Our last big adventure before returning to Canada was to visit Shanghai and Expo 2010. This time, we were also traveling with Sharon’s two older brothers and their wives, all from Guang Zhou. When we landed at the Shanghai airport, we boarded the Maglev train for a seven minute run and then hailed a cab the rest of the way to the Holiday Inn Downtown. (I have a photo of the speedometer inside the train which read 301 kilometers per hour.)
Shanghai is a lovely, dignified old lady. She was spiffed up for visitors from around the world but even without it, she would still have been wonderful. After we checked in, we spotted a dumpling restaurant just down the street and headed straight for it. I tell you, I would return to Shanghai just for those dumplings.
Fortified with Shanghai’s most famous dish, we headed toward the subway and took a short ride to the Bund district. It was sunset and all the old European style buildings of the world famous financial district were outlined in lights. Across the river, the sight was spectacular. History oozed out of every brick and you could read the past cultures which had come and gone by the architectural styles. The huge pedestrian mall had many shops, some that served convenience food and treats. There were several kiosks selling souvenirs of Expo including Haibao, the Expo mascot, which was found in the shape of keychains, stuffed toys, jewelry and other novelties.
The next morning, having enjoyed a big buffet breakfast, we headed out to the grounds of Expo. There were fewer western tourists than I expected but still there were lineups.
Chinese people are very resourceful and while we were all waiting to gain entrance to the fabled Chinese Pavilion, several of them began asking us through sign language if we would have our photo taken with them. Soon we were all giggling and laughing like old friends at a reunion and the waiting time dissolved.
The Chinese Pavilion left me speechless. It was remarkable to see that huge, animated scroll called The River of Wisdom rolling through 128 meters of length. It had been animated by several digital artists who had produced it over a couple of years. Sharon explained that in the past, every grade school had a smaller, non-digital version of the scroll in each classroom to show the children the history and customs of the past.
Although we were politely encouraged to move along to allow others to view the scroll, we still had plenty of time to take it in. Of course there were many other components to the Chinese Pavilion. If I had any misconceptions about Asian art, technology and culture, that pavilion alone certainly enlightened me.
We visited several more pavilions over the two days, some excellent, some mediocre and one that appeared to be one big commercial for a national airline. But the one that did me in was the Canadian Pavilion. It was co-created by the Government of Canada and Cirque du Soleil. Oh my! I did not realize what a shameless, dyed-in-the-wool
Canadian I am, and how much I was missing my beautiful home. There were playful, interactive displays that outlined our inventiveness, creative informational areas and a wonderful finale with a short slide show of our clear, clean winter wilderness with its timeless forests, tundra and high prairies. The entire exhibition was bilingual and never did I appreciate so much the dichotomy of our two solitudes. All of this hit me in the solar plexus and I admit I wiped away a tear or two.
We had come to the end of our excellent adventure as we returned to the familiar Holiday Inn Downtown to pack. We would return to Guang Zhou for one more night’s stay and then board our plane in Hong Kong to return home. Next week, Canada!