Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The First Week in Our Adopted Country: Part 2

Last night was the first time since we've been here that I've actually slept all the way through the night. Yay! ...except for when the bloody alarm clock rang at 5.10am. The previous person in this place probably set the alarm for that time, and it's been going off every single morning since we've been here. When you're half asleep and dead to the world, you're not going to fiddle around and try to figure out how to shut it up forever. And then of course we forget about it when going to bed, only to have to go through the same thing all over again the next morning. Irritating!

Anyways, picking up where I left off last night... while sightseeing over the weekend, we cut through the Royal Botanic Gardens to get from town back to Woolloomooloo and saw an amazing sight of a gazilion bats hanging from the trees. Look closely and you'll spot the black balls of furry things in the leaves.

Every evening in the city, there are SWARMS of bats flying around... big black trails in the sky, waking up to start their night. I guess the Botanic Gardens is their "bat cave" (a la Bat Man).

I've been going through a whole bunch of house listings since before we got here, and we've been narrowing down our options. How it works here is the majority of agents have one "mass inspection" - they give you a date and a time on ONE DAY of the week, and you're expected to show up then to view the house. And it's not like you have all day to get there either. Mass inspections are usually only held for 15 - 20 minutes. I guess they can afford to do this coz there's a property shortage here, where there's heckuva lot more demand than supply. So if you can't get your ass to an inspection, sorry for you coz the place could be gone the same day.

We'd been hearing horror stories where up to about a year ago, agents used to have auctions on the rental price right there and then at these mass inspections. The thing is, you rock up to view the house, and there are like 10 other couples there as well waiting to see the same place. Some people are ultra kiasu and would've printed out application forms from the agent's website already, and if they like the place, they immediately hand in the application together with a cheque deposit. So you can imagine if there's more than one party interested in a place, what kind of bidding war could start. eBay in the flesh!

We're pretty much city people, used to living close to where it's happening. So one of our options was looking at the Victorian terrace houses in the Paddington, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst areas. These suburbs are a hop, skip, jump away from the CBD city yet have a lot of character (depending which streets you're in of course)... it's definitely a lot more charming in an oldskool way with the Victorian wrought iron balconies along leafy streets, and the areas feel kind of bohemian, dotted with cafes and little shops.

This particular terrace house we inspected (I'd use the word "view", but they seem to call it "inspect" here) was renovated on the inside, so it had modern finishings. Most of the houses have a backyard/ garden area behind, so it gets really pretty if the owner has done it up well. Over the past few days, I've seen some pretty shocking interiors - if left unrenovated, the space seems tiny and dreary.

The thing with the terraces is that while the downstairs living/ dining/ kitchen areas might be really nice, a lot of the time the upstairs bedrooms are really small. Stick one Queen bed into it and that's all the space you've got left to move around in.

There was yet another terrace that was completely done up on the inside that it even had a roof terrace with braai, oops sorry, they call it the bar-bee here. Their backyard was done in true Singaporean fashion - no trace of garden, just tiled up completely.

There was one place that even converted their backyard into a pool! If you wanna see more terrace house examples, click here.

The thing about Sydney is that it's a small city (in the central/ town area), but because the buses and subway connections are all on the main thoroughfare, you end up having to walk. And you walk. A lot. I guess that's similar to other bigger cities in the world. So with a lot of these terraces, if they're tucked away it becomes a bit of a pain in the ass when getting around. Taxis are expensive so that can't be a daily affair. While cars are extremely cheap here, we want to see if we can live without one for a while and see if that works. So if we'll be using the bus & train as our main modes of transport, these terraces start to become less appealing.

And then there's the issue of maintenance too. We've become super spoilt having a maid who comes in weekly to clean our flat in Cape Town, for pretty cheap too. Goodness knows if that even exists here, and even if it did it would probably be super pricey. So the thought of having to clean house by ourselves all over again, plus a bigger one with garden out in the back too is just extreeeeeeeemely LEH-CHEH. I'd rather spend my weekends chilling out, not cleaning the house!

People have suggested we live further out in the Rose Bay, Edgecliff, Bondi areas near Bondi Beach since you get better value for your money and a bigger house... but we're not at the point in life yet where living in the suburbs with a 2-car garage has any appeal!

So then we also looked into swish, yuppie apartments in the CBD city area. I think this is probably what we'll go for, since it's close to shops, restaurants, subway and bus stations. How's this place for a view?

Oh yeah, the other thing was... unfurnished or fully furnished? ...not like we really have a choice in the matter coz most places come unfurnished but we were preferably looking for a place that's fully furnished. Since we rented our place in cape Town out fully furnished, we've got absolutely NOTHING with us and having to start up from scratch again is a bit of a pain the ass.

So 1 week after arriving and after inspecting 12 places, we found an absolutely stunning 2 bed/ 2.5 bath apartment at the almost new Lumiere Residences. It's got a loft vibe, right in the middle of town, with amazing views of the city skyline. Oh, and a cool-in-an-ultra-pretentious-way pool too if you check the link.

Of course I did say "we found it". Whether we'll actually get it is a different story! Haha! We've just put in the application and made an offer, so it's just sitting around and crossing fingers now that the landlord says OK. The whole application process is a whole other long grandmother's story, plus it gets trickier too coz we've only just arrived and set up bank accounts a day ago. Hence there are no local bank statements nor money in the bank to show proof yet! (Kelly's trying to also sign up for a mobile contract, but because the bank hasn't issued any cards yet either, we're still in limbo land...)

I hope we get it. Since Kelly's a foreigner sponsored by a local company, the Ozzy government gives us back 50% of rent in the first 2 years. Which means we can live it up the first 2 years, then downgrade later. Heh. We figure since there's only one time in life where we can live the completely pretentious, designer-wank I mean swank, yuppie lifestyle, we might as well stay in a place that's out of our league. If nothing else, it'll be a really handy location for guests when they come visit. So in your best interests, you'd better also hope and pray that we get it too!

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