Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shanghai World Expo 2010 - Day Two

By the second day, the World Expo had lost some of its luster.

Now maybe this has something to do with the fact that I was up at 7am today, partially due to the help of our snorflog alarm clock, once more chiming in every hour, on the hour. But why, you might ask, am I up at seven in the morning? The reason is so I could secure ticket to see the China pavilion down at the expo. You see, rather than just having a line for it you need to get a special ticket. To get this ticket you need to be there very early. So at seven thirty I rolled up, and sat down in line, and cracked my book to do some reading. I had an hour and a half to kill before the gates would open.

Some pushing here, some shoving there, and finally I was inside. I should note it was not me pushing or shoving. In this backwards world where I wait patiently, I like to spread my elbows out and walk at a nice even pace, not letting people pass. It's a good system that keeps me entertained when my belly is empty and craving food. No time to waste eating, not when the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to get a CPT.

In the gate within eight minutes of opening and... ... ... tickets were gone. Of course they were. Ugh. No China pavilion ticket. Well at least I was here early – I could make my way to visit the Saudi Arabia pavilion and see what all the long line fuss was about. So early in the day the line would have to be short, yeah? And it was. I queued in line, half the way to the front already. This would take no time at all. Ten minutes passed. Thirty minutes. Fifty. Seventy five. This was getting ridiculous. Ninety minutes went by, one hundred and ten. Two hours. Two! Hours! And I was inside the building. Fine, whatever, I was in. I had a pamphlet pointing out the roof top oasis, and the stage, and all sorts of other areas. This would be pretty good after all. Right as I walked in I found myself in... another line. Yes inside the pavilion is another line snaking up the spiraled stairs.

The staff walked away. I said screw it. To be honest, I can't believe this many Chinese – the same ones elbowing me for the past two hours, were standing so nicely against the right hand rail. I just walked up on the left skipping about one hundred people and saving myself a good twenty or thirty more minutes. And what was the cause of this big wait? The pavilion itself was designed this way. When you get to the top you step on a moving sidewalk no more than one person wide.

And then a movie begins. Of course it does. Why would I expect anything else from the expo? So moving along at a snails pace you see images of the happy Saudies doing their thing. Were we not on a motovator I would have rushed through this in a few minutes, as would everyone else releasing the long line queue. But then you enter a world of pulsing colour and sound. Look, I got some good pictures – but... It wasn't very good. And it was such a long delay because of how they were setting it up. Well that's Saudi Arabia for you – make it look good from the outside, and that's all you need.

I need not mention that none of the other things, the roof top, the stage, etc, were open to the public at this time.

There are a number of buildings not yet ready, or not fully functioning. You'd think by this point they'd be good to go – but...

Now Vietnam, there's a well set up pavilion. Flashy statues, and ten armed colourful things. Ancient pottery, lots of information, and a strict walk in, walk out, no line policy.

India, Nepal, and a few others that had no line before I headed to Saudi were now full up – and not worth the wait. Nothing would be worth any waiting after this nonsense.

Laos, and Myanmar, they were alright too. I think a person working in Myanmar was telling me I couldn't take photos, and there may have been signs to that effect – but I don't speak or read Chinese, so sorry but you're on your own. Snap snap snap.

And the rain started to fall. Great. Super. This is what a hungry me needs – so grouchy and wet I continued to press through Asia. Bangladesh smelled of their delicious overpriced curry, and was nothing more than a glorified shop. I was starting to feel as if there was nothing worth seeing in this area until:

Mongolia. Man, they had dinosaurs! Emm Effin' dinosaurs! Do you know how awesome that is?! It's bloody DINOSAUR awesome! That's how awesome that is! They had dinosaur eggs, and a baby dinosaur nest, and a freaking raptor skeleton duking it out with a dino I'd never ever heard of before! All this inside a huge meteor shell thing. I'm gonna be honest – I was starting to think that this expo was not gaining the tourism interest it was meant to - but a velociraptor?! I so want to check out Mongolia now! This is not... I think... what they're normally known for, is it? And if they are – why had I not, until now, been informed?

Two hour line for Saudi pavilion? Lame. Walk into Mongolia – fantastic! Something to be said for the small exhibits – they hold strange and mysterious wonders too.

I made a quick pass through the Maldives, and a building that I couldn't quite figure out. But I'll tell you what, it was like the Tonight Tonight Smashing Pumpkins video come to life. And that had its own charm. Were the music playing, plus ten to fantasticalness – sadly, it was not.

I could feel myself become more and more grouchy. I've become quite attuned to what emotions and reactions are just caused by hunger. I couldn't help feeling that way – avoiding umbrellas at every corner didn't help – but I could not press on to the land of food yet. Not when there were some more buildings between me and the bus stop to take me down to the American Whoppers.

I headed into Morocco. This had a cool video, and a great number of different displays spread amongst three floors. Hop tip for anyone wanting to see this pavilion, but not wanting to wait in line – just sneak in the back exit. Yeah yeah it may be 'wrong' but all you need to do is either hop the “do not hop” velvet rope on floor one, or the unseen, behind the stairs, rope on the second floor. Then you're in. What you wanna do is up to you. I'm all for the rules normally – but I was less than happy about the earlier wait.

And then there was a pavilion. A middle eastern pavilion. Palestine (really?), Jorday, Syria, Afghanistan, Something that sounds like Baharam (which makes me delight in memories of Surf Ninjas and magical Game Gears), and Yemen. The pavilions offer two good points. Well three – the third being there are some worthwhile things to see inside – the first, you're quickly inside without line, thus not getting wet. And the second, more important point, you're quick to snap up a great number of stamps in record time.

Yesterday stamp collecting was fun – today it is a must. It's the only reason to keep going from building to building. Sure you see things there, but it's the carrot that keeps you moving. I mean, why would I stop and look in one place that is almost the same a the one beside it? These cultures aren't all that different. A necklace from one (made before the lines were drawn in the sand) is pretty much going to look like the same necklace on display next door. But collecting stamps – awesome fun. I'm hooked.

And, what, you're going to learn about countries at these things? The only information they have is less than a wiki entry sidebar. These places don't break down population density. That's a fun stat if ever there was one.

At one twenty six I decided food was a must. Very important, eating is. At one forty six I was no closer to my goal, and could not find the nearest bus stop. Red Warrior needs Whoppers badly!

I did find a post office where you could only buy post cards in quantiles of five. I don't know five peoples addresses. What am I going to do with that many post cards?

At two twenty eight, however, a Whopper and Bacon Double Cheeseburger (not so good, really – and more pricey than the Whopper) were in my belly. The guy at the counter seemed annoyed that I didn't buy combos. Hey, when a bottle of soda is eighty cents everywhere in the part, why am I going to pay a buck fifty to have it thrown into the combo? I'll just switch the fries for a second sandwich at nearly the same price thank you very much.

Oh Burger King, how I love you half as much today as I did yesterday – but that is still a lot. By the end of this expo? I hope we'll still be on speaking terms. Thanks for being the cheapest food in this place though.

And then the world became a much more happier place. I cheered up, forgave The Saudi Arabia pavilion for being crap, and starting to think of the good things about it. And to add magic to magic I wandered into the Caribbean pavilion. Everything was blue, and happy, and the staff seemed friendly, and they spoke English and seemed overjoyed to talk to someone else who spoke the same. Although I was so used to not having to make small talk I quite forgot how.

And stamps. Oh the stamps I collected here. My map was more than half covered by the time I walked out. Truly spectacular. Antigua even had leaf shaped seats for a quick rest. Many a person was using them to snooze. I tried – but failed. I just can not relax. Now when there's more to see and do. It's my biggest fault when I travel, I'd say. And it's haunted me all year. Some times I wonder what it would be like to be one of those people who could sit in a cafe all day doing nothing. Probably really lovely.

Outside the pavilion a musical, performance, arty, thing was going on. A group from Montreal – spreading the vicious rumours that Canadians know how to speak French, were doing there thing. There was a DJ, trampoline comedy, a guy in a wheel type ring thing, and dancers. It was good. I don't know what else to say. Strange – arty – good. The premise was that they dug a hole all the way to China. I realized that if I'm standing up, all my family and friends back home are upside down from my relative position. Weird.

It was getting about time for me to call it quits. I was tired. I was achy. I needed to go home. But as I walked to the bus I noticed there was hardly any line for the Mexico pavilion. Hadn't that been a long line just yesterday? So in I went – and watched a video. You know, I'm getting bored of all these places just showing off how good their projector tech is. What would the pavilions have looked like in the days before computers? They'd have had to have put real effort into what they were doing.

Don't get me wrong – Mexico stepped it up, with masks, and images, and rock carvings, and a lot more – it wasn't just a video. There was a band too, just for fun. But most places? All video, no anything worth while.

Out of Mexico, time to head home. But look, Chile! O.K. I'll just take a wee peek. And it's a good thing I did too – this was, by far, my favourite pavilion of the day. Perhaps of the show.

Walking in you enter a room with trippy music, and an infinity mirror along the wall ending screens flickering forever up and forever down. A voice repeats, chillingly, do you know your neighbours name. And when you wonder why everyone's head is craned back you too look up, to see an entire apartment upside down, attached to the ceiling as if nothing was strange at all.

Moving forward, eight screens display the eight tips for making a better city. They display one at a time, while a melancholy tune rolls along, making you almost forget about the small brownhaired girl who has been watching from small screens every step of the way.

Next, are plans for future city spaces. We live in a city so that we can be community. The message comes across. And as you descend the future tech multi window touch controlled wall screens display aspects of various lives, and images – moving not still – that matter to all they represent. Once the cities and faces from within them have been explored a videor room takes you through more that is to be discovered with the Chilean borders.

Leaving you pass a well, a “hole” dug through the world. A live video link connects with people half a world away.

And then you leave. Not once was Easter Island exploited. Not once was anything forced at you. Not once were thing fully explained and spoon fed. This is what World Expo should be. This is beautiful.

Perhaps it's that I connect so strongly with the subject matter. Perhaps it's that I enjoy the Mystlike quality of the experience. Whatever it may have been – there was choice here, and wonder. And yes, my desire to visit this country has only been, again, reinforced. While I wish to forever stay out of South America – I now know that that will be impossible.

Venezuela was just a walk in too. I mean, it wasn't much – a bunch of hammocks and people not knowing how to get out of them, thus leading to falling spectacles of all sorts, and an escalator – but... it had a stamp. And who knows? It could have been good.

The South America pavilion blocked my way. This really was shameful stamp collecting at its worst. But there was a neat giant cow in Uruguay, And a volcanoe somewhere too. I filled up two more squares on my map. Two squares! I realized why people had all these passports with them. Those who were getting four or five stamped each? They were selling them on the internet. I don't know why you'd want to pay for these things if you weren't there - but people like to collect. The strange thing? They sell for the price of a four day pass. They sell for the price of a train ticket from Beijing to Shanghai and a day pass. Who are these people who want them at that price and can not just come out to get them themselves? The things people do.

Slovenia. This was one with a line the day before, so why not take advantage of its zero queue, yeah? Coloured walls. Could have been worse. Could have been projectors. But that was saved for:

Argentina. It was an ADHD nightmare. There were projectors on all the walls, circles projected onto the floors, different videos, different ideas, different moving things every which way you looked. It was madness! Maddness!

Seriously though, I needed to get back. But – oh - South Africa and no line! Alright, but this is the last one. Honest and true. Aside from a big soccer ball out front there was little inside, save for chairs to sit in. This would have been a welcomed rest were I not in so much pain already. I just needed to gee tee eff oh. It was time to leave. On the bus, elbow elbow. Off the bus. Walk walk walk. Another Whopper for good measure (I was starting to get grumpses again) and then a green tea donut.

Onto the subway, off the subway, to the bakery to buy food for tomorrow. And once more I missed the turn to my street. Two days in a row I've thought, huh - I don't remember there being a Lawson's on the way home. And of course this is because there never has been one. On the plus side the weird fish store employees grabbed my beard in awe again today.

It's a good thing that the overpass street is lit in neon blue, otherwise who knows how far I'd walk before realizing my error?

Back at base I headed for an early sleep. After all, getting up at seven wasn't early enough. Lets try five thirty then, shall we?


  1. I really enjoy these posts! Very well written!

  2. Hi, thanks for the comment, Im one of the creators of Uruguay Stand and his cow.

    Gustavo Cortabarria


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