World Expo 2010. (Eiffel tower move over)

July 15, 2010

I remember vaguely a conversation back in campus, when me and Ben visited our Chinese professor bearing the good news of our acceptance in China. Sitting in her office at one point she mentioned that the timing was perfect to catch a glimpse of the World Expo in Shanghai. For some reason, due to our heads being over our heels we didn’t synchronise with the fact giving her a blank questioning expression. This was even worse as she was the one lecturing us about the London Expo, Crystal palace etc. in one of the modules. It all came back afterwards but i could sense a slight disappointment for a moment.
And here we were in Shanghai trying to enter the mother of all expositions, bigger, more expensive and with more visitors than any of its predecessors.

Trying to enter, connecting to little streams of people, who were then evolved into bigger rivers climbing escalators, passing security controls storming inside the expo in waves in a constant formation of a human sea. The surrounding area is humongous, i counted 5 different metro stations just leading to various entrances. 400.000 is the estimated number of daily visitors and this explains lines of 4-9 hours for the more popular pavilions, people make a living just by selling food to the massive lines of bystanders. Having only a few hours to spare there was no way we could see any big pavilion. So starting with the least popular ones we entered North Korea pavilion. In retrospect this was the wisest decision as it formed the absolute bottom line, after that everything else looked good in comparison. Pity for the North Korean architect who we imagined was given a pile of scrap and a tiny budget to create this crude abomination. Beauty was on details, outside a bulk plastered rectangle, looking closer you could see cracks, poorly formed structural elements, cheap print clouds, CCTV in the entrance (kudos if they put it as a decor, but i don’t think dictators allow sarcasm even in foreign soil). The Name plaque in front entrance was fixed in place with sellotape… Inside it was even worse, cold sterile, fake water with ugly miniature towers, a fountain with naked children releasing a pigeon!!?! illuminated with colourful lights, and a repetitive military anthem playing from the speakers. On the shop you could buy the whole collection of Kim Jong Il books, and traditional North Korean clothes. If i could judge a country by it’s pavilion then this one would be on the bottom of my travel destinations… (South Korea on the other side (literary it was positioned on the other side of the bridge, while North Korea was next to Iran…) was a completely different story.

We went to Iran just to compare, and after that we just browse around entering whatever pavilion was accessible with less than 5 minute waiting. (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Palestine). Getting tired with middle east we changed scenery into Asia and Europe. Australian pavilion had a massive queue, so we just tried to sneak peak through the entrance when a tall Australian security guy spotted us and let us in just because we were westerners! It was really interesting to see a well designed pavilion (after North Korea) and it was clearly visible that Australians spent a lot of money for this one. Running out of time we passed quickly through the world, notable architectural entries were Taiwan, Japan (photo on top) Spain, Portugal, Scandinavian Countries, UK and others i can’t recall right now. Through sheer mental pressure (pointing out that i am Greek) to the Chinese chef of the Greek pavilion we managed to sneak inside bypassing the queue for one more time. It was an interesting surprise as i expected the usual touristy stuff topped up with olive oil feta cheese, ancient ruins and turquoise waters. There was cheese and olive oil and other culinary specimens on display, but there were other spectacles also, things that transcended a more real image of Greece. Various video feeds projected multiple screens with common themes, like doors, kiosks (περίπτερα!) squares and places you experience in daily life. There was even a projection in a big screen with traffic congestion in Kiffisias avenue, dirty and real, with motorbikes, mopeds, ambulances and horns! that was bloody surreal, watching these familiar images from the other side of the planet. Another nice stroke was the sound of cicadas on a fake tree. Not bad, although the exterior was just a crude rectangle.

Now it was Ben’s turn to put us inside the British pavilion, (the line was just ridiculous). After having spot a freckled English security girl he proceed with the puppy eye routine (topped up by the fact that we were soaking wet from the constant rain). Total failure, as the British honour and respect the Q. Exhaustion kicking in and a train to catch forced an early leave, but for sure you can’t see the expo in one go. Walking towards the exit route we were stopped twice just because people wanted to take a photo together with the white foreigners, argk! A visit to the fake market was informative, haggling for a better price is like bread and butter for the Chinese shopkeepers who stock everything fake, from golf clubs to ipads, watches, tuxedos and high (fake) fashion. Ben overzealous stocked up on fake stuff and haggled like a prince making shopkeepers perform wild “are you crazy” gestures.

Train back home on a standing ticket was not the most pleasant ride. Splt with Ben to grab a cab to the other side of the river, now i might be a white laowai but i am not necessary a walking stupid wallet, so when Ben popped up (apparently he took a mini bus that circled around looking for more customers) i had a lovely chat with his driver trying to find a fair price, his suggestion was 100RMB mine, 35, he dropped at. 80! 35!!! , 70! 35%ӣ%. sick and tired i managed to find an electric scooter with 30RMB and as we cruse silently through the night i question my choice making crazy abduction, body part black market scenarios until we reach the bridge that marks the known territory. Electric scooters are not famed for their power so as the road gets steeper the motor stops and the driver starts pedalling furiously till the top, through the night and on to the bored guards at the entrance of my complex.

More photos from the World Expo here!


2 Responses to “World Expo 2010. (Eiffel tower move over)”

  1. Katerina said

    I enjoyed your take on the exibition!
    As for Greece, it was like that on the exterior because the had one of the ready-made constructions as I heard..

  2. Mitch said

    I want to know whats in the British Pavillion
    when you have time, go back and take photos =]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s