Singapore Apartment Hunting Mayhem – Part 2
By Dave Fox
Another Extremely Important Notice: This is Part Two of a five-part series on my hunt for an apartment in Singapore. If you are going to read it, you really should start at the beginning. This series began on Monday with Part Zero, which contains important information on why you might not want to waste your time reading this. Part One appeared yesterday, and reinforced the fact that there are better things to do with your time that read this blog. Before reading today’s installment, you are advised to read the aforementioned Parts Zero and One. You are then advised to turn off your computer and go eat some falafel or something because that is a much healthier thing to do than read the following gangly continuation of a highly self-indulgent story.
And now… the idiotic saga continues….
Kattina and I have just moved halfway around the world to a country we’ve never set foot in before. We’ve been married for eight days, living in a Singapore hotel for the last five of those days, trying to find a place where we will live for the next two years as our bodies suffer the abuses of jet lag, post-wedding fatigue, and a foreign climate. (Holy crap! Sun!) In the midst of all of this, we must make a decision.
When some people are exhausted and must make hasty decisions, they make bad decisions. I am not one of those people. Instead of making bad decisions, I make no decisions. I waver. I worry. I torment myself over every possible angle, including angles that do not exist, angles that are mere hallucinations induced by severe sleep deprivation.
We’ve found an apartment we really like in a neighborhood we really like. The logical thing, you’d think, would be to go for it. But we don’t do that. We second guess ourselves.
The apartment’s price is higher than our housing allowance allows. Pearly, our realtor, is pretty sure she can negotiate the monthly rent down within our reach. So we drag out our ordeal a little longer. We ask Pearly to show us a few cheaper places. Pearly is being very patient. She shows us three more apartments. We don’t like them.
We ask if we could see the apartment we really like one more time. Of course, she says. Also, an identical unit has just opened up. Same building. Same price. We have a choice: Third floor or nineteenth floor.
Again, we love the building. It feels like home. Let’s just do it, we decide. Let’s put in an offer on one of these two places. The 19th floor has a skyline view. No palm trees. Lots of sunlight.
Lots of sunlight equals double air conditioning. Five minutes later, we’re back on the third floor, signing papers.
“But you’ll have to wait,” Pearly says. “The owner is in Indonesia.”
The apartment’s owner is still in Indonesia.
We wait some more.
Still in Indonesia.
Early morning, Pearly sends me a text message. Our offer has been rejected. And someone has swooped up the nineteenth floor place while the third floor owner was in Indonesia.
I’m pretty sure Pearly has texted rather than phoned so she does not have to hear me whimper like a six-year-old girl. But I pull myself together when Pearly arrives for round four of searching. She has more good news.
There’s a new place just off Upper Thomson Road, a two-minute walk from Talk Cock Sing Song and Ming’s. Our old place was 15 minutes away.
This new apartment looks like a museum – a narrow living room about 26 miles long, antique furniture and Buddha statues, 22-foot ceilings, a city view, and a second fridge in the living room (something I have always dreamed of – beer should be kept slightly warmer than normal fridge temp). We’re stunned by the size, and the sky-high ceilings. “We could play soccer in here!” Kattina says.
I look at the giant meditating Buddha statue. I think it is not good karma if you bonk a divinity on the nose with a Nerf soccer ball, but that’s a spiritual issue we can sort out later. I am flooded with a deep sense of peace, a realization that sometimes, the Universe denies you something because it has something better in mind. This is going to be our new home!
Until… I see the bedrooms. The master bedroom is spacious and sunny, but one of the other two will be my office, where I will spend many hours on most days. These two rooms are designed in an architectural style known as Southeast Asian Retro Prison Cell.
The cement wall paint is what chic, yuppie furniture stores sometimes call “distressed.” But these walls aren’t the designer kind of distressed. They are the prototype, the real thing, the actual crap that inspired furniture makers to create fake “distressed” antiques. Plaster is flaking off the blue walls, revealing bare concrete beneath.
That doesn’t bother me. Flaking walls have a certain, rugged ambiance. They are reminiscent of the cheap hotel rooms you see in movies, in which 1960s war correspondents race against deadlines, swilling cheap gin and chain-smoking Lucky Strikes as they pound out copy on manual typewriters, hoping to file their stories before the power goes out or the phone lines get cut. It’s the kind of ambiance I could write in.
So the flaking walls don’t trouble me. What troubles me is the windows. Each room has one smallish window. One has a view of an air shaft. The other room’s window is intended to look into the kitchen, though you can’t see much of the kitchen because the view is obstructed by the back of the fridge. I want to like this building. I really do. Could I work in a prison cell for two years? It can’t be any worse than a cubicle. But no.
The next place we look at has a great office space, but the rest of it feels… lifeless? It’s an instinctive thing. For reasons we can’t pinpoint, it’s not right.
“I have two more places to show you today,” Pearly says as we are leaving. Then, she springs a surprise on us. The building we loved, the place where we lost out, has a new unit available. The price is high again – possibly too high to negotiate into our price range. And, and unlike every other place we’ve seen, it’s listed as “partially furnished” rather than “furnished.” Pearly doesn’t know how partially furnished it is. “But we can go have a look.”
“Partially furnished,” turns out to mean you get a flat-screen TV the size of Kuala Lumpur, and a wall-mounted wine rack. Both useful, but uncomfortable to sleep on.
There’s one final spot, right down the road. Huge rooms. Great views. Tinted windows to keep the sun out. Massive swimming pool. And an indoor pond with turtles. Turtles! One of the turtles even looks like Wolf Blitzer! It’s got potential. The problem here is, instead of being partially furnished, it’s over-furnished – crammed with crap that looks like it’s been snagged from a dumpster. There are two rat-gnawed sofas, four rickety desks, and a dirty office chair that screams, “Chiropractor, please!” And unlike every other furnished apartment we’ve seen, where the owners have offered to remove anything we don’t like, this owner wants the place kept intact. We must keep every dilapidated piece of clutter in the place, Or, he says, we can throw stuff away but we must replace it with something else. It almost seems bullying – as if he wants us to replace his worn-out crap with decent stuff.
Still, I love the space. The bedroom is like a tree house. Floor-to-ceiling windows face three directions over the city. And I’m growing attached to my Wolf Blitzer turtle.
We need to think. We need to decide. “You’ll call me this afternoon?” Pearly asks as she drops us in Chinatown. She doesn’t want to lose out on another place.
At a time when we must make an important decision, a 22-month commitment, lunch in sensory-overloaded Chinatown ends up being a bad idea.
[Tune in tomorrow as we weigh the merits of crap furniture versus no furniture, a Wolf Blitzer turtle versus a sane landlord, and also discover that flipping a coin is pretty damn useless when you can’t tell which side is heads and which is tails. In the end, will a shocking change in price be our deciding factor? Tomorrow’s conclusion is an event you don’t want to miss… unless you have something better to do like play Angry Birds for seven hours.]