For my 50th post, I’m going BIG! There has been a lot to see at Expo, and now that I’ve been to all the pavilions, I can share my favorites!
Best Food: Vietnam (winner); Czech Republic (runner up)
Perhaps it is my bias and constant longing for spicy food in Astana, but Vietnam’s fast and delicious spring rolls and curries were satisfying every time.
Meals at the Czech restaurant were comforting, fresh, and served flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth meats.
Best Restaurant Decor: Uzbekistan (winner); Czech Republic (runner up)
All white walls, black geometric details, and dots of vibrate blues on detailed ceramic pieces – the Uzbek restaurant was chic and gorgeous!
With mounted animal heads on the walls and dark wooden details to offset the white walls, the Czech Republic restaurant created the ambiance of a newly remodeled lodge.
Best Bar: Caribbean Plaza (winner); Lithuania (runner up)
Who doesn’t love a delicious rum drink (my drink of choice – Haiti Libre: rum, cola, and vanilla)? Reasonably priced, incredibly tasty, friendly bar tenders, and plenty of music to get you dancing – the Caribbean Bar has it all!
The Lithuanian bar offers refreshing and tasty beer at reasonable prices (by far the tastiest beer available in Astana!). Additionally, the bar tenders were a delight and introduced me to crouton-like sticks of fried bread dipped in a cheese sauce…perfect snacking food. Oh, they also have an amazing poppy seed cake that I can’t stop thinking about. Yes, I spent a lot of time here this summer.
Best Cultural Displays: Turkmenistan (winner); Pacific Islands (runner up)
The Turkmenistan pavilion was almost like entering a museum. It offered rows of beautifully-crafted traditional clothing worn by men and women at different ages, horse riding equipment and videos of horse-events, and a fully decorated yurt!
The Pacific Islands pavilion had displays from multiple countries who brought material culture and costumes from their homes. They also had a big display about the different peoples living across the Pacific, highlighting its diversity, and also offered live song and dance performances.
Best Theatrical Experience: Angola (winner); Thailand and Monaco (runners up)
Angola offered a short film featuring several people who work in different energy sectors across the country. The film was informative without being daunting. The wall on which it was shown had multiple projecting and receding shapes that featured different scenes simultaneously, but created an exciting performance with shadows and colors all playing up the shapes (a bit hard to describe). It clearly required a lot of planning and creativity.
Thailand’s 3-D film set in a laboratory with adorable little scientist characters described the process of developing bio-diesels and was fun for all ages!
Entering a dark room with a row of wavy mirrors suspended in the air, one doesn’t quite know what to expect in Monaco. However, once the video begins and we see oceans and marine life projected on the mirrors. The mirrors then start moving like waves, creating a beautiful and sensory-rich experience (they even misted a marine scent in the air to complete your ocean immersion!).
Friendliest Pavilion: Lithuania (winner); USA (runner up)
The Lithuanians made a strong impression right away. Their representatives were friendly, highly knowledgeable, and eager to share information about their country and exhibit. Even seeing them outside of their pavilion, they went out of their way to greet us and engage in conversation. I will miss them dearly.
Thought it may have fallen on deaf ears most of the time, the volunteers working at the USA pavilion tried to interest the crowd with trivia about our country and keep everyone entertained while waiting in line.
Best Hands-On Exhibit: Austria (winner); Germany (runner up)
While garish to the senses with the overwhelming combination of neon colors and bold red, there is no doubt that the Austrian pavilion was the most hands-on – you could ride stationary bikes, pull on giant ropes…everything one did generated energy!
Upon entering Germany’s pavilion, each visitor received a “battery” which they could use to collect points by visiting various displays around the exhibit, answering trivia questions, or by generating energy. Just before exiting, the power from these “batteries” was combined to generate a visually exciting planetarium-like show, simultaneously projecting the idea that, collectively, we can power the world.
Most Beautiful to Walk Through: Poland (winner), Greece and Qatar (runners up)
The theme of Poland’s pavilion was rebuilding forests. Upon entering, the combination of lighting, green flooring, and tree-inspired sculptures gave the impression one was walking through a forest on a summers day. No detail was forgotten, everything in there made sense and worked together to only enhance the theme.
The simple and clean design of Greece was playful and inviting. I felt like I was wandering around villages near the Corinthian Sea again!
In addition to having a glamorous façade full of silver and bronze sequins that shimmer in the light, the inside of Qatar was also attractive. Comic book-like illustrations of different forms of energy sources filled the walls and made for a very uniform and pleasing viewing experience.
Most Innovative and Focused on Future Energy: Singapore (winner); Germany (runner up); Slovakia (honorable mention)
Singapore moved beyond basic forms of energy sources and focused on building more efficiently, repurposing old structures, and incorporating more vegetation into urban spaces to help reduce energy costs. Their ideas and presentation of them were so thoughtful and engaging that I actually read all of the signage in the pavilion (one of the few where this happened)! They offered an eco-friendly way for visitors to engage with the pavilion – encouraging them to write their hopes for the future on seed paper that was then planted in the soil, and some from earlier in the summer, already had plants growing! Maybe I’m bias on this one, but wasting less, efficiency, and greener urban spaces are values that sing to my soul.
It feels like a cliché that Germany would place in “Most Innovative,” but it’s true. In addition to talking about wind, solar, and water energies, they looked at other more day-to-day ways of harnessing and generating energy – a water-filled seesaw that generates power as it moves up and down, car rims that store energy, designing more efficient cities, etc. It was an attractive, engaging, and educational pavilion.
Slovakia displayed a few creative inventions to promote less traditional energy use and downsizing our individual footprint. One was a tiny house that was certainly more spacious than the efficient sleeping pod presented by Uzbekistan (seriously, not even sure if I could fully lay down in that one, let alone anyone over 6’!). The other was Chargebrella, an umbrella whose membrane harnesses and stores solar energy in the handle for charging phones, portable electronics, etc.
Hopefully this highlight reel gave you a taste of Expo 2017 in Astana! I bought the multiple entry pass to this one and do not regret it. Every day I went I saw and experienced something new, not to mention I met many interesting people from all over the world. For those of you who have never been to a World Expo, I highly recommend it. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you at the next one!