Well, I'm thoroughly pooped. Over the past couple of days, Dad and I capped off our 9-day Cathay Pacific China Experience tour by spending a couple of days touring the huge and impressive Shanghai World Expo 2010.
Featuring exhibits from 250 countries and international organizations spread across a record 5.28 square km, this year's World Expo theme is "Better City, Better Life", with participants endeavoring to showcase, "...urban civilisation to the full extent, exchange their experiences of urban development, disseminate advanced notions on cities and explore new approaches to human habitat, lifestyle and working conditions in the new century."
All this is to take place over 184 days stretching from May through until October 31 this year and is expected to attract over 70 million visitors during this time.
With something like 250,000 people expected to file through the turnstiles on each day Dad and I were to visit, we were bracing ourselves for LONG lineups and no doubt an amount of social claustrophobia. Luckily, we had some help on our side with the "powers that be" connected to our tour, organising transport to the Expo site from our hotel, and VIP access (basically skip the line-ups) for us to a selection of the most popular pavilions each morning of our 2-day visit.
Dad an I were thankful for the benefits our VIP inclusion brought about, but we also got a little frustrated with how much some of the group members pottered around in gift shops etc, thus slowing down the progress for the rest of us. We found ourselves breaking away from the pack early on both days, choosing to blaze our own trail as soon as we got the chance.
I could literally write the equivalent of 50 odd-pages of text describing all the amazing sites and sounds we encountered in the short space of time we had to explore the Shanghai World Expo 2010, but instead I'm going to provide a quick "official" description of some of the major pavilions we visited, followed by a quick couple of paragraphs on my take on each.
Here we go...
Canadian & USA Pavilions
🇨🇦 Canadian Pavilion
- Theme: The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative
- Highlights: C-shaped Structure
- National Pavilion Day: July 1
- Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
It was kind of ironic, and lucky for us that this was the first VIP stop for us. The line was HUGE, but we were shuffled in through a side door which was pretty cool. There was some weird stuff going on with us being told we were to say we were reporters or some such thing, but we shrugged off the confusion and walked around, taking in all that was on offer.
It's fair to say I wasn't blown away by the Canadian effort. The building architecture sure is impressive (see below), but the whole thing (content-wise) appeared, in my opinion anyway, to have been put together by people in the east of the country (Ontario & Quebec).
Everything I love passionately about the country - the mountains and the great outdoors lifestyle of the West Coast, really didn't have much representation at all (unless I missed it) and I think that was a real shame. After all, it's that kind of content that had me captivated, when Canada came to town back in 1988 when the World Expo was held in Brisbane.
🇺🇸 USA Pavilion
- Theme: Rise to the Challenge
- Highlights: Grey Steel Structure
- National Pavilion Day: July 2
- Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
Not surprisingly, the USA effort was pretty impressive. The two audio-visual displays were well executed, especially the second show which centered around a young girl bringing a community together to beautify an ugly part of their neighbourhood. The display had it all including simulated rain, as a mist fell from the ceiling above during one section, which literally had a number of Chinese audience members reaching for and deploying umbrellas. Yup, I'm not kidding...
Disappointingly, in true U-S-A fashion, the last section of the pavilion you are herded into before you can exit is a hall of commercialism. Each of the pavilion's commercial sponsors gets the chance to grab a pound of your flesh in a display that I just found to be tacky and unnecessary, on this scale at least, at an event like this.
🇬🇧 British Pavilion
- Theme: Building on the Past, Shaping Our Future
- Highlights: Seed Cathedral, Wrapping Paper
- National Pavilion Day: September 8
- Pavilion Area: 6,000 Square Meters
Well, if nothing else, the British Pavilion was unique. As described, the structure the Poms brought to Shanghai was a large mass of structured glass rods containing plant seeds. The rods also acted as a means of bending light into the interior of the structure creating a naturally lit cathedral of sorts.
I really didn't learn much about Britain while I was being wowed by the architectural brilliance, but then again, I lived there for 3 years – I probably wasn't going to be educated on anything new regardless.
🇮🇹 Italian Pavilion
- Theme: City of Man
- Highlights: 20 Functional Modules
- Designer: A design Team Led by Giampaolo Imbrighi
- National Pavilion Day: June 2
- Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
Bravo! Magnifico! Definitely one of my favourite pavilions at this year's Expo. Plenty to see and learn, the Italians certainly celebrate the best of Italy, showcasing a large number of arts, fashion, technology and products developed right across Italy. Dad and I explored every last inch of this impressive display and can highly recommend it as a must-see if you're lucky enough to make it to the World Expo this year!
🇦🇺 Australian Pavilion
- Theme: ImagiNation
- Highlights: Sculptured Curving Walls and a Red Ochre Exterior
- National Pavilion Day: June 8
- Pavilion Area: Around 4,800 Square Meters
Naturally, I'm going to be a little biased, but we Aussies did ourselves proud on this one. Being one of the biggest pavilions at the Expo and clearly receiving a considerable amount more funding than others, Australia's rustic looking contribution is a site to behold.
The pavilion is filled with a rich array of visual and multi-media displays showcasing everything from our unique landscape, historical milestone's, famous Aussies, technological achievements, and generally sold the outstanding lifestyle that all Aussie's enjoy.
Considering how long we lined up to get in, Dad and I were both suitably impressed... especially when we were able to get our hands on a few beers from back home which we sat and enjoyed after a long day of exploring just one half of the massive Expo grounds.
🇨🇳 Chinese Pavilion
- Theme: Chinese Wisdom in Urban Development
- Highlights: Traditional Dougong Style
- National Pavilion Day: October 1
Obviously, one of the must-see destinations at the Expo was China's impressive red inverted-pyramid-styled pavilion which housed displays from each of 30+ Chinese provinces and major cities. The whole thing was a visual feast for sure. After a quick walk-through, Dad wasn't feeling so great, so he headed outside to take a load off, while I headed back in to try and take in as much as I could over a couple of hours or so.
A couple of hours was more than enough time for me at this stage of the game. The sheer number of bodies pushing their way around the Chinese Pavilion was almost a little too much to take at times, and considering how Dad was feeling, I'm glad he didn't attempt to spend any more time in there.
The mind-set of the Chinese visitors was a little baffling to me at times. Like most other Expos in the past, each pavilion had a stamp that you could procure in an official 'Expo Passport' which was considered to be the quintessential tourist souvenir. With passports in hand, the Chinese seemed to be all about the stamps and nothing else. If there was a lineup anywhere, they would elbow and push their way to the front, race into the areas of interest (often against the wishes and instructions of pavilion staff) and then race through the displays, looking at and experiencing basically nothing, grabbing their stamp and racing onto the next lineup. Odd.
But anyway, needless to say, the Chinese Pavilion is a must-see... just be ready to tackle the crowds en mass!
🌏 Rest of the World
Like I said earlier, it would literally take pages and pages of text to cover all that we experienced beyond the major pavilions I have covered above, so to summarise I'm instead providing a selection of images from the other parts and participants of the Expo.
The whole "shebang" was delivered with an expertise and flair that I was certainly expecting from Shanghai and the host nation – China.
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: A Preview
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Cathay Pacific Hospitality
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Beijing
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Xi'an (Part 1 of 2)
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Xi'an (Part 2 of 2)
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Chengdu
- 🇨🇳 My China Experience: Shangri-La
Links & Credits
- All images // Rob Masefield
- Cathay Pacific China Experience Tours // cathaypacific.com
- 2010 Shanghai World Expo // wikipedia.org
- 1988 Brisbane World Expo // celebrate88.com