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Not long now before we'll find an honest pancake on the side of the road, can take a rickshaw taxi from the metro station and the polystyrene men will roam free.

Maybe too, we'll be released from Shanghai's extortionate flight prices captivity...
the Expo 2010 is finally drawing to an end.

Unless they extend it for another month, those of us who've yet to go better start making arrangements. The 'week-day nights when it's baking hot and nobody will be there' have passed; the 'free ticket that I was promised by a guy in the Norwegian Pavilion’ quit his job ages ago and that gap between mid-autumn festival and the national holiday never really happened. We're closing in on actually missing out... and to rub your face in it - they've put the price of a ticket up to 200RMB… and still one million people went last Saturday.

Thanks to being a graduate student I have both a suit and some free time during the day and so qualify as pavilion-meat. That and because I think the expo is pretty awesome I've been a handful of times.

This time was rather special though. Thanks to a very well-connected Icelandic pavilion director we were invited on a diplomatic VIP tour of the Expo's finest. So, here's a frank run down of inside the most successful pavilions, the ones they're queuing from 3 to 55 hours to enter. If you've not been yet - this is what you're missing.


Supposedly they built this in a few hours, which must be why it is such highly polished cheese. Three videos; the first is loads of Americans, including Hillary, saying 'Ni Hao' (hello). The next ones are blah togetherness blah children blah save the planet. It seems most people are here to photograph the Nanjing student who asks everybody to 'move all the way along and find a seat' in fluent mandarin.


Look through a grubby window at Copenhagen's Little Mermaid (they brought it over). Then do a couple loops around the roof of the worse-for-wear pavilion as people pootle by on bikes.

Saudi Arabia

Stand on a curved moving walkway that loops around a breathtaking elliptical auditorium immersed entirely in psychedelic projections of middle-eastern mosaics, satellite views and montages of exploding stars and germinating seeds. All the while staff members ninja around telling people off for taking photos.

Then be forced to walk up and then down seven stories of spiral walkway with nothing to see.


The biggest let-down after the hype. Watch a promo video on a very low definition screen. Then be talked Disney-style through the history of Thailand by a dodgy animatronic totem pole. The finale is a "4D" promo video. Three of the Ds come from the glasses, the fourth comes from getting sneezed on by an elephant.

It's all 1990s technology but it was funny to see that the locals were loving it, all with their arms outstretched as a mango hovered in the air in front of our eyes.


A slick and well produced series of videos that give a rather good impression of the UAE. They manage to slip in the pearls and the oil without too many shots of the Burj. Even better was when we were whisked by our experience-manager away from the crowds to a royal chamber for coffee and dates.


They got the textbook on expo pavilions and SMACK. This is how it should be done. Dainty hostesses lead us through the history of Japan, model houses and calligraphy. Then onto modern technology including talking vacuum cleaners and pavement tiles that collect kinetic energy. Then an onslaught of next-gen tech across two auditoriums. We’ve a robot that plays the violin, a 55 billion zoom digital camera, Mitsubishi’s version of the Segway and some Japanese opera about the plight of the would-be (if not for China) extinct crested Ibis.


Ascend into the monstrous red pavilion for an honestly moving story between two Chinese country-folk. Then step out of the way as 400 people try to squeeze out of the auditorium and rush down the three floors of the pavilion without looking at anything (go figure).

If they were interested they’d see a massive and stunning frieze that I can only describe as an intricately animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry (except depicting Chinese countryside) – look out for a guy who walks out of his house, yawns, falls over and lays on the ground snoring.

There are some Chinese artefacts, a model zero emissions house (that looks a bit tired). One floor is taken up with an “it’s a small world” style ride around – well – nothing significant. Then there’s a huge walkway of Expo-themed paintings by ‘infants’. Based on the quality they must all be savants.

Finally be lowered from the mother ship by a tractor-beam style escalator which goes through hydroponic lab arrangement of lilies being sprinkled by magic water that spells out “EXPO 2010”

There we have it

All in – 7 top dogs. If you don’t have an Expo angel though I wouldn’t justify waiting beyond half an hour for any of them. Instead, suck up the queue for the best by far – UK and spend the rest of your day with Chile: good food, cheap Pisco Sours and because every Pavilion overstocked: half price wine!

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