Almost two weeks ago on my drive home, a new but feebly inconspicuous road sign finally caught my attention. The right lane new painted in dark yellow was reserved for Smart Expo traffic, with all other road users presumably expected to keep it clear. By the time I searched online to learn more about the event, it was already over!
The Chongqing Yuelai International Exhibition Centre had just hosted the three day Smart Expo, where tech companies from the world over displayed their latest products for the public to witness. It seemed to have everything, from VR in the UK section, to robots, helicopters, self driving cars, you name it!
Whilst still kicking myself for allowing such a major event to pass into oblivion, I learnt from my car radio that the International Culture Expo was up next. Maybe the previous oversight was not so terrible after all.
At present, all I have seen about the Culture Expo is a video of a Japanese musician playing traditional instruments. Although I don’t know exactly what else to expect, it did certainly serve to wet my appetite and enthusiasm for visiting the event.
So before I report on the exhibition itself, allow me to talk a little about the venue.
Yuelai Exhibition Centre
Chongqing Yuelai International Exhibition Centre重庆悦来国际展览中心 is in the Liangjiang (Two river) New North Zone, a hot free-trade area home to many big name international and domestic manufacturers.
Yuelai was once a small isolated village, but like many others, the incredible pace of development has incorporated them into Chongqing proper.
The impressive complex stands on 600,000 square metres of land, and serves the multiple purposes of an exhibition centre, conference hall, as well providing a massive venue for banqueting, concerts, and sporting contests.
Here are some more juicy facts for your reading pleasure. I have translated the information myself from the exhibition centre’s official website.
A total of 16 individual exhibition rooms each have 11,500 square metres of level floor space completely free of pillars. The surface can withstand a pressure of between 3-5 tons per square metre, meaning even the heaviest of exhibits can go on display. Underneath, there are 11,000 parking spaces.
There is a 20,000 square metre multi-function hall in the centre, with a ceiling height between 19-28 metres, and seating for 15,000 guests. It is the largest of its kind in southwest China, and its top notch acoustics and lighting offer a great venue for performances, concerts, sports contests, new car launches, and even public lectures.
In addition, there are also three conference rooms of 1000 square metres each, a gigantic one of 5200, and 47 smaller rooms of variable size.
A Scenic Walk by the River
I have a small tip if you have time on your hands in Yuelai.
The main accommodation in the exhibition complex is the Wyndham Hotel, behind which is a beautiful yet relatively secluded pathway that offers you quiet, scenic views over the Jialing River and countryside.
There are friends of mine who have spent anniversaries in the plush hotel, and discovered the lovely riverside park quite unexpectedly.
Chongqing International Culture Expo
I’ll turn now to another focus of this blog post, the International Culture Exhibition held over this Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, between September 12-14th.
The twenty minute drive from my home to Yuelai was not without scare or surprise.
A good few kilometres of fresh tarmac, coupled with the rare absence of other road users, the journey there felt considerably shorter than any visits in previous memory.
Maybe things were too quiet. Baidu Maps directed us to a carpark entrance of choice, but alarm bells soon began to ring as we saw no sign of life around the exhibition centre. The roads were deserted and there wasn’t a soul in view. I instinctively followed a road through the complex, past an empty hotel, a deserted carpark, and towards the main road.
Under the impression we had entered some parallel universe, and almost resigned to returning home empty handed, I turned a corner to finally notice a sizeable crowd and a well occupied carpark.
It turns out the Culture Expo is in the north wing, the only section in use this weekend, and gives an idea just how large the site must be for this to happen.
We walked about 200 metres through the entrance unto the first of six exhibition halls we came across.
Local academies selling courses to youngsters, ranging from English, art to computing, occupied the first hall. Since time closing time was just over an hour away, we hastened out through a giant door towards the next one.
Other halls featured stalls promoting travel destinations throughout Chongqing Municipality. In another, individual districts and counties displayed traditional artifacts, wares and delicacies.
Eventually, we found more international exhibitions. One had stalls set up by foreign consulates in Chongqing that offered advice on travel and culture, whilst some even had native products on sale.
A few that definitely tempted me were the Hungarian wines and Belgian chocolates, but most of all, there were packets of cigarettes, bottles of Kaesong ginseng spirits, and stamp collections from the North Korean stall.
The next hall was an internationally themed artisanal market. I saw Iranian carpets, Pakistani furniture, carved African ornaments, just to name a few, with most attended to by stall owners from the countries in question.
As the clock ticked ever more closely to five o’clock, we hurried through the last exhibition and finally parted with some currency. We found a local craftsman who has made traditional Chinese erhu instruments by hand for 30 years, one of which we bought from him.
Security guards now started to politely usher visitors towards the exit, and we walked briskly past lovely displays of pottery, glossy vases, and a calligraphy brush maker who we barely had time to take a business card from.
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The next hall was an internationally themed artisanal market. I saw Iranian carpets, Pakistani furniture, carved African ornaments, just to name a few, with most attended to by stall owners from the countries in question. Click To Tweet