Sep 21, 2010

Journey to the Middle Kingdom: World Expo

My first trip to China was back in 2003, when change was around every Mainland Chinese's mouth and the dragon, after being held in captivity under Maoist rule, is ready to dominate the world scene again.
My first impression was not good - the knick-knack sellers, petty touts, trishaw riders and every other Mainland Chinese who would go an extra mile to squeeze another dollar from your pockets. Mum and Dad was extremely nervous while I was having fun climbing the Great Wall covered in frost; they grumbled as the tour guide literally concord through the Forbidden City, while my sister and I scalded our tongues and bloated our bellies eating Made-in-China food.
So I made a vow to avoid China in my future travels, that is, even though it's the origin of my ancestry and roots of my culture. However, my classmate talked me into visiting the World Expo in Shanghai. "What is world expo?" I naively asked my classmate.
To sum up, it's a materialistic muscle flexing by each and every country on planet Earth showcasing their biggest and greatest. I hesitated for a few weeks because this journey would cost me my future MacBook Pro. My scholarship is already taken to its maximum allowable limit and I still have 3 more years to go until I graduate. So I talked to Dad about money, discussed with several of my classmates who are interested, and drew out a plan that would cost the least while maximize my time in the Middle Kingdom.
My first part will be a 26-photo report on the World Expo, the second will be of Suzhou, the third on Xitang and Shanghai the Bund at night.

Part I: World Expo

The design of the queue areas are meant to treat each and every visitor like cattle.

You practically S your way through thousands of people on several feet of ground before you get into the Expo Park.

Our first pavillion - Brazil - nothing interesting.

Second pavilion - Central and South America - boring. And by now we're tired by all the queuing and crowd jostling.

The exterior of Slovenia was very interesting, though we didn't queue for it.

By nightfall we were queuing for Russia, a 2.5 hour queue. As it was our first day we assumed anything above 2 hours is considered "exhausting". Japan proved us wrong the following day.

We managed to sneak into Belgium-EU Pavilion before closing time at 21.30.

I really liked this pillar where all EU member countrymen greet you in their own language and interact with one another.

The following day, my partner decided to buy an Expo bench from one of the many Expo tauts. This flimsy plastic cost 10RMB.

The cattle herd entering Expo Site at 9.30.

I figured since I can't go to Israel (Malaysians can't), I might as well visit Israel in Shanghai. It turned out to be a rewarding visit.

Queuing for one of the permanent exhibits in the Expo Site. Expo 2010's theme is showcased here. Looks like queuing is becoming a trendy feature in "better cities" and "better lives".

Queuing for Japan pavilion - 5 hours, the flight time from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur.

Japan pavilion is also one of my favorites - robot playing the violin, wall-sized LCD screens and a Japanese opera. It's both fortunate and unfortunate that photographing isn't allowed, though that didn't stop the Mainlanders from flashing away their brand new digitals.

UK Pavilion at night. I love UK the most.

The seed cathedral

My final day at World Expo began with waking up at 5am to queue for reservation tickets for China Pavilion. I felt like a refugee waiting for rescue teams - eating my miniscule breakfast in my 1-foot by 1-foot space.

After 4 hours of agonizing wait, running 50 meters marathons and crowding with ten thousand Mainland Chinese, we got this credit-card sized reservation tickets. "Why are we doing this?" I asked my partner. "Because we're here only once!"

Then we ran 3km to Germany Pavilion to cut the morning queues. Forgive me for this picture, because the one I took while queuing was subpar, having to replace it with this one I took on the first night.

France pavilion which I have no opportunity to visit.

Germany features Balancity - city of harmony and balance, which I quite liked. They end the visit with a 20-minute interactive energy ball.

After that my last pavilion - China.

清明上河圖 or Scenery of Upstream during Ching Ming (ancestor prayer day) is a big feature. Sophisticated animation made the 100-meter ancient painting alive.

Land of Hope features China's aspiration to becoming a green nation. Though I have to say much of it is for show only.

I have to say I disliked the Chinese pavilion because it's grossly overrated and basically exhibits are kind of showy without real practical value. They didn't much control the crowd thus complicating the entire experience. When it comes to queue cutting and rushing for places us 'foreign Chinese' will never beat them on speed nor spacial utilization.
My 3 days in the World Expo was fun, lethally tiring, and opened my eyes to how Mainland China and Chinese is progressing in terms of culture, technology, and sustainable resource management. I will not comment further as it involves personal interpretation of events, but do feel free to discuss with me via commenting or when we have the opportunity to meet.
Next up: the garden city - Suzhou.


yiu said...

great patience!

Anonymous said...

Thanks :)
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