The Marathon Continues

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , South Jeolla,
Sunday, July 29, 2012

If possible, today the Expo was even more crowded than yesterday. This morning, since yet again my roommates work up around 6am, I took a stab at getting to the Expo early enough to stand in line for the aquarium. However, my plan to enter by the back gate closest to the aquarium didn't result in significant time savings, as the lines to enter the Expo via that gate were almost as long at the main gate. I wasn't that interested in the aquarium, so it was an easy choice to skip it yet again when I saw the line wrapping around the lagoon even earlier than it was yesterday. The people at the front of the aquarium line must arrive at the gates several hours before they opened. Or maybe they camp-out at the gates overnight. There were still a lot of people out milling around out-front of the Expo when I left late last night.

Anyway, the aquarium hadn't been high on my list, and I was comforted by the knowledge I'd still make it into a couple of the theme pavilions today without much waiting. The Expo had reactivated their pavilion reservation system in July, and I'd booked slots at the Korea Pavilion and the Theme Pavilion. But my reservations weren't until the afternoon, so I had another day of international pavilion mop-up and performances ahead of me.

After wandering for a bit to grab breakfast, I started with the Romanian National Day show. I was expecting a lot after yesterday's Kazakhstan extravaganza, although I didn't expect Romania to match it. Even with slightly lowered expectations, Romania still managed to disappoint me. The entire show consisted of a group of three Korean pipers playing traditional Romanian tunes while a repetitive series of pictures from Romania were projected onto a screen behind them. The pipers weren't bad per se but I didn't feel Romania had made much of an effort.

Many Koreans got up and left during the show. It was probably a good half of the audience. I didn't really blame them, but since I'd seen most of the Expo already, my desire to be polite beat-out my desire to squeeze everything I could out of the day. In the end, I stayed for the entire hour-plus show (including the official ceremonies). At least it was air conditioned.

When the show finished, I ventured yet again into the international pavilions. It would be reasonable at this point to think I'd seen them all, but I still had a few more to visit, mainly because this time they all had lines, so it was taking more time to visit them. I was glad I'd seen most of the popular pavilions back in June.

I started with a visit to the pavilion of Oman, which had a mid-sized line to see their "4D" show. If the first three dimensions are forward/backward, left/right, and up/down, the fourth dimension is apparently wind/rumble. Or maybe annoying/pointless. Periodically during the viewing, wind was blown in our faces and our chairs rumbled a bit.

France and Italy were in a small cluster of European nation pavilions I'd missed, so I checked them out. The line for Germany was a bit too long for me since I'd just finished waiting for Oman. Neither Italy nor France had much going on. The most interesting thing for me in Italy was a diagram of the sluice gates being built to keep Venice from flooding too much. In France, the most memorable part was the extra-lame robot "band" they had "playing" instruments. If you picture a toy teddy bear banging it's drum, that's about the level of sophistication this band had, without any of the cuteness.

After that, I ducked into the Monoco pavilion where I electronically signed some sort of protect the oceans pledge. Then breezed through the remaining African pavilions. After Angola, they were very disappointing. None of the countries seemed to have made any effort. They were all essentially giant souvenir stores. I understand that booths were expensive, and not everyone wants to pay for a 3D digital extravaganza, but it would have been nice if they could at least have setup some room for small performances or maybe demos of traditional crafts.

I also stopped by the Belgian pavilion. It was the only pavilion I've visited twice in all my time at the Expo, and I only went this time because I'd missed out on the free cookie during my visit back in June. Their carousel of clutter was still lame, but at least this time they had some cool chocolate sculptures out on display.

I found the UAE pavilion the most entertaining of the morning/early afternoon. They'd created a mini-movie where a cast of ethnically diverse archetypes battled to save sea turtles from plastic bags. It had a heartwarming father-son  relationship as well as a token white guy, a token woman, and an unsurprisingly-jolly fat guy, not to mention gratuitous action shots as the team assembled to begin their quest to extract a plastic bag from the digestive system of a hapless sea turtle.

At 2pm, I decided it was time for a late lunch. I got a bit sidetracked on the way as a cart carrying a "robot" passed by me declaring it would soon be dancing. I stopped for a bit to watch the show. First, there was a lot of dancing and Korean speaking by several unlucky actor/singer/dancers whose careers have led them to dancing in the sun during the heat of the day in front of a giant plastic robot. Then when the "robot" moved, it was obvious it was a person in a suit, so I ended my brief pause and continued on to the food.

Filled with lunch and rested, I finally felt up to enduring the line for the German Pavilion. With at least an hour wait, it had one of the longer lines for an international pavilion. While I was waiting, a Korean woman doing research for some graduate school project handed me a survey. I didn't have anything better to do, apart from reading a book I'd brought with me, so I went ahead and filled it out. It seemed to have been targeted towards international students living in Korea, but she didn't mind that I was actually working here. I didn't get the details of her project, but many of the questions related to whether or not foreigners felt discriminated against in Korea. I'm not sure if she was attempting to answer the question, "Should we be more kind to foreigners?" or the question, "Are foreigners whiny?"

It took a good 10-15 minutes to complete the survey, and when I looked up, I found that she was no where to be seen. Half an hour later, when I was approaching the front of the line and wondering if I would ever see her again to return the pen and clipboard, she finally reappeared to take the survey from me. I guess she figured since I was in line for Germany, I wasn't going anywhere fast.

Once we were finally inside, we were greeted by a show featuring various ocean and coastal scenes, presumably from the German coast. It was really big, but equally pointless. I didn't see any reason for the show to merit the line. I decided I would need to spend extra long looking at the exhibits to balance out the long wait. In addition to a variety of interactive science and technology exhibits, the pavilion had a several games to play, most of which involved helping a robot named "Han-2 beta" rescue a Korean crab named (surprise) Kim from various pollution-created hazards.

So I spent quite some time wandering amongst the exhibits before I decided to exit the pavilion. As I headed towards the end I discovered, surprise, the show I'd seen was only the "pre-show". The actual main show of the German pavilion was at the end of the exhibits. So I'd unfairly judged Germany as lame before I'd seen the full thing. There was still a 360-degree animated exploration of deep sea mining and resource extraction waiting to win me over. Okay, that was similar to several of the other shows I'd seen, but at least it was 360 degrees and computer animated. And the interactive exhibits in the pavilion made my visit in total enjoyable.

I left Germany just a bit before 5pm rolled around, the time for my scheduled visit to the Korean Pavilion. The reservation instructions said you didn't need to arrive ahead of time, but I got there a bit early anyway because I didn't have enough time before 5pm to go anywhere else. It turned out that if you arrived early, they let you into line early, so there was some reason to arrive ahead of time.

It also turned out that the reservation wasn't a free pass to stroll right in to the pavilion. There wasn't a 5pm showing waiting for reservation holders. Instead, the reservation was more like a pass to the back of the front of the line. So I got to cut out probably two hours of waiting, but still ended-up waiting for another 15 minutes or so. Wah, wah. Quit your whining...

The first room at the Korea pavilion was really cool. The show was projected onto four walls of a square room, then midway through the show, it was revealed that the walls were actually screens with another set of screens behind them, so scenes could be displayed on the front screens at the same time as different things were happening on a second level of screens about 10 feet behind them.

Towards the end of the show, live dancers in traditional Korean costumes came out and stole the children in the crowd. Seriously. The dancers danced in a circle around the viewers, then asked children to join them, then did another circle or two around the crowd before leading all of the children dancing with them out of the room. Some of the parents near me looked particularly surprised that their children had just been made off with. Don't worry. Everyone was cheerfully reunited in the next room for the second show.

The second show was the more "standard" dome display. This computer animated video featured the perils of climate change. A drought led to a village of Africans nearly dropping dead before being engulfed in a sandstorm, but the story ended happily when a group of Koreans came and drilled a well so the Africans could have water again. Or maybe they built a desalinization plant. I'm not sure, but the point is the desert bloomed.

Next up was my reservation for the nondescriptly named Theme Pavilion. In that pavilion, an adorable manatee, who I have since learned was named Dugong, led us through a series of multimedia presentations about (you guessed it) saving the oceans and that sort of thing. The first show was actually pretty cute because children could talk to an animated manatee. I don't know what they were talking about, but the manatee kept saying "Good!" (in Korean) and doing excited flips.

The final presentation of the Theme Pavilion was an "8-D" manatee show. Well, I'm calling it "8-D" anyway. If Oman was "4-D" this one had to have at least twice the D's. There was the usual animated movie displayed on a giant screen, but towards the end a child actor came out in front of the screen. So that was some extra D's, but that wasn't all. Not too long after the child appeared, a large manatee (model) descended from the ceiling and, assisted by some serious wires, "swam" over the heads of the audience and down to play with the boy. That presentation was very educational because I learned that manatees can't clap.

Apart from the shows, there was a separate Ocean and Coast Best Practice Area in the same building. The OCBPA, as the brochure helpfully suggested we call it, was basically a small museum of ocean-related technology. I didn't stay too long because I wasn't in a museum mood, but I did look closely at a few exhibits blending dynamic, electronic displays with static models. I don't know when museums will start to incorporate some of the technologies I've seen at the Expo, but they will become a lot more informative and exciting when they do.

Because of my reservation, I finished with plenty of time to see something else. So I headed for the Marine Industry & Technology Pavilion. It was possibly the lamest pavilion of the set. Although I did learn that everything in the future will be made from algae, that information was communicated via an exceptionally cheesy show blending live, we'll say, "action" and animated movies. They did also show some interesting conceptual models of mobile fish farms of the future that will sail the ocean raising fish.

Although it was only just after 8pm when I left the algae extravaganza. The lines to the rest of the pavilions I hadn't seen yet were closed, so I needed something else to fill my time before tonight's Big O Show, which I was planning on seeing at least one more time. I decided to wander through the Local Governments Pavilion.

The Local Governments Pavilion was a lot like the Joint Pavilions from the international area. There were rooms setup to host representatives of various provinces and cities of Korea. The pavilion was basically empty of tourists at that time of night, so I was given many brochures and small trinkets by the otherwise lonely staff members. Quite a few of the areas with booths looked appealing, and it gave me some ideas for future trips.

Among the many Korea tourism brochures I was handed was one for Seogwipo, one of the two main towns on Jeju Island. The brochure caught my eye because it's title was: "Seogwipo has special specificities." I can't wait to find out what, specifically, is special about Seogwipo. Inside it proclaims Seogwipo "The heaven of leports", which it helpfully defines as "(leisure+sports)".

I finished my visit to the Local Governments Pavilion just as they were closing the doors, and shortly before the second showing of the Big O Show began. With so little time left before the start, there was no way I'd get close to a seat, but I had no intention of trying. Instead, I'd decided to check-out the show from the other side of the lagoon. I wandered across the bridge from the Expo Plaza towards the Theme Pavilion, and stopped somewhere around the middle of the bridge with a view of the back of the O.

It was interesting to see what you couldn't see from that angle. I could see the lasers shooting across the sky towards the O and fountains, but couldn't see any of the designs they were making in the mist. I was also downwind of the fountains, so a significant amount of moisture blew my way even at the distance I was from the fountains. The viewing was interesting intellectually, from a "oh the lasers only scatter forward" standpoint, but not visually.

As that show was winding down, I scurried over to the seating area, ready to claim one of the seats I knew would soon be vacated. I was a bit faster, or perhaps a bit more aggressive, than last night, and I managed to grab a seat near the center of the arena. When the show started, I found out that you absolutely had to have a center seat to get the full impact. I thought the show was amazing before, but tonight it was even better. The colors were brighter and the scenes much crisper when viewed from almost directly in front. It was well worth seeing a third time, and I wouldn't mind stopping back by again tomorrow.

So, I don't have many pictures even though it was another 13 hour day because most of the pavilions I went to didn't allow pictures. After the show, went back to the hostel to hopefully get a full night's sleep. Two of tonight's three roommates have assured me they don't plan on being up early, so let's hope the third has the same plan.
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