Shanghai Scrap’s revised, re-thought, totally new guide to Expo 2010 [Shanghai World’s Fair].

A week into Expo 2010’s [that is, the Shanghai World’s Fair’s] six month run I posted my ‘Simple Guide‘ to visiting the sprawling event that came down to one directive: go after dark. Much of that guide and advice was based upon visits during the construction phase, the soft opening, and two impromptu visits made during the sparsely attended first week. Since then, much has changed, both at the Expo (people are showing up, for example), and in my head (a dozen or so Expo visits, both as a member of the media, and as an unabashed Expo enthusiast, will do that).

So, on that basis, I’m going to offer a revised, updated Shanghai Scrap Guide to the Expo (though I continue to stand by most of my first wave advice). These recommendations are intended for people like me: people who have traveled a bit in their life, don’t find much novelty or exoticism in Western Europeans, and don’t have a desperate compulsion to spend six hours in line to see, say, what the Germans cooked up. Not that there’s anything wrong with Germans, or their take on national exhibition design. It’s just that, all things considered, I’m not six-hours interested, and neither are most of the people I know. In fact, if there’s one thing that I want to emphasize to my valued readers, it’s this: DON’T WAIT IN LINE FOR ANYTHING. There’s nothing – NOTHING – at Expo 2010 worth more than ten minutes of idling (with one notable exception – which I’ll get to). Now, don’t get me wrong: Expo 2010 is worth several days of your time. I’m just saying that, all things considered, those days are best spent seeing all of the things that don’t require you to stand in line. So let’s get down to business. Continue reading

When is a line a line, and when is it merely prestigious? At Expo 2010 [according to Turkey], of course.

Even before Expo 2010 [the Shanghai World’s Fair] opened on May 1, media, organizers, and visitors were buzzing about the epic lines expected at certain national pavilions. To be sure, lines (queues, my British friends) are reality at all modern Expos. But China, with its vast population, and determination to secure 70 million visitors before its six month Expo ends, magnifies the issue. Nonetheless, despite reasonable concerns about Shanghai lines dating back years, rumors have been circulating for months that “some” national pavilions were built, and have been managed, to ensure and lengthen the lines and waits – for the sake of national prestige.

So. On June 16, at a semi-regular meeting of Commissioners General held at the Expo site, the rumors became thinly-veiled accusations: mid-way through the meeting, the Commissioner General of Turkey all but charged the Saudi Arabian pavilion – notorious for its nine hour-long queues – with purposely manipulating visitors and wait times so as to appear as if it’s popular. His finger also turned to the Germans, hosts to six hour lines, for much the same, and more. Below, the Saudi pavilion as encountered during the Expo’s soft opening, before it became popular.

Thanks to an Expo friend, I have documentation of this exchange, in the form of the June 16 meeting minutes. Click here for a scan of the first page, including participants. And here, in the midst of a long section concerning lines, is the relevant passage:

The Commissioner General of Turkey notes that some pavilions are designed for long queues and that even some pavilions want long queues as a matter of prestige. He suggests that pavilions should speed up access at their entrances and allow, as is the case at the pavilion of Turkey, free entrance and exit to shows rather than closing people inside until the show is over. He notes that Turkey receives 45,000 people per day whereas Saudi Arabia is at around 25,000 per day. He also stresses that Germany had faced the same issues at Expo 2008 Zaragoza due to the design of their pavilion.

This blogger notes that Turkey rarely has a significant wait in front of its pavilion, despite the fact that – if the 45,000 figure is correct – it exceeds or equals the visitation numbers at many other popular pavilions, such as the well-queued United States pavilion. Continue reading

The Dancing Beauty and Other Tales of Carp[/crab] Fishing in China, pt. II

[Pt. I of this multi-part series, in which the blogger goes shopping for tackle at what amounts to a giant carp fishing mall, can be found here.]

A friend from Minnesota, a walleye fisherman of some repute, once told me: “The only thing that comes close to the thrill of catching a fish is not catching a fish. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t get to fish with me.” I know exactly what he meant and no, it has nothing to do with six packs in the cooler on the floor of your boat. Instead he was talking about anticipation, and the itchy possibility that the mundane routines of daily like might just run into something wilder – with a little luck and patience. It’s the kind of anticipation that leads experienced fishermen to sit on a boat in the heat of the mid-day sun, lines in the water, knowing that – under such conditions – they’re about as likely to catch a blue whale as a walleye or a bass. And it’s just that kind of anticipation which – along with growing wealth, leisure time, automobile ownership, and restlessness – drives the quickening growth of recreational fishing in China.

Travel China’s cities and I guarantee that – if you come across an urban creek, river, or canal – you’ll eventually find somebody with a line in it, no matter how polluted, fishing for pleasure. Below, a photo of a fisherman beside the creek that runs through East China Normal University in Shanghai (courtesy of China writer, historian, and angler, Paul French, author of the great China Rhyming blog).

Alas, I think it no exaggeration to claim that China’s urban waterways are polluted and over-fished (if there are fish in them, at all), and so – for the serious angler – it’s necessary to look to the Chinese countryside for quality fishing (a topic about which I’ll have much more to say in coming months). At least, that’s what I’ve long thought. But curiosity, along with urban restlessness, occasionally gets the better of me, and so over the last year I’ve taken to asking around Shanghai for quality fresh water fishing (not stocked pond fishing). In other words: is it possible to fish quality, wild freshwater fish in a freshwater fish loving (and eating) city? The answer, I’d long been told, is no. But then, in March, a good friend called to tell me that a friend of his had mentioned a clean lake in the Shanghai outskirts filled with big, wild carp. Continue reading

As the flight ascended, the knife descended.

The other morning, as my flight ascended into the sky over a major Asian airport, I felt something hard fall to the floor beside my feet. Curious, I leaned forward and saw, on the floor, something that I initially mistook as a piece of the seat in front of mine. I picked it up, turned it in my hand and realized that – rather than holding a loose part – I was actually in possession of a quite serious 3.5 inch (89 mm) knife. Below, a photo of the sheathed weapon.

Slightly stunned, I turned to the fellow beside me – and he suggested that I give the blade to a flight attendant. I must admit, my initial thought was: “Thanks cowboy, but I have no interest in being the guy who has to answer for finding a titanium-framed knife stowed in a magazine pocket (or beneath a seat) on an international flight operated by a US airline. You do it.” But that was just my first thought, the one that happened before the good citizen sprung into action and pressed the flight attendant call button. At the time, we were still ascending, so a flight attendants didn’t exactly come running – providing me plenty of time to snap a photo of the knife (later, ID’d the brand and model, which you’ll find here), and speculate on just why it had been stowed away on my plane (which, as it turns out, regularly transits between North America and Asia). Conclusion: no idea. Continue reading

The Dancing Beauty and other tales of carp fishing [equipment] in China, Pt. 1.

According to my sources, there are over 20,000 fishing tackle shops in China – a commercial phenomenon that defies many foreign stereotypes about China, not least of which is that you can’t find any good fishing in China. Over the next couple of months, and in a few different venues, I’m going to do my best to overturn that stereotype. But, more than that, I hope to show something different, and more positive, as well: that a growing Chinese middle-class, outfitted with spare-time, automobiles, and a desire to get out of the cities, is embracing fishing and other outdoor sports. Regular readers know that I’m loathe to draw sweeping conclusions from limited data, but in the case of fishing in China, I will say this: I’ve never met a fisherman who doesn’t care about blue skies and clean water. From such things, conservation movements have been born.

So how to measure the scale of fishing in China? I am not (yet) ready to give up the location of my favorite Chinese fishing holes. But, as a public service, I am willing to give up the location of the largest fishing tackle hub that I’ve ever encountered outside of the United States (hello, Cabela’s). So: grab yourself a taxi out to Putuo District, and direct the driver to the traffic jammed corner of Jinshajiang and Jingyang roads. There you’ll find a block-long, soot-streaked, pink tile building that – on its first floor – houses more than two dozen fishing tackle shops.

After the page jump, we visit some shops, buy my new/first carp fishing rod, and enjoy a quick chat with the brother/sister team that owns and runs Fengye Fishing Tackle. Continue reading

Technology of Happiness

What makes a great Expo 2010 (Shanghai World’s Fair) pavilion? Fancy architecture? 4-D films? A giant, custom-built theater complete with a rotating movie screen? Yes, yes, and yes! – depending upon how each of those features is deployed within the pavilion.

But in the opinion of this blogger – your trusty, loyal Shanghai Scrap Expo blogger – nothing – and I mean nothing – guarantees World Expo pavilion greatness quite like a flying machine. And so, breaking this blog’s unstated rule that: The Blogger’s Face Shall Never Grace the Home Page – I give you Mr. Shanghai Scrap, enjoying an invited flight in the Aerodium-designed vertical wind tunnel at the heart of the beautiful and truly awesome Latvian Expo 2010 (World’s Fair) pavilion.

[UPDATE 6/19: The Expo Museum has posted a great video of the Aerodium in action.]

The theme of the Latvian pavilion is “Technology of Happiness,” and having now experienced that technology for myself, I feel perfectly comfortable telling my readers that the experience of “flying” on a vertical blast of air is not only a happy one, it’s unlike any sensation that I’ve ever experienced before. The blast of air itself is extraordinarily powerful and – at first – disorienting. Your legs arms curve above you, your back bows, and you really wonder if you’re just going to crash to the floor (padded). But once I had the hang of it, I quite suddenly felt like a speck of dust being tossed about on a sunbeam. In other words: technology of happiness, indeed. After the page jump, Shanghai Scrap several meters above the floor of the wind tunnel. Continue reading

Student Ambassadors: the USA (and its Expo 2010 pavilion) at its very best.

My first visit to the USA pavilion happened a few days after it officially opened. It was a quiet evening, and the large crowds of recent weeks hadn’t yet materialized. I didn’t have to wait long in line, and after only a few minutes I was ushered into the lobby where I watched two young Americans make announcements – and joke – to a Chinese audience transfixed by their linguistic and cultural fluency. A few minutes later we were ushered into a movie theater where – just as in the lobby – a young American warmed up and joked with the crowd. The last theater was home to the true star of the show (if you ask the Chinese audience), a stocky young American, no more than twenty-three, I think, who worked the five-hundred audience members like a stand-up comedian. After the film, they rushed up to him with cameras, questions, and curiosity.

As I left the pavilion, I raved to my companion about how the young Americans I’d just seen – officially, they are members of the USA pavilion’s Student Ambassador program – are precisely who and how I would want the USA to represent itself at Expo 2010 (the Shanghai World’s Fair). Entrepreneurial. Optimistic. Well-educated. Young. Open to China and other cultures. Sense of humor. Sense of integrity.

My companion raised a brow at me and, knowing that I’d long been critical of the USA pavilion, challenged me to write something complimentary about the Student Ambassadors on Shanghai Scrap. That seemed reasonable and so – then and there -I accepted the assignment, and at the first available opportunity I asked Martin Alintuck, then the pavilion’s Communications Director (and now the President/CEO of the pavilion), if he’d be willing to help me do it. Alintuck agreed right away.

And so, without further ado, allow me introduce Shanghai Scrap’s readers to Ryan Lovdahl, 23 and Katie Sirolly, 22, two members of the first class of eighty student ambassadors selected to work at the US pavilion until mid-July (a second class of eighty ambassadors will overlap them by a week or two and serve until the end of the Expo on October 31).

Katie and Ryan are both recent University of Delaware graduates. Though University of Delaware doesn’t have a Chinese language major, it does have a foreign language requirement, and the two of them both chose Chinese. Along the way, they showed an aptitude for the language that resulted in both being selected for year-long scholarships at Beijing Language and Culture University, paid for by the Chinese government. Ryan spent two years at BLCU; Katie spent one. Afterward, both sought out additional opportunities to study, travel, and work in China. And so, in 2009, when the Student Ambassador program, was announced, both jumped at the opportunity to apply. Continue reading