A couple of weeks ago we vacated our primo downtown pad on the 12th floor of a fancy high rise and moved into a fifth-floor walk-up on a side street near the night market. I thought it might be interesting for for folks living in Taiwan to consider the differences.
The old place had an elevator from the garage to our apartment, obviously, since it was like a 15-story building.
The new place has only stairs.
Winner: I still like the new place. Living on the fifth floor only requires us to walk up four flights of stairs and after the first couple days it didn’t seem like such a chore. It’s also a little bit more exercise than we were getting a few weeks ago. But the biggest bonus is not ever being stuck in the elevator with a petulant high-school girl and her unhappy mother.
In the downtown spot, there was a room in the garage where we could drop off our trash and our recycling whenever it was convenient for us.
In the new place, we have to take the trash out when the trash truck comes between 6:00 and 6:15 every day. That is how we get the trash out of our house.
Winner: Man, you aren’t going to believe me, but although it’s not so obviously convenient to have to run downstairs and meet the trash truck, I’m liking it better because we take the trash out more often. There’s only two or three days a week that either of us is free at 6:00, so we can’t afford to a miss a trash day.
The old place had garage parking with assigned spots. That was really nice when it was cold and rainy because you could get your rain gear on without actually being in the rain.
The new place has street parking only.
Winner: Garages are great. The old place certainly wins this round, especially on rainy nights when I come home and someone has moved all the scooters to park a blue truck and there aren’t any spots left for me near my door.
The old place had two full baths with fancy shower systems. You could adjust the way the water came out of the showerheads, and if you wanted to (we never did), you could fill up the tub and turn on the jets and have a little jacuzzi experience.
The new place has a full bathroom about the size of a bedroom. Why is it so big? We don’t know. There’s just a ton of empty space. There’s a bathtub, which is a little bit of a luxury, but it’s old and the liner is pretty worn. There’s a showerhead, but it’s kind of at an awkward angle. There is no shower curtain rod, so there is no shower curtain.
Winner: Our old place was a little too high-tech for my tastes, but I do love me a good shower and not having to do backbends when I want to wash my hair. Although, I feel like I am getting tougher showering in a bathroom so big, drafty, and cold. I guess if I had to choose, the old bathroom was more comfortable…but I love how spacious the new one is, and the funky tiles. Let’s call it a tie!
The old place obviously had hot running water in both bathrooms and the kitchen because that is normal and civilized. Most of us would even say it’s necessary.
The new place has a big, electric hot water heater on the back porch. I didn’t get that excited when the real estate agent pointed it out because obviously you need a hot water heater. But there is only hot water for shower–not for the bathroom sink, not for the washing machine, not for the kitchen sink. Also, you have to turn on the water heater about 30 minutes before you want to shower and turn it off again when you’re finished so as not to waste electricity.
Winner: The transition to having no hot water in the kitchen hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be: We just use lots of extra soap to wash the dishes. But if I had a choice, I’d obviously want to have hot running water wherever we were using water.
The old place had gas piped right into the stove and we just paid the bill every month, no big deal.
The new place has a giant canister of gas right next to the stove. We have to turn the gas on and off. When the canister is empty, we call a guy who dashes over on his scooter faster than you can imagine and runs another giant canister of gas up five flights of stairs.
Winner: Definitely more convenient to have a stove connected to the gas line, but it’s not that big of a deal to use the canister, either. As long as you or someone who likes you can speak enough Chinese to get a fresh canister of gas, you’ll be fine.
This has nothing to do with which apartment we are living in, but we finally got ourselves a water cooler. Instead of taking jugs to the water dispensing machine and lugging them back to our place, we call and someone delivers five water cooler bottles for NT$300. I don’t know why we waited so long to sort this out because it’s so much better like this.
We were paying NT$16,000 plus a guard fee every month for the privilege of living downtown. We made the mistake we often make of telling ourselves, “Man, that is so much cheaper than it would be in the States!” In fact, for Taiwan, for Zhongli, that’s pretty expensive.
Our new place is actually a lot bigger–we have four “bedrooms” and two storeys. The kitchen and bathroom are much, much bigger even though there’s only one bathroom. We also have the whole roof (with a motherfucking koi pond!) all to ourselves. For this palace, we are only paying NT$11,000 a month. According to our frugal Chinese friends, we should have talked down the price some more, but we’re satisfied with what we’re getting for the money and the landlord has been very responsive with all our issues so far.
Winner: The new place is much cheaper; there’s no comparison.
I imagine that if you grew up in a place like this, you’d really look forward to moving into a more modern building with an elevator, an automatic water heater, a gas line, etc. But for us, this place is novel. We say it has a lot of personality. What it lacks in convenience, it makes up for in quirks and sheer spaciousness. I only wish we hadn’t wasted more than a year paying too much in rent. You live, and if you’re lucky, you learn!