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Shanghai World Expo Site

by | Jan 20, 2016 | 0 comments



Shanghai empty lot

Where do you go when you need to get away from the crowds in Shanghai? Until this weekend, I really didn’t know. But now we have at least one place we can go – the site of the 2010 World Expo, the world’s fair held in Shanghai. No crowds here! Admittedly, the Expo area was not high on my list of places to visit in Shanghai, but when our son was invited to a party in the area, we decided to check it out. We had a few hours to wander this once vibrant, now under-transformation part of the city.

Back in 2010, Shanghai hosted a World Expo, where countries built large pavilions, showcasing their culture. More than 70 million visitors attended the Expo in 2010, but now the 5km² area is eerily vacant, with crumbling buildings and empty lots dominating the landscape. I believe that the only remaining country pavilion still in operation is China’s, which is an impressive red building, shaped like an inverted pyramid, visible from kilometers away.


Shanghai China Pavilion

So, what does one do with 5km² of land in the middle of a city? Here are some of the things we ran across during our afternoon.

Laser Tag

You can live out your wildest action-hero dreams at Grand Laser Strike Association’s laser tag facility, which looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. The site was so large, that they brought us in from the street on golf carts. Our son, who played with friends, tells us that you can play games indoors or outdoors, and that they’re preparing this jumbo jet to be part of the play area. If you’re into laser tag, this is a must-see.


laser tag airplane


Finding practice fields for sports like soccer is challenging and expensive in Shanghai, due to the high cost of land. However, real estate is clearly more affordable in this part of town, because we saw the highest concentration of sports fields that I’ve seen anywhere in the city. There was even a pop-up ice skating rink filled with junior figure skaters and  hockey players.

Fast and Furious – Live in Shanghai

As we walked down the sidewalk, in one of the dead zones, a Porsche screamed by. All of a sudden, five more tore down the road, in hot pursuit, engines purring. I think we just witnessed our first street race, Shanghai style. Sadly, they were too fast for a snapshot. Car racing – yet another use for deserted city streets.


China loves its shopping malls, and the River Mall, next to the China pavilion is one of the most unique ones I’ve seen. The mall had a typical mix of restaurants and stores, but what makes it stand out is the top floor, which is open air, under a tent-like canopy roof. There are well maintained gardens, city views, even peacocks, and a pond with black swans. Just try to go on a low AQI day.

Shanghai River Mall


The Future

Look in any direction, and you’ll see construction under way. The ubiquitous worker dormitories fill entire city blocks – basic living quarters for the men and women rebuilding this area seven days a week. Our family stuck out, Westerners walking down a deserted street, where the only other people we saw were construction workers, building high rise apartments and offices. In a few years the area will be unrecognizable – modern buildings and cars will replace the empty streets. One thing we’ve learned about living in Shanghai is that it’s always changing. So, if you ever dreamed of laser tag on an airliner, better make a bee-line to the Shanghai Expo area now, because who knows how long the opportunity will last.

Chinese construction workers

new windows

Chinese construction worker housing