On the evening of September 16th, Ahmed, a new colleague Scott and I made it out to the Expo, Pudong side. I would later learn that the attendance was somewhere in the order of 150k for the day; the evening being much less. This is a far cry from 500k during the summer, especially on weekends and obviously much less than the projected 6-700k expected during this week's National Day Week. It is very common at the Expo to wait several hours, up to 5-7 hours (!!!) to get into one pavilion, so getting into any here is quite an accomplishment.
I visited the Expo again on a blue-skied September 24th with Wa Guo who graduated RISD LA in 2009. She was with friends, and with my quick walking pace all over the EXPO, tired them out quite a bit for the city slickers they are 🙂 So I had the opportunity to follow up on many the pavilions that I saw previously only at night.
[Back to my first impressions] Due to fears of terrorism, the security checkpoint to get into Expo is like an airport checkpoint. The Chinese are much nicer than the TSA however. I should also point out that in all Metro stops they have a bag scanner. Once you get through this checkpoint, it is the last one and it is hassle free from here on in.
As it was our first visit, we focused on the European side of the site. Ahmed was really gunning for the Spanish pavilion, so we went over (and had a beer). On the way, we saw these pavilions (exterior only):
The Spanish Pavilion was frankly a let down. I am not referring to its interior (have not been inside yet) but its exterior. They have massive wicker entities attached to a steel superstructure over a glass enclosure underneath. It would have been more provocative if the shell acted as a structural facade than as superficial window dressing:
The UK Pavilion, while pretty on Flickr, omits one rather problematic issue: you have to wait in line to see the full exterior. All the other pavilions at the Expo have exteriors that you can readily approach; but for the UK one you must wait in the long line (even at night):
Most of the smaller countries got a small box in which they decorated the exterior with... something. Here's Slovenia (they're supposed to be spines of books as I found out on the 24th):
Just for kicks, I paid a visit to the USA Pavilion; and its storied condemnation is well deserved because the image we want to project must obviously mean the projection of Hollywood by having people stand and sit through video presentations.
My visit to the USA Pavilion was memorable for two other reasons. One, I found out, much to my displeasure, that the fabulous US of A along with France, does not allow their passport holders to get into the fast VIP line (practically zero wait time). Every other country allows this. The other reason, is, that once inside, I found out there is no stamp for the Expo Passport. The Expo Passport is literally like a passport where you can get stamps from each pavilion you visit. Now, apparently, the Chinese are very voracious about their stamping and it was at the US Pavilion where things apparently got so out of hand that they stopped giving out stamps a couple of months ago. But! A shoutout must be made to Phil, from Boston, MA, who as the MC for the first part of the pavilion gave me a personalized "stamp" of sorts (after which he was unfortunately swarmed by a bunch of old Chinese ladies; poor guy, those ladies have enough power to tackle people in the metro):
Up to this point, our impression of the Expo was a bit lackluster. It was not until we discovered the Norway Pavilion that things turned out for the better.
Inside they had music playing from Secret Garden -- but it is a soothing 16 minute classical recording that sounds so lifelike that it feels like it's played live (they have video screens of the people playing their instruments -- full size, so it's almost like the people are there)
The link to downloadable Norwegian Pavilion content (including said music) can be found here.
After Norway, which by then we reached the time of 10pm (starting from 630pm), there wasn't much to see as everything started to close down (the park is open until midnight, but all pavilions seem to close around 930 to 1000)