SHANGHAI - The big travel and tourism news in Shanghai revolves around next year's world's fair, called Shanghai Expo 2010. The spawling expo grounds on both sides of Huangpu, the river that bisects the metropolis, are expected to draw 200 international exhibitors and serve as a showcase within a showcase; the city of Shanghai is itself Exhibit A for modern China.
The last world expo I attended was Aichi Expo 2005, in the Japanese province of Aichi. The semi-rural site was modest in size, green in theme and made from recycled materials whenever possible, with buildings that were meant to be torn down after the fair ended. The expo officials said they expected maybe 15 million people to show up. When a few million more attended, they declared the show a success, though I suspect they kept expectations low on purpose.
Not so, Shanghai, which always thinks big. Shanghai is predicting 70 million visitors and is building large, spectacular national exhibits, many of which, I suspect, will survive the fair, which runs from May 1 to Oct. 31, 2010. The exhibitions are look-at-me structures, with a Danish center that resembles a spiral seashell and a performing arts center that looks like a flying saucer. Shanghai is extending its Metro subway system, adding lines 6, 8 and 9 to connect fairgoers to the site, which will also be accessible by river ferry.
You can get a good idea of what the expo grounds will look like - and for that matter, what all of Shanghai will look like, up through the year 2020 - by visiting the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, located on People's Square, in the heart of the established Puxi (west of the river) district of the city. Despite its dry-as-dust name, the 7-story center (admission 30 RMB, about $4.25 U.S.) has some fascinating points of interest, encompassing extensive photographic histories of Shanghai and including a jaw-dropping, room-sized model of every significant residential and commercial building in the city, built to scale. That alone is worth the price of admission. Here, you can get a graphic sense of one of the world's great cities and its envisioned future (http://en.expo2010.cn).
If ever the old Western expression "Make no small plans'' applied to a place, that place is Shanghai. It's a city that is living large.