Last week, when my wife and I were walking back home from yet another disappointing apartment viewing, I was a bit frustrated. We had a plan to find a bigger place by the end of the year and we wanted to move out of the old, noisy and extremely populated neighborhood we're living in now, because we're expecting a baby. It's not only the environment that we want to leave behind, it's also because the current apartment is too small for two, let alone three. We've been searching for few months now and every time we've returned from a viewing, there was something we disliked. The last apartment was nearly perfect. It was almost double the size of the current one and there rent was just a little bit over the current one, what's more it was in a new condo and located in a completely new neighborhood. The interior design was great and it came with a nice balcony. The problem was the location: It was very far from the Blue MRT line, that connects eastern and western Taipei. Since I don't want to drive a car in Taipei, because the traffic is just too crazy for me, we have to rely on public transportation, preferably the subway. The biggest problem with the latest apartment was its proximity to the nearest MRT station. We needed about 20 minutes to reach the apartment from there. And all in all it needs around 45 min to reach the Blue line. My wife would need around 1 hour and a half to reach her job, if we lived there and that would just be too much time wasted on commuting. That was a clear deal breaker for us.
If you've ever searched for an apartment in Taipei, you can surely relate to our frustration. And there was something else that bothered us: We felt very out of place in that neighborhood, that was stretched along a very wide and noisy avenue. I just didn't see myself raising my child there. As we were walking back to our place, we realized how "at home" we already feel here and that we're perhaps more attached to it than we would admit. The roads are narrow and noisy here, the buildings are old and plastered with dirty tiles, there's a big and popular day market, which can get pretty crowded and noisy in the evening. Scooters rule the world here and phrases like "pedestrian friendly" don't exist. It basically feels like an old Taiwanese village and there is a sense of familiarity. By now many people know me, from the bakery to the biendang shop and all the way to the hair dresser, I'm one of the very few waiguoren in this area and a loyal customer.
Two years ago my wife rented this apartment by pure coincidence and we didn't expect, that we will stay here so long. But after a long search for something new, we started to appreciate what we already have. For example: It takes only 5 minutes by foot to the nearest MRT station; we live on one of the upper floors and have a nice open view (as you can see on the photo above); the apartment is merely few years old and it comes with a very reasonable price (it includes furniture, a small kitchen and a washing machine). The condo has a very professional security staff, that receives and keeps your parcels, they can even call a cab for you. We can use a fitness studio free of charge, there's a big dining hall, that can be rented for birthdays and we also have a small swimming pool for kids in the courtyard. The waste collection is conveniently located in the basement, so we don't need to stand on the street every evening and wait for the garbage truck. If I walk fast and catch all the trains in time, I could be at the Main Station in about 15 minutes. Most of these things have become part of our lives and it would be hard to let them go. I especially wouldn't want to live on a lower floor or wait for the garbage truck. I'm also used to live in a secured condo, that's just a few minutes away from the MRT. So I guess the search will go on well into the next year, because we still haven't found what we are looking for.
[My LIFE IN TAIWAN page][All photos by MKL, 2012]