For a city that burns trash on the streets, the last thing I’d expect is the promotion of it being a environmentally friendly city. Xi’an is the host for the 2011 Horticultural World Expo. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t be surprised unless you’re in China. It’s advertised everywhere in China but no one else has heard of it outside of China. Surprisingly, there’s nearly two dozen nations contributing to the expo. Pakistan, North Korea, Bolivia, India, Japan, Thailand, Russia, and more.
You’d think that this expo would have a wide range of flowers, gardens, trees, and other environmental things but it really wasn’t. Instead what I got was mostly confusion, wackiness, giftshops, and some interesting architecture. While there were some beautiful gardens and pavilions, it’s not what you’d expect from a horticultural expo.
One of the humorous activities was being given a fake passport book and given the mission to try to get as many stamps as possible from various locations of the expo. This would have made sense perhaps if the stamps even correlated at all to the locations. Somehow I don’t think they were very well organized. I did happen to get my fake passport full of stamps which didn’t feel as much of an achievement as all the Chinese people made it seem like it would. Many times I had to battle my way into getting a stamp. There was a 20-something who pushed and shoved a 60-something out of the way so he could get his stamp. It’s that serious.
Still, the whole experience was worth it. If you’re in Xi’an, I recommend checking this out to experience something a bit different. I was able to “visit” countries that perhaps I may never get a chance to see in real life, like North Korea. The Chinese pavilions were (of course) the best displayed. Most of the international pavilions had only gift shops. My favorite areas were North Korea, Bolivia, Spanish Islamic, Ancient Greece, and Afghanistan. I ended up talking to the lady in North Korea for quite some time. It was the first time I ever talked to anyone from North Korea (I’m intrigued with nations that are difficult to go to).
The Horticultural Expo is mostly catering to the domestic Chinese tourists and you’ll rarely see any foreigners. It’s a fun to see how the Chinese travel and what they expect to see when they travel. The volunteers can speak a little English and are located throughout the park. The limited amount of foreigners and being a foreigner myself means having the constant call for having our picture taken with random Chinese people (I’m a big deal in China).
So below I put a whole series of pictures. I tried to edit them to make it look a little more colorful but to be honest – the pollution in Xi’an is horrible. The skies, as usual, are grey. Some days are beautiful with blue skies but on the day I attended, they weren’t.