Inner Circle

A Tale of Two Cities

Yeoh Siew Hoon travels to Dehli and Shanghai.

A Tale of Two Cities
Traffic was also surprisingly smooth and as we moved easily through honking cars, sleeping cows and speeding scooters, the driver explained our luck, “It’s late at night. Daytime is bad.”

As I landed in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport, just two days after I had left Shanghai, I became fully aware that these are the two mega cities that are reshaping the Asian social and economic landscape.

As different as they are, I sense the similarities – in the midst of rapid development and with boundless energy, a new generation aspire to better themselves.

Both anchored to deep, rich and ancient cultures, Delhi and Shanghai are where anything is possible, yet, some things are just immovable.

Landing in Delhi, I found immigration a breeze as there are now special counters open for those with e-visas, which is a major improvement from previous years.

In Delhi, I stayed mainly in the Gurgaon area this time. Traffic was also surprisingly smooth and as we moved easily through honking cars, sleeping cows and speeding scooters, the driver explained our luck, “It’s late at night. Daytime is bad.”

Luck must have been on my side because the ride from Shanghai airport to the city was equally smooth. Only instead of cows, loads of gleaming new cars whizzed by on a modern superhighway – a sure sign of a metropolis still on the move.

It’s hard to believe the changes that have taken place in both cities in the last two decades – Shanghai’s infrastructure is far more advanced than Delhi’s but you certainly see how globalisation has changed both places.

I spent time at a mall in Delhi and felt that I could be anywhere in the world, with the same names you see everywhere. Thankfully, there were still local brands around to remind me where I was – I never leave fab India without bagging some souvenirs.

In Xintiandi, it was Design Week and the streets were full of tourists (domestic and foreign) shopping, eating and drinking. Sitting at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, I tried to recall the last time I ate at his restaurant – was it in Vegas or Singapore – and for a time forgot that I was actually in Shanghai.

Such is globalisation: these days you do have to try harder as a traveller to seek out the places that remind you of where you are and why you have travelled to this particular destination.

This time in Shanghai, I deliberately sought out M50, the area that’s been transformed into an arts and design enclave. With chillier than expected temperatures for March, there wasn’t much else to do but to venture into the warehouses and galleries – into a world of eclectic art and design.

I enjoyed my wander through Building No 5, which was constructed in 1937, and was once the distribution house of a cotton mill. You won’t miss it – look out for the bicycle wrapped with cotton weave.

I also wandered into a furniture store with the quirkiest of pieces. I was almost tempted to make an impulse purchase – almost, because I wouldn’t know what to do with a giant yellow stuffed giraffe chair.

Globalisation also means you are no longer confined to eating Indian or Chinese fares only when in Delhi or Shanghai. In Delhi, I ate Thai and Japanese prepared by Thai and Japanese chefs, and in Shanghai, I tried Sproutworks, a vegetarian café/salad bar that serves wholesome soups, hearty salads, and creative rice bowls.

In both cities, service at luxury hotels such as Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel is exemplary. Staff in Delhi are always eager to please and will answer “No problem” to anything you ask; in Shanghai, they are so efficient that you never have to worry about anything being a problem.

I was asked to fill in the feedback form after a spa treatment in Shanghai. I marked “good” for everything, just one notch below “excellent”. The manager immediately came and asked how they could improve. I said, “No, no, you are good at what you do.” To that, she asked, “But how can we be excellent?”

 Book a two-night stay at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel from just 5,000 GC Award Points per night Back to Heart Talk 

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