Reporting liiiive from the Shanghai World Expo…
Okay, not live – but close enough. I was at the expo this past weekend (solely for research purposes, of course! Always thinking about you guys! :P ) and am happy to report the highs and lows, must-sees and should-avoids.
- With Haibao (meaning “treasure of the sea”), the expo’s mascot
First I’ll reiterate the obvious – don’t go on a weekend if it can be helped nor when the temperature is sweltering. There are many situations where you’ll feel like cattle, herded through gates and lines, and being pushed up so close to the people around you that you can feel the guy behind you breathing down your neck. No exaggeration.
This cattle maze is in anticipation of the line-ups to get into the expo grounds. We breezed through, but I shudder to think of it filled with people during a busy day:
- I hope no one ever has to line up in this…
I managed to see the inside of the following pavilions: Italy, Canada, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Australia, Belgium/EU, South Korea, Greece, Brazil, Switzerland.
In my very humble opinion, the ones out of that group worth waiting more than an hour for were:
Denmark: Probably my favourite pavilion out of the ones I saw. It had the Little Mermaid statue from Denmark (yes, the real deal!) and it achieved what the pavilions were set out to do – introduce the country and shine a positive light upon it, show its people and way of living, evoke desire to visit, and showcase the way it embraces sustainability and cares for the environment. Denmark did all this, with a beautiful, clean-looking pavilion to boot. I gained a good sense and feeling toward Denmark after seeing their pavilion. Here are some pictures I took:
South Korea: High-tech inside and visually interesting too. They’ve got a fun show featuring a story/video/music video type of short movie that mixes real-life and animation, ending with a dance performance.
Belgium (shared with EU): The outside of Belgium pavilion has stands selling Belgium fries, Belgium waffles and Belgium beer, so it’s a nice break. Inside is a bit too information heavy (lots of boards with writing), though I did learn that the Smurfs had a Belgian creator, as did Tin Tin. Apparently they also give out free Belgian chocolates, though we wasn’t lucky enough to be around when they were giving them out. Worth going for the food outside (plus there’s no line-up to get into the food area), but may not be worth actually going in.
- Get into the pavilion and get line bypass by going into the restaurants. We did this for Greece. There are select pavilions which have separate entrances for their restaurant. Their restaurant is always linked to the rest of the pavilion. So go in for a quick bite and then wander into the pavilion and save yourself 2+ hours waiting in line.
- Want to get out of the crowds? The theme of the expo is “Better City, Better Life”, so do check out the sustainability and better living area – it’s away from the country pavilions and doesn’t have the high-profile draw of the country pavilions, so it’s quite quiet, but has some really neat buildings and designs that showcase green living.
- The visual impact of the pavilion buildings do not disappoint. Especially when they are lit up at night.
- All the culture and festivities are inside the pavilions. Outside, while yes the pavilions look impressive, there is hardly any expo life (other than visitors) on the street. Would it have been so hard to put some fun stuff outside the pavilions for all those who just aren’t quite in the mood to wait 3 hours in line?
- Massive line-ups!!! I desperately wanted to get into Japan (heard it is awesome – it has a robot playing the violin!) but the line was a minimum of 4 hours. So skipped that.
- Also really wanted to see China, but it’s probably next to impossible to get into it unless you’re willing to start lining up outside the expo gates at 4am. Heard it’s worthwhile to see inside and that it’s actually quite interesting. They hand out 40,000 tickets daily with an allotted time for visitation. Some people scalp them, so you might be able to buy some if you’re lucky.
- There really aren’t as many performances as I had read that there would be. In Canada’s pavilion, we asked when the next Cirque du Soleil would be and were told that they come out whenever they feel like it and there really isn’t a set schedule. Right. We tried hanging around for a bit and even tried killing time by ordering a poutine. Alas, no Cirque. Thanks Canada.
My personal thought is that China has indeed been able to showcase to the world how advanced they are and how well their economy is doing. They do massive events extremely well and have the money to back it up (e.g. Beijing Olympics). However, one thing I’ve noticed is that somehow they lack some of the spirit and fun one would expect from major events. It’s almost like they’re too organized at times! Nonetheless, the expo is definitely something to check out and be prepared to be blown away by the sheer scope and scale of it. More on the expo later, as I’m still collecting my thoughts and sorting through pictures.