barrier! Which meant the cars were bottleneck-ed and a jam quickly developed. Haiyo!
After the not-so-promising start though, things did look much more promising after we set foot on the premises. The outlets were well laid out, well-landscaped and definitely had an international feel to it. In fact, it looked almost exactly like the Premium Outlets I went to in Korea last year. Check it out:
Looking around, I immediately saw all the big brands people were talking about: Burberry, Shanghai Tang, Armani, Ferragamo, Zegna, DKNY, Coach etc.
It was getting really crowded then too, not surprising since people on both sides of the causeway were on holiday! Then came another problem. This time, not of the human or machine kind, but of the insect kind! Flies were everywhere! Why? I don't know. But they were outside the stores, and INSIDE.
So sayang, since the place was clean overall, but the flies were a real problem. Hope something will be done about this quick.
OK now, how about the discounts, you ask? Well, quite good, I must say; although I must confess that we didn't go into some of the more popular stores cos there were long queues outside (and really, we were just "window" shopping). From the few outlets we actually checked out, I can tell you that the promise of 25-65% proved to be true.
Went into the Nike store, for example, and found that great discounts were being offered for running shoes. Almost bought the Lunarglide +3 because of the good price, but the cushioning just wasn't right, so had to give it a pass.
But I did buy a couple of shirts at Raoul and got a near 60% discount. Another item picked up at Michael Kors was also generously discounted. Same with La Senza (so much for window shopping, huh?). But like I said, we didn't have the patience to wait in line to go into the likes of Burberry and Coach, so I have no report on those. Variety of items might disappoint some, though. Gap, for example, had almost nothing of worthy in the men's section.
Elsewhere, the food court's pretty decent with loads of variety on offer. But it was annoying how people kept knocking down the chairs. Seriously! It was like one chair knocked down every 5 minutes. So you'd be enjoying your beef curry and suddenly, "PANNNGGG!!" It's as mysterious as those flies, I tell ya...
After a couple of hours, we decided to leave before it became massively overcrowded, and guess what, I'm not done with complaining about the parking! This time, PAYING for parking proved to be equally annoying. There were long queues at the autopay stations, and halfway through my own queuing, the machine stopped. Seriously, why make it difficult for people in come in and out lah?
So, I can't quite make a conclusive judgment yet on JPO, especially when I've only been inside a fraction of the 80 outlets available, and the 2 hours spent there were not really sufficient. But I would say that it's at least worth one visit.
To the JPO management: DO FIX THE PARKING AND SIGNBOARD PROBLEMS ASAP! And yes, the flies need to go as well...