If Donald Trump can do it, so can I! Shopping for Real Estate in Beijing

real estate2

The first step to any successful travel agency is an awesome office. As my Mandarin gets me about as far as Kung Pao Ji Din I needed a bilingual business partner to help me peruse the local real estate. Based at the HomeShop, an artist run space near the Yonghegong Lama Temple that has artist studios and co-working spaces, I met Qu Ge who is currently co-working as a translator in addition to his other roles as communal chef and courtyard farmer. Curious about what I was doing he volunteered to help me out.


I wanted a small storefront in a busy neighborhood. Real estate has sky rocketed in the past year and so prices were a lot higher than expected. The other issue was I only wanted to rent the space for a few months.


We set out to visit some of the realtors in the neighborhood. Each office was a bit different in, uh, aesthetic and style. Qu Ge would explain to the agent what I was looking for. There would be many long silences in the conversation and I couldn’t quite figure out if that meant it was time to move on to the next one. This happened continuously throughout the next several days as we pounded the dusty pavement for my dream store-cum-travel-agency.


The realtors didn’t quite work out so the next strategy was to check with some existing tour offices and see if I could share a desk. We decided to stop into the popular hutong tour office by the ancient Drum and Bell towers that offers bicycle rickshaw tours of “Old Beijing”. The office wasn’t much of an office but the owner was around and Qu Ge managed to pique his interest about our offer. Thinking we were going to have to spend the next hour in a dark dingy back office, I was surprised to be taken next door to the “Porcelain Museum”, a living museum of China’s ancient art, where we proceeded to spend the next hour in silent chit chat over a pot of weak tea served in beautiful reproduced ancient porcelain, of course.


Qu Ge translated to me the owner’s comments: you’ll never make any money selling tours of American and why don’t you just put an ad in the paper selling the tours. With that said, I concluded it was time to move on.


But as luck has it (and usually it doesn’t believe me), a few steps down the road was a teeny weeny little red storefront store EMPTY! And to make things even luckier, when we inquired about it, we found out the person renting it also runs the bar next door (called the Drum and Bell Towers Bar of course).


So there you have it. The Journey West has a home!