EXPO Shanghai 2010. – an unforgettable experience

2015 is the year of EXPO. I suppose a lot of you have heard about this world event. I would like to share some basic informations about Expo, in order for you to better catch this blog post. Expo is an event which has been held in the form of a fair or an exhibition since the middle of 19th century. This event is managed by a separate body called Office of International Exhibitions (BIE less, which is a French abbreviation that stands for the Bureau International des Expositions). BIE is headquartered in Paris and today has 98 member states. Common name for the World Exhibition is EXPO. According to the rules of the BIE, World Exhibitions are divided into two categories:

  • International exhibitions reported: Held every 5 years, do not last more than 6 months, and the area of exhibition is unlimited
  • Internationally recognized exhibitions: Held once in the interval between two registered International exhibitions, last more up to 3 months, and the area of exhibition stretches up to 25 hectares

The main idea of EXPO is that all countries get the opportunity to show the rest of the world their views on a given topic. The participating countries, in accordance with the topic, regulate their exhibition space in separate pavilions.

The first EXPO was held in 1851 in London, United Kingdom. All nations were invited to contribute to the exhibition, which presented the greatest achievements of all branches of human actions. London’s EXPO has achieved great success, and soon other big cities have organized EXPO – Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Chicago and others.

Inheritance of the World exhibition in more than 150 years of their maintenance, among other things, includes: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Atomium in Brussels, the invention of television and many others. Impressive, isn’t it?

This year, EXPO was held in Milan, Italy (www.expo2015.org). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit it, but I was a team member of Montenegro Pavilion during EXPO Shanghai 2010 in China. In this blog post you will read about my experience in Shanghai.

EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, with a topic “Better city, better life“, was very important for my country, because it was the first participation after 1905 when Montenegero had its premiere at EXPO in Liege, Belgium. Actually participation on EXPO 2010 in Shanghai was the first appearance of  Montenegro after reestablishing its independence in 2006.

I was very excited about this big world event. Even now five years later, while I am writing this post, I have a special feeling about it. The company where I was working – Adriatic Fair Budva, was a logistical and organizational support for Montenegro’s participation in EXPO Shanghai 2010. That’s how I got a chance to go to China and Shanghai for the first time in my life. I hope that won’t be the only time.

The flight from Frankfurt (Germany) to Shanghai lasted for twelve hours, and it really passed so quickly. You are in a big plane, but you have a feeling as if you are in the cinema. Beautiful and kind cabine crew, some specific chinese food, popular movies, a little bit of sleeping, and I was in Shanghai. We were also going through time zones, + 6 hours relative to central Europe time zone.

I landed in Shaghai on June 25th, at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The first thing I noticed when I left the airport was the weather. It was cloudy, very hot and wet, everything seemed so grey. The fact is, the weather in Shanghai is usually just like it was that day. I am lucky because I could handle this weather, but a lot of people couldn’t. So, that is maybe one of the most downsides of Shaghai, but everything else about this city is really amazing. In my opinion, of course.

I will begin with the accommodation for EXPO crew. For the special occasion of EXPO 2010, organizers built EXPO VILLAGE – an area of forty four hectares where people who were working in EXPO pavilions lived. The master plan of EXPO Village (designed by Dusseldorf architects) was awarded the first prize in an international competition. Apartment buildings and hotels as well as retail, cultural and recreation facilities made this place modern and urban, and after EXPO, this place became one of the most dinamic urban parts of Shaghai.

I was staying in 120 square meters apartment with Zeljka, Pedja and Ivan. Even today, I call them “roomies“. It was one of the best times of my life. Expo village was a place where you could meet people from all over the world, every time you went out. 192 countries took part in EXPO 2010. Can you imagine how many people lived in Expo Village?

I would usually chat to some people when I was on my way back from work or some tourist walk. I met people from countries I haven’t even heard of before. I heard and learned a lot about different nations, their traditions and culture. Even now I keep in touch with some of them. In many cases, I had to explain where my country is, how beautiful it is, etc. And you feel very important then. You are a representer of your country at the other side of the world. Apartments and other areas in EXPO village were also places where expo crew organized parties, so, every night you could choose where to go and have fun. But we also worked, if you are wondering whether we were at parties all the time.

Terrace view from our apartment

Working hours in pavilion were very interesting and different every day. My task was to promote my country to visitors of Montenegro Pavilion. The shift lasted for 6 hours, and it was really interesting to talk about Montenegro to people from all over the world.

EXPO Shaghai 2010. broke all records in the visitis to the exhibition, with more than 73 milions visitors (an average of 400 thousands per day). Preparation for EXPO cost over 45 bilion dollars. It was 192 participating countries, 50 international organizations and 101 official delegation led by the heads of states and governments visiting the EXPO. Because of all these incredible facts, you can suppose that we had a lot of work, but for me, nothing was hard. I enjoyed every minute during one month of my stay. I was thankful and proud to be the part of this biggest EXPO ever. A part of history.

After work I would visit pavilions of other countries and explore their culture, traditions, the style of living and other interesting things. The countries of Near East and Asia: Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar, India and others, made a special impression on me.

Except for formal meetings, visits and other working duties, pavilions were also places for all kinds of entertainment: concerts, performances, celebrations, parties, etc. Two nights stayed in my memory. The first one was celebration of the 13th July – National Montenegrin Day, in our Pavilion where we hosted our colleagues from other countries. It was a party to remember.

The second unforgettable night in EXPO area was organized screening of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa – the final match between Spain and Netherlands. I am a big fan of FC Barcelona and  Spanish football in general, so I was watching this match in Spanish Pavillion. It was very excited. Spain won, became the World football champion and the celebration lasted all through the night. Really, it was memorable!

When I wasn’t at EXPO, I was exploring Shanghai. Shanghai is the largest Chinese city with population over 24 million citizens.  It is a global financial center, and a transport hub with the world’s busiest container port. During one month stay, I visited most of tourist atractions: The Bund and Huangpu River, Nanjing Road, Yuyuan Garden, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, World Financial Center, Jade Buddha Themple, Ocean Aquarium, etc. Of course, there are so many others I didn’t get to see, but I left something for another time.

So, what’s my impression about this amazing city? The fact which still fascinates me is that Shanghai is a perfect match of traditional and modern. It is a city of modern skyscrapers at one side, and city of places with typical Chinese culture and lifestyle at the other side.

It is a city of people who are always smiling when you look at them. I mean typical Chinese smile, because Shanghai is also well known as a city where many foreigners live.

Known as the ‘Oriental Paris’, Shanghai is a shopper’s paradise. There are various commercial streets and shopping centers waiting for shopaholics. One of the musts for visitors is the Nanjing Road. You can find the best replicas of famous brands, with great prices. Actually, China is known for making replicas J. Of course, you can also shop in branded stores, and I noticed that prices are a little bit higher than in Europe.

My friends from Montenegro often asked me about Chinese food and language. Food is really specific with strong taste, and for Europeans it takes time to get used to it. I would eat in different restaurants (Italian, French), I would also prepare breakfast at the accomodation and sometimes go to a Chinese restaurant. I remember eating a Chinese specialty – Beijing duck, in some nice hotel in Shanghai. Oh God, I haven’t tried anything more delicious in my life. I was so happy. But….the whole day after lunch my stomach was upset. And I didn’t eat it anymore during my stay in Shanghai. 🙂

Chinese language is completely different and unusual, but it is not so difficult. It just has a very special alphabet. Usually alphabet contains about 30 characters, but Chinese alphabet has few thousand characters. That is difficult.

But, anyway, you can speak with Chinese people with your arms, legs, smile, and at the end, everybody understands each other.  Chinese are very open, and even though I was at the other side the world, it often really felt like home.

Shanghai is also very fascinating at night. The Bund and Huangpu River dominate. Characteristic buildings on the west side and extraordinarily futuristic skyscrapers on the east side, all become more enchanting in sparkling colourful lights at night.

There are many tourists taking pictures and walking around. Also, in that area there are variety of nightclubs, discos and bars. The very popular one, where expo crew usually went is the world known Mint Club. Excellent night club which is compared to the best night clubs in New York. Actually, a lot of people said that Shanghai is a “new” New York. I agree.

All in all, I have the best impressions and memories of EXPO Shaghai 2010. It was the biggest Expo ever, and I was a part of it. I met a lot of new people and I enjoyed my new professional experience as well as the experience of a traveller. Shanghai is fascinating city, where everybody can find something for themselves. It is the city of future. I would like to visit China again. Not only Shanghai but Beijing and Hong Kong too. Until then, enjoy the rest of pictures. A lot of them. 🙂

 

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