January 16, 2011

Shanghai Expo 2010

Beginning with the largest fireworks display in the history of mankind, it was easy to see why the Shanghai Expo cost even more than the Beijing Olympics. The largest and most expensive world exposition ever staged was spread across both sides of Shanghai's Huangpu river. One side had the country pavilions, anchored by the host nation's gigantic red inverse pyramid. On the others side of the river banks were the corporate pavilions and the city pavilions. I explored each side for one day.

Far and away, the the country pavilions was were the action was. Lineups lasted for hours, with digital signboards updating visitors on the latest waiting times. The queues were horrendously long, but part of the fun. The vast majority of visitors were Chinese. Many had purchased an Expo Passport as a souvenir. They would wait hours in lineups, hurriedly rush into a pavilion as soon as they were granted entrance, and crowd around the booth where they could get their passport stamped. Once the initial stamping stampede was over, many would spare only a momentary glance at the exhibits within the pavilion they had just lined up hours to visit before continuing on to the next country on their checklist.

I was given VIP entrance to the Canadian and Indian pavilions, saving hours of waiting. I tried the poutine at the Canadian pavilion for dinner. I did not visit any of the other pavilions of the popular nations, preferring to go off the beaten track and breeze through the smaller nations that had little to no one queueing up to visit them. Most of the workers at the pavilions were unenthusiastic, with the exception being the friendly folks manning the booths of the nations in the Pacific Islands.