Monday, May 31, 2010

Whispering to the water


The willow trees on the bank of the West Lake in HangZhou are especially famous for their beauty and grace.


All pink and fluffy


In HangZhou, on HeFangJie, there was a store selling little treats. This is a rice cake, lightly coloured pink. Soft and fluffy, steamed to perfection


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old streets, anew


This is HeFangJie, a collection of restored 18th century buildings in the heart of HangZhou. We went at dusk, so I was only able to shoot a few frames before it went completely dark. The architecture is beautiful. And in the gloom, I imagined myself as a young merchant, setting up my wares on this bustling market street.


A man of salt


Taken in the city of HangZhou, in an old district called HeFangJie. An ancient marketplace, where all the 18th century structures have been restored to their former majesty.

A mural describing the Hu family of HangZhou. In imperial China, this family was the richest in the city - they were salt merchants, and eventually expanded their empire, even gaining influence in the imperial court. Sadly, for them, it all cannot fight fate. But the family name, and its fame, live on.


Carved in stone


In HangZhou, in Park No. 5, is a carved map of the old city. It depicts 18th-century HangZhou, showing you where the old city walls were, the mountains, and of course, West Lake. Beautiful detail, made all the more interesting in the rain, which brought to life the little carved rivers and estuaries.


In the mist


This is the view of West Lake that's haunted poets for centuries and centuries. In the mist, and the rain, and the eerie quiet of the lapping waves.


West Lake, lakeside


Arrived in the beautiful city of HangZhou. The main geographic feature of this city, and what's made it famous for millennia is the lake in its heart, XiHu, or West Lake. It was raining a bit when we arrived, but our hotel was right by the lake, so I wanted to go out for a stroll. In the rain, the view was even more alluring.


On steel tracks


We headed out for a few days outside of Shanghai, to take care of some business. We traveled by train - the city has built a new train station, ShanghaiNan Train Station, to prepare for the 2010 World Expo. Very, very impressive - Union Station doesn't hold a candle to these structures. A circular dome in shape, very much like the wooden MiaoZhu structures of YunNan. The new high-speed train line has also been set up - the trip to HangZhou took but a little over an hour.


Friday, May 28, 2010

A hawk


Unfortunately, street vendors are still an issue. But the police are working on it. Threat of bodily harm or death seems a viable solution.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

An hour and five to go...

In line

I wonder how long they had to wait in line to get into the Australia Pavilion? This is my last image of the 2010 World Expo. As we were there on April 20th to preview, nearly all of the international pavilions were still undergoing construction. Australia was the only one open. So this is what happens. Hope the wait was worth it.

Touring the Expo was exciting. The event completely changed the face of Shanghai - the improvements to her infrastructure will be the Expo's lasting legacy. So, in a year or so when I return...will most certainly be back to visit.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alert and cautious


Security at the 2010 World Expo is present, but never intrusive. No sinister gunmen in green fatigues stalking the grounds.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just epic


Ringing the grounds of the 2010 World Expo is a raised walkway, affording you a grand view of the entire spectacle. The roads were just pristine. Weather, tristemente, not so much.


A little lonely

Democractic People's Republic of Korea Pavilion

In light of what's been happening in the Korean peninsula these past few weeks, let's contrast the two opposing pvailions at the 2010 World Expo. The previous photo showed how splendid the South Korea Pavilion was designed and built. Now look at the North Korea Pavilion. Staid, Stalin-esque........and more than a bit lonely, no?


Doing it big, in USD

South Korea Pavilion

The South Korea Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo. Really interesting to see how political relationships manifest themselves in the scope of the pavilions here. Look at this design - just fascinating in not only its shape, but the texture to the walls, like those collages made up of a million tiny images. Not to say that there's an American influence in the South Korean's exhibit, but I'm willing to bet that the cheque was cut in U.S. dollars......


Monday, May 24, 2010

Pointing in the right direction

The volunteers

Every major international event needs volunteers - these are the great people working at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Tirelessly pointing idiot visitors to pavilions easily found on the clearly labeled signs and free maps. The uniforms are hideous, but their hearts are in the right place.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exquisite beauty


I'm a little drunk right now, so this one's gonna be good.

Each of the China Provincial Pavilions had a group of young beauties serving as guides. I'm pretty sure they weren't models - the Chinese have a habit of selecting only university students, screening for certain physical attributes (age, height, facial symmetry). This young lady was from ShanXi province, and working in its respective pavilion.

She's beautiful, no? Just a picture of grace, exquisite and genteel. Chinese men have a stupid habit of ignoring girls they're clearly ogling. I'm not one of them, so I spent some time talking to her and eventually asked her for a photo. I'm pretty sure these girls receive extensive training on how to deal with visitors, because her poise was extraordinary. In love. Alas......alas. Have many stories to tell about the girls I met during my trip, but none of them end very well. Will save them for another drunken night.

She's exquisite, and I'm clearly living in the wrong city.


Hello Shanghai

Shanghai Pavilion

Displayed in front of the Shanghai Pavilion is an example of the fine architecture that you used to be able to find all over the city. These were in the traditional late 19th, early 20th century style - the ShiKuMen type of building. Unfortunately, entire neighbourhoods have been razed for the sake of urban development, but a few of the finer examples have been preserved. Beautiful, no?


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Boiling red and spicy


The SiChuan Provincial Pavilion features what else but a huge digital hotpot. The chopsticks are just props - you press on your dish to add a piece to the broth. Now if they could recreate the smell of the lovely spices, chilis, peppercorns...that would be something.


Friday, May 21, 2010

ZheJiang Provincial Pavilion

ZheJiang Pavilion

In the China Joint Provincial Pavilions, each province shows off a distinctive facet of the region. Here, in ZheJiang, bamboo sprouts.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

With a brushstroke...

Making good money

In the China Provincial Pavilions, an artist was woking. He paints on these unfinished porcelain plates, and if you would like to buy one, they then fire it for you, giving it that shiny veneer and smooth surface. Do you know how much he was charging for that big vase? A cool 20,000 RMB. A bit excessive, no? I watched him for a good 10 minutes. His brushstrokes were hesitant, unsure. That's what happens when you try to commercialize an ancient, beautiful art.


Swaying in the wind

Swaying in the wind

In the China Joint Provincal Pavilions, clay charms gently swaying.


In big urns and lilies

Look at the fish

Inside the AnHui Provincial Pavilion, in the middle of the 19th century courtyard built, lies a traditional stone urn. These urns are huge - at least 3 feet across and about 4 feet high - they were used as the centrepieces of gardens during that period, housing fish and water flowers. However, they also served a practical purpose. Because they were able to hold a large volume of water, they were especially useful during fires, as houses were all wooden structures at the time. Here, at the 2010 World Expo, a more modern template is used - a projection, showing fish swimming among the lilies, as a digital thunderstorm raged overhead.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anhui Provincial Pavilion

AnHui Pavilion

The first floor of the China National Pavilion is occupied by the Joint Provincial Pavilions. All wonderfully designed with the cultural influences of each region, we're able to tour the entire country in one sweep. Here, we see AnHui Province, showing its contribution to traditional Chinese architecture.


Red two

China Pavilion

And another one of the red China National Pavilion. Look at the level of detail in the structure. A real triumph, in my opinion, not only in its design, but also in execution. Too bad I wasn't able to see it lit up at night. Next time.


Red one

China Pavilion

Another look at the China National Pavilion of the 2010 World Expo.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Red beamed and strong

China Pavilion

The China National Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Exposition. So grand, so beautiful. It's one of those rare structures that captivate you once you see it in person. Wait until you see the details.


The EXPO Bus

Fuel Cell

Showing a bit of welcome technology - fuel-cell powered buses at the Expo. They circle around the compound, and as you can see, are put to good use. When they stop at each station, the bar on the roof of the bus rises to connect with the rails you see on each bus stop, on the upper left corner. I have no idea what that accomplishes, but it is so very cool to watch.


Porterhouse Pub

Bruin at the Porterhouse Pub

Found a pub right in the middle of the European area of the 2010 World Expo called Porterhouse Pub. Irish all around - people working behind the bar were mostly from Dublin, with a few locals. Nicely renovated, very cozy, I'd be very happy if I could find a place like this in Toronto. First time we went in, it was absolutely way you were finding a seat. Second time, around 3pm, after 5 hours of wandering around the Expo on an empty stomach, we finally found 2 spaces by the bar. Of course, starving, I ordered a Leffe Brune, a dark ale from this well known Belgian brewer. And it was wonderful. So were the chicken wings and chocolate mousse cake. Because as much as I wanted, I wasn't about to pay 200 RMB for fish and chips.


Drip, drip, drip

Leaky design

This is what happens when aesthetics take over function, completely. I know the designers wanted these umbrellas to look pretty, but did it ever occur to any of them that the first (and most important) obligaton of an umbrella is to keep the rain out? Huh? Curved both ways like a UFO, with a hole in the middle, constructed in a porous, translucent material. The water not only comes in through the centre hole and fabric, the design of the thing ensures that water droplets roll over the edge, and continue coming along the bottom piece.

The result? Everyone sitting underneath is soaked with the dripping water. I was miserable. Because of the construction, we weren't able to go into any of the international pavilions. The restaurants were jam packed and quite literally out of food. The wind was blowing and I was battling an especially nasty cold. And we didn't bring umbrellas.

I hope the idiots who designed these have been dealt with. You know, just finished.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Sawdust and grind

Still constructing

Everywhere we looked, there was construction still ongoing at the 2010 World Expo. Of course, we were there on the first day publicly opened, April 20. Hopefully, things have been wrapped up. No one was too upset that I was running around, shooting these photos. At the time, the work that still needed to be done seemed extensive. I've got a few friends that will be visiting in a few weeks - will wait to hear from them about the state of the pavilions.


A familiar sight

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

And here we are, at the Canada Pavilion. Not exactly architecturally stunning, but at least it's a step up from the suburban mall that is the U.S.A. Pavilion. Seeing that red, those big letters, that almost maple leaf like motif in the wood panelling - yeah, I was a bit emotional.


Lined up and dripping

Lined and dripping

Bizarre oil paintings in front of the France Pavilion, at the 2010 World Expo, just bizare. Maybe unintended, but it appeared as if the rain was causing the paintings to drip. The faces look almost horrifying up close, as if just oozing from decay and rot.


Guarded and green

France Pavilion

Outside the France Pavilion. The interior is said to recreate an atmosphere in the grand tradition of the gardens of Versailles. Too bad. I was hoping for one huge winefest. And maybe Sophie Marceau inside.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

City square

Civilizations Pavilions

Inside the China Urban Civilizations Pavilion, at the 2010 World Expo. Yet another immersive digital environment, showing scenes from ancient Rome, extraordinary installation. If not for the occasional flashlights going off, and the obnoxious tourist-types - I would have really thought myself in the middle of 5th century China. We were in the courtyard of a grand old home. There were even a few servants gossiping in the corner, as the sun set, shadowing over all the ornate roof tiles.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reflector, here!


A handsome couple doing their engagement shoot, at the 2010 World Expo, in front of the Spain Pavilion. She was very pretty, tall, statuesque. The groom? I think it's a bit tired to still be emulating HK movie idols. But she makes up for it, all legs and skinny shoulders.


Friday, May 14, 2010

In trenches and piping

Trench coats and blazers

Again, in the China State Grid Pavilion, we see the employees dressed well - classic trench coats on green trousers for the ushers, green blazers with white piping on white trousers for others. Classic looks, very sharp, great looking. Now, who was it that said the Chinese can't get their act together, fashion-wise? This is what happens when you hold events in Shanghai. Cosmopolitanism was invented here.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arcs and flashes

3D lights

Inside China's State Grid Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo, we're treated to a 3-D show. You're encased into this large room, wall to wall screens, and enough sound blasted at you to deafen for a good 15 minutes. A completely emersed experience. The room was spinning for me - just all lights and graphics. Beautiful, and an incredible display of 3-D technology. My knees were weak and this time, it wasn't because of the girls.


Red cosmos

Red space

Entering China's Space Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, you take an escalator up. Tilt your head, and you see this gigantic LCD screen hovering right above you, displaying our own man in space. Yes, we're sending shivers up America's spine. China is in space, with our own technology and resources - inside, there were even exhibits showing off a proposed reusable spacecraft. With the U.S. space shuttles retiring soon and the Soviet space program non-existent, who's going to fill the void? A bunch of sandal wearing call centre reps launching out of Sriharikota? I think not.


Brightly paved

Bright boulevard

The Expo compound is ringed by these raised walkways. Beautifully built white umbrellas, clear maps, really giving you an elevated view of the entire area. Only shame is the colour of the pavement. The white is so reflective that I couldn't open my eyes - the glare was blinding, even on a cloudy day. Making these sacrifices in the name of aesthetics?

I should have realized how vain the Shanghainese are. I am one, after all.


Save the Mosel!

We need to save the Mosel. As I've written earlier, a few misguided German politicians, led by Merkel, have decided that it's in the Mosel's best interest to build a behometh bridge, right over this beautiful valley. This highway apparently is meant to relieve congestion. This bridge is going right over some of the greatest vineyards of the Mosel, and will also irreparably destroy the delicate ecosystem and terroir of the wines that I, and many many others, love so much.

So here's what you have to do - sign this petition. It's a last effort to preserve this pristine part of the wine kingdom, and we need 10,000 signatures. I'm signature no. 5073 - we still have some way to go. The petition number is 10681, and the Hauptpetent is Reis, Elisabeth.

Please, especially for the friends I've opened bottles for.......this is the least you can do. Click the link, follow the idiot-proof instructions, and help save the Mosel. If this monster really gets built, and we lose some of the truly great wines of the world - I don't know what I'll do with myself.

Just to remind myself of what's at stake:

1995 P.S. Baumler Becker-Erben
2003 Dr. Fischer
2004 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt
2003 Geltz-Zilliken


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Like cattle

Expo line

The inevitable crushing lines at the World Expo, compounded by newly-trained security personnel. In line for 50 minutes, and this was hardly the busiest entrance - a more experienced group would have gotten everyone screened and inside the compound in no more than 15 minutes.


On guard

On guard

Stepping out of the Shanghai Metro, this is what you first see. Two guardsmen, watching everyone entering and exiting the station. Over the 3 weeks that I was in Shanghai, I never actually saw them stop anyone for questioning. Then again, these Uighur troublemakers we hear about know better than to attempt something here.

A not so subtle reminder that you're always being watched. It wasn't until I reviewed the photos that I noticed the young man staring right at me. Good thing then, that I had quickly walked away. And good that they were only packing papper spray, instead of those 20 gauge pump-action shotguns I saw a few security personnel carrying.


On the belt, now

Metro x-ray

I was not expecting this. The first time stepping into the Shanghai Metro, a jarring reminder of the heightened security around the whole city. Everyone's bag had to go through an x-ray, just like at the airport. Everyone. With an already busy subway system, you can imagine the delays this causes. But as I wrote earlier, the Shanghainese are enduring, cooperating to make sure that the Expo runs without blemish. And they allowed me to bring a pair of new kitchen shears I had bought into the station.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2010 Shanghai World Exposition

2010 Shanghai World Exposition

Here we go, my Expo photos are ready. A historic event, the first time that the World Exposition has been hosted by a developing nation. The great city of Shanghai has been preparing for the past 9 years, spending billions. Her citizens have quietly endured the construction, the traffic restrictions, the constant media attention. But I have no doubt that this will be a stunning 6 months. The Expo has changed Shanghai forever, and I'm thankful that I was able to witness it from the start.

The official opening was on May 1, but through a bit of luck and generosity, I was able to get my hands on 2 preview tickets on April 20, the very first day it was opened to the public. Spent hours walking through the enormous compound on both sides of the river. Those stories, coming up next.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Louis Vuitton, en Chine


A block west of JingAn Shi, a new Louis Vuitton store being built. There's a trend going on, where these stores are modeled after the branded packaging issued by each label - Tiffany & Co. resembling a giant blue box with a white ribbon top, Louis Vuitton looking like an ocean liner luggage carrier, replete with destination stickers and metal edge protectors. The Shanghainese enjoy having their high-end stores looking expensive.

A week after I shot this photo, the trim was installed. All the store needs now is a grand opening, and hordes of Mandarin speaking, non-local country cousins pillaging shelves in search of the perfect gift to sweeten that business deal. Monsieur Vuitton must be pirouetting.


Christ in China

Christ in China

An unexpected find on FuXing Road, in a women's apparel shop. A framed image of the Christ, looking down on her business. Completely unexpected, and I stood there for an instant, not in shock, but in pleasant contemplation. Who knows - she might not even have been religious. But 50 years ago, it'd be a very different, very red image looking down instead.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pulling hard


I'm writing as I watch a just-released Chinese film set during the anti-Japanese war, old Shanghai. How appropriate. This photo shows a very well-known building in Shanghai, very old. It's a neighbourhood that my mother used to frequent as a young girl. The characters describe the name of the company - this building used to be the site of a publisher of children's books, Madame Song Qing-Ling being the proprietor. These men working hard, carting construction materials no doubt. Amidst the traffic, the bustle, a glimpse of the old at work. Good men.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Post No. 1601

Profile - Colour

Today's notable, for many things. For one, it's my 20th anniversary of landing in Toronto. Yes, on May 7, 1990, I was but a 4 year old, immigrating to Canada. How appropriate, that we pass this milestone after such an incredible trip back to the Motherland. Glad that I was able to celebrate with friends, dinner at the Drake Hotel, a beautiful skirt steak and fries. Satisfying, all around.

Yes, so I'm still sorting out my Shanghai photos. Lots of stories to share, lots of great experiences. Over the next month or so, I'll be steadily pushing those pieces out. A life-changing experience? I don't know about that. But I certainly saw, heard, and tasted many, many new things.

One thing that still grinds on me - I have yet to celebrate my 24th birthday. Going up to Niagara next weekend...maybe that'll make up for it.