Thursday, September 30, 2010

Malaysia Pavilion At Expo 2010

Short note: This is another over-due entry, which was supposed to be posted three months back. Before I continue blogging on my New Zealand trip, allow me to clear off some of my pending posts first. My entry on the Shanghai Expo 2010 was way too long, that I decided to dedicate a special entry for the Malaysia Pavilion. Some of the facts and information is taken from several websites.

Malaysia Pavilion is one of the 192 national pavilions at Expo 2010, Shanghai, and visiting the Malaysia Pavilion was one of our main aim.

Themed "One Malaysia, City Harmonious Living", the pavilion showcases a traditional Malaysian hut with Minangkabau's "Rumah Gadang" architecture based on a hand-painted batik roof to reflect the Malaysian image. The traditional Minangkabau design of the pavilion does make it stand out among other South East Asian countries' pavilions. After the Expo, the pavilion is to be donated to the county of Wuxi in the People's Republic of China.

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Nowadays, almost everything about Malaysia has to be associated with 1Malaysia.

The two-level pavilion is made of local Malaysian materials including rubber, woods and oil palm plants.

The inspiration of the pavilion design comes from the traditional Malaysian hut in the expression of a unique style and national spirit of union. The building comprises two streamlined high slopes with a cross on top, the symbol of Malaysian architecture. The facade of the pavilion is made from a combination of recyclable materials of palm oil and other environmentally-friendly materials.

The national promotion do not only promote food fare like laksa, nasi lemak, bak kut teh and curry puffs, but also featured the natural environment like the beaches, islands, golf courses and also a section on Formula 1 racing. Visitors will also get access to characteristic Malaysian artworks and their production process. Electronics, rubber and timber products will also be exhibited in the pavilion.

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The front view of Malaysia Pavilion.

The Malaysia Pavilion, which also included the world heritage sites of Penang and Melaka, has been chosen as one of fifteen "featured pavilions" of the expo by the organiser. With the status, the organiser had made arrangements for fifteen international reporters to visit and write on the Malaysia pavillion, which will promote Malaysia worldwide.

It is expected that the Malaysian Pavilion would attract 10 million visitors throughout the six-month long Expo.

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The flag of both nations greet the visitors to the pavilion.

There are five main highlights of the Malaysia Pavilion.

Highlight 1: Traditional House
The corridor and entrance at the ground floor will be based on Mosque design with elevated roof on columns to resemble the traditional long house in Malaysia. The exterior wall will imitate Malaysian textile printing with patterns of butterfly, bloom, flying birds and geometrical drawings.

Highlight 2: Mini-putt and Petronas Twin Towers 
Along with palm oil, rubber and other economical plants, the pavilion will also exhibit tourist attractions of beach and golf court, as well as ordinary family lives in Malaysia. Visitors will be able to pitch and putt at an indoor golf area. The sightseeing elevator between two stories will be designed to simulate the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

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We were lucky that the cultural dance that reflects the multi-cultural society was being performed when we went to the Malaysia Pavilion.

Highlight 3: Central Stage
During the Expo, the central stage in the pavilion will host two local dance performances every day to showcase all 47 ethnic groups from the country.

Highlight 4: Lucky Draws
The pavilion will hold lucky draws on key days during the Expo, such as Malaysia's national day, and the anniversary of China-Malaysia Diplomatic Relationship.

Highlight 5: Artworks and Foods 
Visitors will see characteristic Malaysian artworks and their production process in the pavilion and will have the chance to taste delicious Malaysian foods such as bak kut teh.

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Kai Cung and I were in the free shuttle bus, transporting from one zone to the other, when we spotted a Malaysian delegates, which includes a minister.

Alright, enough of all the facts and information about the pavilion. I shall proceed by giving my personal opinions and views on the Malaysia Pavilion. It may sound a bit harsh, but they are all my honest thoughts. Taking a quote from the Minister of Tourism, Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen, she said that although Malaysia could not compete with developed countries like Germany and Switzerland in terms of technology, Malaysia had its own uniqueness of being multi-racial and multi-cultural.

Yes, I agree with the fact that we are unique in our own ways. However, I am quite disappointed that these multi-ethnic characteristics of Malaysia were not explained in depth at the Malaysia Pavilion.

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The information counter at the main entrance to the pavilion. Ehem, this is not a hotel, where you have a reception counter.

The first section upon entering the pavilion brings visitors to see the traditional costumes of each ethnicity, followed by a Petronas Twin Towers stand, tropical rainforests and historical monuments from Penang and Malacca. However, most of the exhibits are too superficial and not linked to each other. For example, the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Kadazan traditional costumes at the pavilion entrance lack information or explanation for the visitors. You cannot just put up those costumes and expect visitors, especially the foreign tourists to know what each of the costumes are for.

I walked to the information counter to get a pamphlet from one of the staff and guess what reply I got? "Sorry-lar dik, dah habis." ("Sorry, but no more pamphlets available already"). In the end, I was given a pamphlet in Japanese language.

From my observations and visits to other pavilions, Malaysia Pavilion could have done so much better in terms of their method of presentation. There was neither advanced technology nor creativity in the Malaysia pavilion. Those responsible should at least put in more efforts, and promote our multi-cultural heritage to attract more foreigners to visit, study and invest in the country.

I just couldn't help but to feel slightly sorry when comparisons are made between the Malaysia Pavilion and other pavilions. Take the UAE Pavilion for example, in which visitors are taken into a virtual journey on the birth of the country that is backed by narration using updated presentation technology. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Monaco have used advanced multimedia technology and even 3D movies as big as four basketball courts to introduce their own countries.

If budget is the problem, I wonder how a tiny country like Singapore, or a poor country with all sorts of political turmoil like Indonesia and Thailand can come out with such outstanding and magnificent pavilions. Other countries also brought in their national treasures - some being displayed abroad for the first time. France brought in seven renowned paintings, while Denmark displayed its famed 'Little Mermaid' statue.  In return, their pavilions attracted huge crowds and visitors often needed to queue for at least two or three hours to enter.

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The Peranakan cultural delights of Malacca and Georgetown.

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The Malacca's Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Muhammad Ali Rustam was the minister I mentioned just now.

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Apart from this section, I don't think there are any other significant corners seen inside the Malaysian Pavilion. However, I still believe that a lot more that could be done to showcase these two heritage sites.

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A group picture of the minister and the rest of the delegates.

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Besides Malacca, Georgetown is also listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Cities.

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It happened that on the day of our visit, the Chief Minister was there to visit and officiate some function at the Malaysia Pavilion.

Yes, I gotta admit that the section introducing the UNESCO world heritage sites and Baba Nyonya culture looks nice with colourful posters and photos, but apart from several brief notes, they are hardly inspiring. 

I strongly believe that the experience could be improved if there was more imagination and depth in presenting the exhibits. The Baba Nyonya culture exhibit could have been enlivened with descriptions of their lifestyle in depth, perhaps explained by a real Baba or Nyonya, in costume. That would make the experience much more lively and interesting.

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A poster at one corner, probably for visitors to pose for photographs to tell their friends that they have stood by the Twin Towers.

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A mock tropical rainforest in Malaysia, which I find it to be a bit messy and unkept.

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Personally, I have never visited Taman Negara to see our rainforest for real, but I am unsure if we can find banana plants and oil palms there.

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If I saw it properly, isn't that orang utan on the right without its head already?

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There is a platform for visitor to walk through the rustic countryside and waterfall setting.

While other pavilions utilised the latest, modern technology in their presentation, it seems that ours still prefer to stick to the traditional method of putting up information using diagrams hung on walls. It makes a visit to the Malaysia Pavilion feels like visiting a museum. They should be aware that in these days, they cannot expect visitors to spend time reading from the wall anymore, because that it just too outdated and boring.

Besides, visiting an expo of such magnitude doesn't give one that much time to slowly explore every pavilions. Instead of having visitors to read the texts, they should have something that people can explore and interact with. Do you know that in Israel Pavilion, they have visitors to communicate and chat with the people back in Israel on real time, using the Internet.

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Welcome to the pasar malam of the Malaysia Pavilion. You will know why later.

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This is an example of putting up information that is hardly useful. I doubt any visitors will read through the details.

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Made-in-Malaysia products, made from palm oil, one of our traditional products.

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Biscuits, bakery products, margarine and spreads are examples of products made of palm oil.

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This is the first time in my life seeing raw rubber.

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I've been longing to own one of these rubber ducks and frogs.

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Condoms and also golf balls are also made of rubber, which was quite surprising.

Some Malaysian tourists pointed out that the pavilion resembles a pasar malam to promote commercial products. Most of the space was used to promote commercial products like massage machines, coco drinks, tongkat ali coffee, furniture, paintings, and even palm oil and timber.

Still, these companies at least put more effort in to promote their products than the ministry staff and the volunteers. I noticed some of the staff in the pavilion just sat down at one corner, playing with their mobile phones, instead of interacting with the visitors. They are, after all, being paid to be at the pavilion.

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Malaysia's unique art and crafts, and paintings from Balai Seni Lukis Negara.

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Some of the paintings displayed are for sale.

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Wau bulan, the traditional and colourful Malaysian moon-kite with floral motifs.

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Batik was on display as well in the Malaysian craft corner.

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Two batik painter was specially brought there to demonstrate the batik techniques. However, their inability to communicate with the tourists, mostly from the mainland left most of them in the dark.

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More paintings on the wall and pewters from Royal Selangor.

The Malaysia Pavilion looked attractive on outside but there were several weaknesses in terms of details. It lacks conceptual depth, vision and imagination, and has failed to impress visitors despite exhibiting a wide range of products and content. I guess the Tourism Ministry was too overly eager to promote as many tourism spots as possible and that has completely backfired, which has resulted in the exhibit lacking focus as a whole.

Besides that, the Malaysia Pavilion was not built in compliance with the expo theme - "Better City, Better Life". I guess that it is because Malaysians have no idea on how to make their urban life better. The most obvious example would be the public transport in Kuala Lumpur. Anyone who has had a first-hand experience with it will certainly know that it is a mess - the road congestion, potholes spotted everywhere, and flooding whenever it rains.

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Taiping Zoo was featured in that map!

Urban areas in foreign countries like Tokyo are heading towards the low carbon and environmental-friendly directions because of the development and concentrated populations. However, are we able to find such a city in Malaysia? I doubt so. Furthermore, cities in Malaysia are also lacking in core values. How is a country going to make progress without a positive value?

Our senior officials and politicians should pay a visit to the Shanghai World Expo to absorb the values of globalisation, instead of quarreling among themselves on petty issues at home like a jaguh kampung.

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Some famous Malaysia dished at the food and beverages outlet.

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The saddest-looking nasi lemak in my life lol!

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I have no idea how they ended up calling this curry laksa noodle.

I know I have only been giving not-so-nice reviews on the Malaysia Pavilion up to this point. Receiving constructive criticism is part and parcel of life, isn't it? If I am gonna say everything is nice and perfect, there's surely not gonna be much improvements after this. Everything will just stay static, just like how it is. 

I don't really blame them because Malaysia is new in participating in such expo, and there are still a lot for them to learn. It is my hope that they would study and reflect on these weaknesses, and come out with much better ideas in the future, so that we are able to compete with other nations, which seemed to be taking it seriously to present their nations in the best possible light.

11 comments:

Ken said...

@.@
The hutan is really 'HUTAN'.
Messy...

In that pasar malam, those minor stuffs also got displayed. *Geleng kepala*

Jaguh kampung! LOL

CLF said...

hahah actually my sis work in the Pav, and you know ada banyak cerita belakang bout the Pav settings.... unknown black hole hehe...

D-Tourist said...

thanks for this blog posting for us to see the malaysian pavilion who can't make it to Shanghai :)

Too bad the Pavilion was not attractive enuf... :(

U should haf told datin Ng in NZ about ur opinion of the M'sian Pavilion in Shanghai.. after all she is incharge of tourism .. :P

Black holes??? as in where all the funds allocated for expo get sucked into??

calvin said...

@ ken:
you won't call it a "hutan" if it's kept nicely and tidy, right? xD

but yea, i think they could've done so much better >.<

calvin said...

@ clf:
i didn't know that your sister is working there!
but yeah, that conversation we had last night had certainly told me a thing or two about the black hole *hehe*

calvin said...

@ d-tourist:
it's my pleasure :)
yes, i know there were better pavilions out there, but we have made it a point to visit it no matter what.
we did, and although we were quite disappointed, but i am still proud to call myself a malaysia :D

lets just keep ourselves from talking about the already known "culture" whenever there's a government-related project xD

kae vin said...

You should go and be the tourism minister next time! I am serious! ;D

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
but why?
it is because the "handsome factor" would attract more foreign tourists to visit malaysia? xD

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Anonymous said...

i agree with you....i visted the malay pavilion ( i was born in KL) and i found it to be very inaccurate...the rainforest was plastic,(how about a live fish tank hey that would be something) the layout was all over, and it kind of reminded me of genting highlands esp those twin tower elevators. Although the baba section was redeeming and pretty, and the actual building it self was pretty. I though the pavilion at the 2008 world expo in spain better represented Malaysia.

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
hi there! thanks a lot for your comments. honestly speaking, i guess most visitors, especially malaysians were quite disappointed when they went into the malaysia pavilion.

if you have gone into other pavilions like the new zealand pavilion, or united arab emirates pavilion, you will get what i mean.

this is one of the best opportunity for malaysia to market herself to the world, as there are hundreds of thousands of visitors who went to this expo, but unfortunately, it seems that they didn't really make good use of this chance =/

i didn't have the chance to visit the malaysia pavilion in spain in 2008, but hopefully they will design a much better pavilion in the future, because i believe we have so much potential to do better : )