The coming of the World Leisure Expo has been trumpeted since I first came to Hangzhou and, from their website this is the "first of three mega-events to be hosted by China in this decade. The other two: The Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai World Exposition in 2010". That doesn't bode too well for the others.
I went with J and YW to the main expo site (I'm pretty sure it's the right place but the website neglects to include a map). It opened with a big TV spectacular in April and it runs until October. The site is divided into two sections: a Venice-like section which hosts the 100-cities exhibition and the 'World Carnival' - a combination of a fun-fair and a half-built theme-park.
The 100-cities exhibition is tremendously uninspiring - of the ones we looked at, each section consisted simply of a room with pictures on the wall and a brief blurb about some aspect of leisure in the city. The number of visitors to this area was probably about 30 at any time and I imagine most of them, like us, were hoping that the carnival would be good enough to begin to justify the enormous 120 RMB entry price. Despite of being incomplete, the area must have cost a fortune (they say the whole site cost 1 billion USD) and it could probably be replaced with a pamphlet instead.
Clearly this money will be recouped after the event (if it hasn't been already) as the buildings have all been developed as residential buildings so I assume the site will become a full community after the event finishes.
On to the carnival and at last we found the occupants of the other vehicles in the car park - there were probably 1-2000 people there. There were a modest number of rides. We walked past the small log flume and lots of fairground games of skill and headed straight for the double-loop roller-coaster.
As we started to get closer we became concerned at the lack of action on the coaster but I could hear that the lifts were running. When we got there though we were turned away - the roller-coaster isn't finished.
We found a very short and wet boat ride (one ramp up, one slide down) that was reasonably entertaining - more so for us because we refused the rain wear. It seems a bit mad to me that you go on a water ride and then put on an all-covering plastic coat and shoe-covers! Clearly we got soaked but that seems to me to be the point.
There was (we think) a free-fall platform - non-operational, a few whirly-twirly nauseating rides and, at the back of the site, a pirate ship.
Closer inspection of the double-pirate-ship revealed that it was occupied by a team of carpenters who appeared to be assembling the ships. No chance that it's going to move for a couple of weeks at least.
We were simply astounded by the number of major attractions at a park that has a lifespan of April to October 2006 that aren't yet finished. Having said that, visitor numbers were such that I'm surprised that they hadn't just decided to abandon the projects part-way through.
There were signs pointing to 'Ultraman' all over the carnival site so we eventually followed them to their destination - what looked like a full-scale model of a small part of Felixstowe docks and a large model of Ultraman that you could view through some trees. The whole area was fenced off and had 'Restricted Access' signs around it. I don't know who Ultraman is or why he hangs round the docks but they'd gone to a lot of effort to half-finish the Ultraman display.
On to International Food Street on the way out and the street of restaurants starts well with a flamboyant Turkish ice-cream shop, but as you walk down the street, you realise that there's only actually three restaurants down there - and only one set of customers in each. The restaurants further down - locked and closed. Presumably the people running them decided it would cost them less money to close than stay open as they probably had no customers getting that far down the street.
Overall, I have to say, I found the whole thing tremendously disappointing. I, and clearly everyone else, couldn't see the point of the 100-cities bit. It only has any visitors because it's in between the carnival and the car-park. The carnival is only half-built and is actually quite expensive but hardly attracted any visitors (we didn't have to queue to get on any of the rides we went on). If I could do it again, I wouldn't have one of J's only two days in Hangzhou by visiting the Expo, nor would I go back. What a terrible shame. I hope the sales of apartments fare better.