Shanghai Expo
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170,000 volunteers 'man' the stands in the streets, stations and tourist sites as well as helping at the Expo
170,000 volunteers 'man' the stands in the streets, stations and tourist sites as well as helping at the Expo
The 2010 World Expo in Shanghai
Open from May 1st to October 31st, the theme is ‘Better City – Better Life’  and you can’t fail to know it with posters and billboards and 'show stands' plastered around the city and surrounding towns, and mascots on sale on every street.
Newspapers said that the shops had run out of tickets so to avoid the queues at the ticket booths you can purchase them from the Bank of Communication in Nanjing Road East, about 50 metres from the Bund.

The budget was just under $40 billion – more than the cost of staging the 2008 Olympics. As with the Olympics, the renovations and new infrastructure are breathtaking – every major street has been repaved, buildings have had a new lick of paint and 6 new subway lines have been built. While many of Shanghai’s colonial-era architectural treasures have been restored, bulldozers have also razed whole neighbourhoods so that the city can look as modern and shiny as possible.

China Pavilion
China Pavilion
The China Pavilion was reserved tickets only and practically impossible to get in to. However, as we lingered one evening (8.30ish) deciding which of the restaurants to go to, 2 young girls approached us and said they were leaving to go home and they offered us their tickets, which were for entry between 8.30 and 9.30. So we rushed over to the pavilion and, to our surprise, went straight in.  Aah, but up a few steps and turn a few corners and there we were stuck in a people grid with no return or exit. An hour later we got in and did a quick trip around the pavilion, starting on the 12th floor and winding our way down the building. Was the China Pavilion worth the long wait in the queue?  No not really - the content wasn't very inspiring, except for the children’s art gallery, and the internal tram broke down so we didn’t see what they had in store for us to see on that journey.  But at least we can say that we are one of those fortunate enough to see inside the very grand 12 story temple that dominates the Shanghai Expo.

The UK Seed Cathedral
The UK Seed Cathedral
Another stroke of luck got us into the UK pavilion. It was past 9pm and, as we were British and on our last day, one of the attendants let us go in the back door. What an awesome structure and definitely the most innovative of the show. It’s like a fuzzy cube, spiked with thousands of floating fibre-optic ‘spines’. Each of the 60,000 fibres let in light from the outside and each had a unique seed embedded in the end of the fibre.

The visitor is taken on a journey past a wall of maps of green and open landscape, and city lights to the unique ‘fibre-optic’ seed cathedral, then past a ‘plant river’ before arriving at the open parkland space where they can sit, relax, admire the amazing sculpture and marvel at how such tiny seeds can produce wonders of nature and life.

The Netherlands 'Happy Street'
The Netherlands 'Happy Street'
With interesting design and content the Netherlands ‘Happy Street’ pavilion is a 400-meter pedestrian street that curves in a figure of eight with 26 small houses (rooms) along the street. The visitor passes each house peering into each window to see some art or display of the Dutch culture.  Built completely on stilts, the street looks like a suspended roller coaster.

SEAC-GM – see the future transportation vehicles for 2030 in a cinema and show that sees the cars being driven onto the stage.
Indonesia – some really interesting exhibits and a coffee bar.
Chile – an impressive steel and wood pavilion with many interesting displays, although no Moai or display for Easter Island. However, don’t forget to try the pisco sour before you leave!

Merching the crowd into the next 'pen'
Merching the crowd into the next 'pen'
Queues, Queues and Queues!
The disappointment of the Expo was the queues. Having travelled over 9000 kilometres to get there, we were very sad not to see most of the major pavilions. (perhaps there should have been a special queue for foreigners, especially to be admitted into their own country’s pavilion)  The Chinese don't seem to mind standing in a queue for hours; many take their own mini, foldup stool to sit on - 5 hours for Saudi Arabia and Japan, 4 hours for S. Korea and reserved tickets only for the China and Taiwan pavilions. (Taiwan gives out 3000 tickets at 9am and 1000 at 6pm but people queue from noon for the 6pm allocation!).  Most of the queues decrease in the evening but you can still forget getting into the UK, USA, Poland, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Canada unless you want to stand in a queue for hours!  During the peak season the attendance is averaging over 450,000 visitors a day, but is that too many to admit or should the exhibitors cater better for faster throughput?
People shuffle miles up and down the fenced tracks to get into the pavilions in between the long periods of just standing on one spot. If they’re lucky and the queue is nearly empty they still walk the same miles but at a greater pace, as the barriers are not opened to shorten the track!. Where there are exceptionally long queues, such as Saudi Arabia, there is an interesting military method for queue control using ‘people enclosures'. The army march to the beginning of the enclosure, remove the barrier and march the people into the next enclosure all with exact precision. Then the barrier is closed and the next crowd is marched into the empty enclosure. Pushing and shoving is not allowed! To keep the people cool there is a spray of water mist that falls from the ceiling. It was very amusing to watch but it’s seemed crazy for anyone to queue for 5 hours in 34 degrees of heat and humidity for 15 minutes of pleasure!

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
So, what were people queuing to see and what did I miss because I didn’t want to queue for hours in the heat to see inside?
Saudi Arabia -  has invested about 1.3 billion RMB to build the world’s largest 3D theatre with the screen area of 1600 square meters.
Japan - in the shape of “Silkworms” with three corners to heat and collect rainwater. Its purple “skin” is made of glass and recyclable laminated film and the dome is filled with robots.  
Taiwan - the transparent cube is made of steel and glass, with the outlines of the island's Mount Morrison and Mount Ali painted on the facade. The main part of the pavilion was built with stone from JadeMountain and soil from Yin-Ko Town and it houses a giant ball in its centre.  
USA -  a mammoth gray steel structure meant to resemble an eagle stretching its wings in welcome. Visitors can see how a little girl makes a waste space into a lush garden in 4D effect. 
Spain - the rattan “Big Basket” streamlined shape has two Flamenco performances daily and a Spanish restaurant which can accommodate 300 people.  
Russia – has constructed its own pavilion at the exhibition for the first time in 30 years. The 6,000-square-meter sun-shaped pavilion, dominated by fairy-tale motifs, comprises 12 white-and-gold towers symbolizing the 12 months of the year.  
Poland - appearing to be a folded paper box, it is inspired by its folk art of paper cut-outs. During the daytime, the hall is filled with light filtering through paper-cutting patterns and at night, it will shine with different colors.  
Switzerland - featuring the 10 minute chair lift ride that takes visitors up and out to the roof garden from the inside pavilion.  
Germany - has a metal sensor ball, hanging in the top of pavilion which moves by voice control.  
Denmark – visit the fairy tale kingdom with the Little Mermaid, shipped over from Copenhagen.  
World Meteorological Centre -  enjoy the wonders of the world’s weather with the 4D cinema panorama that shows how the evolution of the cloud droplets, fog, typhoons, lightning, and rainbow.  
Oil Pavilion this has the Expo’s only real 4D experience with an actual 3D film to accompany the water that it spits in the audience’s face). The pavilion resembles a huge energy-processing network with the exterior walls of criss-crossed petroleum and gas pipes.

Transport within the Expo is excellent with all electric free buses and trolley cars. No liquids are allowed in but water stations are plentiful for topping up your empty bottles. Guards, in abundance, are stood to attention around the expo site to control security and civic behaviour.
Evening tickets are on sale until 8.50pm and the Expo is open to midnight but I couldn’t see the point of that. Some exhibits in the joint halls closed at 5pm with most major pavilions allowing last visitors in at 9pm to close at 10 or 10.30pm. Despite the site having more than 200 restaurants, (150 in public areas and 70 run by the Expo pavilions) they frequently couldn’t provide a meal past 9.30pm. One KFC could only muster up some cold fries and another only chicken burgers. (Infact, one day at 3pm the Bricco restaurant could only serve a limited range of pizzas or spaghetti Bolognese as they had run out of all salads and vegetables). The metro stops at 11pm so there is a mad rush to get the last one, but for such a major event, why weren’t the metro hours extended?