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Plenty of 'wow' to find

CROWDS keep on flocking to the World Expo, however, visitors may have a hard time finding the "wow" amid hundreds of ho-hum touch screen displays, promotional videos and gift shops filled with T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Yet there is plenty of wow to be found. I spent four days at the Expo, and while I did not encounter anything as revolutionary as the air conditioning and television that greeted visitors to the 1939 World's Fair in New York, I was impressed and inspired by the architecture and some (though not all) of the exhibits. Here are a few of the best things to see and do at this 21st-century world's fair.

The Shanghai Expo's greatest triumph is its architecture. Many countries came up with creative, whimsical and downright beautiful buildings. Britain is a cathedral of 60,000 slender seed-bearing rods, like a dandelion about to burst. Japan is a lavender spouted semicircle, resembling a character out of Pokemon. China is a towering red inverted pyramid, based on a traditional structure called a dougong. Brazil is a box of Amazon-green lace, and India a majestic dome. Egypt is a striking swirl of black and white, Israel a blue-glass seashell, and Romania a shiny green apple.

Art and culture

The Spanish pavilion opens with a live, sexy, flamenco-esque dancer, and ends with a freaky, gigantic, blue-eyed baby mannequin. Russia is decorated with enormous, colorful morning glories, and Australia has acrobats dressed like divers, swimming across its ceiling.

Expo also hosts exceptionally fine outdoor performances that change each day.

The Swedish pavilion is like a playground: Zoom down a slide from the first level to the floor below, then climb on a swing and swoop to the ceiling.

The Swiss pavilion has a cable car on its roof, and the Canadian pavilion offers stationary bikes with computer-generated scenery that changes as you pedal. A company touting earthquake-proof wood construction offers visitors an "earthquake" experience in a trailer that will shake you silly.

Shopping and food

Some of the best souvenirs are in the Africa pavilion, where vendors are set up by country in a marketplace to sell coffee, jewelry and unique crafts. You can buy a drum, a desert stone or a wooden dish carved to resemble a pool, with a zebra or giraffe drinking out of it.

Try Argentine beef, a fish sandwich from the Swedes or Belgian fries, washed down with a Moosehead lager from Canada. If you're in a hurry, head to the Colombian coffee cafe. In a country of tea-drinkers, the line tends to be short.


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