Sunday, August 24, 2014

Goodbye Kowloon And Hello Tai Po.

We said goodbye to our safe, comfortable, cozy, clean hotel in Kowloon that we had been staying at for one week and hello to a ground level village apartment in Tai Po that we rented for one month.

My husband and I experienced that moment of panic when we had to be out of the hotel and had nothing lined up. Even though we have been working diligently on securing a home for our family since we landed in Hong Kong, this is peak season for tourists and people moving into the area. Thus rent is exceptionally high and all the serviced apartments we had called were fully booked except for one. We got this house through a connection of a high school friend's fiance – who had a friend – that put in touch with her parents – who had a friend – that had a sister who would be willing to rent us this place temporarily while we searched for something more permanent. 

The sister came to pick us up from the hotel in Kowloon and we loaded all twelve of our suitcases into her minivan, along with the four of us. She drove us out to the house, where we were immediately bombarded by the smell of mildew when she unlocked the front door. Black mold was visibly growing up the walls, coating door frames, and covering both sides of the doors. The floors were filthy and the bathroom was disgusting. When my kids take one look at a bathroom and refuse to walk into it, you know it's filthy.

By Hong Kong standards the house is fairly large. It's a three bedroom flat with a large living space. One bedroom is filled with the landlady's personal belongings. The second bedroom has a single bed in it. The final bedroom contains a couch that is folded out permanently into a bed big enough for my husband and I to lie on. Both beds only had a thin fitted sheet covering them. 

I feel as though there is some part of Chinese culture that I have completely missed, while we were under the impression that the landlady was helping us out by offering us a place to stay, when we politely tried to get out of renting the house, we were given a guilt trip and told this was basically our only option. It was actually one of two options. The other option was a 200 square foot studio serviced apartment for all four of us. All of our reasoning for not wanting to rent the apartment – primarily cleanliness reasons were countered with a coldness in personality and a determination that she would not let us get out of renting this place from her. There's that balancing act and struggle of how much do you compromise your personal standards and not wanting to hurt the relationship of the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.

We were told she would send her maid to come clean the house for us the next morning. We gave her the month's rent in cash and unloaded all of our suitcases out of her van. It was then that we found out there was no internet service at the house. But it wasn't until after she drove away did we realize that there was no refrigerator, no pots to cook with, no washing machine, and no hot water. A really hard adjustment for our two kids when they take cold showers. A really hard adjustment for our whole family coming from the United States and being used to certain amenities in life.

We could not spend the night in the house with those kind of conditions, so I immediately took the dirty sheets off the two beds along with our dirty laundry, and we hailed down a taxi to drive us into town. We dropped everything off to be washed and dried at a laundry service shop and we walked around the streets in search of an internet connection. We also managed to purchase cleaning supplies {including a couple bottles of bleach} to take back to the house with us. 

Back at the house I started cleaning like a woman possessed. I started washing down walls with the bleach; trying to remove as much of the visible black mold as possible. Bleach was my weapon of choice in this battle to make this apartment liveable for our family. I attacked the bathroom and the kitchen. At about 10:00 the next morning, our landlady called to tell us that her maid would be coming around 12:00 for a couple hours and we needed to pay her 400.00 HKD. That is an equivalent to 52.00 USD. I knew the landlady was trying to take advantage of us since this is a country where maid service is cheap and maids are often taken advantage of. I know she does not pay her maid 25.00 USD an hour. I declined her offer of a maid and kept on cleaning.

I'm telling myself we just have to live here for four weeks instead of thirty days, because it just sounds more doable to me. I know... it's the same amount of time, but doesn't the number four sound better than the number thirty?!?!!! We currently have the air conditioning blasting to eliminate as much humidity as possible. I unpacked a few of my kitchen items and they make the place look a bit more homey and personal even for just the month we plan on being here. Once the house was all cleaned up it looked a lot better. I still refuse to sit on that couch, because it's so filthy and I can just imagine the mold spores still living in there.

We definitely know what we don't want and want we do want in an apartment and we've learned to put our foot down and not compromise our standards. Here's to another twenty-six days in this place.


  1. Aww, I wondered how things were going. It can only get better, right? Hang in there!

    1. Things have definitely gotten better over the past five months!


Blogging tips