Thursday, Nik, Perlin and I braced ourselves with sunblock, chairs, snacks and mosquito spray and finally headed out to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Held on the banks of the Huangpu river between May 1st and October 31st, the Shanghai World Expo 2010 is the largest (5.28 square km) and the most expensive Expo in the history of World’s Fairs. The first World Expo was held in Hyde Park, London in 1851 (often referred to as “The Great Exhibition”), and another famous one is the Paris World Expo in 1889 which saw the construction of the Eiffel Tower. (At that time it was only built as a temporary entrance arch to be dismantled immediately after the Expo, but luckily the city of Paris decided to let it stand). The theme of this year’s World Expo is “Better City – Better Life”, signifying Shanghai’s new status as “the next great world city” of the 21st century.

More than 190 countries and 50 international organizations are registered participants, and 70-100 million people are expected to visit the Expo, which would make it the most visited in history. The highest attendance day was 557,200 people (July 17).

Here is Nik and me in front of the Chinese Pavilion upon entering the Expo site. Apparently no other pavilion is allowed to be taller than the Chinese pavilion, and due to its immense popularity you have to pre-book tickets in order to get in:

Me in front of the China Pavilion:

The Expo area is so huge that we had to rely on buses to get to and from the different zones, the volunteer workers telling us there was no way we would want to walk that distance in the burning sunlight:

With 350 000 people attending the World Expo that day, Perlin and I bought foldable chairs in order to make queuing a tad bit more enjoyable:

I know I should not laugh as my Chinese is definitely not any better, but of all the billions of people that live in this world, there must be somebody the Chinese can call just to make sure that their English translations make sense:

Challenge what? Challenge people into a fight? Make their lives challenging? And what can we possibly share in a queue? Food? Body odour?

The guards scanned Perlin’s bag and confiscated her water bottle – but my lord did they let this crazy lady through with a fruit knife:

There was one particular pavilion that everyone seemed to want to visit, and that was the Saudi Arabia Pavilion. Apparently it holds the world’s largest IMAX screen. Once I saw this queue I just thought “Forget it!”:

We decided to skip the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and visit the smaller and less popular pavilions instead. Here is the Nepal Pavilion:

Exploring the Nepal Pavilion, which consisted mainly of shops selling Nepalese handicrafts:

Perlin in front of the USA (Valerie) Pavilion! Usually you have to queue up for hours, but because Perlin knew a girl who worked there, it only took us two minutes and some smiles to get in:

Hillary and Obama said “Ni Hao” to enthusiastic viewers inside the USA Pavilion:

Me fangirling in front of the Norwegian Pavilion, whose theme is “Norway – Powered by Nature”. I really wanted to go up to  the Norwegian volunteer workers at the entrance and say “Hi, I’m Norwegian too – wanna be my friend?!” and wave to them in a freaky manner. But I refrained.

The inside was supposed to represent Norwegian nature and how we aim to rely only on sustainable energy. There was also a Norwegian seafood restaurant there, and some lovely violin music composed by Secret Garden’s Rolf Løvland. At night the roof will light up, creating the impression of Northern Lights. It was all very calm and tranquil – in other words, just like the real Norway!

Forcing Nik to pose in a cheesy manner inside the India Pavilion:

“Ok, so we are going this way…no wait we have to make a right. No wait left! No wait…we have to go back!”. Getting lost at the Expo was a very easy task…

Poland (Ewa) Pavilion:

Romania (Tarek) Pavilion:

Sweden (Henrik <3) Pavilion:

Austria (Matthias) Pavilion:

Taiwan Pavilion:

Me fangirling in front of the UK Pavilion, which in my opinion bore resemblance to a hedgehog (which is a good thing). The queue was pretty long, but Nik flaunted his British passport while I tried look pretty and charming while saying in Chinese that I studied in England. After a lot of hesitation, the guards let us in through the backway:

The inside of the UK Pavilion should definitely be turned into a night club once the Expo is over:

We ate dinner at the Africa Joint Pavilion, where we tried ostrich meat wraps. If I had not known better, I would have sworn it was beef! And yes, the cups say “Hakuna Matata”.

The Expo Axis lit up at night:

It was a great experience, and despite it being tiring, I am immensely grateful that I got to be part of this historical event. In decades people will still talk of this, and I can say that yes, I was there. One thing I am surprised about though, is that the Expo focused very little on technology and innovations for the future, and more on fancy architecture and culture. Then again, as an art student I do not mind culture one bit, and at least it is good to know that today the World Expo is about creating a platform for sharing and understanding, and not so much about political propaganda.