Expo-ring in Shanghai

Late on Sunday night, after much chaos regarding our passports (which were still in Hangzhou getting visa extensions) we left for Shanghai to see the Expo because it closes at the end of the month. Next Tuesday is our Halloween Party so we couldn’t go then so this really was the last chance.

Most Chinese people I’ve met are very proud of the Expo and although I hate crowds I convinced myself that to be in China when it’s on and to not go would be missing an opportunity. Because of security concerns, all buses in to Shanghai are stopped and the passengers get their ID checked. We’ve heard that this doesn’t happen on the trains, or in cars, so it seems rather odd to me that they assume a potential terrorist will ONLY travel by bus, but less and less surprises me here now.

Anyway, we arrived late and were met by my uncles housekeeper. We were staying at his flat because hotels were all sold out apart from the ones which don’t have licenses for foreigners. He has a beautiful apartment and my bed was so comfortable that the journey was worth it for two wonderful nights sleep, cooked breakfasts and a couple of proper showers!

So, the Expo. I was actually not looking forward to it really and the closer we got to the site, the worse I was feeling. There were so many people, all streaming in the same direction. Luckily my wonderful mum had two tickets leftover from when she went in the summer so we didn’t have to queue for them, only to get in. It was’t so much of a queue as a made rush of people, most lightly jogging or walking very quickly, particularly as we got closer. I had a woman with a buggy behind me and she ran into my ankles twice, so that on the third time I turned round and yelled a little. Once we’d made it thtough the barriers it wasn’t quite so bad. Our plan of attack was to only see ones with small or fast moving queues in the daytime and busier ones in the evenings, when we’d heard it would be quieter. I think we saw 8-10 pavillions overall, which wasn’t too bad. And listen up, fact fans, the Expo covers an area twice the size of Monaco and yesterday there was 622,700 visitors. I am so relieved we didn’t go at the weekend – there were over a million visitors on Sunday.

Good things…
UK pavillion took an interesting approach and consequently was really good. You’ll have no doubt seen the pictures of it and it did look quite remarkable from the outside. They called it a seed pod, or cathedral i think, but i kept referring to it as the seed graveyard, I’m not sure why because the whole pavillion seemed to be a celebration of life, focussed around Britain’s green spaces.
Ireland pavillion had a broader approach and covered entertainment, a bit of history and lots of pictures of people labeeled things like ‘Irish grandmother’, ‘redhead’ etc. Even Rachael noticing that one girl was in two different pictures didn’t take the shine off. We also really like the Irish pavillion because they let us queue jump because I convinced them that our passports were valid because they say Ireland on them! Only negative was our disappointment that there were no cute Oirish men hanging around…
We saw a Columbian Barrios Band in Americas square who were really good.
We got quite adept at stopping queue jumpers and took a quiet satisfaction everytime we did.
Serbia’s pavillion was a real treat, it focussed on time and their invention of a really accruate calendar but approached the concept in a really personal way
Smoking was supposed to be in designated areas and, until the evening, this was generally adhered to.
There was free drinking water and the toilets were mostly clean
A lot of pavillions were beautiful/intriguing/spectaular outside (sometimes far better than the inside)

Not so good things…
Lunch – Papa Johns – was expensive but delicious
Trying to get into the Expo was horrible, and all the people milling about inside generally pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone.
Serbia had some small bits of information hanging on hundreds of wall hooks but I was shoved by one woman and fell into them. Luckily I avoided losing an eye but do have a wee bruise on my arm.
We saw entire families there and I felt sorry for the old people or very young ones. Some pavillions let them queue jump but not many.
Queueing for between 2 and 3 hours to see the UAE pavillion. This was the exception to our ‘only small queues’ rule because we thought we should see a ‘biggie’ and had heard good things about it. Actually, it was just a massive advert for a country (group of countries, whatever) I don’t particularly care for, but is was very well organised and totally impressive. If I wasn’t so cycnical I might even have enjoyed it.
Shoving, pushing, more shoving. No personal space.
I didn’t take my camera but there will be thousands of pics of the expo online so it’s no great loss

I’d be interested to know the demographics of the Chinese people who went to the Expo. It was supposed to be for Chinese people (only 5% of whom have ever left the country) to experience other cultures but I think it would have been far too expensive for most ordinary people (esp with accommodation and transport).

All I could thing of as we were getting back to the apartment was, ‘I am China, hear me roar!’. That all these countries have chosen to be represented at the World Fair, and the expense gone to, shows how desperate everyone is to impress China. I’m reading an excellent book at the moment called 3 Billion New Capitalists (I may have mentioned it before) and it’s about the emergence of India and China, and as it was written 5 years ago it seems eeriely prescient in many ways.

Anyway, I’m tired, had a stinky man on the bus next to me coming home and didn’t get much rest and I have to get up early to study tomorrow to make up for the my time off in Shanghai.

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