The Shanghai Expo

David Ho Goes to the Shanghai Expo
How’s that for a horizon!

This past Saturday as part of my short birthday vacation I went to Shanghai to partake of the Shanghai Expo. I thought their would be less people as we were going about a month before the Expo was scheduled to end. Experience proved me quite ignorant – by midday on Saturday the 16th there over 860,000 people had passed through the various entrances to the huge exhibit. I heard in excess of a million attended by the time the park closed down (12am)

Arriving at about 7:30 i had low to moderate hopes of getting onto any pavilions. We purchased our tickets as we neared entrance number 5. A massive white band of barriers and florescent lights laid out in front of us on the horizon. As we neared the artificial creation i made out the endless rows that were the maze that earlier attendees populated beyond it’s incomprehensible capacity. We entered after an airport level security search and discovered we were right in front of the Chinese pavilion

David Ho Goes to the Shanghai Expo
The Chinese Pavilion – Massive!

It was definitely a grand sight to behold – we gave up any hope of entering the pavilion after a glimpse of the beast that was the line of people waiting to enter. The pictures I’ve seen didn’t do it’s grandeur justice. I’m not sure if it’s just the size of it, but something about it gave it an impressive aura – it definitely was an awesome tribute to a growing country.

We walked around doing our very best impressions of picture happy tourists – my father and mike with their digital cameras and me with my iPhone. Macao and Hong Kong were closest so we ventured by – the structures ostensibly dwarfed by the mammoth Chinese pavilion. Again lines easily deterred any impetus to try and enter.


David Ho Goes to the Shanghai Expo
The Axis – It’s like a big long tent filled with people!… but not

We continued toward the ‘axis’ as the map called called it. It broke up the large A and B sections of the Pudong side of the expo. Inside we picked up some souvenir coins and made our way to a papa johns on one of the lower level of the structure. Nothing quite like 14″ of cheese and dead animal parts to sate my hunger :-)

We were pretty happy with ourselves thus far, everything we’d heard up until our arrival had us convinced it was going to be hell. My friend had messaged me around midday to let me know of the record breaking 860,000 that had already attended by that point. Luckily the evening afforded us more tolerable crowds. 

Our next stop got us pretty excited – the citizens pavilion – the excitement stemmed from the lack of lineage in front of the pavilion – we could get in! – and no wait to boot! It’s amazing how effectively lowering ones expectations and then receiving more than them can produce satisfaction. We were pumped. 

Our luck continued as we entered a second pavilion ‘life and sunshine’ next to the first one we entered. Thereafter, Excited and silly we found ourselves entering the New Zealand pavilion – the massive piece of jade at the entrance was quite a treat, I rubbed it happily as signage dictated. Not a huge pavilion but the entire rooftop was covered In greenery – I like nature. 

David Ho Goes to the Shanghai Expo
That is a big piece of Jade – wonder how much that would fetch :-D

The neighboring pavilion was Cambodia – and also lacked any line whatsoever – so we hit that quickly. Lots of carved stones and an equally large section selling stuff just about summed that stop off. We just missed our opportunity to walk through Indonesia and snuck into the exit of Australia only to find a variety of Australian food readily available for purchase. Dad thought it beast not to upset the natural flow by forcing our way in the opposite direction through the exhibition portion of the pavilion. A 98RMB bottle of wine caught his eye but the burden of carrying eventually overcame inclinations to purchase.

When we got out of there, while Mike and Dad were in the bathroom I managed to find an illuminated map not inundated with people. Harnessing the flow of positive energy afforded me by managing to actually getting into a few pavilions I plotted out a course to the African pavilion at the far end of the park. Along the way Spain and France seemed like attractive stops and after arrival the US was a few minutes more walking.

Unfortunately the pavilions stopped accepting visitors just before we got to the Spanish pavilion – we still took our pictures of the outside like friend-and-family responsible tourists. Passing Belgium, Germany, and France we continued to document the visual spectacle with our chosen devices en route to Africa. When we eventually arrived they too were closed – sad face – but not to worry as  levels of happiness remained bolstered by our previous triumphs.

We sat next to the Slovenian pavilion after purchasing some drinks at the food both attached to the Algerian pavilion on our way to the Us pavilion. The overworked fellow at the booth was looking badly in need of some time off – and Mike afforded him a quick laugh by reminding him of that fact.

Finally about 15 minutes later we found ourselves in front of the Us pavilion – we briefly tried to sneak in after seeing what looked like people getting into the pavilion. We then stopped and reflected.. why exactly were we trying to get into the US pavilion – our passports would suggest we had sufficient knowledge and experience with the US already!

Thereafter our worn feet and beaten bodies convinced our minds it was time to leave. We joined the mass migration to the exit – even after 11 pm the crowd exiting was quite massive. On the way we ran into more hawkers trying to sell off event fake passports stamped with all the county stamps – 120rmb – the blank passport costs 30rmb. Chinese will sell just about anything when given the opportunity. The three of jested about the number of English spellings in the almost certainly forged stamps populating those passports – our experience knew better than to expect genuine stamps.

Our final trial ended up being our trip out of the Expo – the line for a taxi – in my estimation bases on the flow of taxis coming in – would have taken the better part of an hour for us to traverse. So fending off illegal taxi drivers pleas we made off down the road in search of a taxi with the balls to defy their companies agreement to funnel all taxis in the surrounding area to that pick up point. I’m not sure if we should have stayed as it took us around 30 minutes of walking before we finally came across a taxi coming in our direction. It was a good thing too as my feet were a few steps away from being ruined for the next day. Note to self: ensure you have comfy footwear when your going to be on your feet for several consecutive hours – bonehead!

All and all a pretty successful trip – spent under 4 hours in the expo and managed to get through 6 pavilions and collected pictures of many the famous pavilions – that from expectations of going into no pavilions and getting frustrated to the point of leaving by the masses of tourists within an hour and a half. I’ll take that sort of return on my expectations any day.


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  • Amy

    After reading your post… I feel like my experience at the Expo could have been significantly improved if I wasn’t so jaded and had high hopes of actually going to see nicer Pavilions. Maybe if I adopted your attitude, I would have been pleasantly surprised instead of being extremely irritated and annoyed. I wanted to visit the US Pavilion most of all, but I think the reason so many people wanted to visit it because it was the all mighty US… many people told me that the US Pavilion in fact wasn’t really that great. And I actually heard that you could get into the China Pavilion by showing your US Passports! So had you guys had your passports, you could have gotten in. I can’t be sure if it’s true, but that’s what I was told when I came back to the US and talked to other people who visited the Expo.

  • David

    thanks for the comment Amy! I could have gotten in the US pavillion but it was tiny and definitely wasn’t high on my list off places pavilions to invade!