All posts by nubiatrone

Owning Out of State Rental Properties – Should you do it?

I have out of state rentals because I moved and did not want to sell my rental properties in Arizona. They are making good money. It does not make financial sense for me to sell them and pay closing costs to buy other homes where I live. I have a mortgage on the homes so there would be loan fees in purchasing new ones.

However, I would not suggest someone buy rental properties in another state for these reasons. It is harder to check in on the homes. Repairs are needed and tenants decide to break leases so it often could require last minute airline ticket prices if you wanted to go to the home. Sometimes handymen or contractors charge a lot for something that is super easy to fix. Then there is the struggle with doing an inspection between tenants, and knowing the condition of the house prior to renting it out to someone else. How about even showing it to new tenants. It would cost $500 to pay a property management company for a new tenant plus their monthly percent during the lease.

So you decide to hire a property management company who will handle everything for you. That solves it. Now you are paying around $500 plus either 7% to 10% of what you earn. And anytime any repairs are called into the home, you pay that percent on top of what the repairs cost.

Now, imagine you live in the same city of your rental property. You rent it yourself, and anytime a repair is needed you can go to the house and do it yourself when it is simple or you hire someone to do the job when it is not. If you do the repair yourself, not only did you save on the labor but you also did not pay the management fee on that labor.

What if you pick a bad property management company that does not prioritize your home and it is not rented on time. Or they want to make life easier on themselves and rent it out a few days after your old tenant moves out. I have a system in place that has one tenant out one day and a new tenant in the very next day. I haven’t lost a day of rent in the last over 10 years except when I do an eviction. Even then, my last eviction made me lose only 2 days rent after I legally got my home back. I don’t think most property management companies can promise such fast service. In fact, a common complaint of many tenants is how long property managements take to get repairs done in their homes. And I have seen a property sit on the market for over a month when they could have rented it very quickly in this market.

So how do I do it, how do I manage my properties from out of state without hiring a company? I have property management background. But with simple knowledge, it is doable. While it is stressful, it also is very easy for me with the system I created. I market my own properties for rent and schedule showings over the phone. When someone is moving out, I hire someone to do a walk through of the home. I have cleaners ready if I think I might need them. I have a key somewhere to be picked up and when the new tenant has paid all their fees and first month’s rent through bank deposit, I let them pick up the key. When a tenant calls with repair needs, I call 3 companies to get quotes or I go with one I have used before. Be careful of AC companies. They can be dishonest.

There is added stress of managing a property out of state. I have heard there are states where properties are very affordable and the rent price is good. I would consider doing this I suppose. I just would rather stay local or at least buy somewhere that family lives so you have a back up of someone you can trust. I have met realtors or handymen that can handle everything for you. But most times, I ask a brother in law or a sister to hold the keys to get picked up by a new tenant. I then pay them $50 to $100 to do the inspection and hold the keys for me. That is really the main tricky one that I want someone I can trust. On the other things like repairs, I normally call companies based on reviews.

The verdict, I think it is up to you. It can make great financial sense if you find a city that sells homes under $100,000 and the rental rates are $700 to $800. Especially if where you live properties have gone worse than $300,000 purchase prices with $1600 rental rates. I can see where buying out of state and paying a property management company can make sense. I would make sure first that I am ready to handle this investment financially. Too many things can go wrong, and not being in the same state or not having a trusted family member that can check on things for you complicate matters, nothing a little problem solving can’t fix though. If you can make money in your market, I prefer buying in your market. It also would make me wonder how long it would take for homes to appreciate in the markets that sell homes for under $100,000, so while you are making money each month, maybe you could have made more money in a hotter market in the long run with rent increasing every year and appreciation. It is just stuff to analyze and think about. I don’t have the answer as all markets would have to be analyzed separately. Actually, I would love to analyze this. Write a comment with a city that you think is a hot investment that has homes priced low with high rental rates. And I will analyze it against a market where homes are becoming overpriced.

Eviction – Staying Positive

There is stress that comes with property management and one of the worst situations one can find him or herself in is going through an eviction. I say that because I am sure a loss in property due to an uninsurable event could be worse. During my about 13.5 years managing my own properties, I have been through 3 evictions. The first one was a mistake in choosing the wrong tenant. We were not living in town anymore and we were a little bit desperate. We should not have been desperate but we let stress get to us, and we chose a bad tenant. The 2nd one was an older woman who lost her husband. I allowed compassion to reign with no regrets and waited for her life insurance to kick in before she started to make payments again. We communicated and it was going great, until she decided to go out of town visiting her relatives and stopped communicating. Her children took advantage of her and began living in the home. I think she was a bit fed up with it too. She counted on them making the payment while she stopped returning my calls or emails. The 3rd, the couple was getting a divorce and the majority breadwinner moved out. The husband could no longer afford rent. He struggled with it for a few months to get caught up towards the ends of the months and finally gave up. He stopped returning my emails and left me no choice. I want to share how I got through this and steps of the eviction because I think knowledge is power.

My mother called me with a problem she is having because she owes taxes in the six digits due to an accountant that decided she did not owe taxes for the last 3 to 4 years, she lives in Mexico. In Mexico, especially in small towns, it is difficult to find competent help. Even if competent, they may procrastinate or not give you the customer service you deserve. Trust me, it is common knowledge that one struggles. Many go to large cities to try to find better help with attorneys, accountants, etc. but still, one must be vigilant that work is getting done correctly. Even with that, it is a learning curve of what these professionals could get wrong, and the justice system is a whole new language from anything I have seen: from not being able to add criminal activity to an ongoing court case because it was not written in with the initial submission, to flat out being able to bribe for favorable outcomes. My mother has a solution to her problem in paying back the debt to the Mexican IRS, Hacienda. She just felt the stress of it one day feeling alone in her stress.

I shared with her my stress process with the eviction. I reminded her that problems are sure to be part of any worthy endeavor and that the way to combat them is to be prepared for them. Here is what I shared to make her feel better that day: The only way to avoid problems is to not have anything (but then we have that problem). We are not always going to be lucky with those we hire and you will always have something to do that could stress you out. It is part of living with purpose. But it is what we choose because it has the highest rewards. Those without problems, let them stay with the problem of no money. And you, accept your problem as part of your success and remember what the package gives you, lots of luxury, trips, and being able to give to others. I understand, it is quite an effort to not stress. But the true stress is not having the money or means to solve the problems that come with business. When you have the money and means, remember that you have it, and say goodbye to stress.

For me, the eviction process began with a lot of stress, I tend to over analyze things and figure out solutions before the problems could arise. At times, I go too far and I allow myself to worry before I need to. Other times, I see it as preparation. Nonetheless, I am imperfect because I live with insomnia when something is on my mind, and I am bored when nothing is on my mind, go figure. The way I calmed my stress is that I remind myself that I have the money and means to weather this eviction and that in the end investing in real estate is more profitable than not investing in it, even with these expenses. Viewing an eviction as another expense is very helpful. If there is something I can learn from this experience, I do, and I move on.

An eviction process varies by states. Be careful to know your state laws before purchasing real estate. Some states have crazy laws that allow a tenant to stay in the property for longer than you can stomach. Arizona is great, here is the process in Arizona where I have done mine. Normally a tenant starts to be late a few times before they give up altogether. Anticipating this, I send them a happy email stating that I will be sending a 5 day notice just as a courtesy but that they will have 10 days to pay from the date of the notice without any problem. This is called a 5 day notice and it is a notice of intent to terminate tenancy due to nonpayment. From the day that you mail it, the tenant gets an actual 10 days to account for mailing time even if the letter does not state that. If you send the notice on the 2nd of the month, the first day they are late, you can have them out of there within the month. My lawyer charges $50 to send the notice, otherwise it is under $4 to send it certified mail myself.

Most states have the forms for evictions and you can file yourself saving you lawyer fees. I am out of state so it easiest for me to hire a lawyer once my 5 day notice does not work.  My lawyer charges $250 to file the special forcible detainer complaint that he files with the court. Once it is filed, the court date is set. My eviction was filed on a Monday and the court date was the following Monday. That day I would have gotten a judgement in my favor. A complication occurred when my tenant decided to show up to court just saying he was going through a divorce. Rather than dealing with it then, the judge decided to send it to court. It cost me $450 for my lawyer to take it to court the following Friday to get a judgement in my favor. A writ of restitution would then be filed the next Thursday. My lawyer had instructions to file the writ that Thursday and I even sent an email to remind him but he failed to do so. I thought the courts were closed Friday because of a holiday so I let it go until Monday. I was calling and emailing on Monday and finally called the court to find out nothing had been filed but that my lawyer had called that morning to file. After several unanswered emails, my lawyer answered his cellphone Monday afternoon to say the writ was filed. I was so excited. It was time to get things scheduled. Once the writ is filed, a constable contacts you to set an appointment to serve the notice which is the day you can have your house back. I called the court Tuesday morning to make sure I had the correct constable’s phone number because I had not yet heard from him. I was informed a writ was not yet filed. I contacted my lawyer’s office and reached the most unhelpful person. I basically told her, I needed to get my property back and I wanted to know where the writ was and if it would be filed that day. She said, she was not a paralegal or lawyer and that she could not answer my questions. Yes, not even if the writ was in the hands of their delivery driver. She said, “I will let the lawyer know to contact you and that it is urgent.” I went online and found the form for the writ, filled it out, and asked my sister to drive it over. I checked with the court one more time and it got filed in the afternoon by my lawyer. I called the constable, left a message and got a call back very soon after that day which was Tuesday. The next morning he went to the house at 10 am (by the way, a sheriff can also be hired but I heard they have a longer waiting time to schedule out). I hired a locksmith to meet the constable at the house. I arrived into Phoenix airport at 9 am, borrowed a sister’s car, met the locksmith to get my keys, and saw the condition of the home. Entering the home prior to serving the writ can be considered trespassing. Most evictions are a little faster than mine because tenants rarely show up to court and it does not get a new court date set in order to get a judgment. By showing up to court, he bought himself one more week and with my lawyer’s delays in filing the writ a whole weekend.

So what now? Most of the time tenants move out and leave the keys on the kitchen counter. But, with my first eviction, the constable showed up and my tenant was so surprised it was happening. He claimed he never received any notices including my 5 day notice. There was no mercy and he was told to gather some belongings and leave the house. I had a handyman scheduled to meet the constable and a locksmith that changed the locks. If they return to the home, they are trespassing and could be arrested. The handyman schedules a convenient time for him to get his stuff. What I could not remember was if we moved his stuff to the garage or not, I think we did but maybe I just had the handyman meet him there and wait while he got his stuff out.

One wants to avoid any chance the tenant would have to destroy the home so the best situation is to get someone trustworthy that can move everything to the garage and the tenant returns to pick it up within a day or two. This is a lot of extra work and not fun to deal with but in the end it guarantees they wont take their anger out on your house. It makes the time you have to see them a lot shorter too rather than having to wait around for them to pack inside their home. If you are moving their stuff, one must take pictures and carefully document in case tenant later claims any theft. Most everyone wants their stuff back and so they come get it pretty quickly and you are all done. But next, if for some reason they did not, you may need to move it to off site location if you need to empty the home. The tenant needs to pay for moving and storing fees before they can get their stuff if it gets moved offsite. Currently in AZ, you need to hold items for only 14 days before you can sell or dispose of it. If you sell it, you must apply it towards the judgment due.

So how did it go? First, I want to say I could have done this eviction living out of state. I was already arranging for my handyman to meet the locksmith and get the key. I would have had him leave a lockbox for cleaners etc and handle everything. I happened to be going into town anyway and decided to make my flight a day earlier than I needed. The house was dirty. The weeds were overgrown to the tune of $210 landscaping fees. There were dirty dishes overflowing the sink. Most of the cabinets were empty. Some bags with clothing were left. Some not so nice furniture was left. There were maggots by the back sliding door. A child’s dirty underwear was left attached to his dirty pants. My son likes to do this, take both off at the same time, then I have to pry them apart, so I get it. But yes, the house was dirty with someone leaving in a hurry not bothering to return to get everything. It cost me $250 in cleaning fees. $140 in moving items to garage fees. And $225 in carpet cleaning fees. I also had the landscaping fees. These are all fees I expect my tenants to pay when they are moving out and they are to leave the house clean and ready for the next person. I also paid an extra $95 to get two blinds replaced that were looking very old and to have my handyman purchase fire alarm batteries. I paid $70 to have my gutters cleaned, which is something I like to do once in a while. Besides that, I told my new tenant to turn in a receipt for light bulbs and a new filter. But that is it. Not so scary. The house looked nice. There may have been a few extra nail holes. The carpet did not look as bad as I expected being 13 years old. I had a tenant lined up sight unseen to rent the home. I got the home back on Wednesday. Utilities were turned on by Thursday morning. Everyone including movers, cleaners, carpet cleaner, and my tenants scheduled their own pest control went in on Thursday. The move in date was set to Friday. I left AZ on Thursday afternoon and when cleaner sent invoice, I called tenant to make sure it was clean to her satisfaction. Apparently, they thought they could leave in a hurry and did not finish up too well in the kitchen. They offered to go back Friday morning but my tenant said it was fine and agreed to return the home clean when she moves out.

Had it only been a month he owed and had it not gone to court, the cost would have been only $1400 rent, $439 filing fees, $166 locksmith fees to include new mailbox key, $30 new garage door opener, $825 moving and cleaning fees (not counting the $165 I would have paid for gutters and blinds). Total $2860 and I had a $1700 deposit. I was actually out an extra $1591 due to lost rent and the extra court date of $450. I sent the 5 day notice on March 21 and I got the house back April 24. I had over a week delay due to my tenant showing up for court, they normally don’t do this. And then I should have been able to get my house back on the 19th of April if lawyer had filed paperwork on time. My first eviction had a few more items damaged, we changed carpet, repainted, and fixed a few things around the house, in the end this one only cost me about $3000 in repairs. My second one was pretty minor. Mostly what is found is what I mentioned here. I have been lucky not to get the angry tenants damaging on purpose. But that is why it is so important to screen tenants.

After all of this, one decides if to take them to court for what is due. Normally, I let it go because most of it is covered under the deposit they left. But I was on a cruise to Asia and decided to wait until my return to send the notice. I was 20 days late in sending it and with all the delays I am going to have my home back approx one month and a couple of days after sending the 5 day notice. I don’t regret it. I was enjoying myself and decided it was not worth stressing about it but it cost me getting him out well into the 2nd month he was late.

Although my contract states I can keep deposit if they move out early, by law I have to apply deposit to judgement due. My lawyer suggests to write into a lease that you are giving them a discount on rent and that if they default on the lease they have to pay back the discount. That way, you can keep deposit for your troubles. My lawyer can file to garnish wages in a percentage basis for what he is able to get back to you. What is the process like, Is it worth garnishing wages? Not to me.

This is why evictions complicate everything: Normally, I can show the home when I get a 30 day notice to vacate from a tenant. This gives me the right amount of time to get a new qualified tenant. In fact, my normal process is I move out one tenant on the 31st of the month and I move the new tenant in on the 1st, the very next day. It has been my experience that I can always have someone ready to move in even the next day after showing the home but these tenants are normally desperate tenants that are not quality. The good tenants are responsibly looking approximately a month before move in and they sign a lease with enough time to give their 30 day notice to their current landlord. Or if they were given a 30 day notice, the good tenants are looking and secure a home right away with a move in date at least 20 days after they sign a lease. These tenants don’t typically get turned down from an application unless there just were so many qualified renters, but they plug away and find something quite rapidly anyway. I will say the rental market has been extremely difficult for even good tenants because the demand is higher than supply, but nonetheless, most good tenants have backup plans and move in with family while they look, not having to move in the very next day they contact you.

Therefore, it is safe to say that for the best scenario, one wants to market the home 30 days prior to it being vacant. With an eviction, that means you will most likely have a vacant home for weeks before someone moves in costing you even more than the judgement against your former tenant.

These are the things I did on my 3rd eviction that could either be considered worrying before you should worry or good ideas:

  1. I contacted utilities to see if a stop order had been issued to know if he was still in the home.
  2. Advertised the home for rent as soon as I knew the court date was up and coming for the judgment. I got a ton of people wanting to view the home, and I told them the situation on a cut and paste email or text message. The ones that hung around got to apply once I had the judgement in hand. Most wanted to view the home, one man was willing to take the home sight unseen. He was not the best man but I had a deposit and application and a move in date for approx 5 days after I was suppose to get home. Because I knew it could have delays, he was told that the move in date could be delayed and I would not be liable for any fees incurred by him for it. I also would not charge him until move in date but he must move in when the home is ready after the scheduled move in date of contract. The reason I decided to do this is because even though I could have gotten someone more qualified, I did not want an empty home when dealing with an eviction. Plus being out of state, it made sense for me to deal with possible problems later and get him in now. I vetted him and he has been making on time payments for 5 years so mostly that was what matters. The main issue is a 200 lb dog. I rationalized this because it will be time to change my 13 year old carpet by the time he moves out and really it would be time now. Here is how it paid off. Having a vested interest, my new tenant informed me that he went to the house and utilities seemed to be turned off due to doorbell not ringing. He spoke to neighbors and found out my tenant had been moving out starting Thursday and through the weekend. I confirmed with utilities they were shut off and the day I got the writ, I had them turn utilities on which took about a day having them on for cleaners to work. This helped me because I would have needed to pay all the utility turning on fees in order to clean up the home promptly.
  3. I had a locksmith on hold for the time it would be served.
  4. I contacted cleaners to also have an idea of schedule
  5. I contacted handyman who would walk through home and do the move out if needed. This handyman also was going to do the carpet cleaning and stretching. But when he quoted me the price, I went with a company for about half the price.
  6. I contacted the constable to get an idea of his schedule but never got a call back. They don’t seem to call back until they have a writ in hand so this did not help.
  7. I called the court to find out lawyer had not filed writ even after he said it was filed. Followed up and put pressure on them to file.
  8. I called a landscaper to get a sense of schedule but was not so concerned because work can be done after a move in when it is outside of the house.
  9. I called animal control to find out what would happen if a dog was left at the property as I would not be able to take care of it. I called twice. One lady said they come to the home to pick up the animal. The other lady said they don’t pick up and it would need to be taken to their shelter. She said there was a surrender fee and then there would be fees for the owner to get him back. I am not sure who was right, but these were things I thought of not knowing if my tenant would have moved out by the time the constable shows up.
  10. I found out what I would need to legally do with the items left behind. I sent my tenant one last email to let him know I was taking things to storage and there would be fees involved if he did not pick up his stuff in 2 days. Never heard back.

So what did I do with the stuff left over? Lawyer solution, leave items in the garage if the home will not be inhabited and call the tenant to pick them up within 14 days. In my case I was renting the home 2 days after I got it back. That would require renting a storage unit, moving the items, waiting the 14 days, cleaning out the storage unit, and paying moving and dump fees. If the tenant wants their stuff, they have to pay the moving and storing fees so it is unlikely they will ever contact you again. Instead, I asked my new tenant if it was ok to store the items on one side of the garage until the 14 days were up. I asked them not to touch anything for 14 days. I next would have posted an ad on Craigslist with pictures saying it is free but only if you take it all. Everything would have been out the day I posted it. Most people would have paid a handyman to take it to the dump. My tenant actually said she would dispose of everything. There was enough stuff of value in there for her that she figured she would throw away what she did not want.

Tenants being evicted could cause great problems to plumbing etc. Most likely they don’t because you did a background check, they aren’t criminals, they just are in a bad financial situation. If they damage your home, you can go after them for the cost of fixing and depending on the cost, it could be even criminal charges.

 

Things to do in Shenzhen

Shopping

Huaqianbei Electronic Market

We got off the train at Huaqianbei stop. We went into a building the first building we walked straight and turned left onto a shopping street. On the left right away was a building where we used the escalators to explore the floors. They had computers, adaptors, usb plugs, and so many small parts. Then we went into another building that had projectors, and everything you could think of. Across the street was a building with everything for cellphones. The prices were great. You could ask for lower prices. We paid under one dollar for popsocket, glass for cellphone, etc.

Luohu Market

This was right next to the exit into Hong Kong. The market was indoor with a bunch of dirty looking stores. They had knock offs displayed in their stores, they had clothing, shoes, luggage, jewelry, and pretty much anything you could think of. The prices were very good but you did need to bargain.

Dongmen Market

I think I liked this market much better than Luohu Market because it was prettier and much larger. You had the street stores that had good prices and you also had higher end stores where you would pay more. It also had a food area that disgusts me. Chinese food with squid and octopus looking stuff next to other food makes even ice cream sound gross because it is being served next to the grose stuff. It had someone selling more fried bugs than the famous Wangfujing street in Beijing. She had snakes, and yes the scorpions too.

I feel that with the three above markets, there is no need to visit Guangzhou because the prices can be had that are close to the same with bargaining and shopping for the sales. The exception would be the wholesale market in Guangzhou if you are buying wholesale. The retail prices in the wholesale market are similar to what you can get in these shops.

Link City

These shops were underground in the metro of our hotel stop. They were in a cleaner mall. There was nothing spectacular about the mall. Just that it was an underground mall that seemed to go on to the next metro station and in comparison to the markets seemed clean. They had food as all malls seem to. We liked a Japanese restaurant. It was nothing spectacular but anything other than Chinese and Mcdonalds etc is good to eat. We enjoyed playing around in a kid zone arcade place and the kids rode around the mall on kid motorcycles.

Coco Park

This had an outdoor area where kids could do a net jungle gym thing. They sometimes have events on Saturday night with music I heard. It was a nicer looking mall than Link City because of this little outside area that lights up. The inside was more shopping underground with the metro. Shopping Park seemed to be the stop.

Splendid China

We went to Splendid China and did not love it. It was a fun day out but I think I would have rather gone to the safari park. We rented little scooters for one hour and it was very expensive for 3 of us to do it. I would have rather done the train ride because it goes through the path of all the park and you can get a quick look at everything. The scooters went slower and although you could stop along the way which the train does not allow, you did not have time to. We did not cover the whole park in the hour and we made limited stops. It would have been best to walk it or pay another hour but the cost was high per hour. We saw some of their free shows. We also saw the horse show that we paid 30 rmb for per person because it was a weekend. They are free on non holiday weekdays. The kids really enjoyed it although it was only in Chinese. I didn’t care for it so much.

Things to do in Guangzhou

Shopping Areas in Guangzhou

We were recommended these areas for shopping:

Shang Xia Jiu – get off at Changshoulu on Line 1

Someone said this is the best place to go and don’t need to go anywhere else.

Beijing Road – get off Beijing Lu on line 6

Tianhe Plaza for clothes

Bai Ma – get off Guangzhou Railway Station line 5

This has knock offs and it is better for wholesale prices

Beijing Road

What an experience. It is a regular outdoor shopping mall, but then, almost immediately we were approached by a man with laminated cards of knockoffs. He took us into alleys and areas of secret stores where you could buy fake shirts, purses, shoes, luggage, backpacks, etc. The mall had nice shops but we didn’t go into any of them.

Bai Ma Wholesale Market

This is just off the metro exit and it seems as though it is all underground because you access it from the street and head to the basement level but then you just get lost with all the floors. It has clothing and everything you could need wholesale, including mannequins. The retail prices here seemed as good as the prices you can get in LA when you buy wholesale there, or as good as bargain shopping in American stores. Therefore, it was not worth the trip to China for it. However, if you were there to buy wholesale I could see that their prices would become good. We did not buy wholesale, so we do not know.

Shang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Street

This was an outdoor area with shops. The prices were fine but cheap in quality. We did not love this shopping street. We bought a pair of tennis shoes for $15 dollars and had to throw them away because they were no good after one or two times of trying to wear them. Maybe their $30 dollar shoes would have been better. They were for my daughter so I never spend more than that on her good quality shoes with coupons at Kohls or outlet stores so I did not see it as a shopping destination.

Tianhe Plaza

This place was amazing because it was cute and clean. It was an indoor mall that was underground. The shops were regular prices. Things seemed to be as much as you could buy them in America. We took a little train around to see some of the sites. They had peacocks in a cage. And they had I think wax people and different things around. It was cute. The most amazing part of this was doing a virtual reality game. Mostly you have to pay by wechat for things but there was an attendant that let us pay cash. It was amazingly real. We did a skiing game and could not believe how much fun it was. I thought I was going to fall, a man almost fell doing it and the attendant kept having to hold him. At first I thought I was seeing a drunk Chinese man, but after playing could totally see it was normal.

Chimelong Safari Park and Chimelong Circus

You can buy tickets together to save some money or buy them separate.

Haizhu Wetland Park

We went to the park to watch dragon boat races because it was dragon boat holiday. It was a waste or our morning to see just that but it was nice to see what dragon boat racing is all about. It just took us a long time to get there and then we walked through the park because we did not know to just go to the north entrance. The park was pretty and we saw a lot of different trees. It was large and had a lot of walking area. We paid something small like 20rmb or something to enter. I would not recommend going there but we enjoyed it.

 

 

What to do in Beijing

Blind Massage

In China they help the blind to be employed and teach them a very good massage method.

This was awesome! But incredibly difficult to find. I googled and found places but the taxi drivers could not find them. We actually got dropped off at an amazingly cool mall that had art sculptures so enormous you rarely see stuff like this even in art galleries. This is what taxi drivers do, they drop you off wherever they want when they can’t find the place. I walked and my gps never found the spot.

I tried another location and a Chinese man helped me. He called the place for me and verified it was the right address. He gave the address to a taxi driver who refused to take me. The Chinese man said he would call a car for me with his account. He paid for it online and would not let me pay him back. He was incredibly sweet. When we got to the location, that car could not find it but I had him call the business with my Chinese cellphone and he was able to find it. When I got to the building I had to call and with my broken Chinese say I am here. They said wait a minute in English and came down to unlock the door to the multi story building.

You stay fully clothed and they use a towel over any area they touch when massaging. You are in a room with multiple beds. When I went there were two others getting a massage with me but you can make reservations to have more. He went up and down next to my spine on each side and would stop at pressure points. That was my favorite part. It was a full body massage for 120 rmb. It is good to make reservations as they don’t always have someone available. They did for me because we called ahead trying to find the place.

A side note, I use my translator app for everything. When I got there I was talking to the woman there and showed her my phone for her to read with a question I had. She said, ok speak slowly and then I realized, I am at a blind massage place, she is blind. A kind man who saw my idiot moment helped translate and later showed us to a dumpling restaurant near by and helped us order food.

Temple of Heaven

This was very enjoyable because we went there when it first opened and we got the audio guide as we walked aournd. The audio guide pretty much was bad. But we watched local Chinese people playing with these balls as they excercised and would kick them to each other. There were others excersicing to music doing different movements. The temple itself was nice to see and walk around. The best part was there was no crowd. Once we were there too long, the crowd came and I did not care to wait in line to see the inside of the buildings and we left.

Forbidden City

Hated most every moment due to the heat and the crowd. It was awesome to see but not worth it for me. I wonder if we got there early if it would have been better. We got there at 10 am and it was already too crowded. A woman old me we could not get tickets unless they were prebooked online so I left the others behind to investigate. It took me an hour to get back to them because I could not exit where I entered. The woman was wrong and you can get tickets there but you must have your US passport with you. There is luggage storage at the entrance and also before we enter. We left ours once inside and it was at the exit waiting for us when we reached it. There were way too many sweaty bodies for me to struggle seeing the inside of the buildings and the audio guide was just ok. If I was there with less people, I would have absolutely loved it though because it is an enormous city used by the emperors and the stories behind it were incredibly interesting.

Great Wall of China

Hike from Zhengbeilou Tower part of Jinkou to Mutianyu tower #14 to take cable car or tower #6 to take toboggan down

We took the 916 Express bus to Huairou Bei Da Jie. When there, we hired a van that took us to XiZhaZi village. He dropped us off and said go up then right. We followed signs that said leave no mark and followed a trail hoping it was the right one. We figured we were on an adventure and would make it there. We did see red ribbons tied around on our way to the tower. We got to Zhengbeilou tower and it was clear which of the two walls to take toward Muntianyu because it was in better shape. We braved an over 5 hour hike. We had lots of stops and kids with us. They all were capable of the hike, even my 7year old. This was an amazing way to experience the Great Wall and I would not have done it any other way. Most of the time when we were in the unrestored section we were alone except for a few others braving the trail. This is the Jiankou section. At times we had to hold on to the wall so we would not slip. Once we got to Muntianyu we saw many more tourists and the wall was in great shape although still had up and down walking. You can take a cable car down from the wall to get to the entrance area but we opted to go another 40 minutes to the toboggan. It is quite expensive for 6 of us but it was fun. Would have been more fun if the lady in front of us did not stop as much. We just wanted to go fast but not often got the chance. You are not suppose to stop but the people in front of you do what they want. And there are a lot of people in front of you. Kind of sucked. There is an information building that can give you details for a bus you can take into town from there to catch the 916 back but we opted to pay a little more and have a car drive us so it would be faster.

Wanfujing Street

This is a must. Scorpions on a stick and who knows what other fried bugs you can eat. They had some little shops with cheap souvenirs as well and local food you can eat.

Hutongs

We enjoyed seeing the ancient architecture in the deteriorated condition that people still live in. We ventured from the converted hutongs that are shopping and saw the living quarters. The shopping area did not dissapoint in the architecture either. Things seemed a bit cheaper there although we were not there to shop. We all got a 30 minute foot rub in one of the shops. Mine just plain hurt the whole time and I loved it thinking it would do some good in the end. The others were hit and miss. I think to give us all one at the same time, they pulled people from areas not trained in massage. My 10 year old Isabella said hers tickled, and my husband said his lady was probably disgusted by his feet because she hardly massaged. The taxi guy we got to go there was horrible. We were at the railway station and he took us a different direction to try to get more money on the meter. I confronted him when it had gotten to 118rmb and told him to let us out. He said, ok ok and I pointed to the meter and he said ok and he turned it off. We should not have paid even 100rmb but I paid him what the meter said. I am just glad I had my gps on to confront him or we would have paid much more.

Quanjude Roast Duck (Wangfujing)

We went to the first ever Peking Duck restaurant. It is very famous and a must try in Beijing although we did not love the meal. It was greasy and nothing special. The presentation was great and we very much enjoyed it. The price tag is high. They cut up some of the duck and give you the rest to take home. We did not have a reservation and got right in. I put the address in the gps and made it there from the metro station. 13 Shuaifuyuan Lu, Wangfujing, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China (Tian’anmen / Wangfujing

Chaoyang Theatre, “FLYING ACROBATICS SHOW”

This was a very enjoyable show. It was nothing like a Las Vegas production but the talent was amazing. The kids can bend their bodies more than what is natural. They ride a bicycle and climb on each other as one person pedals. They have too many motorcycles enter a round cylinder. They have the famous Chineses stacking of chairs as a person climbs up the chair tower. It was nice. You can get discount tickets if you get them online from their website or you pay full price at the door. They don’t sell out. This is the address: 36 North East Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing

 

What to do in Luoyang

Shaolin Temple

It is in Dengfeng, about a 1.5 or 2 hour ride from Luoyang. You can also get there from Zhengzhou. There is a bus that takes you direct to Shaolin temple from Luoyang for 25 rmb each way. You take that from the Luoyang Bus station that is right next to the main Luoyang train station. It is difficult to communicate with them as some of them were telling me there was no direct bus, but I think it is because one of the pushy guys trying to sell me his van service told her to tell me that. Eventually I got them to say there was an 8 am bus and one around 11ish. There are other buses that take you to the area.There were 6 of us so we opted to pay someone 360 rmb to take us there. The only dissapointing thing was he gave us 2.5 hours to be there and it was not enough for us. I am pretty certain he would have agreed to longer for the same price. Another woman I was able to negotiate to 300 rmb but I could not find her. They start out at 400 to 500 rmb. We were able to see the Shaolin Kung Foo Show and go to the Shaolin temple and Pagoda forest in the time we had. There were other areas and cable cars that could be visited as well. This is the first Kung Fu temple in China and very much worth the visit.

Longmen Grottoes

These are amazing grottoes and Buddahs that were carved out of a mountain by different emperors. Many of the carvings took about 25 years to complete. Regular people were able to carve out grottoes and Buddahs on the mountain also but theirs were not so impressive. Luoyang was the capital of China for longer than Beijing has been so this is truly an experience to visit. There is a temple there too but the stairs were daunting after all the walking we have done so we did not chooe to explore it.

The city was cleaner and less congested than Beijing. I feel we could have explored it more. They had some fun things kids could do in some of their shopping malls.

What to do in Xian

Terraccotta Soldiers

We took a tourist bus 5 (306) from the main railway station. The cost is 7 rmb per person. There is an impostor bus that lures you to go to their bus making you think that is the right bus, it takes you there but who knows what they charge. It takes about an hour maybe to get to Terracotta Soldiers. We did not bother going to the Mausoleum as the tomb of First Qin Emperor is not yet uncovered so it is a waste of 2 or so hours to take the free shuttle from the Terracotta Soldiers. Bingmayong is the word that means Terracotta Warriors in Chinese. This is what I used to make sure we were going to the right place. When buying our tickets I asked if there was a student or child discount, the lady said no but Clark was free. Then I ended up paying less than the adult fare but more than what the tickets said as she did end up giving me 2 of the kids at the half price student discount. I am pretty sure we communicated correctly and she pocketed the cash or totally messed up on calculating it. I don’t speak enough Chinese to argue so let it go. The Terracotta Soldiers were fantastic to see as it is a huge piece of Chinese history. I suppose my kids were tired and ready to go home but when told about the story of it where the emperor buried alive the people who worked on it so that nobody would discover his army that would protect him in the afterlife, they were fascinated with questions.

Bicycling the ancient city wall

Zhu Yuanzhang emperorbegan building the wall in 1370 to fortify the city and store food. Bicycling is a nice break from all the walking one does as a tourist. We rented 3 tandem bikes on top of the wall for 270 rmb and each adult took a child on their back. At first the kids were pedalling so hard we did not have to pedal. They tired and halfway through were not helping so much but we made it through. It was an 8.7 mile ride. It took us about 1.5 hours to go around. Starting from the South gate was spectacular as it has large, impressive shops like Gucci prior to entering the South gate. The kids were super tired and wanted to go to the hotel prior to going but once we got on the bike, their energy returned and they all were so glad to do it. Along the way there was ancient architecture to look at on both sides of the wall. Many times we stopped to take a closer look.

Water show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda

This show is not as mesmerizing as the Bellagio in Vegas, or the Barcelona water show we have seen. The area was large but there were not too many lights or surprises. I am glad we went and it was enjoyable. We sat listening to the music and viewing the water dance with the Pagoda in the background. We went to the 9pm show. I don’t feel like it is a must do thing in Xian but it is a nice peaceful thing to do.  Did I say peaceful? Well, only if you have a nice view. We showed up 45 minutes early and all the sitting spots around the fountains were taken. There are no formal chairs but kind of a small little wall around the fountain area that you could sit on. I was not about to stand for that long so we ate dinner at KFC and then returned right when it was starting. There were so many people there, it was unbearable and I was ready to leave. I decided to walk around and found a spot where I could kind of see, mostly I was getting a few shots with my gopro stick. But then I lucked out and the people in front of me left so I was able to get a seat in the front. Then it was peaceful.

Bell Tower

We took a quick stop at the Bell tower. There are more things to do than what we did as there is shopping around there. All we did was get off the metro and look for a bus but we are glad we did. The bell tower is mesmerizing to look at, especially at night all lit up.

That is all we did, I wished we had time to check out the Muslim Quarters, that seemed interesting. And I would have loved to explore more of the architecture inside the city wall but some people may bore of it.