Nest Like You Mean It

This is the apartment I inherited (sub-letted?) from my good friend Justin, who just moved to Cambodia to work for an English daily. It’s pleasant knowing the person who lived there before you, especially if the person is someone you adore. As he said, it’s good “keeping it in the family.”

***A note about HK’s housing crunch. It’s not really the lack of space per se that is the problem — the city is only 25 percent developed compared with New York which is 75 percent developed. I know, it’s ridiculous how much green space is unseen to the Hong Kong Island dweller, but it’s there! The problem, as chief executive Donald Tsang said in his policy speech last month, is that so many homeowners are leaving their apartments and houses vacant, since they accrue value that way. This means at any given time, Hong Kong has around 25,000 living spaces sitting empty. That’s even more than what the government has promised to build for its subsidized housing scheme by 2015.
There have been proposals to tax homeowners who keep their properties unused to give them incentive to sell or rent out. But I don’t see political pressure hurting the city’s notorious real estate monopolies, who obviously benefit from soaring prices and superficial lack of supply, and would keep it that way.

That’s me, doing arabesques by the window — just to freak out the neighbors.

Coming from a really cramped apartment, it’s pretty nice to have some breathing room. I can create a wind tunnel by opening the window next to the bed and the glass door leading to the balcony (a rarity in Hong Kong!), which means I don’t have to use the A/C that often.

I’m also digging the slightly tacky, 1970s furniture and appliances. The microwave and washing machine seem ancient, with a cheese grater-like contraption in its laundry receptacle, and the closet seems like it came straight out of a low-end casino hotel. The bathroom’s pretty retro too, with yellow tiles that remind me of the shade mah-jong playing cubes come in.

I’ve burned myself a few times with the hot water.
My bathroom mirror gives triple the vanity.
The usual clothespile

I bought a plant at the Japan Home Center across the street to spruce up the balcony a bit, though I’m worried it’s going to die on me soon because I don’t really know how to take care of it. Its neighbor, a plastic orchid that I think came with the place even before Justin moved in, is more resilient and pops at me with aggressive fuschia whenever I come out to the balcony to gaze at the wall of skyscrapers.

For the first time in my adult life, I also got myself a bedside lamp from this place just down Caine Road called Allure Living Company that sells “contemporary” (read: slightly expensive and most of the time useless) decorations and furniture. Though I really like the lamp, it’s metal and warms up after a while, providing a good heating source for my hands when it gets nippy. And other girly accents.

Belgian Waffle coasters. They even smell syrupy!
The day’s paper? Nope! It’s a place mat for the dinner table. They have a French version, which I contemplated getting, but didn’t because I don’t want to feel confused when I’m eating breakfast.

I have two neighbors, excluding the landlady who lives at the far end of the hall. Both of them are male and I have yet to make my presence known. I did meet Ryan, the former banker turned couch potato, who refused to give us some rolling paper and whom we caught watching “Jerry Maguire” with his condescending male “friend” once. As far as I know, the other guy is perennially absent and Ryan is perennially present, judging by how much he watches TV at full volume.

One major snag is that I have yet to meet said landlady, who only speaks Cantonese. While Justin says she prefers girls (by this we mean tenants), she might freak out if she suddenly finds tampons in the trash bin coming from a supposed boy’s apartment. So I’m thinking of a good approach, apart from staging a puppet show, to explain the new living situation — and without getting kicked out.

Because I truly am loving living here. It’s a perfect place to nest.

UPDATE: I should be more restrained about home decor, but I can’t help it. I just need useless accoutrements to spruce up my flat. Among my new finds:

Chocolate truffle magnets
Cat wine stopper for the bottles you open but don’t finish.
Printed these out and just stuck them on my wall.
Thanks to my former roomie, Christina Su, for spicing up my condiments collection.
Ramayana puppets on bathroom window for a cultural peeing experience.

Sequel to: How to Find Cheap Apartments in Hong Kong and South of Hollywood Road

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