Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shanghai Expo 世博會 (上海万博)

After disappearing over the long weekend, mum and dad arrived home just before midnight looking exhausted. We knew they were going to watch the Shanghai Rolex Masters Tennis tournament but we didn't expect them to do much heavy lifting. Only when we saw some of the pictures they took then we realized why.

It's the 173th day since the opening of Shanghai Expo and after being in the media spotlight during the opening month, people are all rushing to the site to catch a glimpse of the event before the pavilions close in a few days time. Arriving at Shanghai Pudong Airport in a 90 minute delayed flight, they went straight to the taxi queue with their carry-on bags and got on the first available taxi. The taxi driver must have sensed that they were in a hurry as he decided to pull off as soon as dad shut the boot. Before dad had a chance to get on the taxi, he saw the cab pulled away with one of the passenger door still opened. Thank god, the cab stopped after moving about 5 meters.

The cab ride from Pudong airport to the World Expo site was mostly highways jam-packed full of fast moving vehicles. Their driver proved to be very effective in weaving through the lanes and getting untangled from the jams. When the taxi meter got to RMB 120, the cab driver decided to stop. Unlike taxi meters elsewhere in the world, the taxi-meters in Shanghai tick slowly and it felt like a long ride!! The cab stopped in the middle of a crowded street.

"Where's the Expo?", mum asked in Mandarin (assume that's the language from here on).

"Over there!", the driver pointed across the street.

Behind the crowd, they saw some removable barriers and the ubiquitous port-a-toilets. The ticket booths sat just behind them. It was almost 6pm when they arrived and the queue to buy tickets for the day was short. While waiting their turn, some unknown characters kept pushing look-a-like tickets to them at a RMB 20 discount to the official tickets. These characters kept appearing even when they were at the ticket window.

The security checks going into the proper site were very thorough, on par with going into a flight. Once you were inside, it's like you were in a different world but you were still with the crowd. Mum went into the information center and asked her favorite question. "What's worth seeing? Which pavilion should we go to?"

"Don't bother! Just walk around and browse. You need to wait 4 hours at least for the popular pavilions and we have more than 600,000 visitors today.", the lady at the information center said as a matter of fact.

So they did what they were told and told a few pictures. Friends been telling them that they could use their passports to get priority entry into their respective national pavilions, namely the British and Singaporean pavilions. But seeing the crowd, they decided not to bother. It was a nice walk around the site especially with the repressive summer heat fading into memory. The architectures were eye pleasing.

Their only gripe was when they left the expo site looking for a taxi to take them back to the hotel, they cold not get one. They only realized after lugging their carry-on bags walking aimlessly that taxis were only allowed to pick passengers up at specific expo taxi stand at the exit. So they had to lug everything all the way back to the exit. Uniformed people were uniquely unhelpful in China.

Old habits die hard. While waiting in the taxi queue, 2 Chinese blokes walked under the cordon and pushed into the taxi queue. Everyone was very vocal in their disgust but those two just stood there while the crowd shouted and asked them to go to the back of the queue. Another guy stood next to the queue collecting used entrance tickets, probably so that his cohorts could re-sell them at the ticketing booth!!

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