Today, the modest-looking bus terminal on George Street is recognized throughout Malaysia as the entry point for Johor Bahru. One would have travelled from Queen Street to Johor in under 45 minutes on an express bus. Only two decades ago, one could have simply walked across the street to Johore, or rather, to Johore Road.
There was a particular Johore Road that ran parallel to Queen Street and Victoria Street until the early 1990s. It was deleted from the maps in the late 1990s, along with other well-known locations and streets such as Bukit Larangan, a 19th-century name for Fort Canning Hill; and Hock Lam Street, which is currently home to Funan Centre.
The 1960s and 1970s were the glory days of Johore Road when it was known as a notorious red-light district in which transgender sex workers solicited for business in the shophouses and alleys. The area used to be a stone’s throw from the world-renowned Bugis Street, which was known for cabaret shows, transgender hookers, and food stands.
The less glamorous Johore Road was compared to the more popular Bugis Street, which was imprinted on postcards and attracted thousands of Western tourists and sailors.
Occupants of the rows of shophouses at Johore Road were a fascinating mix mostly made up of home temples, small family businesses, and illicit brothels. On both sides of the street, vendors sold handicrafts and merchandise. On both sides of the road, street vendors displayed their goods.
During heavy rains, the open drains at Johore Road flooded and burned buildings and houses on that street. The shophouses were subsequently demolished, and after the short usage of Victoria Street Wholesale Centre, a greenfield is all that remains of Johore Road today.