Friday, August 20, 2010

World Expo 2010 @ Shanghai


I dislike queuing up;
I dislike queuing up for more than 30 minutes;
I dislike queuing up for more than 30 minutes under the sun;
I dislike queuing up for more than 30 minutes under the sun with people pushing from behind every 10 seconds;
I dislike queuing up for more than 30 minutes under the sun with people pushing from behind every 10 seconds without the slightest respect to the idea of queuing up.
The above pretty much summed up my experience at the World Expo 2010 at Shanghai.


Don't get my wrong, regarding the queuing, I am not complaining at all but annoyed to be exact. I understand that changes require time and behavioral, social and cultural changes takes a long time to change. Most of the visitors who lined up with us at the expo were Chinese residents from different part of the China (perhaps just from Shanghai since each Shanghai resident get one ticket to the expo to my understanding / information). As seen from recent news coverages, there are many complaints about the uncivilized acts of many of the Chinese visitors. However, I think we should never jump into conclusion without fully understand the reasons or history behind the so-called uncivilized acts or behaviors. (Please allow me to go on before I talk about other disappointing aspect of the World Expo 2010, including the food of course)

In my humble opinion, China has undergone several huge turmoils over the last 2 - 3 centuries and one of the more notable events in recent history has to be the Cultural Revolution during the period of 1966 - 1976. One of the key campaigns initiated by Chairman Mao was the Re-Education (上山下鄉運動) campaigns in 1968 where by urban-educated youths were sent to the rural areas and country-side to learn from the poor and peasants. Accordingly to some sources, over 16 millions urban youths from coastal urban cities were sent to the remote parts of China for re-education, including the communist values of course. Many intellects were also sent to the country-side as punishment as well. The original plan was to let all these youths return to the cities after the re-education but the campaign did not end well with plenty of the youths and intellects remained in the countryside even to this date.

Wait a second, with so many youths and intellects in the countryside, what happened to the cities? They still need to function right? Who was running the industries and factories? Many of the peasants moved out of the countryside into the urban cities as part of the Re-Education campaigns, like an exchange of roles. Some worked in factories to learn about urbanization, some took key roles in the government without much education at all and some went to school. Universities were encouraged to recruit rural students based on how poor they were and how devoted they were with the Party's ideology, not really related to their academic qualification. These students were often referred as Peasants Students (工農兵學員).

This social scene reminded until the end of the Cultural Revolution and even now. Many who now resided in the cities are direct decedents of those who used to live in the countryside or perhaps they were those who got exchanged to the cities. Therefore, don't be surprised to find peasants in the countryside who can speak perfect English or even French!  Now, if you are used to live in the countryside of a developing country, education is a luxury, chairs or furniture can be a luxury as well. A  designed toilet is wherever convenient in the rice field or behind the bush. If you are tired, you just find a place to sit down, there are not benches or whatsoever. Again, these are social and cultural changes which takes years or perhaps generations to take effect. Things have improved a lot over the years since China opened up in the late 1970s, slowly and confidently in my opinion.

I hope the above would help you understand the stories or possible reasons behind these behaviors. Perhaps we should be more patient for these social and cultural changes to take effect. Then again, I still dislike queuing up for more than 30 minutes under the sun!!!! (note: accuracy of historical information based on my best knowledge at this time.)

Anyhow, time to go back to the rest of the World Expo 2010. First of all, I was quite amazed how people can just sit in the middle of the main road as if nothing was wrong!


Many of the popular Pavilions like Japan, China, Germany or even South Korea would require 2 - 3 hours of queuing up, under the heat that is. Forget about it, I was not going line up that long for one single Pavilion.


Another thing I want to mention is that whoever designed the layout of the World Expo 2010 should be fired!! It is a nightmare for any sort of photographers! There were huge light poles surrounding the Pavilions which are tightly packed together. It was hard to to snap a picture of the whole structure without getting those light poles in or white tents for the queue! Take the Taiwan Pavilion for example, all blocked from EVERY angle! Perhaps the China one is an exception because it is the ONLY one standing way above the ground level!


I sort of gave up trying half way through the expo. This lady on the bench made me want to take a nap as well! Oh, since I am on this topic, I heard that there are old folks / disables folks FOR HIRE!!! Why? Visitors with senior folks or disabled folks can have VIP access into the Pavilions. YES, that is why you may see some single old folks sitting all over the Expo. I am actually a bit sad rather than amazed with this business idea.


My friend and I were able to get into 5 Pavilions, namely, Finland, Russia, Turkey, Netherlands and London's ZED Case Pavilion. Among these 5, Finland was the most disappointing, London's ZED was a ripoff and Netherlands was the most impressive. So what about Finland?


Finland's Pavilion was basically product placement show with the different brands such as Nokia and other famous designers brands.


These exhibits were presented very nicely but seeing the DO NOT TOUCH signs EVERYWHERE destroyed the whole visual effects in my opinion.


These signs were there for a reason because visitors kept on touching them! This issue relates back to the cultural topic I mentioned before but I did not it to be of such huge concerns that signs and guards have to be placed every few steps. Sigh.


Why was the London ZED Case Pavilion a ripoff? ZED stands for Zero Emission Development and one of highlights as advertised was the ZED Bar which server edible plates and utensils including cups made of ice.


Seriously, I wanted to write a complaint letter. Alright, the plate was of pastry and the chopsticks were of chocolate biscuits, but fried rice was being served? Many asked for a spoon to eat, a plastic disposable spoon to eat! And what happened to the ice cup? And why was the fried rice in the shape of a square? 


Simple, check out what the girl behind the counter was doing. These fried rice was from microwaveable rice boxes easily found in your nearest convenient stores! Staff was defrosting them on top of the microwave and reheat them before being served! What the !? Those plastic containers did not seem to be a very "green" approach which ZED stands for! It was a disgrace, I am sorry to use such strong words but that was how I feel! 


Before we enter the Netherlands Pavilion, we stopped nearby for a Belgian Waffles. 150% better than what we had at the London ZED Bar!


The Netherlands Pavilion was the most impressive among the 5 we visited for several reasons.


The whole structure was an open structure without the need of any air conditioning devices which somewhat matched the theme of green living. Exhibits were lined up on the side of the wide streets that runs upwards like a spiral stairs.


Since it was an open structure and spiral upwards, visitors can have a rare chance to overlook the skyline of whole Expo, or at least part of it!


The even have an open green field with movable sheep figures for people to play with, a very nice touch indeed.


At the end of the day, we stopped by the Germany Pavilion for dinner. Sigh, what a bad decision!


We thought it would be decent enough but we were wrong! A key theme of the Germany showcase was "balancity", but the price and quality of the food was not balanced!!!


The Pickled Roast Beef with Homemade Noodles and Red Cabbages was .... cold! I somehow missed plane food at that moment! The meat was tough as well. Enough said!


The German speciality platter of sausages was not much better than the previous dish. The were tough as jerky and cold as well! I want my plane food! I understand that I should not expect so much from Expo food but not to this level seriously! First the ZED Bar ripoff and not this? sigh ...


The worst part of all ... the meal including a pint of beer was RMB 383!!!! Expensive FAST FOOD!


Definitely not a pretty way to end the day at the Word Expo 2010 @ Shanghai. 


Unknown said...

you should've went to the Italian pavilion
probably the best one in the whole expo, due to the fact that they're hosting the next one.

Unknown said...

I also hate the queuing part, all the pushing ! seriously is it going to make that much of a difference if you get in 10 seconds faster?!

and I got into a heated argument with a mainlander, good thing no one took out their video camera and posted it on youtube!

W said...

I am really glad that you have the good sense of asking people to be patient for changes to come. After all, the poor folks in China have gone through the most unimaginable and most ugly.

I was in Shanghai a week ago. It was 40 degree C outside. Didn't have the guts to go to Expo.

Tom said...

Did the British pavilion not have the Heatherwick seed pavilion? I have seen pictures and it looks beautiful, true sculptural glory?

Unknown said...

ewww i hateee queueing!

Jason said...

@Tom: oh yeah! I took a picture of it but deleted it because as mentioned, so many things blocking the structure when taking the picture ... sigh

@W: Oh we were lucky then, never really reached 35C ... then again, hard to say the official temperature was really that accurate haha

Jason said...

@ Jonathan: The Italian Pavilion = 2 hours from 6pm sigh ... btw, are you sure it is not on youtube? lol

Norman ah Liang said...

If you spend more days and you can see more pavilion.

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