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Experiencing the magical pavilions of Zone A

VISITORS to World Expo 2010 are drawn to Zone A, known as the Asia section, covering the world's largest land mass extending from East Asia to the Middle East. It contains 27 pavilions.

It's a region of exotica, the Silk Road, ancient and modern civilizations.

The Moon Boat of the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and the gold sand dune from the United Arab Emirates evoke the Arabian nights.

The seashell-shaped Israel Pavilion, the Nepal Temple and the ancient palace of the Pakistan Pavilion represent a few of the continent's ancient civilizations.

Towering above all is the majestic red China Pavilion at the "heart" of the World Expo Shanghai.

Getting around

With key exceptions, it's easier to tour Zone A pavilions than those in other sections as most don't require long waits.

But be prepared for long waits to enter pavilions of China (and Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the UAE.

The waiting time for other pavilions is usually less than 30 minutes.

China Pavilion tickets are available from volunteers at all the Expo entrances, beginning at 9am when the site opens. Tickets run out within five minutes, so visitors should plan to arrive at around 8am to be at the head of the queue.

Reservations are needed for the Taiwan Pavilion. Staff hand out tickets at the pavilion gate twice a day at around 9am and 5pm.

A two-hour wait is common at the Saudi Arabia and Japan pavilions. The best time to visit is after 7pm when crowds are smaller.

An hour's wait is common at the South Korea, UAE, Hong Kong and Macau pavilions. Nearby pavilions require no wait.

Authentic Pakistani barbecue is available at the Pakistani restaurant near the pavilion. The average price is around 40 yuan (US$5.85) a meal.

South Korean drum performances are staged at the Asia Square at around 7pm daily. Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia entertain waiting visitors with traditional cultural performances.

China Pavilion

The China Pavilion is the heart of the site. It contains main exhibition areas - a 10-minute panoramic movie; a 128-meter-long giant animated projection of the national treasure painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival;" and a 10-minute cable-car journey passing many Chinese bridges, gardens and famous buildings.

The 27,000-square-meter rooftop garden replicates a famous Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) imperial garden.

The 10-minute film "The Story of Spring" offers glimpses of China's urban lives in the past 30 years on three large screens. They include a family dinner, a wedding celebration and night sceneries of modern cities.

Visitors watch the 700 people in the "Qingming" painting move about and do different things.

The original itself is displayed along with the projection.

The rooftop garden Jiu Zhou Qing Yan, literally meaning "nine states (representing ancient China) living in harmony," is a replicated garden from Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. It's an ideal place for photos.

It takes about 90 minutes to tour the China Pavilion.

Taiwan Pavilion

The pavilion features theater globe, 12 meters in diameter. Visitors enter, and stand on a bridge inside to view a four-minute film about Taiwan's culture and scenery.

Visitors can join a multimedia lantern-flying ceremony on a platform above a pool. They can select wishes, such as "The whole family is well" and "Love forever," then push a button to raise a lantern with those prayers. The wishes are displayed on each lantern on the screen.

Saudi Arabia Pavilion

The big draw is an exhilarating, vertigo-inducing flying carpet ride on a moving belt in a panoramic theater with a 1,600-square-meter screen.

Visitors watch a 15-minute movie that makes them feel as though they were swooping over the country's deserts, oases and city scenes. There are also scenes of outer pace and the earth at a distance.

Sometimes gasping visitors need to steady themselves on railings.

The film is projected and controlled by 25 supercomputers, each with the power of 100 regular personal computers.

The computers make the special effects and ensure the normal operation of the movie during the Expo duration.

Japan Pavilion

The long, two-hour wait pays off at the exhibition that features a peaceful, Oriental atmosphere combined with high technology that makes living in future cities pleasing and convenient.

The Partner Robot, a tall, white humanoid, walks on stage by itself and plays "Jasmine Flower" on the violin to enthusiastic applause. It's one of five multi-function Toyota robots that assist the elderly. They debuted at the 2005 Aichi Expo playing drums and the trumpet.

A 20-minute stage opera is the centerpiece of the exhibition, telling the true story of how Chinese and Japanese people prevented the extinction of the crane-like crested ibis.

The bird was officially declared extinct (not enough birds to sustainably reproduce) in Japan in the 1970s, but devoted environmentalists from both countries helped the bird reestablish itself.

A delicate and peaceful performance combines China's Kunqu Opera and Japan's Noh theater, with state-of-the-art visual technologies.

A tour takes about 60 minutes.

South Korea Pavilion

The three-story pavilion is composed of 20 basic letters of Korean script and is covered with colorful tiles that spell out words.

The exhibition theme is "Friendly City, Colorful Life" and visitors are immediately immersed in bright colors, dynamic images and captivating products.

The main exhibition covers culture, technology, humanity and nature.

Big screens introduce the country, culture and traditions.

Touch-sensitive and interactive platforms are common. In the area promoting the country's 2012 specialized Yeosu Expo on "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity and Sustainability."

Visitors can create fish, sea turtles and other creatures by touching screens, then release them into the sea and observe their real marine environment.

A tour takes around 50 minutes.

India Pavilion

Live Bollywood performances delight audiences and a great range of authentic curries, mild to hot, delight the palate.

The pavilion is comprised of two earth-colored sections, an entry plaza flowing to a central dome covered by green vegetation and fanciful designs.

The dome is said to be world's largest bamboo dome, inspired by the Sanchi Stupa, one of the best preserved ancient artifacts in central India.

Inside the dome, a 360-degree holographic projection depicts India's ancient civilization and the evolution of modern India.

The main plaza is filled with entertainment and shopping temptations.

A small amphitheater features Indian performances, Bollywood, classical dancing, sitar and modern music and dance.

The pavilion is a zero-chemicals area with safe runoff and no effluents. It uses plants to recycle water for the greenery. It collects rainfall and demonstrates how farmers "harvest" rainfall to water their crops during dry spells.

Oman Pavilion

The Sultanate of Oman fills the air of its pavilion with precious frankincense, aromatic resin that once was worth its weight in gold.

The ground floor features a garden where a frankincense tree grows. A censer under the tree burns the resin from time to time, giving off perfumed scent.

Burning frankincense is considered a cleansing ritual for both daily grooming and maintaining health and well-being.

It was favored by rulers in the region, Egyptian pharaohs, ancient Hebrews, and the priests and rulers of ancient Rome.

Oman, one of the oldest countries in the Middle East, takes visitors on a journey through the varied landscape.

Kazakhstan Pavilion

The pavilion of the exotic and vast Eurasian nation is often crowded. It features views of the country covering the Caspian sea, taigas, steppes, rock canyons and snow-capped mountains.

Interactive screens with cameras give visitors the experience of ice skating and horseback riding like nomads on the steppes; and they can see themselves in the settings.

Kazakhstan will host the 2011 Asian Winter Games and is promoting the event.

Visitors can use touchscreens of three maps of Kazakhstan to zoom in on what they want to know.

On the second floor, a 4-D cinema with 45 seats features a 10-minute film specially made for the Expo, featuring a famous Kazakh actress.

No-wait pavilions

Iran Pavilion

A map of the Silk Road is featured at the entrance to the Iran Pavilion to remind visitors that the fabled 4,000-mile-long (6,400-kilometer-long) trade route connected China with Iran and Europe. The theme is "Blending Diverse Cultures in the City."

The Silk Road linked trade routes from eastern, western and southern Asia to the Mediterranean 2,000 years ago.

Visitors can operate carpet loom and learn about traditional Iranian handicrafts. At the end of the six-month Expo, a huge carpet will be made from all the bits woven by visitors.

A crystal traditional plucked instrument, the tar (a fretted lute), is displayed along with virtual strings. Visitors can play their own songs on the unique instrument.

Pakistan Pavilion

The feature is a replica of the ancient Lahore Fort and using modern technology to demonstrate the historical bonds linking China and Pakistan.

Inside, a phonographic timeline and multimedia gallery highlight the history of the Silk Road that linked the two countries.

Visitors can watch traditional Pakistani dances and taste traditional cuisine, such as barbecue with special sauce, chai milk tea and other specialties.

Sri Lanka Pavilion

The Sri Lanka Pavilion presents traditional music, dance and other cultural heritage to show its transformation from "Tradition to Modernity."

The nation is famous for its Buddhist sites, Ceylon tea and gemstones.

Morocco Pavilion

Visitors who are tired after touring pavilions can enjoy a rest in the Morocco Pavilion. The north African country on the Mediterranean creates a comforting oasis with a delicate fountain and flowing water, a characteristic of the architecture.

Morocco is known for outstanding architecture and the cities of Casablanca and Rabat are world-famous.

Visitors can take pictures with beautiful women wearing traditional clothes.

Vietnam Pavilion

The inviting Vietnam Pavilion features a considerable amount of bamboo construction, which will be recycled after the Expo. Its facade appears to be a river and the bamboo growing around reduces the heat.

Performances of traditional music and dance are staged in a 45-minute show three times a day, at 11am, 2:30pm and 5pm.

Handicrafts such as pottery and lacquer ware are on sale.


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