AGONY AND JOY AT SHANGHAI EXPO

It has been 9 days since DS and I returned from our 11-day trip in China, and I am still feeling very exhausted.   I think this is due to the excessive walking (in Shanghai) and the climbing of mountains and lots of steps (in Zhang Jia Jie) during the trip, coupled with the lack of sleep on some nights.  It was a big mistake not bringing along my sports shoes in this trip as I was trying to travel with a lighter luggage, and my toes still hurt 😦  .

This was our second visit to Shanghai, and first trip to Zhang Jia Jie 张家界 (formerly known as Da Yong 大庸) which is located about 2 hours away from Shanghai by flight.  If not for the Shanghai Expo 2010, I doubt we would visit Shanghai again in just 5 years since our last visit there as there are many other better options for holidays.  The trip as a whole was very interesting and enjoyable (especially so in Zhang Jia Jie) but we both agreed that it would have been a lot better if not for the bad experiences at the Expo.

6 Expo tickets that costs us RMB960 or about S$195

While in Shanghai, we spent three full days (between 12-14 hours each day) at the Expo, with the intention to cover as much as we hoped to.  DS even did his “homework” and identified the pavilions which we were interested to get in.  Unfortunately, we were greatly disappointed that we were unable to do so due to the excessive crowds and extremely long queues everywhere at the Expo.  Just to give you an idea, we had to queue for over an hour to get into the Singapore Pavilion in the evening of our first day there. This is considered a short wait, as we finally had to give up on many pavilions that required hours of waiting, for example, 3 hours and more for the Japanese Industry Pavilion and Japan Pavilion which I was very keen, 6-8 hours for Saudi Arabia Pavilion (no kidding!), etc.  In the case of the Chinese Pavilion which was a top hit at the Expo, interested visitors had to queue from as early as 6am to obtain separate free entry tickets, and even so, there was no guarantee that one could secure the ticket.  There was no priority for foreigners like us who were just the minority of the crowds.  I blame this on the poor management of crowds by the Expo organiser and participants.

Long queues at one of the Expo entrances waiting to secure tickets for the China Pavilion.  This photos was taken just before 7am on 21 May 2010.  After a failed attempt on our first day, we decided to give up on the China Pavilion!

Look at the horrendous crowds waiting to get into the Expo just before the official opening hour! After this experience on the first day, we decided to go to the Expo only after 10:30am on subsequent days in order to avoid the crowds at the entrances!

China Pavilion, viewed from Expo Axis (the main building of Expo)

China Pavilion viewed from the main entrance

An interesting bronze cast sculpture entitled Never-ending Life (生生不息) in front of the China Pavilion.  This sculpture is sponsored by Shanghai Institute of Visual Art, Fudan University

Crowds in the European Zone

Saudi Arabia Pavilion.  It was still packed with very long queues when we were there in the evening of 25 May.  This was another pavilion that we were interested to get in but obviously we had to give it a miss with much disappointment.

A group of old folks gathered outside the Australia Pavilion to have their food.  Many of them came prepared with their little foldable chairs!

The majority of the visitors at the Expo was mainland Chinese, and many of them are the so-called “外省人“ (wai sheng ren) who are non-Shanghai residents.  It made me wonder if the Expo is a truly international event, or an event held just for the Chinese!  Based on our close observations, many of these Chinese did not seem interested in the exhibits at all.  When they entered into the pavilions, they would just rush through without paying any attentions to the contents and exhibits, and worse still, some of them were only interested in collecting the Expo passport stamps from the pavilions. Just how sad that this bunch of people who jammed up the pavilions have actually deprived genuine visitors like our friends and us the opportunities to visit the pavilions!!

Long queues waiting to enter the Brazil Pavilion.  Such scene is just too common everywhere at the Expo and this was not the longest queue!

Italy Pavilion, taken in the afternoon of 21 May 2010

There have been many reports about the Expo and sadly many of them are unfavourable ones. Having been to the event personally, I couldn’t agree more with some of these reports.  I must admit that I actually laugh at this one particular quote from President Hu Jing Tao of China published on Sin Min Daily (dated 31.05.2010) that caught my attention.  It read :

  • 中国国家主席胡锦涛表示、上海世博回为世界各国提供了交流的平台、同时也制造了机会, 让世界了解中国 (meaning, The Shanghai Expo provides a platform for exchange, for the various countries in the world while at the same time, create opportunities for the world to understand China).

I say 是的, 让世界了解了丑态百出的中国 or in English, yes, for the world to see the ugliness of China!

A guy examining black market tickets (黄牛票 ) sold by this lady in black jacket.  She was not the only one in this “business”. We also saw quite many people selling fake Expo souvenirs outside the Expo entrances, in the Oriental Pearl (东方明珠)area and Nanjing Walking Street (南京步行街) which are key tourist spots in Shanghai.

Imagine a young lady daring to sleep by herself under the shelter, on a bench provided along the elevated pedestrian walkway

Women sat around anywhere they like.  See how they sat!

I would say Singaporeans’ “Kiasuism” (i.e. afraid-to-lose attitude) is no way near the Chinese.  Most of the Chinese were so kiasu that even though they were already in the queues, they would not stop finding ways to push ahead or even cut queues very rudely.  We could never queue in peace as they would totally ignore us even after we told them off.  Just how uncultured they were! And the strange thing is that the society there accepts such poor behaviour.  They also talked very loudly while queuing as if they were quarreling; ate and threw rubbish around like nobody’s business! Everyday, at the Expo, without fail, I got pushed by the Chinese not just once, but many times, whether when I was queuing or just walking around at the Expo.  There were even times that I almost got pushed down by them.  We had also witnessed many times how the Chinese pretended to be wheel-chaired in order to gain priority access to the pavilions! I must say that I not only find it intolerable, but also was disgusted by their uncultured behaviours!

Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish….

We also realised that many of the volunteers and staff manning the pavilions were not capable of speaking English despite the wide publicity that they learned English!  Many of the explanations in the Pavilions were done in Mandarin, without considerations for the foreigners who do not understand Mandarin at all.  When we were in the Singapore Pavilion, we were trying to understand the purpose/meaning of the four trampolines placed on each side on the ground floor near the entrance.  The staff on duty was not only unable to speak English, but also could not explain the purpose of  the exhibit clearly to us!  I supposed the exhibit was just too complicated for anybody to understand, including the staff on duty!  Even more upsetting was many visitors just went to the trampolines, jumped a few times and then walked away without knowing what it was all about and without even attempting to understand the point.  It was so ridiculous from the start.

Urban Symphony – Singapore Pavilion – looks good but ….

Urban Symphony by night – dim and uninteresting

Talking about the Singapore Pavilion – The Urban Symphony, both DS and were I greatly disappointed by its exhibits and contents.  We queued for more than an hour to get in and once we were in, we were mostly being pushed along with the large crowd towards another queue to the second floor.  We waited 20 minutes to get into the hall which was actually a theatre and little did we expect the long wait was just to listen to the Chinese music video entitled Every Touching Moment (感动每一刻).  Well, the organiser probably thought that the visitors will know Singapore through this one video, but honestly how could it be that simple!  The video subtly show some aspects of Singapore through the singers and scenes but the almost 100% mainland Chinese audience wouldn’t have a clue on the subtle points.  Although there were other exhibits like posters of Singapore statistics and short films of 9 Singapore residents, everybody was being rushed through the halls so it wasn’t possible to grasp much of them.  We felt that the overall exhibits did not clearly showcase the country’s racial and cultural mix, economies, industries, tourist attractions, and especially how to make the city a better place to live in.  And not to forget the durian-looking mascot for the Pavilion.  No doubt we can give credit for the sense-of-humour of this choice, but I would give it zero point for suitability.  The final exhibit at the top floor was a roof garden, and although it was nicely done, visitors probably couldn’t tell that it was to showcase Singapore as a garden city.  It could easily be misunderstood that it was there just to look nice and anyway, most visitors just walked one round and left without a clue!

Inside the Singapore Pavilion. On the right is the Durian Boy, the mascot for the Singapore Pavilion.

Part of the rooftop garden featured in the Singapore Pavilion

Taxi service to the Expo was another disappointment.  On our first day, we left the hotel just after 630am (this early!) as we wanted to queue for  the entry tickets to the China Pavilion.  However, we needed to first buy our Expo tickets from some outlets (like an authorised convenient store) on our way there because the ticket booths at the Expo only opened at 8am.  The taxi driver assured us that he could do so before we boarded the taxi but after we boarded, all he did then was to drive us straight to the Expo entrance and asked us to buy the tickets from the entrance!  Obviously, we didn’t get to queue for the China Pavilion’s tickets as we did not have any main entrance tickets.  On another occasion, a taxi driver promised to send us to the Expo entrance but we were cheated again as the driver actually dropped us somewhere quite a distance away from the Expo entrance and gave us the excuse that he was not authorised to drive further in.  We had no choice but to walk a long way in under the hot sun!  All the empty promises from the taxi drivers!

If you ask us, do we regret going to the Expo, the answer is we were disappointed with the Expo but there was no regret because every travel is a life experience, be it good or bad.  All the ugly sights aside, we did have some wonderful time appreciating the creative and beautiful exterior of many of the pavilions, enjoying the beautiful light show at the Expo Axis and a few outdoor performances, as well as a lovely meal in one of the restaurants at the Cultural Centre @ Expo that offerred a beautiful night view.

Impressive nightly light show at the Expo Axis, with music added.

This shot was taken from the observatory deck of the Cultural Centre @ Expo after a lovely vegetarian meal at Blissful Butterfly.

One of the glass funnels at Expo Axis, with full reflection

Our Hearts Flying 飞翔的心愿 – a streamlined ribbon linking people throughout the world with love, is proud to voice  the volunteers’ wish : Our City, Your Joy!

Australia Pavilion with its theme : ImagiNation

Israel Pavilion with its theme : Innovation for Better Life

The Republic of Korea Pavilion with its theme : Friendly City, Colourful Life

Traditional Korean performances at the Korea Pavilion.  The walls of the Pavilion are decorated with ROK alphabets that give a strong sense of their national identity.

Staff on duty dressed very professionally and their uniform is sewn with ROK alphabets too!

Latvia Pavilion with its theme : Patterns of Forests, Oceans, Lands, Sky and Wind

Malaysia Pavilion with its traditional Malaysia hut structure and beautiful lighting at night.  Its theme : One Malaysia, City Harmonious Living.

Russia Pavilion with its theme : New Russia, City and Citizens

Spain Pavilion with its theme : From the City of Our Parents to the City of Our Children

Sweden Pavilion with its theme : Spirit of Innovation

Taiwan Pavilion with its theme : Mountain, Water, Heart and Lantern.  I love its lighting!

The UK Pavilion with its theme : Building on the past, Shaping Our Future

Turkey Pavilion with its theme : Cradle of Civilisation

Glad that we did not miss going into these two pavilions – Pavilion of Footprint and Pavilion of Future.  They were really good, being done almost like a museum.

From left to right : Cultural Centre, China Pavilion and one of the glass funnels of Expo Axis.  This shot was taken from the ferry, while we travelled from Pudong(浦东) to Puxi (浦西) of the Expo site.

Would we then recommend our friends to go to the Shanghai Expo?  Our answer is a big NO, if the Expo is your main reason for visiting Shanghai.  It would be a different story if you are touring Shanghai because it is an interesting destination for sightseeing, shopping and food.  One just need to have a lower expectation when visiting China, to avoid disappointment.

CLICK HERE FOR MY :

SHANGHAI EXPO 2010 ONLINE PHOTO ALBUM

(more than 500 shots)

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