When I landed in Beijing on the finale of the golden month of Autumn, it was an amazing and memorable experience right from the word 'go'.
Arriving in the midst of chilly Siberian winds sweeping the capital, the lady customs officer at the Beijing Capital Airport gave us a tough time.
With my nil knowledge of Chinese and the officer's scant knowledge of English, it became a comedy of errors.
Our inability to communicate with the people of this ancient city proved to be a forerunner for the events to unfold in the days to come.
My visit to Beijing, the capital of People's Republic of China proved to be eyeopener in every sense.
I have visited many national capitals in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America but this 800-year-old city is incomparable.
The city-state is 50 years ahead of us in every aspect and for India to catch with them is unimaginable.
Abounding in cultural relics dating back to thousands of years, that is nearly 200-800 BC, today Beijing stands apart as a vast industrial and cultural hub which is majestic and pristine amidst its sprawling parks and ancient gardens.
Skyscrapers vie with each other in beauty, oneness, architecture, and style but exist in complete harmony with the environment.
The infrastructure facilites including expressways, subways, flyovers, underpasses and alternative ring roads built in the wake of Olympics is mind boggling.
The past decade Beijing saw hectic construction activity for one of the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world.
Huge stadium complexes and housing facilities dot the green landscape of this city.
These edifices were built with contribution from Bellary when mine owners irrespective of their political affiliations made tons of money by exporting iron ore to China.
Infact, many building complexes were built by destroying traditional courtyard houses known as “Hutongs”, which existed in the old bylanes of this city.
Despite protest by people, the Chinese government went ahead with the demolition of age old heritage structures to accommodate thousands of athletes and officials for the month long sporting event.
My first glimpse of “Birds Nest” left me wonderstruck.
It clearly showed how keen the Chinese were to demonstrate not only their prowess in the sporting arena but also their remarkable advancements in the past few decades.
The People's Republic of China is also witnessing 30 years of “opening up and reforms”.
The visible signs of reforms is not just superficial but intrinsic too.
There has been a political will right from the times of Deng Xioping to Hu Jintao to carry out not only economic reforms but also social reforms.
Even today, the Chinese adherence to communist principles and ideals is visible in every sphere of life.
One can see thousands of rural folk flocking to the memorial of Mao in Beijing.
It has almost achieved the status of a shrine situated in front of the Tiananmen Square.
Another aspect, which struck me, was discipline and organised behaviour of the people, compared to Indians and South Asians.
A visit to any tourist or historical or heritage spots in China, one can see the local populace from a particular province visiting in a group, identifiable by their proudly displayed identity cards.
The group leader also carries a colour flag to maintain identity of their group.
They maintain discipline and decorum in important public places unlike Indians.
It is amazing to see such long queues when one is visiting the Great Hall of People, the Forbidden City or the Temple of Heaven.
The historical monuments in Beijing are clean, well maintained and not disfigured like the Indian monuments.
The Chinese take extraordinary pride in their cultural heritages and also present a united front to the world.
I saw China through the eyes of a young Chinese student, Li Jiang.
Having an alternative name “Alex”, she was a student of English literature studying in Beijing University.
Tall and fair, Alex was from Inner Mongolia based in the capital city for advance studies.
Most Chinese whom I interacted with, whether software engineers, journalists, or students, had alternative western names followed by their craze for learning English.
Isolated for decades from the changes in the world since the Red Revolution, Chinese now want to be accepted by the western world on any terms.
And, for this, they are ready to change their “identity” itself given by their families.
On being questioned, they say it is difficult for foreigners to pronounce the tongue twisting Chinese names.
The hotel where I was staying, the hospitality and the catering staff all had western names like Jack, Harry, Sophie and Mary.
Next week, I will take you around a few other attractions of this unique country along with an exciting trip to the Great Wall of China.
Till then, Bao Zhong (Take care).
Correct answer for last week's quiz is Caspian Sea.
Congratulations Jacob Mathias from Kormangala for giving the right answer Reader's Quiz: Which language do Chinese speak?