Sunday, February 01, 2004

If lady sitting downstairs is okay?

Most of my first week back in Hong Kong has been occupied by my very picky search for a home. I knew the area I wanted to live in, in fact I had it narrowed down to a section 4 streets wide and several alleyways long. I chose this part of Jordan because it is close to work, full of life and also a centre for the ethnic minority groups that I will be working with. The streets in this area are not traffic heavy and two are market streets that are closed to vehicles.

I also had a good idea of the kind of residence that I was after. I knew that my budget would not allow more than a single room with bathroom and kitchen attached. Thus, within this framework I set a load of criteria including:
- bathroom big enough that I will not have to shower on the toilet
- several large windows
- no laminated floors
- a ceiling that I can't touch
- a kitchen that is not in the bathroom
- no offensive odour

I even brushed up my Cantonese for the occasion and formed a little monologue that went along the lines of...
'I want room. Bathroom. Kitchen. No lift, no problem. I like many windows'

What I did not imagine was the amount of entertainment that would be provided by the search. My quest began by following a real estate agent through back streets to inspect my first room. The agent in question was a glamorous lady dressed in black. At every corner she would turn and smile, beckoning me with her finger. Onlookers began to stare and I grew more and more embarrassed as we went.

The fun did not stop there. The next agent was a friendly old lady who showed me a room on the 13th floor. Most buildings in Hong Kong leave out unlucky numbers (13 and anything ending in a 4) and I joked that I might have to think twice about taking that room. At that moment she turned into a snarling monster screaming '13th floor very lucky! very, very lucky!'.

The next agency was a family business and the parents sent me out with their son who spoke much better English than they did. To our surprise, we found out that we had both been studying at UTS last year. It was the first time that the poor guy had ever shown anyone a room and I felt very sorry for him because he couldn't find it. He apologised non-stop and almost died of embarrassment when we chanced upon a cat with a litter of kittens in a stairwell. We went into two different buildings and tried the key in six doors before he called mum with an SOS.

As the search continued it looked like I might have to make do with a windowless box complete with an old lady downstairs luring customers. On my second day of searching, however, I found the perfect room. It is on the 3rd floor on the corner of a building and has windows across two sides. The kitchen and bathroom are large and the ceiling is 2.7m high. The floor is covered with funky retro blue, red and white tiles and it's on Temple St above the night markets. And the fact that there is a small plant growing between cracks in the bathroom tiles bodes very well for my hopes of success with pot plants!

Plus, there's a view to die for!