Apr 5, 2023
Random things in my Taiwanese home that just make sense
A tour of my apartment in Kaohsiung, Taiwan…
Welcome. Photo: Zhen-Kang.
Today’s the three-month anniversary of my arrival in Taiwan. After doing some work, some supermarket shopping, and tuning into Jacinda Ardern’s valedictory speech, I finally took some photos of where I live:
Here’s my front door. It can be unlocked with the keypad, a proximity card, or a regular key—which I have to carry with me in case of power failure. My living room, from the doorway. It’s about the same size as the living room in my (very small) house in New Zealand. The blue panels on the window frame are mosquito-repelling cards. All windows and doors also have insect screens. Here’s the dining space. The post-it notes on the light switches remind me what they control, as they don’t map to the layout of the room. Unlike in New Zealand, up is on and down is off. Also unlike in New Zealand, powerpoints have no on/off switches—they’re always on, waiting to bite you. I brought this clock with me from New Zealand because its hexagon-based shape reminds me of the Kaohsiung Music Center. Hexagons are a recurring motif in this part of the city, used for paving stones, and also integrated into the designs of the Music Center and Yacht Club, and the reception desk in my building. I’ve set the clock to 24-hour time, which is more common than AM/PM in Taiwan. Next to the front door, this shoe cabinet is integrated into the side console. At the back of the cabinet you can see a metal grate. Behind it, in a cavity within the concrete wall, is where the internet technicians installed my Wi-Fi router. If they’d actively sought a stupider place for a Wi-Fi router, they could not have found it. My apartment came furnished. Which is how I ended up a couch that says, amongst other things, ‘URBAN ROUTE SYSTEM AQUA GATE’, ‘BOOK of GOOD TYPO’, and ‘BEAUTY TENSION’. Meanwhile, I bought the much quieter floor lamp from Ikea for NT$300 (NZ$15). Mounted to the wall behind the couch is the security monitor. From left to right, the buttons: (1) show building messages; (2) call the security guard at reception; (3) cycle between live views of the street outside, reception, and the space immediately outside my front door; (4) buzz visitors into the building; (5) talk to them. One day I accidentally activated an internal alarm which sounded every time I opened my door to leave. I was lucky to find an apartment with a kitchen, as most smaller apartments omit them altogether (it’s cheaper to eat out). It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the sink is huge—double the width of standard sinks in New Zealand. I was also lucky to get an oven, which is non-standard. There’s a pop-out extraction fan and light above the cooktop, but it isn’t ducted to the outside, so all it does is transfer cooking smells into the cupboard. Luckily, my air purifier has an odor-absorbing carbon filter. The sink features a filtered water and boiling water smart tap. Regular tap water’s unsafe to drink in Taiwan… …Which brings me to the dish sterilizer. After hand-washing dishes with tap water, you place them in this device—the size of a narrow dishwasher—and set it to sterilize dishes for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. I destroyed a wooden Ikea chopping board by leaving it in here too long, but plastic utensils seem to survive okay. The ceiling light above the couch confused me at first: each time you flick the light switch off and on again, it illuminates a different combination of six bulbs: either two, three, or five around the outside; or just the center bulb, which is a yellow night light. The bathroom has a self-cleaning smart toilet (with remote control mounted beside the window); concertinaed rectangular toilet paper (on the shelf next to the window); and a bewildering remote-controlled ceiling fan/dehumidifier/dryer/heater. The window has an insect/privacy screen covering most of it—but not the lower portion, which is precisely at groin level. I bought the 10 fake plants from Ikea so I could be less offensive to my neighbors. (The shower is behind the door on the right. It has retro paisley tiling.) Here’s the bewildering remote for the ceiling fan/dehumidifier/dryer/heater. I typically set it to probable-extraction mode. My bedroom has a floral feature wall. This building’s less than two years old, which means someone chose this wallpaper in 2021. Fortunately I close my eyes when sleeping. There’s a small walk-in-wardrobe. I use the second bedroom as an office and future guest space. It also has a floral feature wall (on the left), and a floral mattress. Per local custom, I keep the mattresses in their original plastic wrapping. I have this 20-watt UV mosquito lamp below the side table. I actually get very few mosquitoes in my house (none at all since I eliminated gaps around the doors and insect screens), but every day this lamp catches dozens of tiny bugs that are small enough to get through the screens. It makes an extremely loud bang when it zaps one. From the desk I have a great view of 85 Sky Tower. That’s also why I bought the outdoor chair on the balcony (NT$300/NZ$15 from Ikea)—so I can sit like the old man that I am, admiring the view and watching the world go by. Per local custom, I also keep my mop and broom on the balcony. The left and right ends of the balcony have cladding that diminishes the view but provides shading from the sun, which hits on an oblique angle in the morning. There's no direct sunlight in the afternoon. At the other end of my balcony, the washing machine. It’s normal for these to be outside. Above it is the hot water cylinder. Hanging from the ceiling are my two clothes lines. Annoyingly, the current trend at Ikea is for pegs to come in mixed packs of salmon and green. The blue panels on the insect screens are more mosquito-repelling cards. I’ve blown out the view to protect my privacy—but if I look downwards I can see a six-lane street, and if I look outwards… …I get this view of 85 Sky Tower, the second-tallest building in Taiwan. (I took this photo two hours ago, from my old-man chair on the balcony.) Note the clear sky—it hasn’t rained since I moved to Kaohsiung, three days after arriving in Taiwan exactly three months ago.