There are people in this world who have spent their lives building relationships and using their imaginations in places they have embraced like home. They have forged relationships so strong and have taught others how to continue doing it and maybe they can even expand on it. Pacific World, based in Shanghai but with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, and many other large cities in Asia, can make not just make things happen, they can make it seem like magic has been performed. Pacific World being able to make things be done is how our group was allowed to enter the Great Hall of the People across from Tianamen Square in Beijing. The only way to get into this particular building -- built in 10 months in 1958 along with ten other Beijing government buildings for the tenth anniversary of the founding of the country -- is with a police escort, which we had. (The only other time I experienced a police escort was when I was in the CTA Blue Line fire and they ran the last group needing medical attention on a bus operating as an ambulance and we had a police escort at the front and the back of the bus.)
|I was there.|
|Step over the threshold to keep ghosts out|
As we headed for our bus, what vehicle should I see but a Buick Regal with Chinese plates. GM could really get some mileage with a picture like that.
Our first Great Wall stop was at what I think was North Gate, a much smaller gate than Badaling but with easier accessibility to Beijing. Pacific World can put together a fantastic dinner right inside the gate with incredible lighting and your corporate banner hanging above. It's probably a drive of at least 45 minutes from Beijing, but being there for something like that would impress anyone.
Inside Beijing is a restaurant called Mansion Bai. It was a fortified home in the typical Chinese style of various buildings around a central garden that's been converted into a restaurant. All the young, lovely, educated women who work there wear authentic clothing (the soles are crazy miniballs of leather). Had it not been for the amazing connections of Pacific World, we wouldn't know this existed. It happened time and again, including Lan Center, an ultramodern restaurant with excellent traditional food.
Our other hosts were Cathay Pacific Airlines, with kind and accommodating flight attendants and lie-flat beds in First and Business classes and where economy travel is, well, economy but they are very pleasant; and Shangri-La hotels, with its deluxe rooms, great amenities, and gracious service. What I experienced was so lovely that I am pretty much spoiled for the rest of my life. Example: Shangri-La changes their elevator carpets every day to reflect the day of the week so their jet-lagged guests know what day it is. Example: Wake-up calls are given by people who ask "shall I call back in ten minutes?" and then they do.
|CCTV Tower, Beijing, my obsession|
So what have I learned? That there are many more people in the world than there were when I last visited Hong Kong in 1996 and Beijing at the end of 2003, respectively, and people are becoming more sophisticated in their tastes and desires. That knowing how to speak a little of another language -- be it French, Spanish, or Mandarin -- is never a bad thing. That I would love to put together a group trip and use Pacific World for the ground (great connections and knowledgeable guides who speak perfect English) and have the guests stay at Shangri-La properties (a choice of many and they are lovely and luxurious) and fly over on Cathay Pacific (biz or first, natch). That I could seriously put together something no one would ever forget.