We went to the Expo on our last day at Shanghai. Our flight back home was still at 12:20am so that left enough time. We also booked an extra night at the hotel just so we have a place to go back to, rest a bit and take a shower before heading to the airport. That turned out to be a very good idea as by the time we were through with the expo (and we barley scratched the surface) our feet was killing us and all we wanted to do was lie down and hang our legs.
We took Line 2 from the Metro station just across the hotel . Exiting at the Metro station, we merely followed the crowd that looked like the wildebeest migration in the African savanna heading to the gates which was about a 10 minute walk. It didn’t help that it was raining and we were all rushing to beat the crowds which turned out to be an exercise in futility. We entered the gate and started looking for the ticket booths. Turns out, the ticket booths were at the parking lot across the street fronting the gate. Our effort and initial success of falling into a quickly-moving line were all laid to waste as we had to exit again and buy the tickets. Thankfully, there wasn’t a line and I quickly bought 4 for us. We saw the main entrance where there was hardly a crowd which made us wonder what was that mad line we found ourselves in earlier.
We quickly made our way to the control gates which was filling-up with people and finally entered the expo site! Since we didn’t have much time, we went our separate ways— Joy and Yna were together while Rhoda and I went on it alone. They all headed to the European section while I made my way to the African Pavilion which was just nearby.
The African Joint Pavilion is a really large space with mini pavilions inside of the different African nations. Some were really pretty and had very interesting exhibits. I really like those that presented their music and dance traditions. The real highlight of the pavilion was the stalls that were selling all kinda of crafts. I naturally gravitated to the musical instruments and bought a couple of drums and an mbira (thumb piano). There were also lutes and bigger drums that were more professional but they cost thousands of Yuan.
Out of Africa and into the Caribbean.
From the Caribbean, it was time to explore another dream destination– South America!
I think of all the pavilions I went to, Chile was the one that really let on with the Expo theme of “Better City Better Life.” Rather than simply presenting a pavilion where you wander around at your own will, you follow a path that takes you to a journey on what living in a city is all about. Multi-media presentations that flash all around you and voice-overs communicate ideas such as neighborhoods, building relationships, cityhood, and others. You feel like you are part of a dialogue that explores these concepts. I liked it a lot as it was very thought-provoking and the visuals were arresting and highly creative.
I was still at the Peruvian pavilion when my sisters texted me that they were all waiting at the Estonian pavilion for lunch. The narrow corridor that snaked all around the pavilion was crammed with people. I would have wanted to check out the food and crafts stalls but it was way too crowded.
As I hurried to the European section to meet up with my sisters, I passed by these pavilions which had really loooooooooooong lines of people waiting to get inside. I never got any of the stand-alone pavilions of any European country as there were always long lines of people so I had to content myself with pictures of their pavilions from the outside. I did manage to get inside the joint pavilion which housed the smaller European countries such as Albania. Unfortunately, San Marino, which I only knew about from the stamps of that nation, was closed.
We all met up for lunch at Bulgarian Rose near the Estonia Pavilion. We had mushroom risotto, sausages with baked beans, and a mousakka-like dish which our server said was authentically Bulgarian. In fact, the entire restaurant was staffed by Bulgarians. The food was delicious and quite filling.
Joy wanted to go to the gourmet and shopping complex that was listed on the map so we all agreed to meet there about 2 hours later. I headed to the joint pavilions nearby as I have totally given up on being able to enter any of the big pavilions.
Aside from the stand-alone pavilions, there was a South America Joint Pavilion. There seemed to be joint pavilions of each continent. This is probably to accommodate countries who are unable to build their own pavilions. The advantage of course is that you get to see lots of countries under a single roof. The joint pavilions also had less people.
At the South America joint pavilion, I bought pan-pipes and rattles from Columbia.
The Philippine pavilion with its theme “Performing Cities” had a nice facade but that was all there is to it. Inside, was a stage where a Muslim group was performing to a crowd. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a moving line heading inside the pavilion. Unfortunately, except for the ongoing performance, there wasn’t much on showcase. t was disappointing really as there was very scant information about the country and the visuals were sorely lacking. A wall on one side read that the cities are what the citizens make it up to be. It was a good concept but I guess like everything else about the country, it remains just a concept.
A large part of the pavilion was taken up by the Travel Cafe which was serving, of all things!, lumpiang shanghai! C’mon! I know the brains behind the menu probably wanted to show Pinoy linkages to the Chinese but how can lumpiang shanghai ever compete with the real thing?!!! There were also stalls selling some fancy jewelry and other stuff. The Pinoy teacher I met at Hangzhou days before was right. He was embarrassed by the pavilion.
It really was a shame as compared to the other Asian pavilions, ours was really paling in comparison.
Heading to the gourmet and shopping area, I passed by the Oceania Pavilion for a look. I was actually hoping to score some musical instruments. The exhibits looked more like booths rather than mini pavilions unlike those in the African Joint Pavilion. It kinda looked more like a product show as those exotic-sounding juices that were supposed to have health benefits were all on display.
Very interesting were the different traditional wear that were displayed. But the real eye catcher was the guy in traditional wear and face decoration (I think he was from Papua New Guinea) standing on one of the booths playing a pan pipe. Tourists were all jostling to have their pics taken with him.
It was a short walk to the gourmet and shopping complex where we were all supposed to meet. Except for the big Expo souvenir store, it was just a bunch of small restaurants. Either I was still full from lunch or my feet were simply too tired but I ignored the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant outlet. As I sat on one of the many empty benches, I realized that we had not specifically pointed out where we would meet in the huge complex. My phone was not roaming so I simply waited knowing that Joy would text one or another. And she did: we were to meet at the Saudi Arabi pavilion where Rhoda was. They were both at the Oceania Pavilion and would take the shuttle bus. I couldn’t figure out the shuttle service and seeing that the line for the electric taxis was long, I opted to just walk. It wasn’t really far and at least I would get to see the Asian area of the Expo.
The line at the huge Saudi Arabia pavilion was really long. The highlight is supposed to be the world’s biggest IMAX. Joy, Yna, and I spotted each other at the bus stop in front of the pavilion.
Rhoda arrived several minutes later and it turned out when she texted Joy and Yna that she was at SA, she meant South America whereas the two translated it to mean Saudi Arabia. Oh well. We took the shuttle bus to the gate from which we entered the pavilion. It was almost 5 pm and floats were being readied for a parade. There was also a crowd of people waiting to be let in as the entrance at 5pm is much cheaper.
We took one of the taxis waiting in line outside the gate. The driver seemed pretty annoyed when told to drop us off at the metro station which was less than 10 minutes away and that included making a long u-turn. As we turned to the street where the metro station was, he said something in Chinese and threw up both hands on the air. I took it to mean, “You lazy bums! You could have walked it!” Our feet was killing us and there was still a long walk inside the station to get to the trains.
Back at the hotel, I detoured to Yang’s and Early Dawning for some dimsum and fried rice for dinner. Yna wanted to go out and do some last-minute shopping but no one was interested. I just wanted to lie down, burp, and let all the blood on my feet and legs circulate.
We really had a good time at the expo in spite of the crowds and the rain and one day was simply not enough as it was a mad rush from one pavilion to another.
How To Survive the Expo
1. Put it in your mind that there will be lots and lots of people and if you intend to visit the really popular pavilions, put on your most Zen-like patience, line-up, and keep your cool. The crowd seemed to be 99% Chinese and the more popular pavilions were those of the European countries, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, and India. Everyone seemed to be going gaga about having their Expo souvenir passports stamped from the pavilions visited. Some don’t even bother to really go through the pavilion. They simply head to the stamping desk.
2. Either go really early or go after 5 pm when the ticket is cheaper, the weather cooler, and the people less. However, some of the pavilions will be closed by then.
3. It is technically possible to visit all the pavilions in 1 day but that would mean being like the hordes of people who simply want a stamp on their Expo passport and not seeing anything at all except the pavilion entrance and the stamping desk. I suggest 3 days.
4. Bring an umbrella and a backpack for your all the stuff you’re going to be buying at the souvenir stalls in the pavilions.