Sunday, June 27, 2010

Expo is not equal to Haibaomania

Last week I finally made it out to the Expo. I guess Shanghai really has become somewhat of a hometown, since it took until my last week here to realize I had to do this most important and touristy of excursions.

For those who are not living in China, the Expo is the World's Fair, rebranded. It blows my mind that it's possible for people to not know what the Expo is, but then I have to remind myself that not everyone has spent the past year living in a constant state of Haibao propaganda. Just me and 1.3 billion or so other people. The Expo is an international fair with three different types of pavilions: National pavilions, corporate pavilions and theme pavilions. Each is supposed to in some way address the theme "Better City, Better Life." The Shanghai Expo covers over 5 square kilometers and hosts more than 190 countries and 50 international organizations.

Things got wicked busy at the end of the semester, so I only had one day to go to the Expo. I was there for six sweltering hours, and only managed to see the Pudong side. (The Puxi side has all the corporate pavilions, as well as some more NGOs). I also didn't manage to go inside any of the big ticket pavilions (Japan, Germany, USA, China, Saudi Arabia etc) because they had upwards of 5 hour waits. (Should you want to go to those, I advise showing up at 4 AM to get to the reservation machine in time. Not an exaggeration).

I entered through entrance 4, landing me at the top of section A - the start of the Asian pavilions. The Japanese pavilion was the first to jump out at me. It looks like some sort of purple amoeba submarine. Uzbekistan's was quite pretty, and I couldn't stop photographing South Korea.

But the first pavilion I went into was the other Korea. I saw it from across a river the previous weekend, and I was excited to get just that much closer to the Hermit Kingdom. I was prepared for it, since I've heard reports about the pavilion from others, but it was still a bit of a surprise that there were no Dear Leader statues or posters anywhere. You could buy several of his books though, and the jackets all bear his likeness.

Here's the inside of the North Korean pavilion:

And here's North Koreas' self-proclaimed motto:

North Korea was exciting because it's a place I will likely be unable to get to in the near, and even distant future. For that same reason, I also enjoyed visiting Iran, Iraq, Libya etc.

In the Middle East section I particularly enjoyed the UAE pavilion, which is (shock me) gold plated sand dunes. It’s line wasn’t anywhere near as long as the one for Saudi Arabia though. Saudi built the world’s largest IMAX and sunk $164 million dollars into a pavilion that will be torn down in October. Of course the non-money caring, communist Chinese tourists are THRILLED to check it out. 5 hours wait.

Other 5 hour waits:




Of the country pavilions I visited, I enjoyed New Zealand the most. Their pavilion was efficient (very short waiting time), both indoors and outdoors, visually entertaining, and it actually addressed the theme of Better City, Better Life. If you go, be sure to check it out.

The Netherland’s pavilion was super cute. Dubbed Happy Street, it was a raised spiral of a road with cutesy imitation homes poking out of it.

Egypt looked like a giant box of Nikes to me:

The architectural pattern photographer in me was really overly psyched about the expo. I was pretty giddy to shoot it after just following the construction during the build up, and several pavilions really delivered.









South Korea



I think, though, my favorite pavilion (visually) was Latvia. The close-up pattern shots didn’t come out looking very good (I was using my point-and-shoot and not actual film), but I could have watched that thing for hours (or at least many many minutes). It was a giant silver spiral. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but each of those squares is a small mirror hanging only by it’s top hinges. Whenever the wind blew, waves of shimmer shot through the pavilion. It was awesome.

Four months left to see the Expo! Get to Shanghai!

I’m not there anymore though…sad. Currently I’m being delayed delayed delayed in Chicago, en route to middle of nowhere New Hampshire. Expect a post on what I’m doing there, and/or a reflections on Shanghai post soon!


(P.S. I'm now in New Hampshire, belatedly posting. Feel free to write or call me here: 120 Howeville Rd. Fitzwilliam, NH 03447 or 603-585-3196. I don't have a cell phone)

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