We finally arrived in Busan four days ago, for what might be our final visit before my mother-in-law moves to France.
It’ll also be our longest stay at three months wooHoo!!
Figured it would be nice to write and post pictures of the places we’ll visit, and the challenges we’ll face, especially with a hyperactive baby! Man, the game completely changes with the Littlest Dictator along for the ride!
Spent a week in KL recently for a conference and to meet a few prospects. Nowadays I travel to KL for work every other week, sometimes for a day, sometimes longer. The last time I’d been in the city proper before this job was probably around 17-20 years ago. HOLY CRAP I AM OLD!
Anyway, it’s a mixed bag to me. If you live in Singapore and head over there, it’s like being in a different version of the same video game level. You’d know immediately that it’s different, but at first you’d probably struggle to identify the specific differences.
But first! Here’s a picture I took on the way to the hotel from the airport:
It was a 40-min ride (“WHAT??” – Singaporean who’d never left the country before).
I’d take Grab or Uber everywhere I went, so it took me a while to notice that it is NOT pedestrian-friendly! I once booked a hotel that was geographically close to the client’s location, thinking I was so clever. “Ha!” I thought to myself “It’ll be so easy to get to the client’s location! I will not be wasting time with a long commute and will therefore be more productive!”
What is typically a 10-min walk in Singapore, turned out to be more like 30 minutes. Brilliant.
Stayed at Holiday Inn Express, which was OK for the most part. Had a visitor in the form of a small cockroach so that was nice since I was getting a little bit lonely.
Also, I only remembered to take a picture at night. So yeah.
The conference was scheduled to begin two days later, so after the last meeting on the first day, I figured I better get my shopping in now.
Now I could see the twin towers (Suria KLCC) from my room, but since it’s KL, walking would probably take me a few days and by the time I arrived I would’ve had a long beard and a volleyball named Wilson.
Fortunately a nice lady was going near where I was headed, so she offered to escort me to where I’d just need to get off just one or two more stops to the KLCC station.
I was NOT expecting to cross busy roads in dimly-lit areas at night. But I made it! Either that, or this is a really crappy dream.
I think it was just after Deepavali, so there were a ton of Indian tourists there and the festive decorations were nice. But the mall was huge and I was tired. Can’t recall if I got everything I wanted in the first evening, but over the next couple of days I would return and complete my… destiny. Shopping. Just a little bit.
I’d been missing quite a few hours of sleep throughout the week, so I figured that at the end of a long first day, I’d at least get to recharge without being interrupted.
Me at 2.59am: Ahh… recharging. Gonna wake up fresh for a brand new day tomorrow!
The building opposite the hotel at 3am: HAHAHAH LISTEN TO MY ALARM ALL NIGHT LONG, YOU FOOLISH MORTAL!
So yeah. That happened.
Lack of sleep is probably why I can’t recall taking this picture just outside the hotel:
Loved how they tacked on “with LAW” at the end, as if it were a nice additional topping in a salad.
Whenever I’m in town, I try to find food that I normally couldn’t get the Halal version of back home. Lo and behold next to the hotel lobby:
Yea I know… I know… it’s nothing to scream about but I love places like these, and Halal ones are hard to find in Singapore.
It was a little intimidating at first, I’ll admit. When they ask what you want, naturally assuming that you, a fully-grown adult male in a suit, would know what you want. But I was just in awe of all the choices. So… many… choices…
Once I must’ve ordered something extraordinary “Jalapenos? Cranberries? Eggs? Sauce made from the happy tears of yellow Yaks that reside in a temple in the Himalayas? YES PLEASE. ALL OF THEM. NO. ONE WRAP. ALL. OF. THEM.” because the girl actually called out to her colleagues and exclaimed in Malay about how… unreal it was.
So anyway yea, loved O’Briens.
Like Singapore, there’s an interesting mix of old colonial-era buildings and spanking new concrete and glass towers, quite similar to Singapore.
What was interesting though is that nearly at all times, you could see the remnants of a forest trying to make a comeback. Overgrown grass next to sidewalks, vines and what seemed to me like little patches of forest here and there, in between buildings, next to expressways, under overpasses.
On the second-last day I think, I finally got to leave the conference a little earlier and got to see the towers in broad daylight, as opposed to seeing them only in the evening like some kind of vampire without all the cool powers.
Oh, and this was me on the final day of the conference.
Headed back to the airport and was surprised by a pretty cool cover of “Mentera Semerah Padi”, by M. Nasir. Probably the only Malay song I kind of like.
Yea overall it wasn’t a bad trip, and KL’s starting to grow on me. Which is what I thought. Until I missed my most recent flight and had to spend more than 12 goddamn hours at KLIA.
After another long week, we finally got our one day away from the Littlest Dictator.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter. But any parents who claim not to want a break from their baby are either lying or have already gone off the deep end. Kids will do that to you. They’re like those Velociraptors in Jurassic Park, and you’ve always got to be on your toes or you’re well and truly screwed. It gets exhausting.
Anyway where was I? Oh yeah, the day off. So we headed over to West Coast Park.
I had a rough idea of where it was, but didn’t know exactly how to get there. And I wasn’t going to use Google Maps because dammit, I used to cycle past it on the way to work four or five years ago and I don’t need a damn phone to tell me how to get there.
I totally needed my phone.
We reached there eventually after walking about maybe 30 mins from the Clementi Bus Interchange.
We had a sandwich at a Subway-like place, at an newly-refurbished old, three or four-storey building in an equally old neighbourhood.
The many “licensed moneylenders” and pawnshops made it a little bit depressing. Clementi is what property agencies call a “mature estate”, which means it’s been around for longer than most, and is relatively well-developed.
The old housing estates and low buildings with shops on the ground floor and apartments on the floor above have got a kind of charm. Brings back nostalgic memories for me. And some not-so-pleasant ones.
I grew up in a tiny two-bedroom apartment, and as the years went by, slowly realised that we were on the lower portion of the income scale. Not dirt poor by any means. But yeah, quite lacking in certain areas.
By the way, as we walked through the neighbourhoods to get to the park, it only occured to me to take pictures once we’d arrived. So ah, you’re just gonna have to use your imagination for now. Put all those Sesame Street hours to good use!
After walking for a while and wondering if we were lost, and ng refusing to check my phone because I’m a man goddammit, we finally arrived!
Beautiful place. So green and windy and bright. Last time I was there, all I could remember was some tiny boats tied near the shore and nothing much else. Hadn’t been there in more than 15 years.
I was quite pleasant surprised.
Looks like it’s windy often because there were quite a few people there flying kites. Maybe one day I’ll show the Littlest Dictator how to fly one.
Usually a trip to a park in Singapore is accompanied by massive amounts of swearing and feeling like a perpetually melting chocolate bar. But this time it was pretty good. Weather was just perfect.
And even on a Saturday, there weren’t many people.
I used to have fantasies of owning a big house in Singapore (or two) (or three) (or maybe a bushel of ’em). We’d travel all over, but if anybody asked where were based, I’d probably have answered Singapore.
These days however, I’m drawing almost a blank. Well, almost. I mean come on, my imagination’s pretty damn strong.
This article kind of pushed me over the edge and convinced me that we’ve got to migrate at some point.
Add this to the recent proliferation of cameras all over the island, the plans to implement ERP 2 ( a system that tracks the real-time location of every single vehicle in Singapore on public roads), the recent additional laws that further restrict free speech (and this is Singapore we’re talking about here), the continued existence of the ISA (we have the dubious distinction of having held the longest political prisoner in modern history), the government’s stated overall goal of turning Singapore into a “Smart City”.
But this article and the accompanying announcement, insulting our intelligence and further marginalizing the poor. This was the final straw. Soon, Singapore too might become an almost 100% cashless society like Sweden.
Hey, do you remember the recent financial crisis? Here’s a novel idea. Why not put those same exact goddamn institutions that caused the crisis in full control of our cash?
I could write a lot more about this. But with mass surveillance, which will result in an even more docile, unimaginative population, it’s made me realize that it’s time to move on.
Being a minority here (one of the officially-designated “Others”), I’ve never really felt like Singapore was home. But it was a decent enough place to stay in.
With a daughter to raise now though, it’s troubling to imagine the kind of mindset she’d have growing up. For a two year-old, she’s got a lot of fire and energy. Very rebellious too. I don’t want this fiery spirit of hers to get dampened or worse, extinguished.
Speak up. Rebel. Don’t accept what they say. Don’t obey.
So yea, we’ll need to find another place. Being a brown Arab-looking Muslim though, the list of places is pretty damn short. But it’ll be worth it. I hope.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, months? And now on the last day of Ramadhan, I finally have a bit of time to write about some the stuff we’ve been up to.
By the way, I’m writing this while watching the Littlest Dictator feed herself.
A few weeks ago, we visited PIP’s Playbox, located on the fourth floor of The Esplanade.
It’s sort of like a little library and play space for little kids.
Yeah, it wasn’t too bad!
I did get a little annoyed by parents who allow their kids to snatch away toys from the Littlest Dictator while she’s playing with them.
I have a new policy now: if the kid snatches away a toy, I snatch it back immediately. Gently but firmly. Waiting for some parents to do the right thing is like waiting for snow to fall in the Sahara Desert. Or the nee season of Attack on Titan. Just… just trust me on this.
BUT! It was hard to stay annoyed when you’ve got one hell of a view:
Then we went for a walk outside along the river.
Hmm, let’s see where else we’ve been to. Oh yeah. LOL Playland at JCube, an indoor playground near Jurong East MRT. Can’t recall if we went before or after The Esplanade though.
Oh yeah! I went to KL for my very first business trip. First time I ever flew there, and first ever day trip. Usually it’s a major thing for me. Takes about six hours by rail, and four by car or bus.
Yeah, not too bad. an experience! The budget airline terminal looked pretty damn good.
Then we took a goddamn 45-min cab ride to a place that looked like it had been carved out of a forested area not too long ago. A pretty cool place with a hipster-ish vibe, with apartments on the upper floors of the shopping centre, and brand new houses on the other side of a narrow road.
It reminded me of a nice waterfall in the middle of a forbidding jungle.
Despite how nice it looked and… ordinary it felt, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were so far away from the city centre, let alone the airport. Wouldn’t mind going back for a short vacation though.
Let’s see… where else? Where else? Oh right. We paid Big Box a visit. It’s a humongous shopping mall/warehouse next to Jem Shopping Centre, also near Jurong East MRT.
We’d gone there previously and it was pretty underwhelming. While it may be huge, the products sold there appeared to me to be of a cheaper, poorer quality compared to what you’d find in other shopping malls.
But I’d heard of a huge indoor playground there and thought we’d check it out.
It was pretty big, that’s for sure. Might bring the Littlest Dictator here when we get th chance.
Then we checked out their humongous supermarket.
Seriously, this place was huge. It felt exhausting just trying to look at all they had to offer. The design seems a little off though. The aisles were a little too wide, and there were white spaces nearly everywhere you turned, from the ceiling to the walls to the floor. Too many white spaces. The place felt vast but strangely sparse.
It wasn’t that bad though. Might return to check out some of the stuff they have on offer there.
By the way, this is now two days after I started writing. And now I’m attempting to finish this while watching Slap on Titan, an Attack o Titan parody. Armin is one hell of a creepy dude.
My workout objectives changed a while ago, and now instead of just focusing on strength without being too concerned if I looked like a huge walking sack of organically-grown potatoes, I’ve begun to put more emphasis on functionality and flexibility and to a lesser extent, aesthetics.
I still look like a sack of potatoes, but at least now I’m a sack that has better stamina!
It’s about a 45-min walk back from the gym, so I use that as my cardio after lifting.
The gym itself is in a relatively isolated area of Singapore, with a few seedy KTVs that come alive at night.
During the day time, it can be quite pleasant.
Unless it’s a hot day. In which case I turn into a sack of fries.
While it may be cooler after midnight, the route looks quite different then…
Like a scene from every B-grade horror movie.
It’s been about a month now, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to kick it up a notch and begin running again.
Saturday’s back, and I’ve only just remembered to post our brief recent trip to the Jurong Point area, which is a now-sprawling shopping mall that used to be just one small building. Reminds me of how my waistline has expanded over the years 😂
I particularly like the McDonald’s across the road from it, in the park.
Anyway, after a short 15-min bus ride and we arrived at Jurong Point.
It’s actually much bigger but I ah, forgot to take more pictures.
Went to a birthday barbeque recently at Pasir Ris Beach.
We hadn’t been there since we moved away about three years ago, so it was really good to be back, even if it was just for a day.
A lot has changed.
I even missed walking to the beach.
This river leads goes through the mangrove forest that borders the sea. The same old forest that used to be where the beach now stands (Singapore has no natural beaches). Makes me a little sad. And makes us not very smart in general, since mangrove forests actually protect us from tsunamis.
Anyway, back to nice pictures! Here’s the revamped Wild Wild Wet water park which is now HUGE.
Finally arrived at the now-overpriced barbecue pits and chalet rooms (kind of like motels), which now cost a whopping $300 goddamn dollars a night for a small room.
Stayed for a bit and decided to head to the beach while there was still light out. We stayed ’til sunset.
She left in her sleep a few days ago, and it still feels a little unreal. I think the really sad part is the fact that I’m not really that sad.
Sort of like hearing about the passing of a friend’s loved one. You feel sorry for them, but the major emotional impact isn’t there.
She’d been living with my aunt for the past maybe 5-8 years, with her final days spent confined to her room, on her hospital bed, barely able to open her eyes for more than just a few moments. I last saw her only two days before, and she seemed to recognise me. It was my first visit in more than three months.
Some people say intentions matter. And over the years I kept trying to find ways to earn not just enough money for myself, but for my family as well including her. At her age she deserved a better place than that room. Each year would be better, I told myself. Then everything will be OK.
But the truth is, we abandoned her and my aunt and her family who cared for her. And now it’s too late.
We laid her to rest at Pusara Aman, one of the oldest Muslim cemeteries in Singapore, near the old mosque.
As we performed the funeral rites, I wondered about when she was born. Were her parents happy? Did her mother play with her when she was two years old, the way my wife and I play with my daughter now?
Did she cry when her mother gave her up to a Malay family? I never knew the real reason. Maybe it was because of the Japanese occupation; for her protection. The Chinese were being specifically targeted during that time.
What were her hopes and dreams? Did she ever get on a plane? It was a pipe dream for people like her back then. I’ll never find out now. Not from her, anyway.
Once, she gave me a hundred dollars. This was a fortune to her. At the time her health was already in steady decline and her financial status was in a worse position. The government had recently given cash or cash vouchers to Singaporeans for a reason I can’t recall now. And she chose to give me part of that money.
Years later when she’d become bedridden, she chose to give two dollars I think to my daughter in a packet, for Eid Fitri. Again, another fortune. According to my aunt, she insisted on the cash being hers.
It was a beautiful day when we lowered her into the ground.
It feels unreal. Like she left on a plane for a very long trip.
We met a friend in Arab Street yesterday, and it felt almost refreshing to be out amongst adults only.
Wife missed the baby but I was like ‘YESSS! No baby! WooHoo!! FREEEDOMMMM!!’
Anyway… we took the mrt to Bugis Station.
Then headed to the creatively-named shopping centre Bugis Junction.
There a few cool shops.
Met up with the friend, grabbed a quick bite and headed to nearby Arab Street.
Saw a Cat Cafe along the way.
… but I wasn’t in the mood for cat burgers. That’s what I assume they serve. As well as other cat dishes.
My old school is near Arab Street, so in a way I grew up here. And it has changed so much, that it’s almost unrecognisable.
It used to be very quiet around the iconic Sultan Mosque area, which holds the sultan’s tomb.
But now clubs and bars and hipster-ish shops and cafes have sprung up around the area like mushrooms.
It’s cool and all, and I really like some of the cafes. But it also attracts those annoying young people from western countries who watch movies about Asia and come here to ‘find themselves’ in an ‘exotic location’. GAHHHH.
So back to the cafes. We went to an OK one called La Marelle (naturally).
I really like these old shophouses. Picturing how people used to live in them a long time ago.
The place was alright. The chicken burgers were really good, but the coffee was alright. Overall not a bad place to hang out it. The music wasn’t too loud like in some other cafes that clearly aspire to be clubs.
After that it was a short walk down to and past Sultan Mosque.