Expo 2010: The World Beats a Path to Shanghai

Organizers of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai are building pavilions at breakneck pace while ironing out the pileups and glitches as the $45 billion expo launches May 1. For 184 days, Shanghai will pour on the grandeur while entertaining around 700,000 visitors bearing expectations higher than some of the city’s Jetson-style towers. And the Chinese don’t intend to disappoint.

The 2010 World Expo is set to be the largest in history measuring 2.3 square miles and spreading along on both sides of the Huangpu River in downtown Shanghai. More than 200 countries will participate in the expo themed Better Cities, Better Life, and contribute ideas to the intelligent development of cities, nature and the human condition.

Top of the list is the China pavilion, by far the largest and most visible at the site at about 190 feet. Tagged "The Crown of the East," its architecture uses the 2,000-year-old tradition of Dougong or brackets fixed layer upon layer between the top of a column and a crossbeam—widely used in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-467 B.C.).

Inside, visitors will be treated to an eight-minute film beaming from all possible angles (360-degree plus a projection overhead) about China’s progress in modern urbanization. Afterward, the Song Dynasty will appear in a 374-foot-long reproduction of the painting “Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival” by Zhang Zeduan, taking up the entire wall. Eventually they’ll board an orbit tour bus for a veritable journey of discovery, through thousands of years of Chinese cultures, from the rural to urban to the burgeoning cities of the present. The journey will end in the halls of a “low carbon future,” which displays China’s future urban development plans.

Local visitors or those who have regular access to Shanghai may visit this exhibit after the expo has ended as it will be a permanent showcase in the city.

A huge gray steel structure—one of the largest in Zone C—belongs to the U.S. While it is meant to look like an eagle spreading its wings (the theme being “Rise to the Challenge”), it looks more like two ships connected by a walkway. Inspirational videos on sustainability, teamwork, health and success take up most of the wall space. The key attraction here will be a 4-D film called The Garden—the story of a 10-year-old girl who imagines turning a vacant city lot into an urban oasis and works with her neighbors to make that happen. The computer-generated imagery and effects like vibrating seats, mist and lightning will raise “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience.

Then there will be the daily "Dance-America!" outdoor shows with lively jazz, pop and classical music, marching bands, and "Salutes" to American city and state partners.

In fact, more than 100 concerts, dances, performances and productions will be on offer daily throughout the expo campus, on pavilion stages and the grand Culture Center—a standout facility in the shape of a shiny flying saucer.

Additional highlights include the Macao pavilion, shaped like a rabbit; the Japan pavilion with robotic violinists; the Swiss pavilion sporting a green rooftop garden viewed from above by a high-wire gondola system; and the France pavilion that will appear to be floating on water and contain some masterworks of the great impressionists. Saudi Arabia’s Moon Boat will possibly be the most expensive pavilion. A huge hanging boat shaped like a half moon will have imported date palms planted on the top deck of the boat as a hanging garden or oasis in the desert. Bedouin tents will be set among date palm trees to welcome visitors and showcase their hospitality.

The expo, by any means, calls for a multi-day ticket. Crowds throughout the six-month period will produce inconvenient waits and lines that may make a day at Disneyland look like a stop at 7-11. Once inside, all pavilion admissions will be free to visit, and to assist with traffic, hop-on/hop-off buses will traverse the pavilion avenues and central 3,000-foot, four-layer Expo Boulevard artery. A dedicated #13 subway line of Shanghai’s efficient and far-reaching metro system will handle visitors with expo tickets for free. Two tunnels and two bridges also connect the expo on either side of the river, and docks for ships and ferries manage the river traffic.

Tickets can be purchased through Danville, CA-based Peregrine Travel (925-984-4984; www.worldexpochina.net), designated distributor of World Expo Tickets in U.S. Single day FIT tickets cost $22-$29. Three-day tickets have been priced at $58 and seven-day at $131. Agent group rates are available. Tickets can also be purchased from travel agencies and expo offices throughout the city bearing the ubiquitous blue “Haibao” character, which resembles something between Gumby and a happy tooth at the dentist’s office.

Packaging can be managed through a number of tour and travel companies: Peregrine offers seven-day Shanghai packages with self-guided expo days as well as a private car and special tour of Hangzou for rates starting at $1,227 double, including international air.

For agents who want to get creative, both EVA Airways and China Airlines operate cross-strait flights between Taipei, Taiwan and Shanghai, on the Mainland China. The new routes were flagged off just in time for the expo and come with some splendid extra sightseeing options for the distance (flight time is less than two hours between the two cities, but 10-13 hours from Los Angeles). EVA also flies to Nanjing—easy to navigate, rich in Chinese history and only 45 minutes from Shanghai on the superfast train between the two cities to be unveiled July 1. 

In an attempt to get U.S. agents and tour companies more involved in the expo craze, EVA and Taiwan have brought several companies to Taipei and Shanghai to promote the two destinations and surrounding areas, along with the expo. Among the tour companies and agencies to participate were Aberdeen Tours, AsiaLuxe Holidays, GTS Tours, Majestic Vacations, SITA Tours, SUPERNET Tours, US Lions Travel, Global Tours, Baratto Travel, Pleasure Travel, Adore Travel, Far Corner Travel Systems, Escape Holidays and Travel & Beyond in the U.S., and Silkway Tours and Flight Centre in Canada.

For more information, contact the Chinese National Tourism Office (www.CNTO.org), Shanghai Tourism (www.meet-in-shanghai.net) and Shanghai Expo 2010 (http://en.expo2010.cn).

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