Monday, November 02, 2015

A service apartment life

In the heady days of my youth there were a few years of extensive work related travel. From LA to Sydney I had the chance to visit many cities and stay in all kinds of fancy and boutique hotels. At the time and for many years after I thought I could happily live in a hotel for an extended period of time. Like years and years in a beautiful hotel suite, with laundry and cleaning and multiple food sources at my disposal. That sounded great to me. Like a good life.

Well the move to Hong Kong brought me that chance. The need to get here in advance of school beginning and our chosen apartment being renovated meant that we would be living in a service apartment for a month and a half. Now, I know a service apartment is not a hotel suite but the one we chose was as close to a hotel as you could imagine. 

Perched atop one of Hong Kong's many hills, the Parkview Suites is an enormous tower within the larger Parkview complex. The rest of the complex is a series of residential towers and within this rectangle of towers is a wonderful club, with multiple swimming pools, indoor playrooms, tennis courts, squash courts and other facilities like gym and spa. The complex has an inexpensive shuttle bus plying into Central HK every 10 or so minutes. And as residents of the suites we had unfettered access to all these marvelous facilities alongside a plethora of restaurants and room service. There was a daily maid service (like a hotel) and they did everything from change the sheets and towels to vacuuming and washing up whatever dishes we might have used in our tiny galley kitchen. 

The apartment itself well proportioned. Beside the bedrooms we had a good sized living and dining room and a narrow galley kitchen. A huge supermarket within the complex meant never having to venture far to stock up on groceries. Between the basic kitchen and the restaurants available it was pretty easy to maintain some semblance of a healthy diet for Kid. The decor however was not to my taste. It had blingy crystal chandeliers and large leather chesterfield furniture, both dwarfing the rooms. Bright red, ivory and gold striped wallpaper and an assortment of top hats, old book piles and busts of Churchill on the kitchen counter made for an 'interesting' theme. Decor apart there was enough storage for our 3 suitcases to be emptied and for new school related paraphanalia to be stored comfortably. 

Within a week we had found our feet and settled into a routine. By week 2 we had begun to meet the other school families that had also just moved in and were waiting for their own apartments to be ready. And so, post a school orientation and with a few play dates under our belt, it was the middle of August and the beginning of a new school year. A bus stop of new kids all in it together made it much simpler for Kid to feel secure and within mere days the bus was a safe and comfortable 25 minute commute to school. 

V's commute was relatively simple too and we all used the shuttle to explore a little. The Parkview owner is apparently a serious art collector and clearly a generous man, for all around us, in the lobby and on a special floor were wonderful pieces of art and sculpture on display. From Van Gogh's to Monet's, Picasso's to Dali's. This wonderful horses head by Dali sat firmly in the lobby being used as a pillar for running around by small children while the parents looked at it in awe. 

So a hotel stay this was in every way possible. The main thing I missed were a fully equipped kitchen - just for days I wanted to cook something more elaborate than soup or pizza. And the smaller space meant on weekends we all tried to stay outdoors as much as we could to not constantly be under each other's feet. The lack of space to play anything spread out like car racing and train tracks and Lego cities was Kids greatest frustration. But what this prolonged stay did teach us was this: it was entirely possible to live with less; less furniture, smaller space, fewer possessions. We never once had the crib of missing 'our stuff' and that taught me a lot about myself and this little family. Yes we like our things, electronic gadgets, Lego and books would have been sorely missed had that container sunk but actually without them we weren't suffering/ feeling lost in any way. And that we didn't have huge emotional connections to things. Knowing that they were arriving helped Kid focus on this being a temporary situation and look forward to the new place but even he never asked for them as such. I saw it as an opportunity to disconnect and take a break from ownership of 'stuff'. Marshalling a household worth of contents can be a burden and the break from it revealed how little hold those contents had over me. 

Yet despite my earlier wishes long term hotel/ small space hotel living isn't for me. What I did miss and what I did think on the last night before the big move was this - I didn't miss my stuff but I did miss the space that a whole apartment affords you. A big kitchen to cook in. A study to write in, a playroom to build worlds in. Separate rooms for us all. A balcony to perch on. 

Down the corridor from us and in the same class as Kid was a little girl and her family. They have lived in these service apartments for 3 years. 2 adults and 3 kids. The mum was telling me how this was so convenient with the maid service and not having to buy furniture or worry about maintenance. And that as this was a pit stop on their life journey, maybe a 4 year stint in all, this made economic sense rather than invest in the very pricey HK rental or buying markets. 

I see her point. Property is insanely expensive here. But I would trade my money for space is the conclusion I drew.  At least now I know I don't need oodles of things and that cap on my 'need for things' shopping means we can spend our rental dollars with a bit less guilt. 

1 comment:

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