Posts Tagged With: Housing

Southern Exposure Counts Double


Not our building, but like our building


All I really need is a good chair and a good book

We have an apartment! Mr. High Standards, despite having consulted with two different agents from two different continents, neither of which was this continent, found a place on Facebook one evening, so we scampered off right away to see it. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, southern exposure in the living room, dining room, kitchen AND master bedroom, close to work and fully modernized.

The reason I mention “fully modernized” is that we have stopped looking at places in the new, high-end, expat-oriented buildings because we don’t like the neighborhood (they’re all clustered together, which means a bunch of construction sites and no trees) and usually don’t like the apartments either. Instead, we’ve been looking near where we’ve been staying and focusing more on the older buildings near the city center. Starting in the late 1930’s and continuing into the 1950’s, the original urban housing stock was built in increments of 40,000 units. Pictured above, these buildings are now known as “40,000 buildings” and are typically four stories high, with retail space on the ground floor and residential entryways off the interior courtyards. They are considered to be very solidly constructed: warm in the winter, cool in the summer and with thick walls that keep out the noise of the neighbors. Mr. H.S. was told by colleagues that they were built by Japanese prisoners of war, which is why the construction standard is so high (!).


Not a good photo, but it shows a bit of the light and nice woodwork in the kitchen.

Today was the walk-through with the landlord’s representative, and we’ll have a signed lease by Monday. I am desperate to get into our own, functional kitchen and unpack fully, but — and this is interesting — in traditional Mongolian culture, Saturdays and Tuesdays are not auspicious days for moving. Sunday is very auspicious, though, and as there’s an out-of-town excursion planned for us tomorrow, we’ll be moving Sunday. I figure it’s best to go with it; who knows how to move better than nomads, right?

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Southern Exposure

photo (1)
They say this one will be ready by mid December.

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The Apartment Chronicles, Part 2

Saw four more apartments yesterday. Keep in mind that to rent furnished is to cast oneself on the uncertain seas of other people’s taste. (Back in my San Francisco youth, we started adult life with futons and milk-crate furniture and lugged whatever we had from place to place. So this is new since moving to Asia.) In this context, I am looking for a place that meets our criteria but also has a bit of character; plenty of soulless boxes around, especially at the high/expat end, but I’ve already rejected a bunch of those.

Apartment 1 was a fancy, soulless box with the audacity to charge a high rent for only one bathroom. No.

Apartment 2 is downstairs from our temporary place with charm galore (really one step up from being a boudoirish, mistress apartment). Southern and western exposure with wrought-iron balconies, and check out this furniture!



Sign from the universe in the upper right corner?


However, Mr. H.S was right that one bedroom, a bad kitchen and no parking would be a problem. I’ve let go, but there was this tiny sign from the universe that made me think we should take it. (Look on the right side of the top shelf of the bookcase…)


Apartment 3


Apartment 4

Apartment 3 is a possibility: new place, still a bit empty, owned by a single man who’d work with us to make it nice. (Though he did ask what color the cat is before agreeing to her. Brown is fine, but black is not?) Big eastern exposure and enough space but no parking.

Apartment 4 meets all our criteria for location and amenities, including parking and a good kitchen. However, the furniture is butt-ugly. Very cheap and plastic-like, as if designed by Fisher-Price.

Ok, so it doesn’t have flocked wallpaper, or – worse – actual carpeting on the walls, which we were warned to expect, but still.

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What Would You Do for this Apartment?


Yes, this kitchen does come with a bunch of new stuff.

We’d almost definitely decided on an apartment to rent. I’d seen this one when we were here in August (that day when I got all optimistic about how nice the housing options are here) and saw it again last week when the agent said it was still available. It seemed just as good, so we arranged a time for Mr. High Standards to see it with me, the agent and the landlord’s brother, who’d let us in.

We spent an hour there, during which Mr. H.S. checked out all the things that I hadn’t — because why bother, if he wasn’t going to like it? — the electrical outlets, the functioning of the doors and windows, the water pressure in the showers. We asked why a nice place like that was still vacant, and the agent gave two reasons: 1) Because he’d been out of town a lot and hadn’t been showing it, and 2) Because the President owns it, and there wasn’t a lot of urgency for the rent money.

Really? The President of Mongolia owns this nice-but-not-exceptional apartment? And that guy who sat on the couch for an hour texting was his brother?

Mr. H.S. is working in government and was gleefully ready to check this information when he got back to work, but then the agent emailed last night to say that the place was already rented. Now, no place is as great as the one you didn’t get, but this one was spacious, had wood floors, lots of storage, a parking space in the building and is in a fun area, mere steps from two of Ulaanbaatar’s best grocery stores. (When it’s -30 out, those steps not walked matter A LOT.)

In our household when something doesn’t go our way, one of us pretty much always rolls over and caves, while the other never takes no for an answer.  So, Mr. H.S. — the one with the day job — went online to find alternatives, while I glumly started trying to picture us in a smaller place in some upscale expat neighborhood that I’d resent.

Mr. H.S. is also trying to find contact information for the agent who’d shown the good place to me last week. Because, what if that story about the President isn’t really true? What if there’s some other angle we can try?

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Interim Housing

IMG_0687That building looming in the background is our temporary housing while we look for a more permanent apartment. It’s a great old building, close to work and plenty of other amenities. And we have amazing views and lots of southern exposure (i.e. sun).


Unfortunately, the “kitchen” is tucked under those eaves, so what’s sticking out on the right side of the photo is the refrigerator.

But here’s a shot out the window early one morning:


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