China 5: Shanghai & Expo
From Hong Kong, I took the direct train to Guangzhou then boarded an overnight train to Shanghai – the direct HK – Shanghai train sells out days in advance (and only runs every 2 days. China FAIL.)
On my first evening, I visited The Bund, the historical international/commercial district of Shanghai, where there are lots of neat old buildings, mostly Western-style. There are also excellent views of Pudong, the current commercial district, across the river.
Robin arrived early the next day and we met at the excellent (and free) Shanghai Museum, which has a variety of exhibits showing China’s historical arts and crafts. Then we wandered around, visiting the French Concession, which was a bit disappointing (just western-style bars & boutiques.)
The next day we visited Expo. This is part of the same series of “world fairs” that visited Montréal in 1967 and left us with the métro and all the awesome stuff on Île Sainte-Hélene. The expo consists of a large number of pavillions, usually one per country but sometimes smaller countries share space in a larger one. You line up for anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours, and then you get to see multimedia presentations about the country and maybe browse some cultural artefacts. On your way out you can often buy souveniers from the country and some of its local food.
We only had time to visit a dozen or so pavillions before our evening train and the one I really wanted to see (Japan) had a 3 hour lineup so we skipped it. But some highlights:
- Canada was the first pavillion that really impressed me. It actually had a fair amount related to expo’s theme, which was “better city better life”, and there was some good interactivity: a cool water + projection sculpture where you could splash the water and have your splashes turn into flower blossoms, and bikes you could ride to take a “tour” though Canadian cities. We also had poutine, which wasn’t very good but was the best poutine I’ve had in 2010…
- Morocco was neat – built like a palace, big high ceilings, and rooms each dedicated to a different traditional craft on the second floor. It actually made me want to visit Morocco :)
- The DPRK (North Korea) was amusing, just because it’s the DPRK. They were trying to sell the image of a paradise on earth, but even in their best wall sized panoramic photos, Pyongyang still looked grey and rundown.
- Luxemberg‘s pavillion was made of rusted metal. Awesome!
- Israel had the best multimedia presentation I saw. The pavillion was kind of a dome, with static displays on the outside talking a bit about history, and on the inside, futuristic glowing orbs, a wraparound projection screen, and a booming “voice of god” explaining Israel’s contributions to The Future (like: they invented the laptop, apparently) with subtitles on the glowing orbs.
So that was the expo, and that was Shanghai. It’s not an amazing place – I much prefer Beijing – but oh well!
(I was in Shanghai from May 15-17. Robin arrived on May 16. I’m currently in Nepal, leaving for Kathmandu in about 25 minutes.)
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