Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yeosu Expo 2012: Pavilions and Shows

The theme of Expo 2012 is "The Living Ocean and Coast", and the theme sees one of its best expressions in the Theme Pavilion:

Photobucket

The highlight of the pavilion is phase three of the show: I don't know its official title but to me it is "A Boy and His Dugong". It was interesting because it combined a large screen video (which is the most common feature of the pavilions) with live action. A small Korean child comes out onto the stage, and climbs aboard a dugong.

Photobucket

They then disappear off into the screen, or rather the deep ocean, for a fun ride exploring the great beauty of the deep--the corals, amazing fish and whales, and so on, until pollution comes along and messes everything up! The manatee falls ill.

Photobucket

But humanity realizes its wicked ways just in time, and a triumphant manatee, restored to health, swoops in over the audience's heads to greet the boy.

Photobucket

That last shot isn't very good because I was told at some point to stop taking pictures. So don't tell anyone you saw these!
Another key pavilion is the Marine Civilization and City Pavilion, which focused on mankind's past and future living relationship to the oceans. The highlight was a walk-through reconstruction of the Arab dhow that was discovered off Sumatra in 1998, believed sunk in the ninth century. It has a few of the actual artifacts on display, notably the three plates:

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


The other feature of the pavilion is a display of some exploratory craft, and a model of a future underground city. Bigger and more impressive than that one Tony Randall and family lived in in that movie, Hello Down There.

Photobucket


Photobucket


Hyundai has a very popular pavilion, in part for the song-and-dance robots, but also for the unusual video display. I recorded a couple of minutes of it, seen below:



The UAE had a very good video, which in my head is titled, "A Boy and His Turtle", rather like the dugong story except is has the added feature of being basically true. A young Emirati boy sneaks aboard his father's research vessel and tries to help save a massive sea turtle who has swallowed too many plastic bags--this is a genuine concern, as plastic bags ruin their digestive system and account for hundreds of thousands of marine animal deaths each year. The boy is inspired to advocate for the abolition of platic shopping bags, and as a result, UAE will ban all non-biodegradable bags by 2013.

Many other countries' pavilions express concerns about ocean pollution, but none was quite so tangible. Although Monaco did grace me with a "Certificate of Engagement" for taking an interactive quiz and promising not to throw a bunch of crap into the ocean:

Photobucket



Photobucket

The USA Pavilion begins with a welcome message, seen above, from Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, and President Obama, projected onto a screen of water. Nifty. However, the main show, brought to you by CitiCorp, has a theme of "This is my ocean," in which dozens of Americans in coastal or ocean scenes, look at the camera and say, "This is my ocean," with the message that we are all responsible for taking care of the ocean. But I can't help thinking that other nationalities are saying, "Wow, those Americans! So damned arrogant now they're claiming the whole ocean!"
Australia, though surrounded by ocean, mostly lauded its aboriginal and animal life (including those delicious roasted 'roo tails), and had this photo op:

Photobucket


Belgium had two things, a rotating display of famous Belgian things, such as chocolate, the Mannekin-pis, and the Atomium, legacy structure of Brussels World Fair 1958:

Photobucket


...and chocolate.

Photobucket


Many poor countries used their pavilion less to promote tourism than to actually make money here and now by running a curio shop. Below, Cambodia:

Photobucket


India was largely a bazaar, but they put in other elements as a seeming afterthought, including a photo op in front of a large image of the Taj Mahal; an English-language video touting India's graces--with the PC running it set up right beside it on a card table; a collection of Shiva and Ganesha statues piled haphazardly in one corner; and an Indian food concession that seemed always to be closed. They did also have a small 3D exhibit of tiny marine creatures:

Photobucket


In the middle of the fairgrounds--actually in the water--is a big circular thing, called The Big-O. Every night at about 8:45 they put on "The Big-O Show, immediately following the musical drama, Girl of the Sea. The seats in the main viewing stand were filled up by about six o'clock, so I watched from the hindside, by the Theme Pavilion. Here is a technician, preparing the Big-O:

Photobucket

The Girl of the Seas was probably quite brilliant to watch, though it was all in Korean. Here's what it looked like across the water:

Photobucket

After it ended, it was time for Expo 2012's piece de resistance, a water and light show, with the neat feature that the O is filled with water jets onto which the "movie" images are projected:

Photobucket

I recorded a couple minutes of it, though the good stuff doesn't happen until about half-way through:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yeosu Expo 2012: Food and Fun

The thing people tend to remember about a World's Fair is the amazing pavilions they saw, but an Expo should also be a happening, a place with a vibrant atmosphere. The center hall of the International Pavilion has an interesting interactive feature, a digital display ceiling called the EDG (Expo Digital Gallery) on which an ever-changing visual river flowed:

Photobucket


Photobucket

There were roving bands of minstrels and masquerade artistes:

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket

Jet-ski daredevils at the oceanfront:

Photobucket


Photobucket

And even the occasional levitation act:

Photobucket


Photobucket

And numerous times each day, running much of the length of the main road, is a parade called:

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


The banana was introduced to Americans at the Philadelphia "Columbian Exposition" in 1876; the waffle, curled into a cone-shape, served as an ice-cream receptacle for the first time at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904; "Lovely eyes come shine and glitter, buy your girl a popcorn fritter," vendors cried at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo: fairs and food go together like pancakes and maple syrup--no, that was't invented at the Expo, but "Aunt Jemima" (actress Anna Robinson) was a very popular character at Chicago 1933.
No novelties like those here at Yeosu 2012, but plenty of good eats. Unlike my experience of Shanghai 2010, snack vendors are ubiquitous, selling drinks, hot dogs, chicken tenders, 꼬치, and beer. Turkish ice cream is popular. At the Australia Pavilion, I ordered the "Kangaroo Special", which was a sizable helping of stewed kangaroo tail meat, served with rice and a side of ... kimchi (W16,000). Awesome!

Photobucket

The Russian Pavilion has a well-publicized and bustling cafe, where I gor a "meat pancake" and a honey-drenched blintz (W13,000). Delicious!

Photobucket

For desert, what else but waffles from the Belgium concession, with real Belgian chocolate for dipping (W9,000).

Photobucket

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yeosu Expo 2012: Sky Tower Overview

After a largely uneventful train ride from Yongsan station to Yeosu Expo station, conveniently across the street from Gate 3, I converted my internet ticket for my Expo pass, stowed my overnight bag in the last (whew!) available locker, and made my way to the "Sky Tower", a pair of converted cement silos that are the tallest edifice at Expo 2012, and also the location of the Observation Deck.

When I joined the line, this was the first thing that greeted me:

Photobucket

A wonderfully frozen cold pack, that was welcome indeed even after only a half-hour in the searing heat. This was the second:

Photobucket

The attendant said the wait was 1 hr 30 min., but it was actually 20 min. less than that. The Sky Tower is 73 m. tall, which is no kind of record, but it also contains a pipe organ, which now officially holds the Guinness Record for Loudest Pipe Organ. You can see the pipes in the middle pic, and the bottom pic is the booth where the organist sits:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

From this bird's-eye view, you can see the whole site laid out: top, the massive building is the International Pavilion, with all the national pavilions (except Korea's) inside it; the second shot shows the water (the Expo theme is 'The Living Ocean and Coast'), with the Theme Pavilion and 'The Big-O' in the middle ground, and the fancy-schmancy on-site hotel at the back. The orange-roofed block behind the Big-O is the Aquarium; the bottom picture faces east and shows the Energy Park at far left, the sponsor organizations at mid left (such as the UN, the BIE--World's Fair organizing group--and Korail, etc), and the Korean mega-corps including the funky Hyundai pavilion, Samsung, SK, LG and GS/Caltex. To the right of GS would be Lotte, then Posco.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

The Hyundai pavilion was a crowd favorite, though I'm not sure why--sure, the video had some cool features (and I may show it in an upcoming video I'm going to cobble together)--but the biggest attraction was the robots. And you didn't even have to go through the exhibit to see them. They were doing their song-and-dance routine in the plaza in front of the building, not the staging area for entry or exit. The wait for the pavilion was about 45 min., but the wait to get my picture taken was less than ten.

Photobucket


After entering the Sky Tower facility, but before going up to the observation deck in the glass elevator, there is an inside theater which shows a four minute or so video featuring a CGI dragon and scenic panoramas of the Korean countryside. When you leave the Sky tower, you go through an area which shows off a desalination system (converting salt water into the potable kind). As a bonus, you get to keep the cup!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Restaurant in My Building

Though presumably it will only be my building for about six more weeks, I am pleased to note the appearance of a new restaurant here. I know what you may be saying, especially if you are a careful reader--and/or jealous of the already considerable conveniences of my building, which include a 24 hour Family Mart, a dry cleaner, a bakery, a druggist, two hair stylists, a florist, a Caffe Bene, and about a dozen sit-down restaurants--you may be saying, "Dude, you've already got a 24 hour Family Mart, a dry cleaner, a bakery, a druggist, two hair stylists, a florist, a Caffe Bene, and about a dozen sit-down restaurants. What more do you want?"

Well, I want this:
Photobucket

곱창, gop chang, in case you don't recognize it from the pictures in the window, which is offal, or intestine; a lot of places will focus on either pig or cow intestines, but this place offers both. I really like the cow offal, so tonight, when my other dinner plans got postponed, I decided to carry my camera down and have a look-see.

The location, at the back end of the breezeway that separates the two halves of the building, has spelled death for all the other establishments that have tried to eke out a presence there--at least one a year in the four years since I moved here. Maybe someone pointed this out to them, since they didn't do a lot of renovation, add a massive ventilation system or run gas to each table: instead, they are going with the little tabletop gas burners.

I ordered the 한우곱창, hanu gopchang, Korean cow intestines, which started with a soup:
Photobucket
Photobucket
In addition to intestine, the soup has delicious bits of liver and kidney. Yum! The main course was a bit paltry in amount, but still quite tasty. In addition to the gopchang, you get some onions, some potato slices, leeks, and what i think of as "Korean edible grass", though I'm sure there are other, more politically (and otherwise) correct names for it. I didn't shoot the banchan, but there was plenty of it, though no kimchi.
Photobucket
A serving for one was 17,000 W, which is a reasonable price for what they offered. Up the road a little ways is a superior place, which charges 28,000 W per person, but includes lots more liver &co., and throws in bokumbap, fried rice. Despite its heftier price, it is always packed, and the usual wait is a half-hour or more. So, 강서 명가 곱창 Gangseo Myeongka Gopchang, though not the best, is reasonably priced, tasty, and for me at least, convenient as it gets.