Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Shanghai - Day 7 - Expo Site

The Far Pavilions, and the Spiritual Pakistan Pavilion

overcast 28 °C

We got off @ the Yauhoa Station on Line 7. There're several metro entry points to the Expo (as well as ferry entry, which is free with Expo ticket), but since I live on Line 7 on Langao Roadd Stn, this is the logical entry.

Shanghai Expo 2010 is the largest in history in terms of countries participate/pavilions built. Some appear the first time like Algeria, Vietnam, etc. The fare is also the cheapest with daily entry ticket at 150 Yuans a pop. This leads to success for China. But what's good for the host country isn't always the best for the Expo visitors. In any case, this Expo has to be the busiest with about 1/5 of the world population live here. Shanghainese are given free tickets. So expect unprecedented Expo crowd. This is China, so expect the unprecedented everything. Use 2008 Beijing Olympic experience as a guide.

Beijing Olympic Game is the China coming-out party where China showcased herself to the world. During this world event, People visited China, either physically as tourists, or through TV broadcasts. Shanghai Expo 2010 two years later is, in a sense, the Beijing Game in reverse. This is where the world went to showcase themselves to China, and the pavilion exhibits aren't broadcast to the world. After all, majority of the Shanghai Expo visitors are Chinese (I say about 99.5%) to sample and to get to know the various countries of the world. The metaphors are also picture perfect where the venues of these two events are placed. Beijing is the capital city, therefore, the political and cultural centre of China. Olympic Game is very much a political and cultural event. While Shanghai is an international port, and the financial centre of China. Expo is very much a commercial event.

The Expo these days increasingly more to do with cultures than science and technology (not that there's anything wrong with that). This is especially true in this Shanghai Expo where China invited nearly all countries on earth to attend. If they can't afford, China simply 'sponsored' them. The African Joint Pavilion is the result. This is hardly surprising, trade between PRC and the African Continent increased many fold in the last decade as China needs their rich resources while they need China's cheap imported goods.

Just a brief side note, for the panda fans, Sichuan sent its 10 giant, b&w, cuddly ambassadors to Shanghai Zoo (since Jan) so the tourists can conveniently glimpse them while they visit the Expo. There have never been such a large gathering of the symbol of this endangered species outside Sichuan.

China Pavilion
Entry Time: 10:30pm. Queue Time: 3 hrs (I'm guessing).

China Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010Of course, the first obvious stop would be China Pavilion. Saw the long queue and asked the volunteer how long do I have to wait. He said 2 hours. But that's not all. The volunteer continue to explain, "you need another ticket, although it's free, but I need to get it from the security 'over there'. And these tickets are running out fast, and...", my brain shut down at this point. All I heard from that point on was blah blah blah...I guess my interest for queueing up for the China Pavilion just shut down like my brain. Next...

Was a warm day. Bought an ice cream, and asked the ice cream girl for direction to Asian Zone or Zone A (Etta prefers to see European pavilions, so I confined myself to Asian Zone today). While I was cooled down with my ice cream, a whitewash building appear and attaching to a blue glass wall (quite a architectural juxtaposition). Took a photo, and had a closer look. It was the pavilion for Sultanate of Oman. Looking around at the queues of various pavilions, I decided just doing snapshots from the outsides of buildings. The Israel Pavilion looks like a cross between an alien creature and an terrestrial snail. Is it real? Yes, Israel. Again I asked and the answer is "2 hours". Sounds like a pre-recorded message.

Israel Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2014
Israel Pavilion

Pakistan Pavilion
Entry Time: 11pm. Queue Time: 20 mins.

Pakistan Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
Pakistan Pavilion
Finally, I saw the long queue outside Pakistan Pavilion started to move, but more importantly, I saw a group of 5 or 6 local ladies with colourful umbrellas joining the queue, I thought if I squeezed into the queue with them, it's inevitable that I'll get some shades. I did get some shades during the 15 minutes wait in the line. Yes, ladies do like to carry their umbrellas for the sun here. Despite the somewhat overcast sky, it can be hot, especially around noon.

The first section of the pavilion has 3 kiosks each contains a 'hologram'. The holographic image is created by projecting an image from a projector onto a curtain of cold air that produced by an air-cons that suspended above, not too dissimilar to those air curtain that installed at above the door of shops.

Hologram image produced by projecting image onto cold air. Pakistan Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010, China

Hologram, Pakistan Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
The flickering 'hologram' (caused by flowing cold air) made me think perhaps this is how the ghost image in a 19th century séance session is produced. Instead of a projector, you only need to shine a light onto a person (say with a lamp or candle) in front of a mirror, and the reflected image of person is then projected onto a curtain of cold air. So the image source comes from a mirror instead of a projector. Of course, the cold air can be produced with dry ice. No worries about liquid dripping down (that's why they call it dry ice). When the lights are dimmed, a slit on the ceiling is opened or unplugged to let the cold air from the dry air descend onto the séance table, forming a thin curtain or waterfall of cold air identical to the one produced by the air-cons in this pavilion. When the cold air hit the table, the cold air spread out and hit the participants around the table. The literature on séance always mentions a chill in the air. The chill comes from dry ice, not spirits.

The whole set up of the mirror and the ghost performer/actor is located next door, and the image is shone through a hole that quite high and therefore nobody notices it (besides, the hole is disguised, and only opened after the room is darkened). This also explains why the ghost image is floating quite high in the air, which adds to the effect. The whole set up for the reflected image could be all carried out on a raised platform in the next room. The whole house of the spiritual medium is of course a magician stage.

I hope I'm wrong. But the explanation seems to come too easy. It's all done with smoke and mirror (as they say in the magic parlance). The dry ice is quite smokey (in fact, it's used in film set when special effect of a smokey nature is called for. The smoke enhances the visibility of the air curtain by making it more opaque. That's it. Did I leave out any details? I think I account for everything. I could be wrong, of course, but it isn't sounded so far fetched now. Another secret of the magic code revealed! Unfortunately!

Ok, back to 21st century Shanghai (from 19th century Europe). Most people take photos of these holograms with the flashes on, and only photograph their own flashes.

High profile Pakistan Women, Pakistan Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
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The second section consisted of photos of many successful Pakistani women - the Hall of Fame for Pakistani Women if you like - that ranging from politician to air force pilot, defending themselves the view that Pakistan society oppresses womenfolks. Were there many people suggested that? Seems like it.

The last section contains travel postcard photos (not postcard size, but poster size); some are award winning images that I've seen a few times before (like the famous portrait of a Pakistani woman with brilliant blue eyes). I wasn't surprise by the stunning Pakistani landscapes of peaks and valleys as they sit on the foot of the Himalayas. What surprised me was the ultra modern skyscrapers that look more cutting edge, stylish, and avant garde than in some Western cities (say, Sydney). The trend of globalisation is truly well underway.

Sultanate of Oman
Sultanate of Oman Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
Entry Time: 11:45pm. Queue Time: 15 mins.

Had a drink and rest between Pakistan and Oman Pavilion, but when I saw the queue started to move, I decided to join it.

Not too much to see. It illustrates some ancient the maritime Silk Road with China. The air of the pavilion was filled with the scent of frankincense, which is the best known export for Oman. The famous Zheng He voyage made stop here just for this precious amber, which Chinese uses in Chinese medicine as anti-inflammatory.

Had lunch at Ajisen Ramen (味千拉面). There're more of this Japanese fast food chain restaurants in Shanghai than you can poke your chopstick at. In fact, more than the Japanese city - Kumamoto - where this restaurant is based. I'm sucker for ramen, and I do enjoy theirs. I first tried one of their outlet in Nanjing Road. I especially have a weakness for their soft tendon ramen (the Chinese description is 'soft bone', and English description is 'pork ribs'. It's neither).

Nepal Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
Nepal Pavilion
Entry Time: 12:35pm. Queue Time: 15 mins.

The pavilion tops with a stupa with four sides of the traditional Buddha Eyes (aka Wisdom Eyes).
It showcased their Buddhism arts and crafts, especially the woodworks, but also metalworks. If you enjoy admiring Buddhist - and to less extent, Hindu - sculptures, it'll be a delightful feast for your eyes.

Buddha head, Sri Lanka Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
Sri Lanka Pavilion
Entry Time: 3:00pm. Queue Time: 10 mins.

Not a large pavilion. Exhibits of mostly Buddhist arts and crafts. I was slightly surprise as I always mistakenly thought that most Sri Lankan are Hindus (because of its large negbour of India). My ignorance is reduced slightly after this visit.

3D cinema, India Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010
India Pavilion
Entry Time: 4:30pm. Queue Time: 20 mins.

Souvenir shops galores that surround a stage that showing a recorded video of Indian old lady performed a folk dance on a plasma TV. I did enjoy the dance muchly (surprising that I enjoyed so much), but would have been more if the dancer were performing live on the stage.

Some more queueing up - about 10 mins - to go up a spiral ramp. On the top is a theatre showing 15 mins of a 'movie' on a 360 degrees '3D movie screen'. It wasn't anything like the low-tech projected image in the Pakistan Pavilion. It's a true and sharp 3D image that can be viewed from all angles in a audience circle around the 'video screen'. No 3D goggles were needed as this is only required for a flat 2D screen to create the illusion of 3D in the brain. This is truly 3D, not an optical illusion. However, since it shows only graphics - not unlike the CAD graphics - it's must be generated by computers. And I suspect it can't show video (of real-life images, as supposed to computer generated images). That could be the future cinema if, I should say, when that technology is available. Not in the India Pavilion today, though.

There were some cultural exhibit around the outside of this 360 degree cinema, both pop (like Bollywood) and traditional culture.

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