Ah the world expo! I'd been hearing about this since entering Yunnan province, near the other end of China. No matter where you are in China, it's impossible to NOT hear about this event. News and advertising is everywhere! Of course the closer I approached to Shanghai, the more the buzz intensified. Just like with the Olympics in Beijing, China seems to love being on the world stage, showing off what it can do and demanding perfection when the worlds eyes gaze its way. I have no idea when or where the last expo was but I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was in Shanghai and of course check it out. China expects that during the six month event period, over 70 million visitors will attend, most of them Chinese. The theme is "Better City, Better Life" because of the fact that a vast majority of the population lives or will be moving to urban centres, especially in China where city populations are exploding and innovative and effective ideas are required to make cities more liveable and enjoyable.
Marcus and Fabian came along with me and we went on a weekday hoping it wouldn't be too
busy. We were wrong. I didn't want to imagine what it'd be like on a weekend. Mind you the expo only opened its doors recently so many people are keen to visit regardless of the day. A vast majority of the worlds countries have pavilions showcasing themselves and their ideas. Sadly one day here was nowhere near enough. There were just too many pavilions, too many lines, and not enough hours in the day. We entered near the American pavilion and checked out some smaller Latin American and African countries (they had small line-ups). Many of these were tiny and unimaginative however. Chile had a nice pavilion, they documented their major earthquake, something China can relate to, and how they dealt with the aftermath. They also had a cam with a live feed direct from Chile, showing Chileans randomly going about their day. They were able to see us too, interesting perspective. We went to sample some international food and chose the Turkish Pavilion, which had an authentic restaurant within. We went in and sat down, looked at the menu, and then got up and walked out. It was a set menu for 150 Yuan, far too expensive, so instead
we went to Burger King and fattened up.
Next up, of course, I wanted to check out the Canadian pavilion, and pride aside, I was quite impressed with it and so were my friends. The exterior was covered in cedar and steel. Cirque du Soleil designed the concept and is supposed to perform there at certain intervals. Bombardier sponsored part of it as well. Apparently Canada was the first country to sign up for the expo. The pavilion focused on interaction, multiple projectors came together to create an oddly shaped screen showing different moments of life in Canada, the whole display made the experience fun and educational at the same time, which too many of the other pavilions lacked. People were even posing with RCMP dressed employees inside. While waiting in line, Canadian staff were on hand, I met this guy from Longueil, we chatted in French for a bit. The restaurant inside had Canadian beer and poutine on sale, at expected inflated prices. For a short time it really felt as though I was back home.
Next we tried visiting the German Pavilion for Fabian, but the wait was about three hours long, ditto for the Japanese
one, so we bypassed those. We visited the Swedish Pavilion and while there was good ideas showcased, the presentation came out flat, Marcus said he expected as much. We visited the joint European Pavilion, learning more about the European Union, and visited the Belgian one as well. We had a snack near the Sri Lankan pavilion and the kitchen door was open from the back of it, showing dozens of them toiling away, reminds me of work back home.
Although we weren't able to physically see many of the pavilions from the inside we walked the expo grounds and saw most from the outside, many of which were just as impressive to look at notably the UK pavilion, nicknamed the seed cathedral which is surrounded by thousands of acrylic rods that blow with the wind. Very original design. The Swiss, Indian, Romanian, Taiwanese and of course the outstanding and hallmarked building of the expo, the Chinese national pavilion. This pavilion resembles an ancient Chinese crown and at 63m high, it is the tallest building at the expo. All of the countries provinces are showcased within. I wanted to visit this one but an advanced registration is required but it
looks amazing from the outside. This is sure to become a distinguished and visited building in Shanghai for many years to come. There was also the expo cultural centre, which looked like a massive UFO. The biggest and most expensive pavilion, apart from the Chinese, was Saudi Arabia. It cost around 164 million to make it and resembled a large oil tanker with palm trees above.
By evening we ate some ramen noodles at a restaurant, then crossed to the other side of the river where corporate and theme pavilions were held. We checked out the SAIC-GM pavilion, they showed a video showing Shanghai in twenty years time from now and showcased their futuristic concept car known as the EV-N. Cool concept but doubtful that this will be the standard in only twenty years time. We then visited the Urban Planning Pavilion showcasing different city styles and cities of the future.
Finally, as the night was coming to an end, we took a stroll through the city pavilion section, of which Montreal was a part of. The Montreal segment featured how St Michel was transformed from being a landfill and then becoming a green space. Good to see
it representing. The day then came to a close as we walked back to the metro.
Overall the sheer size of the event was impressive. I was wondering if the expo would illicit certain ideas about freedom and against censorship but it seemed that for the most part many countries were using the expo as a way to show itself to China and promote country interactions and hopefully eventual business, as we all know China is the up and coming power and many wanted to make a good impression to them. We heard that Denmark was the only country that even remotely criticised certain issues within China and only changed certain things at the last minute as to avoid the possibility of criticism. There was still a little too much propaganda for my liking, nonetheless most of the countries we saw had decent displays and ideas, whether or not there were ulterior motives to them.
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