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One Weird Dude's Busan Blog

Busan in Three Months

Good Morning Busan!

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!

First step! Locating a decent gym. 

#busan #haeundae #southkorea #travel 
 

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When Your Toddler Falls Sick in Busan

In this post I’ll be talking about our experience when my 3 year-old fell sick and needed medical help urgently on a Sunday, with Monday right afterwards being a public holiday.

If you need to get your infant or toddler to a doctor immediately on a Sunday or public holiday, please scroll down to the bottom of this post for information on the hospitals with a department for little children.

With that being said, onward with the post!

It almost didn’t happen but we’re back in Busan for just three-and-a-half weeks this time before my mother-in-law moves to France.

While we’re excited to be here, after a poor flying experience with Air China (there’ll be a whole separate post for that!), something happened that made us realise just how risky it can be to travel with a toddler to Busan.

After just a few days, our three year-old daughter a.k.a. The Littlest Dictator contracted a urinary tract infection, that caused her a lot of pain whenever she had to pee. The poor girl would cry and scream every time.

An infection like that requires antibiotics so you really need to get to a doctor.

Problem was, it was a Saturday night, with Sunday being New Year’s Eve, meaning the next day would be a holiday as well. So just take her to a hospital. No problem, right? Turns out not all hospitals here have a paediatrician or even a children’s section in their A&E departments.

I went to the largest hospital near our place in Haeundae, the Inje University Haeundae Paik Hospital and was told that the specialist would only be available on Tuesday and later Friday. With the pain The Littlest Dictator was in, this was unacceptable.

Fortunately after pressing a little bit for help, the counter clerk gave me two recommendations: Pusan National University Hospital (PNUH) and Dong A University Hospital. He said these were Grade 3 hospitals, meaning they’d have children’s specialists on call at all times.

I would learn later from speaking with various people that apparently, these were the only Grade 3 hospitals in all of Busan and that most people including Koreans did not know what Grade 3 hospitals even were.

Wouldn’t be a problem if you were near the Busan KTX station.

For us in Haeundae, it means more than an hour of traveling to the other side of the city, which is huge (compared to Singapore at least!)

Early next morning while the family had breakfast I’d decided to head over the Busan Tourist Information Center (I’ll try and get a picture later) to see if maybe they had suggestions. Turns out, not really. They tried calling another large hospital nearby, the Haeundae Bumin Hospital who actually asked us to check with the Inje University Hospital I’d gone to previously. So yep.

So I let my brother–in-law know where I was so he could pick me up. And miraculously on this particular morning, he seemed to have forgotten how to use the goddamn GPS and I instead had to walk back and forth in the freezing cold until he finally let me know that he and my wife were at the Burger King in the middle of a road that wasn’t even near any of the places we’d talked about. WELL DONE, MAN.

But he was driving us, and without him the cab ride would’ve cost a crazy amount so fine.

Of course naturally, he got lost and instead of going to Dong A University Hospital – which he had insisted was nearer even though everyone I met said that PNUH was closer to where we were – we ended up in a weird small mountain town at a building for Dongan Medical Centre or something. A small clinic that wasn’t even open. GODDAMMIT.

We eventually reached PNUH but not before the Littlest Dictator had to pee again and cried out in pain. This is what happens when you leave the navigation to people who are too goddamn proud to be wrong, you know what I mean?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad he was around to help and even stuck around to bring us back home. But the delays were really unnecessary. 4/10.

Anyway, we finally reached PNUH and YES! They really did have a children’s department.

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Of course the moment I arrived, they straight up asked me if I’d be OK if the bill reached or exceeded USD $1K (around 1,000,000 in Korean Won). Yea that was the first red flag, I guess.

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Look at all those happy faces!

We were led to the children’s section:

Pic 4

Not long after that, I had to keep slapping away the hands of grabby doctors and nurses who were super eager to run tests, a few of which I realized later were not necessary. Those tests did manage to significantly bump up the bill though…

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Radiation Therapy? It was just an x-ray. WHY DID WE NEED AN X-RAY IN THE FIRST PLACE??

Overall, our experience with the staff were alright. Most of them spoke English, sometimes broken but enough to communicate.

After a  couple of hours over there they finally confirmed what we suspected about the UTI and prescribed antibiotics.

Pic 1
Seats outside the pharmacy

And how much did it cost? A whopping KRW 876M (around USD $876). HOLY SHIT. I mean sure we’ve got travel insurance that we could claim back against back in Singapore, but if we hadn’t had the money up-front, I shudder to think what would’ve happened.

Fortunately the Littlest Dictator is doing much better now, and the pain seems to have gone away though she still needs to finish the course of antibiotics.

As much as I loved visiting Busan, this was something I did not expect and man, you should seriously reconsider visiting if you’ve got a little one in tow.

I’ll try and add more pictures to this post much later.

In the meantime, here’s the information on PNUH and Dong A University Hospital:

While at either of these hospitals, if you need translation help, call or get them to call 1330.

Busan Tourist Hotline

It’s a 24-hr hotline specifically for tourists, maintained by the Korea Tourism Organization and they’ve got excellent English speakers who can help.

Here’s a link to more information: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TRV/TV_ENG_3_1.jsp

Pusan National University Hospital

Website: http://english.pnuh.or.kr/english/main/main.do?rbsIdx=1?rbsIdx=1

Location: Address : 179 Gudeok-ro, Seo-gu, Busan-si, 49241 Korea

Contact number: +82-51-240-7472~3

Dong A University Hospital

Website: https://www.damc.or.kr/eng/main/main.php

Location: 26 Daesingongwon-ro, Seo-gu, Busan-si, 602-812 Korea

Contact number: +82-51-240-2400~1

Update 12th Jan 18: Included information on two other children’s hospitals in Haeundae:

  • Haeundae Pureun Bada Children’s Hospital (this recently opened on the 5th of Jan 18)
  • Centum Children’s Hospital

 

Haeundae Pureun Bada Children’s Hospital

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A couple of days after our costly experience with PNUH, I found a flyer stuck to the front door (this is still a pretty common advertising tactic in Busan) for Haeundae Pureun Bada Children’s Hospital, which apparently opened on the 5th of Jan 18.

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Other that what’s in the flyer, I haven’t been able to find any other additional information on this hospital, including a website. Not sure if I’ll have the time to swing by, or even if they have an A&E section but it’s good to know that it’s around.

Unfortunately I can’t even find an English transliteration of the address. But if you call 1330, the helpline staff should be able to get in touch with them for you.

Centum Children’s Hospital

Centum Children's Hospital

This is another hospital that I found via Google while looking for the Haeundae Pureun Bada hospital above. I’d probably come across this one before, but figured I’d include it in this post as well.

The website is a little bizarre and looks somewhat broken though: http://www.ctadong.co.kr/

Not sure if they have any English speakers there, but again just remember to call 1330 and they should be able to help you out.

Contact details:

Tel: 051-743-1588

Address: 407 Haeun-daero, U-dong, Haeundae, Busan

Again, one important thing to note is that neither of these two might have an A&E or even open during Sunday and public holidays. So for emergencies, you might still have to head to one of the two Grade 3 hospitals mentioned above: PNUH and Dong A University Hospital.

Stay safe everyone!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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:

 

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Buildings! And clouds! How exciting!

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.

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.

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Behold! A mall! With a giant peacock inside of it!

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:

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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:

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O’Briens!

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.

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They… they looked bigger in-person

Oh, and this was me on the final day of the conference.

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Yeah.

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.

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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.

 

West Coast Park

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!

Trees! And a path! Exciting!

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. 

Yea I wouldn’t mind heading back there at all. 

Singapore, the Beautiful Little Birdcage

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.

newsasia

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-aims-for-fully-cashless-transport-system-by-2020-lta-9114728

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.

 

Visit to the Esplanade and a Few Other Places

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. 

Fine dining.

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:

I almost fell asleep

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. 

A Glimpse at my  Route Back from the Gym

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.

I’d deleted the picture of the KTVs, so um, here’s a picture of a Japanese workout band or something

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. 

Brief Trip to the McDonald’s near Jurong Point

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. 

Finally emerged on the other side.


It was a nice, short trip. 

Return to Pasir Ris Beach and a Barbeque

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. 

The shopping mall outside Pasir Ris MRT Station. It’s still crap, just slightly prettier.

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.

Just um, view the pics in reverse order.

Yea it was pretty good to be back.

My Grandmother Has Passed Away

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. 

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