Shanghai World Expo 2010
The idea of visiting World Expo got to my mind quite soon when my exchange here to Korea got confirmed. After all, I was just two hours away from Shanghai, so it would have been stupid to waste the opportunity to visit Expo as well. At some point, not sure when, I got great idea with my friend who was suppose to go back to China in October, to visit Expo on its last three days. Well, plans changed and my friend stayed in Finland longer, so I ended up to visit Expo all by myself, but on its last day. My original plan for visiting it for three days got shortened when I was only ably to get only one ticket, but luckily it was for the last day. My flight was however already booked at that time, leaving me couple extra days in Shanghai to play a tourist. I already wrote some experiences in my previous post, Shanghai.
My day started quite early (for me), I woke up around seven o’clock. Getting ready for day, and having breakfast, which I needed to wait for ten minutes, as my hostel started to offer breakfast only from eight. Not mentioning bad quality of breakfast, after eating I was ready to get Metro and finding my way to Expo site.
Getting to Expo site was quite easy by just choosing the closest Metro station and as expected, from there it was good instructions where to walk from there. Quite soon I found my self inside Expo site, and experiencing first time what a lot of people actually means. To get to actual Expo site, it meant of course security check, and although I was there already around nine, there was a lots and lots of people waiting for security as well. Practicalities was however done really well and security checks were done really fast as half an hour later I was passed checks, and walking towards Expo special metro line to get myself to actual Expo site. So strict security checks was a little bit funny though as it was amazing how many people were in the queue for waiting a security check. I just started to think that if somebody would wanted to do some bad things, it would have been bad enough to do it in the line for security already. Well, of course security has always start from one point, and it was nice thing to know that seeing pavilions is going to be safe. Funny detail from security was that to check that my water bottle contained water, they asked me to drink from it. Nice and efficient way to check.
My visit to Expo started by getting off the expo metro line at European area and of course my first visit was Finland pavilion. The building was as beautiful as all media and everybody has said, very finnish like, which was more than good thing. And as there wasn’t yet so much queue so I was able to get inside quickly. No surprises for me, as Finnish person, but I really liked how Finland had done very typical thing, i.e. just putting all good things from Finland and nice atmosphere and let all visitors to make their own conclusion that Finland is just simply the best place… ;) The big things Finland tried to market there was not surprise, technology, Nokia, Marimekko, and of course Sauna. I would loved to see marketing of Sauna more, now it was just few photos and couple sauna related objects and that’s all. But what was nice in Finland pavilion was that it felt much more like experience than just an exhibition. Yes, there was objects to show to people on one side, but whole other side of building was one big video presentation which was creating nice images of Finland. I specially liked the Lapland video which showed nice and peaceful sceneries of darkness, Aurora Borealis and snow.
In the Finland pavilion I started to get feeling how asian people are in lines and queuing… As it was just horrible to try to see anything nor taking photos. Every time I was trying to take photo of something interesting, there was at least ten other people rushing their way to the front and blocking my nice view to the interesting thing. But that was nothing compared to souvenir shop. That was a small space and it just couldn’t handle all the people that tried to be there at once. Unfortunately as I wanted to buy some souvenir from Finland, I just had to try to cope it, and trying to find something interesting, trying to find and figure out more or less complicated way to buy products, and surviving all this at the same time protecting my camera from everybody else. But luckily I was successful and managed to get something small and nice from Finland.
Next to Finnish pavilion there was Swedish pavilion and as I was in the neighborhoods I decided to pay it visit as well. This time I needed to queue a little bit already, mainly though as Swedish wanted to limit amount of people getting in at one time, and was therefore forcing people to wait. After a short waiting, I got inside â€” using escalator which was made by Kone, a Finnish company.
The Swedish style was quite opposite from Finland. The first thing I noticed was big posters stating how Sweden is best place to live. The whole exhibition was just mostly bragging of Swedish innovations. The style I didn’t find so nice - as a Finnish of course. The Swedish pavilion had though couple nice details inside, one was slide from second floor to first floor - which was required to reserve time before which I didn’t do so I wasn’t able to slide down and needed to take stairs instead. In the downstairs there was swings. Unfortunately all small children were occupying those so I didn’t had chance to play for a while. Otherwise no big surprises in Sweden pavilion and specially their souvenir shop was disappointment. Or at least at the last day, as there wasn’t anything small or nice souvenirs left anymore.Just big glass bowls and organic coffee… Yeah, coffee is really Swedish thing… :D
Next was visit to Belgium and European Union pavilion. For his pavilion I needed to wait in the line for a while as well, and at this time I started to realize that it was around noon already and the expo site was starting to fill up people really. Belgium got points from the beginning as they were offering Belgium cookie for everybody (which tasted just like Finnish christmas gingerbread cookie btw). But after that it lost all points as this pavilion was one of the first of really boring ones. This was just an exhibition, just poster after poster, endlessly posters. Belgium was even listing all Nobel price winners they got. Nice thing to have but just putting names on the poster is maybe one of the most boring way that can be. And European Union part wasn’t any interesting, showing a small history of EU. Well, honestly I wasn’t even too interested about this part. There was nice video about Europeans daily life in different countries but of course, it included only big countries such as UK, Germany and so on. No Finland. So I lost quite quickly interest of watching it, I don’t like that we have EU, and then only few big countries are included when marketing EU… Yes, we are small country but still as much part of Euro and European Union as others…
A nice looking pavilion caught my eye s it was rusty red colored and had bright golden statue in front of entrance. And as there was no queue at all, I decided to see what that was. It ended up to be Luxembourg pavilion and as inside contained nothing special, it was second floor - or more specifically the roof that was interesting.
Luxembourg had built a garden on top of their pavilion which was really nice place to have a small rest. It also offered nice view around Expo site as it was little bit higher than just street level. On the roof there were few people having their lunch. One was a small girl with her mother. Girl kept looking at me and at one point her mother just said to her (in English) that aren’t you going to say hello to him. Well she did say hello to me, but she seemed little bit shy as she didn’t reply anything after I replied to her.
After visiting interesting looking places in Europe (and skipping a lot of others, such as UK’s which looked really cool to outside), I decided that it was time to get onto Shuttle bus and go to the Asia area. Which was really interesting as I knew that there would be a lot of interesting pavilions in Asia that I wanted to see. I wanted to start of South-Korean pavilion but when I got nearby I learned that it had three hours line at that time and decide that at that time, it wasn’t worth it.
So instead South-Korea, I spotted Vietnamese pavilion and decided to visit it, not at least as I have few Vietnamese friends. And that was positive surprise, although it was much like a museum feeling, i.e. lots of old statues and bowls etc. showed to visitors. It was anyways very nice feeling and atmosphere inside combined with peaceful music. And the look of inside. Vietnam built their pavilion covered with bamboo so it felt like walking inside of huge tree house. The pavilion was quite small so there wasn’t so much to see, and unfortunately there wasn’t anything nice in souvenir shop either.
Jordan, Pakistan, Mongolia
After Vietnam I spotted Jordan pavilion and of course I had to visit it as well (for newer readers who hasn’t spotted my Jordan summer school, Jordan-posts). Which was a small disappointment. It felt like a huge commercial for tourism, of course though as tourism is pretty much only thing that brings money to the country. But still they could have done much better to present their country. Now it was just boring. But it was weird to see familiar places and visiting Jordan pavilion brought back some nice memories, and seeing aerial photo of Amman, spotting familiar places there, such as Le Royal Hotel, made me just thinking that Amman is going to have always special spot in my heart. After all, that was my first abroad trip…
Pakistani pavilion was next one I visited, once again mostly because I have both Pakistani friends as friends in Pakistan at the moment, so how could I visited Expo without seeing Pakistani pavilion… Once again, nothing so special, unfortunately. Pavilion showed again some photos, and displayed Pakistani style in buildings and culture but that’s all. Unfortunately nothing special to mention. Nice place and made nice positive feeling of Pakistan but nothing too different from anything else, and definitely didn’t offered any special reason for getting interested of Pakistan.
Mongolian pavilion, once again got interested of this pavilion cause of my mongolian friends, offered a little bit something else. It was also small place to visit, and showed more of tourist information than anything else, but this time they were showing really old history as they were marketing Mongolia with dinosaur fossils. Very interesting, at least for me. And I liked that place they showed these was actually inside a dinosaur fossil egg shaped (and looking) “tent”. Nice idea. Also in the corner was amazing looking wagons made from wood. All the details that how it was built and all carvings, just beautiful.
Yes, of course I had to visit North-Korean pavilion. Specially as there was no line at all to get there. And the reason for this was quite clear when I got there, here was pretty much nothing inside. Most people was just there to get a stamp to their Expo passports, which they got from the person who looked so bored that I have never seen before. Otherwise there was just so cheerful communist style music, a fountain, and some marketing about old cave drawings that are located in NK. And pretty much that’s all. I was little bit disappointment though as I read before someone’s comment that NK’s pavilion was huge propaganda but I didn’t saw anything like that. It really didn’t contain pretty much nothing, I expected much more… I did though thinking for a while to buy some souvenirs from there, like NK flag to my South Korean friends, but then decided that it might not be taken as much as a joke than I hoped so I left that idea… ;)
After NK pavilion I started to feel little bit tired of seeing more or less little bit boring pavilions and decided that now it was time to walk in the end of South-Korea line and wait for three hours to see what ROK has put up there. At least their building was one of the most interesting ones, as it was huge and full of Hangul. Queueing for ROK pavilion was experience for itself. Good thing was that I had my iPhone with me, with lots of games so I was able to keep myself occupied, at least most of the time. Line went forward sometimes, and when I was able to move forward, it was always nicely a longer distance, which caused that waiting was not so bad after all. I was able to relax and then walk ~20 meters forward and then again just relax. Much nicer than just walking very slowly all the time. After getting from “pre”-waiting area to waiting area (yes, there was so many people that original queuing area was full and it was extended to nearby grass), I was able even to sit down as there was some benched on next to line. Which made lining up even nicer experience. And after all, I needed to wait only 2.5 hours, not so bad after all.
South-Koreans made really impressive work in their pavilion. Instead of just showing up what is good in ROK, they made it experience, and in very fun one. Almost everything that was there was interactive, meaning that visitors were able to play with everything. There was maze games with worked with touch screen displays, map of Seoul that scrolled by turning display in front of it, screen that had notes, which was able to read when they were pinch-zoomed. Very funny and nice, no wonder that they were limiting amount of people inside at the same time. At once there wasn’t too much crows and visitors were actually able to play with everything they wanted.
Bad thing is that during my visit in ROK pavilion, I had to skip theater experience, which was possible something very interesting, but as I started to feel very sick at that time, I just decided to skip theater and get out to fresh air. When I got out, I started to feel little bit better, and after just walking around for a while and sitting in Asia square, I was feeling much better again.
Sri Lanka, Oman
Next pavilion was Sri Lanka. Once again, too museum like feeling in this pavilion. Lots of photos and objects to display and nothing else. And really difficult to get any impression about what kind of country Sri Lanka is. Only interesting thing was that they had two person performing their traditional hand-skills, a women was making lace and an old man was doing gem cutting. Specially gem cutting was really interesting to watch, expect that a lots of people was again just rushing and pushing themselves in the first row, watching few seconds and then continuing their way. Quite annoying…
Oman had quite nice pavilion, yes, it also looked more like tourist book than country pavilion, but feeling was nice. They had built there rocks and water, and were burning some smelly stuff. And what I liked, there was a tree in the middle of pavilion :). This pavilion really had nice feeling which I liked and I think they were able to deliver nice image of their country to the visitors.
At this point I started to feel little more sick and getting really tired, so I decided to heading towards back to metro station. But I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet and leave Expo site, so I decided to walk back my way, which meant to walk across the Oceania area.
New Zealand pavilion looked really great, it had a lot of green visible, so I had to stop a visit there. And that was one of the nicest surprises. As well as in Finnish pavilion it was more like experience than just marketing, this was exactly the same. They had built a path going around the pavilion, in couple floors and as nice music on background, showing amazing photos, drawings from kids, videos, it really made me in a good mood and gave really good impression of NZ. And on the roof of pavilion, there was small garden, with water features. Once again really peaceful place in the middle of crowded area.
After getting from Oceania area, looking some pavilions from outside, and quick visit in Australia pavilion souvenir shop side, I decided that it was time for me to get back to hostel as I started to feel really tired for all walking and as most pavilions were in the too similar, nothing special. I did quick trip back to Finland pavilion to see how it looked in the night, and then headed back to special metro, back to normal metro station and back to hostel.
This was my first time ever I have attended anything big and global event. It was nice experience, and it was so amazing to experience so many people at the same time. In the noon there was announcements that for Chinese and Japanese pavilion was over six hours queue and in the evening they were up to nine hours lines. Just crazy… I can’t even think about how many people was just waiting to see Chinese or Japanese pavilion. I really would liked to see Chinese pavilion as it was huge and looked a lot like spaceships from Stargate SG-1, but I just didn’t see any point of wasting my 9 hours of my time for just waiting. No pavilion is worth of that time - specially if you have only one day time. Although I did found out in the Saturday evening, that there were people selling official tickets at the official price outside of gates so I could easily got tickets for Saturday and/or Friday as well. But in the other hand, I think that in this way this was much better. I would liked for another day, but three days like I originally planned, that would have been too much I guess.
Another thing that I didn’t understood in the Expo site was the Expo passports. Idea was that you could buy the Expo passport and then get a stamp from every pavilion that you visit. So, I saw lots of people who were just waiting in he line for hours and then just pretty much ran through pavilion just to get stamp an then rushed to another pavilion. From my point of view - total waste of time. Another thing I noticed was that it was pretty good decision to visit Expo at its last day. Although ticket was more expensive than normal ticket, I can now say that I was there on its last day.
I didn’t see any ending ceremonies, actually I didn’t even now if there would be something nor when they would start as there wasn’t announced anywhere, I tried to check before hands from the Expo website under events - nothing. But I can still say that I experienced Expo. And that I bought some Expo souvenirs for my friends, I noticed that everything was on sale. I bought some small mascots, meant for cell phones or similar, when I was just buying one, seller notified me that if I buy two, I get third one for free. Nice… So I suddenly I had enough souvenirs for my friends and didn’t had to worry about anymore of those :D And I also got big Haibao on discount. That’s for me for reminding my trip for the future years, and to keep my bed looking like bed during my time here. ;)
Getting back to hostel was the point where problems started to occur. I started to feel very, very sick in the special metro. The result was that when I got to station, I needed to visit nearest restroom quite quickly. I was able to continue out of expo site, and continue to Shanghai metro, which ended up to be not so great plan. I felt more and more sick in the train and as result, once again, I was able to travel in the train only one station at the time, and then I needed to visit restrooms. Good thing is that station personnels understood English well enough and they were able to show me direction to restroom always, which was really helpful as I quickly learned, they are hidden in the most far end of the platform in Shanghai. And the quality of restrooms… well… I had no choice so they were good enough. I finally gave up, decided that maybe taxi offers faster and more comfortable way to travel back to hostel, got off the station I managed to travel (which was only four or five stations away from Expo site), managed to get taxi immediately (first good luck in that evening) and ended up to my hostel without any more troubles.
At that point I was really worried about if I would be well enough to travel next day. I didn’t felt good at all at that point, I felt like I had fever and of course I had forgotten my basic medicines back home, and was just feeling too sick to try to find pharmacy to get any medicine. So I just drunk water and tried to survive. At the night I was talking with a friend which made me feeling little bit better and luckily I had afternoon flight, so I had time to get enough sleep. In the morning I felt better luckily, I did skip breakfast though, mostly also as my hostel breakfasts were just awful. I did felt little bit weak, but managed to pack all my stuff, check out from hostel, and without any problems get my self to airport. My original plan was taking metro to Maglev and take Maglev train also back to airport, but still remembering previous night’s experiences of Shanghai metro, I just took taxi directly to the airport. Luckily I didn’t had any trouble at all in the airport, nor in the plane and survived back to Seoul.