Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
marknyc

Pavilion reviews and practical tips - please add to this thread!

4 posts in this topic

Just got back from Shanghai, and while my first World's Fair was great, it was also frustrating. As others have said, the Expo is huge and you have to make important decisions on how to spend your time, unless you are there for more than a week and have lots of stamina. I had three days - but without a guidebook (the Expo only provides a map) you're really flying blind.

There are basically two kinds of pavilions: those that are walkthroughs (little or no wait) and those that offer some kind of movie or performance (waits of 30 minutes to 6 hours). The problem is deciding which pavilions are worth the wait. I tried to check this board before I left, but got only a few pieces of advice. I also visited the Expo site, but it wasn't helpful in making choices (e.g. the Coke pavilion looked cool, but was not worth the wait - read below for more details).

So let's do this - everyone who has been to the Expo please post reveiws of the pavilions you saw and if you feel those with waits were worth. This may include spoilers, so be sure and mark those in case people want to be surprised.

I'll start with overall tips:

1. The fair takes place on two sides of the river - if you try to travel from one to the other, you'll waste 30 minutes to an hour, since the ferry is very slow and can have long lines. So, see only one of the two parks on any given day.

2. When you arrive, spend time just looking at the Expo and going into paviliions with no lines (there are a number of those). Later, you can decide which ones you want to wait for. Bring a book and perhaps a stool, as you will be waiting in line for a while if you want to get into some exhibits.

3. Wait times are less than what is posted. If a sign said, "Waiting time is 2 hours from this point," I generally found it to be about half that.

4. Don't despair over the long lines - they're definitely shorter in the evening. They can go from 3 hours to an hour or less.

5. The fair is really designed for the Chinese - I was one of only a handful of whites there. Be prepared to be stared at if you're not Asian (especially by toddlers) and photographed! Most exhibits are subtitled in English, but some are only in Chinese. I saw no other languages.

6. The Chinese have different customs about lines than other countries. People will try to cut in line and there can be some pushing and shoving. Nothing terrible, but different. I didn't tolerate it and even called a security guard when one woman tried to cut in - he stopped her.

7. Most of the visitors seemed more concerned with getting their Passport stamped and with taking photos than with actually learning anything from any of the exhibits.

8. The Expo is open until 11, but most Pavilions cut off their lines around 9, so make plans accordingly. I was able to walk into some Pavilions after 10, though.

Now for my reviews:

Philippines

This is the first one we entered, since my boyfriend is Filipino and there was no wait. It's pretty much a waste (apparently most of the money went to graft). It's supposed to feature Filipino performers, but they were just playing 1980s disco when we went. Later I went back and saw some dancers who were only okay. I'd say skip it.

Indonesia

A nice walkthrough exhibit with no wait. Some interesting historical and cultural artifacts.

Cambodia

Walkthrough with no wait. There were some great full-size reconstructions of Camboidan temples, so this was worth seeing.

Malaysia

Walkthrough with no wait. Great exterior, but the interior was somewhat lacking, I thought.

New Zealand

Walkthrough with no wait. Interesting, but there were suprisingly few aboriginals featured in the exhibit. It was mainly smiling white people.

United States

Ugly exterior, but I enjoyed the exhibit. Fun to see very American young guides speaking Chinese (sometimes with bad accents) and the opening video was fun.

(SPOILER - select text to view) After messages from Hillary and Barack, you saw an okay 2D video that had some 4D effects. I enjoyed it, and the wait in the evening was only about 15 minutes.

Netherlands

Walkthrough with no wait. It featured "Happy Street" - a winding multi-level tour of 26 small houses. Fun.

World Expo Museum

This was only okay, but the wait was short - about 20 minutes. There's a video with some kinda bad models of former Word's Fair theme buidings (why doesn't the 2010 Expo have one?), which you can see pretty clearly in the Virtual Tour.

Thailand

Waited about an hour to get it. Loved it - "Captain Tai" is your mascot/guide for this shameless tourist sales pitch. There's a 3D movie, but the real treat for me was (SPOILER - select text to view) the 10-foot-high audioanimatronic Thai warrior that wakes up during the movie. Cool!

Coca-Cola

Okay, so this had waits of over 4 hours during the day, so I thought it must be great. I expected Coke to be a master at this sort of thing, and someone had posted that the souvenir Coke bottle was a "keeper" so I came back at night and waited in line for 90 minutes (meaning I missed the Oil exhibit next door). Big mistake! It is only a 10 minute animated film, and a pretty silly one at that. The Coke bottle is plastic, and the only Expo branding is a hard to see embossed logo. DO NOT WAIT IN LINE FOR THIS EXHIBIT - USE YOUR TIME WISELY.

Information and Communications Pavilion

Waited about an hour. This was neat because you got a little iPod-like device to "catch your dreams" with. You need to pick up headphones if you want to hear a language other than Chinese (my boyfriend's worked but mine did not, so I had to use his). Worth the wait for me.

State Grid Pavilion

No wait, but I entered just before the Park closed. This was in Chinese, so I was never quite sure what it was - I guess it was about the State power grid. But they gave me a solar-powered key chain flashlight, so I was happy (no Expo branding, though). The main thing was a big cube you enter that had various abstract images projected an all the walls. It was neat, but not worth waiting more than a 20 minutes for. Try to be in the center waiting line so you can stand in the middle of the cube.

SAIC-GM

Waited for an hour. Very cool - it's a motion controlled 2D movie about the car of the future (Futurama, anyone?) in Chinese with no English subtitles. But the coolest thing was (SPOILER - select text to view)what happened after the movie - it was breathtaking, even if somewhat anticlimactic after the reveal. I'm glad I saw this, as it was most like the "World of the Future" stuff from old fairs.

Space Home Pavilion

Long wait, but I snuck in with a Chinesse family that forced their way in (I guess they didn't notice that the tall white guy was not related). I was hoping for a "Home in Outer Space" exhibit, as the women guides were dressed in 2001-like space stewardess outfits, but no luck. I honestly can't recall what it was - I believe a 3D movie. Anyone else remember?

Pavilion of Future (love that name!)

Waited about a half-hour for this. It featured a futuristic cartoon of children at play and some displays had overly-technical write ups - one on how alternative energy could be generated read like a thesis! I enjoyed it, tho, as I always like "World of Tomorrow" stuff.

Urban Footprint

No waiting, as I recall. This was worth seeing for a great diorama (why have those disappeared?) that showed a a Sumerian city being created, kinda like GM's "Motorama" diorama from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

Luxembourg

Walkthrugh with no wait. Can't have been too memorable as I can't recall what was inside!

Belgium/EU

Walkthrugh with no wait. The Virtual tour gives you a good idea of what to expect.

Egypt

Walkthrough with no wait. It's not as impressive as the pics online, and some of the antiquities had been removed when we were there.

Anyone else care to add reviews of pavilions I missed? Would love to get a long list up!

Mark Milano

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thread to start, Mark.

Here's my adds:

1. The fair takes place on two sides of the river - if you try to travel from one to the other, you'll waste 30 minutes to an hour, since the ferry is very slow and can have long lines. So, see only one of the two parks on any given day.

There's another way! A brand new subway constructed just for the fair that runs under the river in about 60 seconds. And there was only a two to three minute wait at the station to get on. It's located right next to the Australian Pavilion and drops you on the corporate side-- right in front of the World Exposition Museum.

Now for my reviews (which I will strictly limit to only those Pavilions we actually entered).

AUSTRALIA

A beautiful interior with some interesting exhibits about the country-- most of which the crowds blow right past to get to a large theater in the center. There you're treated to an enchanting (and state-of-the-art) multi-media presentation centered on two Australian children which includes rising and falling revolving screens and three-dimensional sculptural elements. A 90 minute wait for us, but worth it.

CANADA

A beautiful exterior, but fairly boring interior-- though my kids did enjoy riding on some bicycle simulators that take you on various tours of the country. Another 90 minute wait-- mildly entertained by some Cirque d'Soleil players along the way-- but all in all, fairly forgettable.

UK PAVILION

The amazing Seed Cathedral. Not to be missed. One of the most extraordinary works of architecture I've ever seen, much less visited.

ITALY

A two hour wait. But it contained many wonderful displays of classic and modern Italian creativity-- art, music, fashion, wine, industry-- and a great restaurant. Should be seen-- but perhaps later in the day when the lines are shorter.

NETHERLANDS

aka "Happy Town." Ehh. Just seemed like a long walk up a ramp through an IKEA to me. And yes, I know IKEA is Swedish--but it still had that vibe about it.

BRAZIL

Interesting. Not too long of a wait. A bit disjointed-- but again, my children really enjoyed a video wall section where you could swap people's faces and bodies with each other.

AUSTRIA

Fantastic exterior design. But completely forgettable inside. Like a chocolate that looks great but you want to spit out after taking a bite. Don't waste your time.

UNITED STATES

I've already posted a full link elsewhere with my feelings about the US Pavilion-- but I would generally concur with Mark's assessment. I'm just impressed we managed to get our act together and build one at all, honestly.

SPAIN

Stunning inside and out. One of my absolute favorite Pavilions and worth however long it takes to get inside. No spoilers. Just go.

URBANIA

As close as we could get to a "theme pavilion" since the Chinese Pavilion is ridiculously inaccessible to most of the fair's visitors. A very interesting exploration of how six families from around the world live very different urban lives. Beautiful use of recycled materials to create fascinating urban landscapes as well. It starts slow with some wax figures... but don't be discouraged... it gets cooler and cooler as you move on.

NORTH KOREA

Not to be missed-- if only because it's such a shameless parade of propaganda. Fascinating in a truly twisted way. Short line to get in, as you can imagine.

UZBEKISTAN

A Pavilion we only visited because there was no line to get in. Not much to see-- but they sold some great breads at the exit.

SAIC-GM

Our longest wait, by far. 2.5 hours. In the heat. But still well worth it. A true "world's fair-ian" experience. Just bring a couple of bottles of water and a book and stick it out.

COCA COLA

Waited in line for an hour-- then bailed out when an English speaking attendant informed us it would be another three hours from that point. Just bought a Coke at a concession kiosk and called it good. But while we're on the topic-- don't go looking for ice cold drinks anywhere. They don't sell them. Everything is only "cool." Apparently quenching your thirst with a near frozen beverage is more of an American thing.

WORLD EXPOSITION MUSEUM

Our last visited Pavilion on our last night at the Expo. A bit cutesy and downright wrong in a number of respects. But there was no wait-- and for some reason, maybe because I was just in a sappy, nostalgic mood as we wound up our trip-- I enjoyed it. Your mileage may vary.

There were SEVEN others I really wanted to visit-- FRANCE, GERMANY, SAUDI ARABIA, SOUTH KOREA, RUSSIA, SWITZERLAND, and of course, the seven-story monolithic CHINA PAVILION. But due to line times exceeding three hours at each (and the fact I had three young kids along with me)-- I simply had to be content in the end with snapping pix around the outside.

Would love to hear more about those I missed from other folks who hopefully add to this thread!

-Trey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Mark, for your insightful review! I spent five days at Expo in May, and I enjoy reading other people's impressions. It sounds like, in general, many of us are on the same page with our observations. This was my first World Exposition in "recent history", having attended the NY World's Fair 64-65, Montréal Expo 67, and San Antonio HemisFair 68 as a kid. I was planning to visit Expo 2010 from the moment that Shanghai won the bid.

I won't go pavilion-by-pavilion since I agree with most of your findings. As you said, I was thrilled that the US was represented there at all. Contrary to what you found, I thought the building was attractive enough from the outside; certainly substantial-looking, anyway. But I was downright embarrassed by the content. And as you pointed out, the most popular pavilions take a lot of patience to get into. Of the extremely popular ones, even after having five full days there, I only got into the US and Germany. Oh, we visited a great many pavilions, but I was simply not willing to wait four or six hours on line for anything. There were eight hour lines at the Saudi pavilion each day. I found that for Switzerland, when the line would reach the six hour mark they'd close the line until the crowd was processed through, and then reopen it again. When you visit a World Exposition you must expect long queues and big crowds. And hey, we're in the most populous country in the world, in the middle of the largest exposition ever staged. It's not easy, but you really must try not to let the crowds get the best of you - especially with all the pushing, shoving, and yes, occasional head-butting. If when standing on a line you find yourself getting cranky, it's time to leave the line. Shanghai Expo is too great a place to let discomfort or inconvenience turn you off to it.

I've spoken with a number of people who had only one day to spend at Expo, and inevitably hated it. This is because, with only one day, they decided to try to actually get into pavilions. My advice is if you have only one day, don't even try to go inside anything. When time is of the essence, don't waste it standing on line when this incredible two square mile exposition beckons. Odds are, if the line is short, the display inside is going to be on the lame side. For me, on the whole, the Expo pavilions are most impressive from their exteriors. Walk, walk, walk, and cover as much ground as you can. Much of the architecture you see will be extraordinary, clever, whimsical, creative, and if nothing else, unique. The Expo-provided pavilions are more like decorated boxes, but even so, a good bit of creativity has been utilized in making them distinctive. And absolutely make it a point to stick around for nightfall! The grounds are captivating and spring to life in vivid color after dark. Not only the grounds, but the cityscape (and especially Lupu Bridge) surrounding the Expo site is extravagantly lit as well.

Everyone seems to have their own story relating to an attempt at getting into the China pavilion. It dominates the fair and it is quite frustrating to look at it day and night, knowing that it's virtually impossible to get inside. On our first couple of days we saw the line that wraps round and round the building, and thought we would outsmart that crowd by arriving at the grounds early. Yeah, right. Unless it's changed since we were there in May, there are reservation machines located at a number of spots throughout the Expo grounds, but every time I saw them they were roped off and covered by tarps. Silly me, I thought we'd simply march up to a machine the night before and obtain a timed ticket to China for the next day. I was pleased to see such efficient crowd control. I learned later from volunteers that those machines are not operational. "Oh no, they're not used." We learned much after the fact: after getting there very early; after waiting a couple hours for the park to open; after nearly being trampled by stampeding crowds who seemed to know what was going on, we learned that 50,000 tickets to China are distributed daily. They're distributed by security guards. Between 5 and 6 in the morning. And they're all gone within ten minutes. Supposedly the pavilion really is impressive inside. Oh well; someday if I'm ever in Shanghai again, after the fair is but a memory, maybe I'll finally get a crack at getting inside.

The Urban Best Practices area may be the most lightly visited part of Expo. Even if you're not particularly into urban planning, this should not be missed. The pavilions and displays are very well thought out and presented within some extremely well-done architecture.

Modern World Expositions have themes, sometimes lofty or altruistic themes. "Better City, Better Life" is a tough one. It can be a very dry topic and many displays by necessity include a LOT of information to digest. The most successful pavilions are able to convey their theme by doing it creatively and by somehow making a didactic experience enjoyable. Having said that, people go to an exposition - I'll refer to it now as a Fair - to have fun. The popularity of a pavilion is not necessarily an indication of the pavilion's success in fulfilling its theme. Long lines usually indicate that the pavilion includes a ride or some sort of special effects...and the Shanghai crowd is definitely out to be entertained. It seems that some pavilions, particularly in the international areas, do not really adhere to "Better City, Better Life". Their contents are traditional and straightforward, featuring their arts, culture, commerce, technology, and products, not particularly tied to a theme. For better or for worse, I found some of these to be the more colorful and interesting.

We had no problem with eating. Our experience was that ample food was everywhere. If you like Chinese food, which I do, there is a huge two-story food court serving up all sorts of dishes from all the provinces of China that you can pick and choose from. Not much for ambiance, but reasonably-priced and good quality. But, as a reminder that you will occasionally come across something that really is quite foreign, first you have to figure out the method in place for purchasing your food. It's one of those things that seems unnecessarily complicated. Prepaying for a food card; using it at the food counters; having refunded what you don't spend. But once you figure it out, it's not difficult. All part of the journey! We also had meals in a French restaurant, and in the Norway, Turkey, and Indonesia pavilions, which were all very good. Many of these restaurants offer a set menu to avoid communication issues and paying your bill is straighforward. Limited menu selections that you order by A, B, or C.

Expo is truly worth going to. It would be a real loss to be in Shanghai in 2010 and not even get a glimpse at Expo. To enjoy it fully, you will constantly need to reprioritize your visitation plan as your time there unfolds. Don't let the pace or the crowds diminish the world show that's going on all around you!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thread to start, Mark.

Here's my adds: Hi Mark and Trey- Thanks to you both for great info and posts! I'm headed to Expo week of Oct. 6 staying at the Regal East Asia Hotel and its in the Shanghai Stadium- booked with a tour. Not the best location so any info on best Metro Line to take to Expo and please more details on where to catch the Metro that goes under the River and ends up near the Aussie Pavilion. I'm a WF veteran from a city which has hosted 2 WFs, lived in another which had 3 and now live in one which has also hosted 2, Any guesses? Clue #1- "rollin on the river... Clue #2- 2 of the Expos were on the same site and 3- Elvis made a movie at this WF."Thanks for any and all info to help get around in Shanghai. I've Googled directions on places I want to go off the Expo site and it seems the Metro is the best way to get around and the distances are way longer.

Anne

There's another way! A brand new subway constructed just for the fair that runs under the river in about 60 seconds. And there was only a two to three minute wait at the station to get on. It's located right next to the Australian Pavilion and drops you on the corporate side-- right in front of the World Exposition Museum.

Now for my reviews (which I will strictly limit to only those Pavilions we actually entered).

AUSTRALIA

A beautiful interior with some interesting exhibits about the country-- most of which the crowds blow right past to get to a large theater in the center. There you're treated to an enchanting (and state-of-the-art) multi-media presentation centered on two Australian children which includes rising and falling revolving screens and three-dimensional sculptural elements. A 90 minute wait for us, but worth it.

CANADA

A beautiful exterior, but fairly boring interior-- though my kids did enjoy riding on some bicycle simulators that take you on various tours of the country. Another 90 minute wait-- mildly entertained by some Cirque d'Soleil players along the way-- but all in all, fairly forgettable.

UK PAVILION

The amazing Seed Cathedral. Not to be missed. One of the most extraordinary works of architecture I've ever seen, much less visited.

ITALY

A two hour wait. But it contained many wonderful displays of classic and modern Italian creativity-- art, music, fashion, wine, industry-- and a great restaurant. Should be seen-- but perhaps later in the day when the lines are shorter.

NETHERLANDS

aka "Happy Town." Ehh. Just seemed like a long walk up a ramp through an IKEA to me. And yes, I know IKEA is Swedish--but it still had that vibe about it.

BRAZIL

Interesting. Not too long of a wait. A bit disjointed-- but again, my children really enjoyed a video wall section where you could swap people's faces and bodies with each other.

AUSTRIA

Fantastic exterior design. But completely forgettable inside. Like a chocolate that looks great but you want to spit out after taking a bite. Don't waste your time.

UNITED STATES

I've already posted a full link elsewhere with my feelings about the US Pavilion-- but I would generally concur with Mark's assessment. I'm just impressed we managed to get our act together and build one at all, honestly.

SPAIN

Stunning inside and out. One of my absolute favorite Pavilions and worth however long it takes to get inside. No spoilers. Just go.

URBANIA

As close as we could get to a "theme pavilion" since the Chinese Pavilion is ridiculously inaccessible to most of the fair's visitors. A very interesting exploration of how six families from around the world live very different urban lives. Beautiful use of recycled materials to create fascinating urban landscapes as well. It starts slow with some wax figures... but don't be discouraged... it gets cooler and cooler as you move on.

NORTH KOREA

Not to be missed-- if only because it's such a shameless parade of propaganda. Fascinating in a truly twisted way. Short line to get in, as you can imagine.

UZBEKISTAN

A Pavilion we only visited because there was no line to get in. Not much to see-- but they sold some great breads at the exit.

SAIC-GM

Our longest wait, by far. 2.5 hours. In the heat. But still well worth it. A true "world's fair-ian" experience. Just bring a couple of bottles of water and a book and stick it out.

COCA COLA

Waited in line for an hour-- then bailed out when an English speaking attendant informed us it would be another three hours from that point. Just bought a Coke at a concession kiosk and called it good. But while we're on the topic-- don't go looking for ice cold drinks anywhere. They don't sell them. Everything is only "cool." Apparently quenching your thirst with a near frozen beverage is more of an American thing.

WORLD EXPOSITION MUSEUM

Our last visited Pavilion on our last night at the Expo. A bit cutesy and downright wrong in a number of respects. But there was no wait-- and for some reason, maybe because I was just in a sappy, nostalgic mood as we wound up our trip-- I enjoyed it. Your mileage may vary.

There were SEVEN others I really wanted to visit-- FRANCE, GERMANY, SAUDI ARABIA, SOUTH KOREA, RUSSIA, SWITZERLAND, and of course, the seven-story monolithic CHINA PAVILION. But due to line times exceeding three hours at each (and the fact I had three young kids along with me)-- I simply had to be content in the end with snapping pix around the outside.

Would love to hear more about those I missed from other folks who hopefully add to this thread!

-Trey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0