Look Beyond Criticisms to Truly Enjoy the Expo
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Expo 2010 Shanghai, like the Beijing 2008 Olympics, is one of those events where, if you live in China, you better have a good reason not to visit. Since cynicism isn't a reasonable excuse, we packed up the family and sought to brave the record crowds and eight-hour waits.
Arriving in Shanghai, we first wanted to check out our old haunt, the newly-renovated Peace Hotel. Blocking the entrance was a beefy doorman. Fortunately, we had a BWF (big, white, face) with us, so he let us in.
Freshened up, we left for the Expo. Entering after 5:00 PM, we were pleased that tickets were not only less expensive, the blistering heat and humidity had also started to wane.
The US pavilion was first up. Instead of bucking broncos, Wall Street masters of the universe and Top Gun displays of firepower, we were greeted by Kobe Bryant and regular folks wrangling with the Chinese language. As these guys stumbled and bumbled through the video, the all-American, blue-eyed, blonde youth ambassador was hilariously emceeing the crowd with his impeccable Chinese. I am happy to say the American Dream is still alive.
The Italy pavilion has couture designer gowns and sleek Italian suits on display. In terms of design, I was struck by the global influence this country of only 60 million has enjoyed since ancient Rome to the days of Versace. Religion, fashion, industry, architecture, cuisine - there is hardly a concept or product in existence on which Italy has not made its mark.
We then made our way to the Le Sixieme Sens Restaurant at the top of the France pavilion. Using a mixture of high school French and intermediate Chinese, we figured out the menu and settled back to feast on a delicious three-course meal, even though it came at a hefty price, which made the European experience seem even more authentic.
Taking a shortcut, we went downstairs to the exhibits. The old country and the new were temptingly presented, though the highly publicized dancing robots were as lively as a pile of rocks. Although a machine can, presumably, operate 24/7, it seems the powerful French labor union made sure these robots received their court-appointed caf au lait breaks.
Looking forward to cuddling a koala bear or snacking on kangaroo jerky, we carried on to the Australia pavilion. After a cute puppet-like diorama of the country's beginnings, we were herded into a theatrical arena. Whirly-gigs whirred as screens raised and peeled open for an animated movie. I found the storyline interesting, as one of the kids explained how her home in Australia was just like any other in the world. Unfortunately, nobody told Tourism Australia, which ran the ad "There's nothing like Australia".
As it was after 8 pm during the week, there was no waiting to enter the New Zealand, Thai, Indonesia and Malaysia pavilions. A short walk brought us to the China pavilion, where instant access was also available.
The public spaces were well planned, clean, organized and comfortable. We solicited the help of a few "little cabbages", Expo volunteers who were friendly and helpful, even though they repeatedly answer the same questions.
The Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo are proof that China can run with the big dogs in terms of staging global events. So to all the naysayers and jaded elitists who think the Expo is not worth the trek, cast your pessimism aside, put on your walking shoes and EXPOse yourself to one of the greatest show on earth.
(China Daily Sep 2, 2010)