Thursday, September 2, 2010

Expo 2010 Shanghai

Short note: I know this is a little awkward for me to post something from some quite distance ago, while I am now in New Zealand. But I guess it's better that I post this entry first before I start making updates on my travel in the Kiwiland; otherwise it will become another over-due entry. I will post more pictural entries about New Zealand soon but for now, it is something from two months back, during my visit to Expo 2010 in Shanghai. 

Hi guys! Introducing Haibao, the mascot for Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

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Haibao (海宝), meaning "jewel of the sea", and its figure is in the shape of the Chinese character "人" (meaning human)

The main reason Kai Cung and I made our trip to Shanghai a couple of months ago, was to visit Expo 2010 that was held on both banks of the Huangpu River. It has been held since May 1 this year, and will last until the end of October. So, what's this Expo all about?

"World Expositions are galleries of human inspirations and thoughts. Since 1851 when the Great Exhibition of Industries of All Nations was held in London, the World Expositions have attained increasing prominence as grand events for economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges, serving as an important platform for displaying historical experience, exchanging innovative ideas, demonstrating esprit de corps and looking to the future" (taken from the official site).

Well, I am not gonna write down every details and statistics of the event here;  you can always search for them through the Internet if you're interested. I am more interested to talk about my personal experience throughout the one-whole day we spent at the Expo. Before we were there, Kai Cung had told me that the Expo averages about half a million visitors per day. Initially, I doubt that to be true, and they were just exaggerating things up. 

But I forgot about one thing. I was in the most populous country in the world; so that is not something impossible. It was until we arrived at the entrance that I got my first surprise of the day.

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There are about ten gates at every entrance, and there are about eight entrances to the Expo. Go do the calculation.

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We were there half an hour before the entrance was opened, and boy, there were already tens of thousand of people queuing up in front of us.

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I think I have never seen such a huge volume of people in my life in queues.

While waiting for our turn to get into the Expo area, we received an unfortunate news. The reservation tickets for the China Pavilion for the day had already finished been snapped up. That is like tens of thousands of tickets had finished being distributed in less than fifteen minutes. Crazy.

Among the many pavilions, the China Pavillion is no doubt the most popular one. However, due to the humongous number of visitors who wish to enter the China Pavilion, they allow only 50,000 visitors to enter it in a single day. That is why one has to get the reservation ticket first, in order to enter the pavilion.

We randomly picked a pavilion which was the nearest and had the shortest queue.

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Took a photo with the Arabian Prince Ali Baba at the UEA Pavilion. His nose is higher than Mount Everest haha!

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Countdown before visitors are allowed to enter the pavilion, which are done at intervals.

Upon entering the pavilion, they played a video about the developments the country has gone through within a period of less than sixty years. It started with the pearl industry in the 19th and 20th century, but the economic depression in the 1920's and the Japanese invention of cultured pearls destroyed the pearling industry. Subsequently, the backbone of the country's economy was replaced by the oil industry.

It was indeed an informative and dynamic presentation.

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In the next section, different people of different ages, gender, and background, gave their thoughts about their country.

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Kai Cung posing with his two new friends.

We knew from the beginning that it would be hard for us to get the chance to enter popular pavilions; the Japan Pavilion being one of them. Apparently, the queue would take us seven hours until we get to enter it. Yes, seven, tujuh, nana-desu. Crazy, isn't it? So, we had no choice but to give up on entering the Japan Pavilion.

Actually, there were even worse cases. We were told that the Saudi Arabia Pavilion would take visitors more than nine hours of queuing-up!

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The purple structure in the background is the Japan Pavilion.

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This is the closest we got to it.

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Inside the Laos Pavilion.

Instead of queuing up for long hours, we took an alternative option by visiting the Laos Pavilion, which was set up in a small area. We didn't even have to line-up for this one; we practically just walked inside straight away. Considering the size and the economic strength of this small nation, I can understand that they couldn't afford to offer sophisticated exhibition. Just some display of models of the traditional houses and wooden carvings.

In total, there are five zones altogether at Expo 2010. Free shuttle buses are provided to transport visitors from one zone to the other.

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It was not even two hours after the gates were open and the Expo already recorded such a huge figure.

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Australia Pavilion, another popular pavilion that we had to give a skip as well.

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Indonesia Pavilion, which I heard distributed goodie bags for the visitors.

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New Zealand Pavilion, which was just opposite to the Indonesia Pavilion.

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Some local Kiwi men working on their carvings on a wooden boat.

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One of the highlights at the pavilion - a 1.8 ton pounamu (jade) boulder that stands for the heart of New Zealand. The pounamu symbolizes the convergence of two jade cultures, as the Chinese and indigenous Maori of New Zealand share a common reverence for jade.

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The entrance to the pavilion, which was decorated with designs which is influence by the Maori culture.

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Posing at the roof garden, with a rambutan tree at the background lol!

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It's actually a coastal evergreen tree called Pōhutukawa, which produces bright red flowers made up of mass stamens.

Recognised as the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs, Expo 2010 in Shanghai is also the largest world's fair site ever at 5.28 square km, and it is expected to receive more than 70 to 100 million visitors, which would make it the most visited in history. Talking about striving to be the best among the best, just like what China did during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Besides the national pavilions, there are also theme pavilions and corporate pavilions.

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Inside one of the five central theme pavilions.

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When we have the local authorities trying to destroy the cultural heritage of a city, the city will certainly lose its soul after a period of time.

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An interesting rubbish bin spotted at the Expo. Too canggih already that I'm unsure how to use it haha! 

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This is the most famous structure at the Expo, which has a distinctive roof, made of traditional dougong or brackets; the interlocking wooden brackets is one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture.

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We didn't get to enter the China Pavilion, but taking a picture in front of it should at least, cure some of our disappointment.

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Instead of visiting the China Pavilion, we went to the Chinese Provinces Pavilion.

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Went into Beijing Pavilion first.

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Saw a model of the Bird Nest stadium, the main stadium during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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The Chinese President, Hu Jiantao, holding the Olympic torch.

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There is a curse that whoever holds the torch for too long will have his face turned into this mask.

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This is inside Sichuan Pavilion, if I'm not mistaken.

If you are an impatient person and cannot stand long queue for at least a few hours, I wouldn't advice you of visiting this Expo. We were considered lucky because on that day we were they, the Expo recorded one of its lowest attendance since it was opened two months earlier. The figure stood at 358,800 on the day we were there, and even that already made us wonder where the hell those humans came from.

One common thing that I noticed is that the locals who visited the Expo would bring along their whole family tree there. It is as if they brought the whole kampung to the Expo - granpa, granma, father's sister, uncle's friend, mom's cousin, and all the anak ayam as well haha! Furthermore, every permanent resident in Shanghai is offered free tickets, which totals up to 7 million tickets. That is one of the reason why it was so congested.

Our next stop was the Taiwan Pavilion, one of the few pavilions that require us to get the reservation tickets in order to enter the pavilion. The pavilion is only limited to 4,000 visitors per day, with a group of 40 visitors is allowed inside at one time.

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Long wait under the hot scorching sun, prompted the visitors find alternative stuff to kill time - reading, sleeping, dreaming, etc haha!

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Some arguments happened between one guy and the staffs, because that guy tried to cut queue by insisting he was there already earlier. 
 Silly old man, wanna bluff also try to be more convincing-lah.

The catch was that we had to wait for another five hours before they started to distribute the tickets. Guess what, we did the crazy thing, which was to join the folks to queue-up there. We had a group of aunties behind us, who was chit chatting in Taiwanese Hokkien dialect, which I only able to pick up some of the words haha!

While lining up there, we overheard a conversation between a guy and that group of aunties. Apparently, that guy has visited the Taiwan Pavilion for no less than five times! He would arrive at the Expo early in the morning, get the reservation ticket for the morning session, get into the Taiwan Pavilion, and line up for the evening session right after that. Imagine the amount of time he had spent lining-up just for a same pavilion. The reason is because according to him, he feels that the Taiwan Pavilion is better than the China Pavilion and the long-wait is worth spending.

While waiting, the two of us came out with a smart idea. While one of us were queuing up at the Taiwan Pavilion, the other one would go to visit the Macao Pavilion, using the reservation tickets we have gotten earlier. Doing so, we would be able to save some valuable time.

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Besides the China Pavilion, Taiwan Pavilion, and Macao Pavilion, the Hong Kong Pavilion also requires one to get the reservation ticket first.

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 The twenty-minute journey inside the Macao Pavilion's "Jade Rabbit, the Imperial Lantern" is all about multimedia and 3D technology, done via a movie. It started off with a man, starred by local artist Casimiro Pinto who takes his son and a girl from the neighbourhood to look for a magic rabbit lantern, during a night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Rabbit lanterns are popular in southern China in ancient times.

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The Pavilion's goal is to teach visitors about the culture and tradition of Macau through a film that screens while they move forward on a ramp.

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People are taken back 400 years to see how traveling Portuguese merchants traded in Macau.

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 Here, the locals are seen practising tai chi.

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Besides that, Macao is also the host of the annual Macao Grand Prix.

Later that evening, the area was hit by a sudden heavy downpour. It was like the heaviest rain I have experience for years; and of all days, it has to come on that day. A good and a bad news for us. The good news is that we had our umbrellas with us. The bad news however, is that the umbrellas were useless. Still remember the time in this entry when I mentioned that the tour guide told us that the stuff sold by the roadside traders will melt when kena rain?

We laughed at first, but it was the traders who had the last laugh. Both of our umbrellas leaked and water droplets started to fall on us when the rain got heavier =.=

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An unlucky dude who just came out from the shower room, posing in front of the Taiwan Pavilion.

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We queue-up for five hours, just to get this piece of paper. I should have brought along my scanner and printer, and start making copies of these tickets and sell to other visitors haha!

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It continue to rain even when we were lining-up to get into the pavilion; yet, it didn't stop the visitors from waiting patiently until their turns arrive. I must say, these people were really motivated; die die won't step away from their queue.

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Even with the reservation tickets, we still had to line-up for another hour until we finally get to enter the Taiwan Pavilion. That was a total of more than six hours of queuing-up! Thank God we were finally inside the pavilion.

One of the main highlight of the pavilion is the globe, 12 meters in diameter, which houses a 720 degree sphere theater.

Inside the spherical space theater, a four-minute movie about Taiwan's culture and scenery will be shown. Twelve projectors will project the scenes of heaven and earth from the two sides onto the spherical screen. The eight-track Hi-Fi stereo system in the sphere makes sound sent out from all sides. 

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When you see flowers blooming, you will smell fragrant flower smell.

It is the first time that the theater is attached with four-dimensional special effects; so at the moment you see the dolphins jump, you'll also be splashed by seawater. Isn't that cool?

The presentation will lead audiences to fly through time and space, where we get to see the beautiful tall mountains, wide blue seas, and magnificent landscape of Taiwan. All the animals and plants appeared in the film are natives to Taiwan, and they are varied and diverse.

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The guide gave some instructions on how to take part in the ceremony and some ah pek and aunties already wanted to start rubbing the touch screen, that it got on the guide's nerves lol!

The second highlight in the Taiwan Pavilion is the lantern-flying ceremony. A huge globe is suspended over a pool of water, which will reflect the images shown on the globe. Visitors will be invited to take part in a multimedia lantern-flying ceremony on a platform above the pool for good luck - a traditional island custom. If 40 people make a ring on the platform, each of them will trigger a beam that will light the globe.

In Taiwan, there is a place called Pingxi. According to legend, sky lantern was invented by Zhu Geliang, or called Kong Ming, during the period of Three Kingdoms. Therefore, sky lantern is also called "Kong Ming Lantern". When a sky lantern is lighted and the air inside is heated, the lantern will fly up, with the flying principle more or less the same as a hot-air balloon.

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A brief history about the sky lanterns, before we began the ceremony.

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I wanted to select Chinese language, but I was afraid I don't know how to read some of the words after wards haha!

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An illustration to show how the virtual sky lanterns, written with our wishes, "fly up to the sky".

The platform has forty stands, and on each stand there is a touch-screen display. There are twelve sky lanterns patterns written with different blessings for one to choose. Beneath the ball is a sky lantern written with one's blessing. The sky lantern will fly to the sky, and it means God has heard your prayers.

We later came across the same group of aunties we saw when we were queuing-up earlier that evening and. One of them asked us what kind of wish that we picked, but then one of them said that she choose two wishes because she is damn kiasu like that, so she needed more good luck haha!

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The section for the tea ceremony, which was beautifully decorated with illuminating lights.

The third and final highlight of the Taiwan Pavilion is the tea ceremony. We were served with Taiwan's famous high mountain teas, also known as "Gao Shan" tea.

Taiwan's Gao Shan tea are oolongs that are produced at an elevation of more than 1,000 meters. Due to the limited amount of tea grown, these teas are the most costly and prized by Taiwan's tea connoisseurs. Most high mountain teas are lightly oxidized and minimally roasted to retain their fresh, crisp flavors. Due to the cooler temperatures, clean air and abundant mist, high mountain teas display a creamy, almost milky, texture and a rich and sweet taste.

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A demonstration of the tea ceremony was conducted as well.

The little mug that is shaped to look like the Taiwan Pavilion and used to serve us with the tea, was given to us as a souvenir. Before we leave, we were also given a goodies bag which contain some Taiwan's local snacks and health product.

Out of the six pavilions - U.A.E. Pavilion, Laos Pavilion, Malaysia Pavilion, New Zealand Pavilion, Macau Pavilion, and Taiwan Pavilion, that we managed to visit on that day, I guess Taiwan's Pavilion is the best, in terms of the presentation, design, and hospitality for the visitors. The long wait for queuing-up was certainly worth it.

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Musical fountain display at night. I like the idea of having a shallow water place (on the left), just in front of the fountain, to give a reflective image of the fountain on the ground.

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The main building - called "Expo Axis" - has the world's largest membrane construction. The building consists of some steel-glass funnels with a 1,000 meters long membrane construction.

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Kai Cung's favourite building, which he calls it the UFO Pavilion haha! What looks like a flying saucer is actually the Expo Performance Center, which  host most of the events and shows during the Expo 2010, and will serve as a comprehensive area of performances, artistic exhibitions, sports, fashions and entertainments after the Expo.

It was getting late but we wanted to make the most of our time there. So, we moved to the European and African zone. Too bad that most of the pavilions had closed for the day. We initially wanted to visit some of the European pavilions, like the Italy Pavilion and England Pavilion, but too bad they are among the popular ones which require us to wait for several hours.

In the end, we made the Africa Joint Pavilion as our last stop.

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I bet nobody has ever heard of this country before.

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I thought most Africans prefer not to have any materials on their body (read: not wearing anything, but just a small piece of cloth to cover their birds and the bees), no?

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A giraffe-wanna-be admiring another giraffe haha!

For one of the rare times, I felt I am damn short.

8 comments:

kae vin said...

== expecting new zealand post manatau suddenly China. =.=

already so tall still wanna be giraffe. Gila punya orang

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
fast like crazy! it is either you are a super fast reader, or you just saw the last picture and read the last line xD

it's just the airplane, who took the wrong direction and sesat to china haha!

Cieri said...

damn long entry...penat baca.
no malaysia pavilion eh?

sakura said...

that is a whole lot of homo sapiens! O.O really a lot...

Interesting trip to know about the cultures of other countries. But, I don't think I have so much patience to do so :p

calvin said...

@ cieri:
yeah, it was quite a long one >.<
i plan to blog about the malaysian pavilion on a different entry ;)

calvin said...

@ sakura:
that's what you're expected to see when you are in china.

yup, it would be better if we had more time to explore the expo. but to do that, you need more time and of course, patience =)

KOKahKOK said...

quite song la u...travel sini sana!
buy me ticket i go along wif u haha

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
better to travel while i can. we can never predict what will happen tomorrow, just like what just happened to christchurch recently.