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Thais rate China Pavilion No. 1

TO date, I have been to 107 pavilions (out of 191) at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai in both my official and personal capacities. My top three favorites (of course, all second to the national Thailand Pavilion) are the Japanese and Italian pavilions and the Ningbo City case pavilion (in Puxi site's Urban Best Practice Area).

Japan is maintaining its high standards from the 2005 Aichi Expo by showcasing its highest technologies. The Italy Pavilion did its "Italian job" by putting ordinary things together to create something special, confirming Italy as a fashion, style and design capital.

The Ningbo Pavilion is cool and has a not-too-long queue on the Puxi side. It's worth a visit, especially when you can lie down on the soft-moving floor after a long day of walking.

Thailand, one of the most popular tourist destinations for Chinese people, is reciprocating by being one of the biggest sources of overseas Expo visitors.

According to one top Expo official, Thailand is also among the top three countries sending their VIP visitors to the Expo.

The Thailand HRH Princess Sirindhorn visited 25 pavilions from July 19 to 21. Twenty-five is definitely a record in terms of the number of pavilions visited by a foreign dignitary. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to visit for Thai National Day on September 5.

Cordial ties between China and Thailand will undoubtedly be strengthened by this exchange of visits, thanks in part to the spectacular Expo.

People-to-people diplomacy is also in full bloom.

In June alone more than 10,000 Thai tourists came to Shanghai, according to the Shanghai Tourism Bureau's website. That's a dramatic increase of 240 percent from last year.

Approximately 60 percent of Thai tourists are coming to Shanghai for the first time and mostly in organized tour groups. They will spend one or two days at the Expo and the rest in Shanghai.

Thais love Shanghai. According to gate questionnaires (300 samples in a three-day survey) at the Thailand Pavilion, Thais' favorite Chinese city was overwhelmingly Shanghai, leaving Beijing far behind in second.

Thais also rated the China Pavilion as the No. 1 (non-Thai pavilion) to visit, despite long queues, followed by South Korean and the Australian pavilions. Hot weather, inadequate toilets and transport inconveniences are the top three complaints.

According to one unofficial estimate, it's possible that the number of Thais visiting China this year will exceed the number of Chinese going to Thailand.

More than 1 million Thais, out of a population of 67 million, are visiting China this year to see the Expo and Shanghai. And while more than 3.5 million Chinese visited the Thailand Pavilion in three months, only around 1 million will visit Thailand this year.

(Sittikorn Chantadansuwan is a consul at the Royal Thai Consulate General in Shanghai.)


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