Shanghai World Expo (2), 2010

Day 2 of the World Expo was about taking it easy; instead of trying to cram some crazy 9 pavilions like we did they day before, we went to about 3. Slowly walked through the World Expo arena, picking out what caught our eye. Switzerland’s pavilion was interesting: a rabbit. Not quite sure what they were going for, but it catches the eye!
shibuo2Italy got pretty artsy with scattered orchestra chairs glued onto the sides of the wall, giant shoes off another, and a Scooby-Doo-esque van as another showpiece. A spiraling exhibit made Holland’s pavilion unique. Of course, the one pavilion that could not be ignored was the UK’s pavilion of needles. Known as the “Seed Cathedral”, it housed 250,000 plant seeds at the end of 60,000 acrylic rods. Seeds collected from around the world. While it may have looked cool from the outside, it wasn’t tempting enough for us to spend 5 hours waiting in a line.

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For such a big event, the World Expo had a surprisingly tasty array of bites for the hungry traveler. Pickled persian cucumbers thinly sliced and rolled up like sushi. Tofu with fried, crispy skins and stuffed with woodear and shiitake mushrooms. A drizzle of sesame oil on top. And my Shanghainese mistress: glazed red dates stuffed with 糯米 ‘luo mi’, or glutinous rice/sticky rice.  Our last venture was through the Middle Eastern pavilions, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

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Much like the rest of the pavilions at the expo, they were beautiful on the outside without much content on the inside. I had no idea what was going on for the 5-10 minutes we sat in the dark with glowing discs before us. I honestly can’t recall a tidbit of what transpired in any of the exhibits we visited, other than the few visual images provided by my photos.

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Still, it was fun. A long day. Upon entering the cafeteria, I saw tables packed with weary tourists, slouched over and snoring peacefully. Children slept on their mother’s laps. We concluded our time in Shanghai with a boat cruise down 黄浦江, or the Huangpu River. A different perspective than what I had seen from the docks. To sail past the iconic buildings of Pudong in their glittering lights, a la Vegas, was beautiful to behold.

 

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Shanghai World Expo, 2010

上海世界博覽會–Shanghai World Expo–was the biggest event in China for all of 2010. Over 250 countries participated in the giant exhibition, with a record 73 million attendees over the duration of the expo. Most of them were Chinese, which explained very much why all the national pavilions’ representatives spoke in Chinese and why all the signs and brochures were in Chinese. The average wait per pavilion was a jaw-dropping 5 hours, so most could only make it through one or two pavilions per day. Walking around the enormous 5.3 square-kilometer complex meant stumbling through undulating seas of people, litter, and tiny stools brought by visitors smart enough to think of bringing them so they wouldn’t have to spend the entire 5 hour standing.

Fortunately for me, my mom was friends with one of the coordinators for the World Expo, so we had VIP passes for 8 pavilions of our choice. Yay!

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The China pavilion was interesting, to say the least. Beautiful, complex, multi-facted. Yet I struggled to find a theme that tied everything going on together. The “It’s A Small World”-eque ride through the pavilion was enjoyable though. Australia was very aboriginal–woven columns, wood carvings, cave figurines of hunters. My favorite pavilion was the Taiwan pavilion, since we got to make our own sky lanterns–more interactive than the other pavilions were. We didn’t go into the Thailand pavilion, but the outside was an impressive replica of the royal palace in Bangkok.

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Coolest exhibition was Spain’s, whose pavilion was modeled after a woven basket. You walked through a long passageway where flamenco dancing was reflected off the walls. The aesthetics of each pavilion were very impressive–except maybe the USA’s. It was a little like softened brutalism for me. But hey, we had cool sunglasses. What I feel like the entire expo lacked was the culture of each nation; everything was geared towards a Chinese audience, and it would have been more engaging for me if the music, language, smells, and sights of each nation were emphasized more.

A small lunch tided us over for the long day of waiting in lines (even with VIP passes) and walking through a complex miles across.

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Sweet and sour eggplant, lightly-fried and tossed in some soy sauce. And a bean curd skin roll stuffed with pickled vegetables. Omnom.

Shanghai, Pudong, 2010

shanghaitrainA morning train from Hangzhou to Shanghai. It was fascinating spending an hour at the gate, observing all the travelers waiting for their journey to begin. Chinese culture is so different–people just care significantly less about social propriety. Shoes off, legs and feet dangling over the backs of chairs. Clipping toenails as other travelers walk past. So normal in Asia, yet completely frowned upon in Western culture. Didn’t capture the worst offenders, since I felt it’d be too obvious… Continue reading