World Expo 2010: Shanghai

Posted: April 28, 2011 in Photography
Tags: , , ,

UK Pavilion

…where we spent expo-nentially longer than intended.

Morning at the Ruijin Hotel. We always made sure to have everything we’d need for the day before we went to breakfast because neither of us could face the 10-minute trek back to our building afterwards.

The “continental breakfast” itself was, incidentally, amazing. Lindsay was all about the congee whereas I ate my bodyweight in fruit and pastries every morning, revelling in the fact that it no longer cost me a kidney to do so. (I’m looking at you, Japan.) The tables were all carefully-guarded by the waitresses so we developed an elaborate strategy of asking for coffee to get them away long enough to shove half of what was on our table into our bags. I don’t think we had to buy lunch once the whole time we were in Shanghai. By curious coincidence, we also discovered a Scottish couple staying at the hotel with us, having come to China for their daughter’s wedding. They were a little hesitant to believe my nationality upon hearing my accent, but I had no trouble discerning theirs after they complained to hotel staff the minute scrambled eggs become unavailable on the breakfast menu. Fucking Brits.

Purely for my mum’s amusement.

Day 3: World Expo 2010, Shanghai China! We had no idea this was happening at the same time we were visiting but – after being asked by every Japanese person before we left if we were going – decided we should probably take a look. The plan was to spend the morning there. “Morning”. (Continuing by recent spate of incidental, Caucasian celebrity, by the way, the girl who sold us these tickets also took a “secret” photo of me on her phone.) There were pretty stringent security measures in place, and we had to pass through a whole host of metal detectors and bag-checks before we were allowed in.

Bitch can’t get enough congee.

Recreating that magical, bag-snatching adventure from the previous night. (Since she was willing to take the picture, I’m assuming Lindsay had more or less forgiven me by this point. ♥)

The Expo was held to herald Shanghai as the “next great world city” (beating out Yeosu, S. Korea in second place), and hundreds of countries participated, many of them with their own “national pavilion” on the Expo grounds. New Zealand’s was apparently meant to represent a Maori creation myth, with the god Tane separating his parents, the Sky and Earth, to create the world we live in.

Cambodia’s, on the other hand, was a cardboard box with Angkor Wat painted on the side. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that each pavilion was funded by its own government.

The largest pavilion of all was, of course, China’s: being a gargantuan red gate with a roof made of traditional dougong brackets. I’m not entirely sure who the gay pride flame belonged to.

Inside was the Joint Provincial Pavilion for each individual province. Later in the day, the lines for this one were literally 3-4 hours long but we strategically hit it up first thing in the morning and got in after about ten minutes.

Beijing’s pavilion was a Frankenstein-esque mishmash of a lot of the places we visited while we were there. Yunnan’s was a kitschy mess.

As evidenced by the superlative popularity of Zone A and all of the Asian pavilions, the Expo was an unprecedented success domestically but wasn’t nearly as effective at reaching a global audience. Of the 73 million (!) visitors it attracted during its run, less than 10% were foreign. To put that in perspective: the Expo grounds were over 5km² and they spent more money preparing for this than they did cleaning up Beijing before the Olympics (including the addition of six new subway lines). Somewhat more controversially, it was alleged that state employees were ordered to attend to fulfil the “70-million visitors” target, and threatened with loss of wages if they didn’t.

South Korea! Whilst I’m definitely a fan of the country, I wasn’t hugely impressed by their pavilion. That was until

…I realised that the entire outer wall is made up of individual hangul from the Korean alphabet!

Seoul Reunion 20?? Let’s make it happen! (North Korea actually had a pavilion, too, though I don’t remember seeing it.) After ticking Korea and China off my to-do list that year (and Thailand and Cambodia the year before), I’ve actually now visited every country in Asia I had a real interest in seeing. (Japan was – quelle surprise – at the top of that list.)

Is it awful that I don’t think of Kazakhstan as a real country? I blame Borat.

日本! ♥ I don’t care that your pavilion looks like a giant purple space slug because I love you so damn much. We both desperately wanted to go inside but the line would have taken an estimated 4.5 hours and we couldn’t really afford to sacrifice our entire day to one pavilion. For a moment though, we seriously thought about it.

India’s theme: “Unity in Diversity”.

The pavilion of the United Arab Emirates (where, coincidentally, I ended up on my flight back from Hong Kong). The outer covering is gold-covered stainless steel and changes colour depending on the weather. It’s meant to resemble sand dunes, “shaped by the winds”.

They even had their own horses outside, painted to match the flag.

This was actually one of my favourite pavilions…hence the inordinate number of photos.

Israel! (Where the Israelites live, right, Joy?!)

That’s the Chinese pavilion looming in the background there. Note also the foreboding storm clouds. (Note also also my new waistcoat from Nanjing Rd!)

Liquid refreshment. Contrary to appearances, these milk-filled coconuts weren’t actually positioned in front of her tits on purpose.

Glorious China! So ridiculously huge that it was impossible to fit the entire thing in one picture without having that stupid lamppost in the way. There was a Chinese family hanging around while I was taking photos of the sign. At first I thought they were waiting for me to get out of the way, but – as it turned out – they were actually waiting to ask if they could take a picture with the white man. They then asked if I would take one individually with their hot son, to which – amazingly – I had little objection. My celebrity lasted right up until we entered Hong Kong, where people officially stopped giving a fuck.

Our token Heroes shot.

生生不息 (“Never-Ending Life”): A statue in front of the China Pavilion, sponsored by the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art, Fudan University.

On a more random note, Denmark actually sent the original Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen to the Expo (the first time in 100 years that it had left the city), with the statue itself being replaced by a video installation of the statue by controversial Beijing artist/activist, Ai Weiwei (known for his criticism of the Communist Party of China and censorship). Visitors to the Expo weren’t allowed to touch or climb the statue (which is a fairly normal thing to do in Denmark) and when the Danish pavilion staff – on the evening of Denmark’s national day – did have a party and climbed on the statue, it was reported in the Chinese media as a scandal.

On the left there is Hong Kong (“The Infinite City”) which got its own pavilion. The giant rabbit is Macau.

Ungh, this mascot – wherever we went in China, we couldn’t escape him. His name is Haibao and he’s in the shape of the character “人” which in Chinese (and, incidentally, Japanese) means person.

As the day wore on, still we’d only made it through about a quarter of the pavilions. This is Singapore’s “Urban Symphony”, which is said to resemble a music box. I asked a friend from Singapore in exactly what way it resembles a music box, and though she was similarly stumped, she did say that from a country who thought a concert hall shaped like a giant durian was a good idea, it seemed perfectly logical. Just next door was Australia’s “ImagiNation“, which is meant to resemble Ayer’s Rock and changes colour in response to Shanghai’s temperature/humidity. Very ImagiNative.

Kirnu (“Giant’s Kettle”): the Finnish Pavilion. Though you can’t see it in this picture, it was surrounded by its very own lake. Zone C was home to all of the miscellaneous European pavilions, like Estonia’s; whose theme was free speech. I’m amazed China allowed it.

I don’t know about you but whenever I see lego, I think Serbia.

España: a giant wicker basket. Personally I got more of a FFVII vibe.

Switzerland and its “Curtain of Woven Aluminium Elements”. I believe this was the only pavilion to have its own, internal cable car ride.

BalanCity: Germany. Enough said.

Netherlands’ “Happy Street”. Houses on stilts!

But who would claim responsibility for this giant fibre-optic cube? Apparently: us! The UK queue was actually one of the worst but – deciding that we couldn’t leave without at least seeing our own countries – Linds and I opted to take it in shifts to wait in line while the other explored the park. I’m 90% sure this was South Africa and 100% sure this was Россия. (In Soviet Russia, soup eats you!) After a while, I rejoined Lindsay, who kindly offered to just stay with me for the rest of our time in the queue…which was still about an hour. We passed the time by bitching out the two fat, Chinese girls who jumped the queue by about 300 people but, by God, were not getting past us.

The first World Expo (a.k.a. the Great Exhibition) was, of course, held in the UK and our pavilion at the Shanghai Expo was a modern take on the metal-and-glass edifice of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The cube is also meant to resemble an unwrapped gift, with the football-pitch-sized base being the wrapping paper. And, to the surprise of no one more so than myself, it actually ended up being my favourite pavilion of them all. (Lindsay’s, too, if I remember correctly.)

I’m neither from nor have I ever lived in Edinburgh, but I was still terribly excited to see it here. This one of the “green maps” which is meant to illustrate how verdant British cities are by erasing all of the streets and buildings, leaving only the green spaces. On a sidenote: holy fuck, look at my sunburn. There were water dispensers set up all throughout the Expo, along with constant announcements to keep hydrated and wear sunscreen lest you fall dead in the summer heat. Clearly I should have paid them more heed.

The Expo grounds were so huge, they spanned both sides of the Huangpu River.

The cube is formed by more than 60,000 slim and transparent acrylic rods.

It was also known as the “Seed Cathedral”, for reasons we were soon to discover.

Those rods, you see, extend all the way to the inside of the cube, each acting like a fibre optic filament to draw on daylight and illuminate the interior.

And at the end of every one of those 60,000 rods…

…is a single seed from different plants across the world, collected in a massive bio-diversity project.

The whole thing felt like a giant art installation. More than that, however, I just loved that the entire pavilion was so completely (no pun intended) outside-the-box, and not another bullshit travel brochure. Well done, UK – one of the rare occasions you’ve made me happy to be British.

God bless you, Liz.

And so, leaving the UK behind us, we headed off in search of…

…oh, Canada! God, I love Canada. I assure you that Lindsay is barely faking that national pride by the way: she teared up the minute we passed the Toronto display. Inside, there was also a cool, wraparound cinema screen, but the undoubted highlight of the pavilion – nay, the entire day/trip – was watching Lindsay physically assault the 14-year-old Chinese boy who tried to skip us in line.

Lindsay: NO! *punch in the chest*
Boy: But my brother’s ovah there!
Lindsay: Well he skipped the line, too!

I’m not even exaggerating. This holiday drove her craycray.

Ottawa! In retrospect, I should probably have bought this keyring for Rheanna as opposed to taking a picture of it so I could tag her on Facebook.

Canada: inclusive, sustainable, creative, benevolent, aerodynamic, impregnable, magnanimous, moist, polarising, spectacular, invincible…

America, fuck yeah. Actually though, it looked pretty boring from the outside and as we’d already spent about a day more at the Expo than intended, we snapped this picture and moved on. Sorry, America! Having only successfully entered three pavilions by this point, we decided to only drop in on those which had no lines whatsoever: to wit, a short stroll around Colombia before we hit up the bar in Chile. (Also in attendance: an insufferable cunt of an American businesswoman, who was joined by two people that I can only assume were underlings for what other reason could they have had for putting up with her incessant monologues on who she’d fired that day and how much she enjoyed doing it.)

And finally: Brazil, for Lindsay’s extended fam. We stopped here to eat, which was around the same time the heavens opened and forced us to break out our almost-forgotten body condoms from Beijing.

After a while, the rain started to let off and as the park was closing, we decided to see if the lines for the Japanese pavilion had died down any. Sadly, it had closed for the day entirely, though the Korean pavilion did look lovely in all its illuminated glory.

One last view of the China pavilion before we (finally, blissfully) peaced out. 10 hours. Ten. Hours. we spent there. And – insult to injury – it absolutely poured down the entire way home. I also had a slight rage attack when every person we passed refused to even try to understand us asking the way to the metro station, which – whatever – learn some Chinese, but don’t pretend you can’t understand when we draw your own fucking metro symbol and point to a map. Thankfully, though my patience with China was fast reaching its limits, so was our time on the mainland.

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