Monday, December 21, 2015

Tips for travelling to Korea with baby

1) Is Seoul stroller friendly
Before the trip, I did researched on whether Korea, or more specifically Seoul is stroller friendly.

After coming back from the trip, I do not actually have the answer.

That is because stroller was BOTH good and at the same time a burden.

Strollers great for Nami Island
Strollers are good for places where you need to travel on level ground for long distances like Nami Island but a real burden at places without elevator but just stairs.

That is why I did not even step into Daiso in Myeong-dong as is it located on the basement accessible only by stairs.

Also it will depend on how much your baby like to sit on stroller.
My baby was not fond of the stroller, hence whenever he is QUIETLY sitting or sleeping on the stroller and we came across stairs or escalators, we are reluctant to disturb him.

No choice but to lug and lift both the stroller and him on board up or down the stairs.

So it is no wonder that I develop a love hate relationship with the stroller.

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2) Baby carrier
For my trip, besides the Combi Quickids stroller, I used SUPPORI - a one shoulder baby sling.

I also have an i-Angel hipseat carrier but did not bring it as ALL my family members were protesting that it's too bulky.

Suppori was perfect because it's light and small so basically I just kept it in one of my front pockets (yeah it's that small when folded).

So whenever Ming Jun needs to be carried, I'll just whipped it out but since he learnt how to walk, I'll only carry him for max 30 minutes.

In Korea, I see mostly moms with hipseat carrier or Ergo type of carrier. So whenever I used Suppori, there will always be a few quick glances at my direction.

Using Suppori in front of Seoul Station

Shopping at Lotte Mart
So in the end, when travelling, the most important factor in your choice of stroller or carrier is WEIGHT!

Cos you ain't going to use it if it's heavy, bulky and cumbersome.

For a comparison between Suppori and i-Angel read my review.

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3) Is Korea nursing friendly?
DEFINITE YES!! Because you can find nursing rooms in almost every subway station! Seriously! The bigger stations nursing rooms are so complete that they even provide nursing pillow, microwave and etc.

Nursing room in Seoul Station

In Lotte World Mall @ Jamsil Station, the rooms are even staffed by 2 employees. Wow!!

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4) Korea is a great place to buy baby food
Korean made ones are more wallet friendly than the imported ones.

I find products such as Nurture Inc's Happy Yogis are more expensive in Korea compared with Malaysia.

But there are no complaining as there are many many Korean made baby food to choose from!

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5) Is it a good idea to bring baby to Everland?
Definitely yes but be prepared for the long journey because it will take at about 2 hours to get there one way (from Myeong-dong to Joendae Everland Station, via the Yongin Ever Line W3,350).

The journey also consist of 5 transfers of subway stations and finally a short walk to catch a free shuttle bus to Everland entrance.

And bear in mind that you will need to repeat same for the journey back to your hotel.

There's coach from Myeong-dong direct to Everland but it will costs more at W12,000 for round trip.

Link for transport to Everland's is here.

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6) Length of stay
For me, I went for 10 days and it was good because my baby came down with chicken pox so I was in isolation with baby for a few days. So the extra days came in handy.

Also every baby is different and mine was very well behaved during flight but he was either homesick or not feeling well because of chicken pox during the first 2 days.

Symptoms include crying whenever I am not around, so much so that I could not even go to the toilet in the hotel room and if I did, I have to leave the toilet door open.

When evening, he cried when I opened the hotel room door because he was expecting to see his familiar room.

Since every baby is different, you have to factor in homesickness in your planning but most important is that you must be patient and cool about a crying baby in restaurants, trains and even in your hotel room.

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7) Special departure hall for passengers travelling with infant
When travelling out from Incheon Airport, there are special departure hall no. 1 and 6 for passengers with elderly or infants which made the whole immigration process much easier and faster.

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8) Bring diapers
I am glad I did because diapers like Huggies are super expensive in Korea. It cost about RM100 (more than 30,000Won) for 50+pcs.

As for Korean brands, I did not have the time to check them as I am not familiar with their brand and quality.

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For more practical tips on travelling to Seoul, Korea, you must read this and this if you fall sick in Korea.

Before buying a baby carrier - READ THIS (i-Angel hipseat carrier vs Suppori sling)

Actually both these products are completely different range but with the same purpose. To ease your burden in carrying your baby.

So below is a comparison chart between Suppori and i-Angel:-

I did not give full stars for both products in the COMFORT category as I would be lying to say that carrying your baby with a carrier or sling is "pain" free.

I reckon it is because using a carrier or sling will "work" those muscles which normally would not be used in our normal day to day activity but the pain will ease in time as you would have strengthen those muscles.

Still for prolong continuous wearing, it is normal to have backache but you will experience the ache faster with Suppori than i-Angel because from the design you know that Suppori is not meant for long period of wearing being un-padded at all.

Anyhow, baby always managed to sleep when being carried on both products.


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Also I would say baby carrier / sling are highly recommend as long as baby are still crawling. Because once baby learn how to walk, they prefer to exercise their new skill and independence.

So buy a carrier / sling early on, so that you can enjoy the benefits of the product longer.

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From my experience in using these products, to increase comfort I would recommend:-


1) Choice of shoulder is very important. The guide given was to use the opposite shoulder of the side that you would normally side carry your baby.

But I find the initial "discomfort" on my right shoulder too much to bear.

So my personal tip is to carry the baby on the shoulder which you normally carry your handbag because this is the shoulder which is "used" to carrying weight.

Initially used the right shoulder
Found left shoulder better in handling weight
Revert to right shoulder as previously had
shingles on right side of lower back

2) to help distribute baby's weight, it is important to hold baby's bottom like you would if you side carry him.

Also with Suppori, your baby will cooperate with you and actually hold on to your arm as well  =)

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1) must attach the hipseat at the waist, the smallest part of your body as tight as possible. Later the weight of the baby will lower the seat and it will not be exactly at your waist anymore.

i-Angel helped me hike up to
the Japanese garden @ Bukit Tinggi
2) when using just the hipseat, besides holding on to your baby, hold the top part of the hipseat as well because this will take some of the baby's weight off your back.

I prefer this style of carrying as my baby perspire or sweat a lot. This method without attaching the rest of the carrier would ensure he stays cool.

Useful tips for travelling to Seoul, Korea

1) Download APPS on your smart phone

a) Subway Navigation app
There are many apps to choose from but I liked the one from KAKAO CORP for its ease of usage.

In the app, you click the Search button, type the name of the station, specify is it the departure or destination station. Do this 2 times to specify one departure and destination station.

Subway navigation app

Then the app will calculate the Duration of Travel and also the Fare.

Included are also the colour code of the subway station and which direction to take for transfer or exchange.

I love best the feature which specify which carriage to sit in best to catch the next transfer because the door of the carriage will always open next to an escalator or stairs to ensure fastest travel time (ie. less walking).

For example (5-1) means to take carriage no. 5 -1. You can find these numbers on the floor of the waiting platform.

Special tip:-
Always choose the shortest time rather than the least transfer because even though you might be unwilling to part with the seat, the least transfer can sometimes mean looooong walking distance from one transfer station to another.

Usually the transfer meant going up / down to another platform but when travelling from Nami Island back to Myeon-dong, it meant exiting the station, taking up flights of stairs and crossing of pedestrian bridge and down another stairs to get to the other station.

Bear in mind, I was carrying my baby who was coming down with chicken pox at that time. I felt like Kung Fu Panda then when I saw the stairs!!

So the shortest time is the safer bet anytime!

Currency converter app
b) Currency app - if you have data, it gives real time.. otherwise when you are offline, it shows the last rate for conversion

c) Weather app
Always good to check the weather 15 days ahead of your trip cos it's quite accurate. Plan your itinerary based on weather because places such as Everland are no fun with rain! So when it did rained, we head to Lotte World Mall at Jamsil station which had an indoor theme park.

d) Language app - I had this app but no time to brush up on the language.. so used English or hand language the whole time, even with the doctor in the hospital. LOL!!

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2) get travel insurance!
I got mine from my insurance agent who recommended ACE Jerneh Travel Insurance.

Malaysia travel insurance rates
I bought the RM54 for 2 person since my husband did not go for the trip, so it was not worth it to take the family package.

If you intend to travel a lot, then it's best to get the annual family package which covers spouse and children for RM640 (Asia Pacific) and RM865 (Worldwide).

Special tip:-
My agent advised me to buy the insurance the moment you confirmed your airline tickets because the coverage starts from the date of payment.

So you are protected from whatever that may happen to hinder the trip (eg. dengue etc). Anyway, just buy as early as possible because you cannot predict the future.

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3) in Seoul, my son suddenly came down with chicken pox. Read my experience here on where to go for health emergencies.
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4) when Koreans say, it is near - within walking distance, do not believe them! We, Malaysians are not used to walking, so take a cab. Really!

Because I walked from Chungmuro station to the hospital and it took me nearly 30 -40 minutes of walking, stopping and asking for direction, being told the wrong place and asking again to finally finding the hospital located on a gentle slope. Boy was I tired!

Taxis are not that expensive in Seoul especially when travelling in group of 4 and short distances.

After the hospital, it costs us about W3,000-W4,000 to get to the guesthouse. Much better than spending W1,250 per person on the subway.

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5) visit Plaza Korea website to grab special discounts vouchers and freebies when you join Kaki Korea Club.

For my trip, Kaki Korea was running free pre-loaded Limited Edition Big Bang T-Money card promotion and discount voucher booklet. It was awesome travelling and shopping with T-Money!

Currently, Kaki Korea is offering free 2016 Calendar to all it's members who participate in the promo!

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6) If you are flying back via Air Asia X, dont bother to be to airport early as the check in counter only opens at 1pm plus. The only plus point of being early was we were the first in line.

There are 2 queue lines:-
i) one for those who already web check in and doing baggage drop and
ii) another line for those who have yet to web check in.

The shopping in the airport is so-so, so no point going to the airport early cos the time is better spent in the city doing last minute shopping (at better prices too) or eating in Seoul.

When we were there, many duty free shops were under renovation and those that were opened were selling international brands. I cannot find any bargains.

I managed to see one shop selling korean brands but the shop was very small and carried only famous brands - but mostly the brand's best sellers. Hence limited choice of products.

The only good thing about the airport => there were a few "shops" by Korean Tourism Board which organised cultural performances and at certain time there are models dressed in traditional costumes which you can take photo with.

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7) Tax refund at the Airport

I'll keep it brief.
Not all purchases are eligible for Tax Refund.

This only applies to products purchased in shops which honor tax refund (HINT:- look out for tax refund sticker at the shop front).

Plus in order to get the tax refund, once you made the purchase at those shops, you need to go to their special counter (within the shop) for them to validate the purchase and issue you a special tax refund receipt. Without these receipts, there are no way to get tax refund because at the airport, the process are partially AUTOMATED.

For more information on tax refund, see the attached images at the bottom on this blog.

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8) When the weather gets too cold, get HEAT / HOT PACKS from convenience store

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Well that's all the tips! Here's wishing you a safe and pleasant trip to Korea!!

If you are travelling to Korea with babies or small toddler, click here.
For useful tips for travelling to Hong Kong click here.
Tips on travelling from Hong Kong to Macau click here.

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Falling sick in Korea - what to do

This happened to both my son (Ming Jun) and myself because after leaving Nami Island, the spots on Ming Jun's body multiplied.

I suspected Chicken Pox as about 2 weeks ago, I had shingles.

While in the subway, I asked a Korean girl:-
Q:- "Where do Koreans normally go for health emergencies?"
A:- "Pharmacies or hospitals."

Since she had her laptop on, I requested her assistance to google the nearest hospital for me.

It was a hospital near Chungmuro station and I must add that the hospital was super efficient.

Shortly after registration, they printed out an ID tag for Ming Jun and  I was ushered into the emergency ward where they took his weight and temperature. Then a nurse and pediatrician came to check on Ming Jun.

The doctor only prescribed calamine lotion and anti bacterial cream in case of open wound from scratching.

The medicine was dispensed within minutes by the pharmacist complete with a print out of the name and photo of the medicines to avoid error.

This happened at night at about 10pm and I have never experienced such fast and reasonably priced service (W38,800 ~ RM150) at our private hospitals emergency ward in Kuala Lumpur!

Maxim Soo Ming Jun's hospital bill
Thankfully, I bought travel insurance, so the hospital expense was reimbursed after the trip.

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For myself, I suffered from wind and indigestion on the same day. I was so sick that it took me 30 minutes just to eat a slice of plain bread.

So after suffering for 2 days, I finally asked my sisters to get me some medicines from a pharmacy nearby and the medicine was sooooo effective.

It was a drink in a glass bottle which I need to finish in one go (the size like Livita) and some tablets one every 2 hours. The relief was immediate as I can enjoy a pack of fried rice. Yeah!

FYI I only took 4 of the tablets to fully recover and the box of tablets only costs 2500won (RM9.50). Sorry.. I did not take a photo of the bottle cos I was not well that time.

So if you are in Korea and you fall sick, don't worry. Just head to the nearest pharmacy. Chances are quite high that the pharmacist can speak English.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Baby rejecting my expressed breast milk

This happened to me when baby Ming Jun was about 10 months. His daily intake of expressed milk suddenly dropped from 180ml to 90ml.

Of course I was concerned and even made a few queries.

The answers I received came back as questions:-
a) is baby active?
b) is baby weight reasonable?
c) is he alert?
d) he's taking solid food?
e) he's teething?

If the answers for a -c are "yes", then there is no cause for concern especially if the answer to either d or e is affirmative.

But still I find it disturbing because he loves to direct latch but will not drink the expressed breast milk.

My first suspicion was that it must have been cos I froze the milk but then it did not make sense since he had been drinking it for the past months.

Then I remembered reading about milk having iron or metallic or fishy smell.

So I looked up on Gina Yong's Love Breastfeeding book and there was a write up on SCALDING milk to deactivate LIPASE enzyme.

THIS WAS THE ANSWER as every night when I return from work, I noticed my milk smelling fishy or metallic. 

Because lipase enzyme will react with the fats in the milk and break it down.

SO.. how to SCALD milk?

to scald the milk I place in a glass cup
The easiest and fastest is to use a food warmer.. and to be even faster, I pour into the warmer hot water from thermos pot.

Scald the milk immediately after expressing so that the enzyme does not have the chance to react with the milk.

I scald the milk for about 5 minutes and then I quickly cool the milk.

to cool the milk
I used to place the milk in a bowl of water first but now I just straight away put in my cooler box. You tend to have lower standards after doing this for a couple of months  :p

After that I treat the scalded milk the same way as normal expressed milk.

Meaning I will store in freezer and when I need it for the next day consumption, I will bring it down from freezer and place in fridge the night before for it to defrost.

Well according to Gina Yong's book (page 95),

"Scalding the milk will destroy some of the antiinfective properties of the milk and may lower some nutrient levels, but this is not likely to be an issue and scalded milk is still far better than formula milk".

Nowadays I prefer to give my baby the freshest of milk. Since baby is already 16 months, I only pumped once in my office, which typically yields about 150ml.

60ml of which I will used for the night feed on the same day.

Balance 90ml I will keep in fridge (not freezer) to be consumed the next day. Whatever leftovers which baby did not drink, I will keep back in the freezer to be used for his breastmilk spa.

That is why, whenever I see photos of mommies pumping and keeping a lot of frozen milk, I find it a waste.

Because most of my milk ended up as spa milk because all my milks have been rendered "smelly" by the lipase enzyme because the longer you keep the milk, the stronger the metallic taste. And freezing the milk does not completely stop the lipase enzyme.

I suspect that consuming DHA or fish oil supplements is the culprit for higher lipase enzyme but I do not have scientific proof for it.

The reason I have this suspicion was because baby was rejecting the milk about the same time when I change from consuming GNC Double Strength Fish Oil to GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil.

But this is really a catch twenty twenty situation because I also realized that during pregnancy, I was perpetually experiencing a patch of dry skin above my lips which I thought then was fungal but now I know it's because I lacked "oil". So I need this intake of extra fatty oil.

Anyhow, whether you consume fish oil supplements or not, lipase enzyme is always present, so perhaps your baby is rejecting your milk now because his taste palate has been awaken with more food choices.

Thus he now have a choice to reject your expressed milk if it's not to his liking (temperature, taste etc).

So give scalding a try as it's clear from the photos below that scalding does make a difference to the milk which you can smell and see.

NON-SCALDED milk - with white patches
SCALDED milk - no white patches

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Are Citibank credit cards good? Or other local Malaysian cards better?

If you are looking for a credit card with high instant cash rebates, look no further than Ambank credit cards.

Because for every RM1 spent, you will earn 1 points and every 30,000 points can be converted to RM150 cash rebates. For easy calculation, take 30,000 x 0.5% = RM150.

This I believe is the best there is in the current market.

My Citibank Platinum card used to offer the same cash rebate but this was amended sometime in March 2015.

So now for Citibank cash rebate, you will need to have 80,000 points to get back RM200!! Meaning 80,000 x 0.25% = RM200.

This is a very significant difference because with the same points at Ambank I can get back RM400, which is double!


I highlighted my grievance to Citibank on the unfairness of this amendment and sad to say, my loyalty to the Citibank is completely ignored.

In fact the latest reply from Citibank's customer service Mr Panglima Jagumba, which came after a few reminders was such an insult to my intelligence!

I quote him, "Even though vouchers redemption requires higher points than last year, we are still competitive compared to other banks".

Well, let's do a COMPARISON then on voucher redemption since Citibank is already the undisputed loser in the cash rebate department.

The above is a screenshot of latest Ambank's latest voucher redemption or you can click AmBonusECatalogue.pdf

And this is what Citibank is offering to their platinum cardholders.

Just comparing PARKSON RM100 vouchers, it's a no brainer that Citibank is ripping off its platinum cardholders.

Ambank 22,280 points
Citibank 42,900 points

So Mr Panglima Jagumba, may I ask in what way is Citibank COMPETITIVE..??

my brain hurts cos it's been ripped off by Citibank
So IN CONCLUSION, I have stopped using my Citi card and exclusively using my Ambank card to earn points faster.