Mersing town is located on the east coast of the peninsular Malaysian state of Johor. It is 136 Kilometres north east of the state capital Johor Bahru. It is a gateway to nature and traditional culture. But for most outsiders the small semi-tourist town is hardly more than a few-hours rest en route to Tioman Island. Mersing town is thus best known for its passenger boat jetty where boats depart daily for numerous offshore islands.
Despite its estimated population of 21,000, Mersing town should not be viewed as a mere stopover, a transient path to an offshore isle. The town possesses a quiet charm that in many ways represents a fast disappearing small-town culture that once pervaded all of Malaysia. It has yet to see any typical signs of major economic and urban development.
Two main roads run through the town. There only two junctions with traffic lights and only two traffic roundabouts. The two main roads are lined with traditional and modern shop houses that provide a range of modern services. There are traditional fruit sellers, grocers and modern supermarkets, plus a range of local restaurants and fast food outlets, several open 24-hours.
Mersing is a throwback to the small town look and temperament that existed in Malaysia some 20 or 30 years ago. There is little if at all in the way of chic clubs, cafes or shopping malls. The town's appeal lies rather in its out-of-doors, its slow-paced life and natural surroundings such as jungle reserves and unspoiled beaches, rocky coasts and offshore kelongs for pleasure angling. Air Papan and Penyabung beaches are about 15 and 30 minutes drive north of the town respectively. There you can glimpse the remaining vestiges of traditional seaside Malay village life. A must do is to circumambulate the centrally orientated hill that shoots up right behind the Hindu temple, very near to the roundabout, a short walk from the bridge.
Several bus companies operate direct services to Mersing, e.g. Transnasional from Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, and Singapore, while others that use the east coast highway (e.g. Johor Bahru to/from Kota Bahru) also call at Mersing.
From Malacca, take the S&S International from Central Bus Station (it's the only direct bus). Departure times are 8AM, 12.45 and 6:15PM. It takes about 4½ hours to arrive at the Mersing Bus Terminal (15 min walk to the island boats).
From Singapore, the cheapest way to Mersing is to first take a bus from Queen Street Bus Terminal) to Larkin terminal in Johor Bahru. It takes about an hour off-peak. But it's important to note that direct onward buses from Larkin to Mersing are limited so get there in time to catch an early bus like 8:30AM, 9AM, 10AM, 11:30AM or 2:30PM (the latter being often too late to take the last ferry to Tioman). Buses heading to Kuantan will drop you off in Mersing. There is a direct Transnasional bus from Lavender Street Terminal. It could prove easier but it's three-times the cost. The first bus departs at 9AM and reaches Mersing by 1PM. You will likely need to book a day or more in advance.
When leaving Mersing, if you don't pre-book, the bus may be full. For travel to Johor Bahru (11:30AM) and Singapore (1PM), an alternative is to take the local bus to Kota Tinggi (less than 2 hrs) and then another local bus to Johor Bahru's Larkin terminal (less than 1 hour), and then onward to Singapore (buses going all the time).
Transnasional Express Website
- Kuantan, Terengganu, Kelantan, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Singapore
S&S International Express
- Johor Bahru(RM11.70), Kluang, Muar, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur
Causeway Link Express Website
- Johor Bahru （RM11.70）
- Frequencies：8AM, 1130am, 7PM
- Kuantan, Terengganu, Kota Bharu、Pengkalan Kubor (Nightly 830pm)
- Segamat, Kuantan, Terengganu, Kelantan, Teluk Intan, Lumut
Sepakat Liner Ekspres
Sutera Liner Ekspres
Tenaga Layar Ekspres
Five Stars Express
Mersing Omnibus(local bus)
- Kluang Route:100
- Endau Route:105
- Kota Tinggi Route：103
- Felda Nitar
- Kem Iskandar
Rental cars are available in the major Malaysian cities and town. There is as yet no reputable brand name car rental company in Mersing. Visitors are advised to make car rental arrangements elsewhere, but there are a few local rental agencies operating from the Mersing Bus Terminal including Green Matrix Car Rental Mersing Franchise and Mersing Car Rental.
From Johor Bahru/Singapore
- Johor Bahru(Federal route 3) - Ulu Tiram - Kota Tinggi - Jemaluang - Mersing
From Kuala Lumpur/Malacca
- North South Highway - Ayer Hitam Toll - Kluang (Federal route 50) - Kahang - Felda Nitar - Mersing
- Federal Route 3 - Pekan - Rompin - Endau - Mersing
Taxi transport to and out of Mersing is available from Johor Bahru (2:15) and other Malaysian towns, figure on around RM180 per car at peak hours (Fri/Sun evenings) and as little as RM130 at other times. Taxis (official and unofficial) can be found waiting around the Tioman ferry pier.
There are also Taxis in Mersing to travel within the town and the surrounding areas.
Many cyclists ride to Mersing in the summer months to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Mersing countryside.
Mersing town can be navigated easily by foot during the summer period. It is however advisable to travel by motor vehicle as there are many beaches to explore outside of Mersing town.
Mersing River and the traditional Malaysian fishing boats can be viewed from the bus terminal complex down river.
A Hindu temple is located at the base of the hill near to the central roundabout.
Mersing Mosque is located on a hill top 15 mins walk from the center of town. It has excellent views of the town.
Mersing esplanade and marine park is located walking distance from then town and nearing from Mersing Jetty.
The Beaches in the Penyabung area and at Air Papan. These beaches are all relatively isolated and visitors are advised to exercise care and caution.
Take a walk through the town and savour traditional Malay "kueh" or confectioneries during the traditional teatime.
Have a picnic on a nearby beach.
Buy fishes and other seafood from Mersing morning market next to the Bus terminal.
Internet: an increasing number of shops, restaurants and hotels offer free wifi to customers, otherwise the standard charge in Mersing is reportedly RM 2 per hour.
You can visit Mersing year round. But it can be wet and windy in December and January. Beaches are best between March to October.
If you are on a budget, it is best to buy everything you may need before you visit Tioman island or the other islands off Mersing as mainland prices are cheaper.
There is a very small "Giant" Supermarket in Mersing which is well stocked, along with others of a similar stripe. You will also a much larger "Kini" Supermarket only 2 mins walk from the Mersing Bus Terminal.
- Restoran P1, 20, Jln. Dato Mohd. Ali, 86800 (halfway between roundabout and jetty, at the traffic island turn left, after 30m to your left). Every day 12PM to midnight with a break from 2:30PM-6PM, Wednesdays only 6PM to midnight. An alternative to the local cuisine: homemade pizza, pasta, sirloin steak, schnitzel, salmon steak, all prepared by a Swiss chef, at "local" prices. The restaurant does not prepare or sell pork, but you can get a beer! Fantastic food. And a second-hand books exchange.
- The Port (right by the jetty). Western food.
- Warung Ikan Bakar (right by the jetty, further up along the esplanade). Barbequed fish.
- Mersing Seafood (near to Giant Supermarket). Chinese Seafood Recommended is Chinese Fried Rice, Squid stuffed with Chinese Century Egg, Spinach Soup, Butter prawns, Malay Hot "Kang Kong" vegetable dish.
- Loke Tien Yuen 乐天园 (opposite Kentucky Fried Chicken). Chinese Seafood Recommended is the day's catch steamed, sweet and sour pork, yoke lan gai, lin zi ngap, fu gua pai guat, BEST CHAR SIEW IN MERSING!
There are only two vegetarian places in Mersing. Both are very simple.
- Vegetarian Cafe. A very cost-friendly semi-self-service-style "pick-what-you-like" place run by Chinese Mahayana Buddhist devotees. Menu: rice with various vegetable and tofu dishes, fried noodles, and noodle soup, coffee, tea & soft drinks. The food contains no onion or garlic. Location: Jalan Jemaluang about 12 min walk from the main traffic circle, left-hand side. Look for sign beside the road. Open everyday from morning to about 3PM.
- Vegetarian Hawker Stall. A very cost-friendly but tiny stall among other numerous non-veg stalls in a semi-open place called Lok Kee Restaurant. Menu: Fried noodles, eggs, rice and various vegetable and tofu dishes. Open from early morning till about 10AM. Location: Jalan Jemaluang about 8 min walk from the main traffic circle, right-hand side.
- The Port. (See above)
- R Villa Resort & Hotel, Jalan Endau (2 km from Mersing town). Fantastic views of Tioman and the other islands from the cafe and swimming pool.
There are numerous hotels and motels in Mersing town.
Early reservation is recommended especially when your visit coincides with Singapore and Malaysia holidays.
The smaller hotels are most suitable for budget conscious travelers and they are usually run by families. Prices range from RM20 per night for non-aircon rooms to RM50 for air-con.
- Air Papan Chalets (12 km north of Mersing). Good quiet beach. Two eateries, acceptable standard at local prices. Chalet rooms with air-condition and fan available. Just beside the Sri Mersing Resort chalet, a few meters from the beach. RM 90-300 (Depends on package).
- East Coast Backpacker's Hotel. currently closed for renovation (as of August 2009)
- Embassy Hotel, 2 Jalan Ismail. Free wifi, and a good selection of cheap and imported beers in the downstairs restaurant. RM 45.
- Farm Guest House, Kampung Tenglu Laut (7 km north of town center). starting at USD 20 for a bungalow for 2.
- Golden City Hotel, 23 Jalan Abu Bakar, ☎ 07-799 5028. Bed-bugs in Room C14!!! (26/01/12) Rm 35 Fan, 45 AC.
- Hotel Mersing, 1 Jalan Dato Timor, ☎ 07-7991004. Cleanish Rm 55 for an air con room.
- Rumah Persinggahan Mersing, 490 Jalan Ismail. Rm28-63.
- Sari Mawar Chalets & Campsite, Lot 114, Kampung Mawar, Teluk Sari, ☎ 60137006180. Stargazers, astro-photographers and amateur astronomers flock here between May and August each year to enjoy what is probably the clearest view of the universe. RM60-80.
- Sun Dance Holiday', 3 Jalan Ismail. Rm 45,.
- Syuan Koong Hotel, 44A Jalan Abu Bakar. Rm 10-28.
- Teratak Muara Guest House Mersing (5 km from Mersing Town), ☎ 0197571007. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A big house with four bedrooms, three toilets, BBQ equipment can be provided. Up to 20 person at one time. RM 150-250 per night (depends on no of guest).
These hotels are suitable for business and family vacation travelers.
- Fishing Bay Resort, Lot 525, Teluk Buih, Air Papan, ☎ , fax: +07-799-7102. A secluded resort that offers peace, quiet, and serviced activities. Rates on their website start at US$28.
- Aseania Resort Pulau Besar, Pulau Besar, ☎ . Beachfront resort offering 49 fully-furnished villas with amenities such as air-conditioning and a hot/cold shower.
- Kali's Prada Villa, Kampung Sawa, Air Papan, ☎ . Lovely Balinese style place in the middle of the rice fields before Air Papan - the beach is 10 minutes walk away, but the peaceful surroundings more than compensate for that! Pick-up service from Mersing! Rates for a double story room w/aircon around US$28.
- R Villa Resort & Hotel. Affordable and clean accommodation with swimming pool and other facilities from as little as Malaysian Ringgit (RM) 115++ per night.
- Timotel Hotel. Situated on Jalan Endau road, near the Mersing river and just after the central town roundabout. Beside Caltex Petrol Station.
- Havanita Hotel. After Timotel.
- Teluk Iskandar Inn. RM 80-100.
- White Sand Beach Resort, 3 Jalan Ismail. RM 170-200.
- Mersing Inn, 38 Jalan Ismail, ☎ . Affordable and clean accommodation.
- Seri Malaysia Mersing, 641 Jalan Ismail. RM 130-150.
- SukaLayar Sailing Centre, Inn & Cafe, ☎ . Located in Tanjung Resang (Near Mersing) Johor, is an ideal holiday destination for families; those looking for a quiet retreat by the sea and companies looking for a motivational camp site. Aside from relaxing and enjoying the calming sea breeze, guests can also try out the various sea sports activities available at the Inn such as Sailing, tubing, wakeboarding, banana boat riding, bodyboarding, skimboarding, fishing or island hopping.
- Tioman - everybody's real destination
- Pulau Besar - closer to the mainland than Tioman, very quiet, no night life. Swimming, snorkeling, beach and jungle walks.... Don't forget a good insect repellent as there may be sandflies around! A few budget and mid range hotels. Book in Mersing at one of the travel agents in town or at the jetty - no regular ferry service! During the monsoon season (November to February/March) you still get accommodation, but food wise the choice may be reduced to instant noodles....