We finally gave in (courtesy of INNOVATEChina) and on a muggy Sunday, joined the droves and braved the Shanghai EXPO.
Getting in was pretty smooth, I was only pushed past in the queue by 2 women and the wait was just long enough to see a couple phalanxes of expo volunteers patrol past as if preparing for battle. Soon enough we were across no man's land and inside, soaking up the, well, expanse of concrete and pavilions... and of course the queues. Luckily we have a few connections (!) and over the course of the day managed to avoid any of the lines which extended to 3-4 hours for some.
In general, many of the pavilions look fantastic, a few have good things going on inside and the rest are mildly entertaining. Inside, most are fleetingly fast and if I'd queued for three hours to walk down a slope in the dark with some flashing lights and a four minute loop of the countryside the tone of this would be five shades darker. Yes of course there's a generous helping of "isn't our country the most sustainable and innovative in the world and all we have to do is come together".
Here's a wrap up of the pavilions we visited:
Belgium. Walk around cases of Belgian things (chocolates, jewellery).
Switzerland. Breath in some manufactured mountain air. Watch a mini imax video of the Alps and then along a looping walkway overlooking the french pavilion. There's a chairlift on the roof if the weather is good (it wasn't).
Sweden. Walk around Ikea showrooms.
Spain. Enter a cave with some beautifully created 360o projections. Watch some flamenco dancing as some bones descend from the ceiling. Walk around a room showing Spain from the 60s. Finally stand next to a 5 metre robotic baby.
England. Bias aside, by far the best. Enter a cube cocoon made from thousands of fibreglass spikes each terminating inside with an encased seed.
Canada. A huge pavilion housing not a lot. Walk along a red tunnel, watch an arty video about Canadian things.
Mexico. Basically a white-walled homogeneous Mexican Culture museum.
Individually it sounds unappealing but put it all together and add on the external environment and it's a pretty big deal.