Shanghai Expo 2010: It’s a wonderful world, even without jetpacks and hovercars

I happened to be in Shanghai while the World Expo was on. I didn’t plan my travels around this event so it turned out to be a pleasant coincidence to be there at the same time. I entered with no expectations, and left feeling good about the world and its inhabitants.

China Pavilion
– China Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 –

Actually I did have some expectations of what the Expo might entail. When I was a boy (say this in an old mans voice and imagine me waving a walking stick), at school way back in the 1900’s, we were told what the future would be like. We were promised jet packs, hover cars and portable telephones that make video calls. alright, so nailed the last one, but I’m still holding out for my hover car (you can stop the old man voice now).

Hover Cars
– The Future Pavilion at Expo 2010, and they’re still promising hover cars –

So I thought the Expo might contain cheesy promises of the future type exhibits. It did of course,

The expo site is situated on two sides of the Huangpu river close to central Shanghai. I arrived on the smaller side of the Expo, which had mostly corporate pavilions and urban case studies of various cities around the world.

I got there when the gates opened and took about half an hour to get in. The first pavilion I went to was the Chinese Railways pavilion. That ended up being another half an hour queue, at which point I decided to not queue for anything else for the rest of the day.

The Railways pavilion was interesting as it showcased China’s high speed railway plans. They were showing off fancy high speed trains that can travel at over 300kmh, which may seem fictional if you are from Australia/UK/USA, but this is the reality in China now.

Beijing South Railway Station
– A model of the actual Beijing South Railway Station –

One pavilion I wanted to visit was the China Aviation pavilion. When I arrived the line was so long that didn’t end up going. Even if they were giving out jetpacks, I was not queueing for the rest of the day.

The Urban Best Practices area turned out to be my favourite place at the expo. Each pavilion had city case studies and how they were working to making cities a more livable place. All about public transport, infrastucture and urban design. This is stuff I read about in my leisure so it was right up my alley. I was already there half a day and I was acutely aware how big the expo site was on the other side of the river, so I reluctantly crossed over to see the main event.

Pavilion of Future
– Pavilion of Future –

The main expo site featured all of the country pavilions. The exhibitions was pretty much what I thought they would be, showcasing the history and highlights of each country. I wanted to go to the Japan pavilion, because if any country was going to come through with the goods for jetpacks and hovercars, it would be Japan. They also had perhaps the longest queue on the day. I kept to my rule of not queueing, so I missed out.

I was interested to see the Australia pavilion, if only to see how we are representing ourselves to the world. There was also a monster queue to get in, but if you show your Australian passport at the front of the queue you can go straight through.

Flags of Australia
– The three flags of Australia –

The Australian pavilion was a giant shed made of iron, with little iron ore boulders strewn around the outside. It was like one giant thank you note, saying “thank you for buying our minerals and keeping us out of recession”. It felt like a giant offering from a provincial prince, made to the Emperor of the region (soon to be Emperor of the world). Inside featured an audio visual presentation of living in australia, talking up Chinese coming to live in Australian cities.

Inside the Australia Pavilion
– The Australia pavilion: What it looks like inside a lump of iron ore –

I found it more interesting looking at the designs of the pavilions as opposed to what was inside them. The biggest of course was China, with its pavilion being the landmark for the expo. I had heard of queues so long that you had to book ahead to get in. Luckily for me on the day I went I walked straight in without queueing. Inside was a showcase of all the privinces of China, making their case for visitors to come to their corner of China.

Tibet Pavilion
– Tibet Province in the China Pavilion –

Some of the country pavilions felt more like a travel expo, which is ok with me. I went into the enormous Indonesia pavilion and left wanting to go back to Indonesia soon.

Indonesia Pavilion
– The Indonesia Pavilion –

As well as pavilion design, I liked the bits of modern art that could be found everywhere.

Illuminated Dolls

Fantasy City

People of Hangzhou

In the end I spent about 10 hours walking around the Expo and I still didn’t see the whole site. You could easily spend a few days here, but I was happy enough with one.

Siesta Time
– Siesta time after a long day of walking –

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  1. wow! seems to be a lot of things to see… looks like china is really serious in massive developments in the future…

  2. I spent 3 days there, and despite the heat, rain, and the crowds, quite enjoyed it. Canada was my favorite pavilion (proudly waving Canadian flag). If I wasn’t a Canuk, my vote would have gone to Indonesia.

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