What’s it like The latest brainwave in the collective head scratch that is
what to do with the former Expo site, Happy Chocolate
Land has taken over what
was once the South Africa Pavilion. The grounds of the much-delayed attraction
(it was originally scheduled to open in December) are fairly bleak, in keeping
with the bare ex-Expo landscape that surrounds them. On our visit, admittedly
on only its second day in operation, the site is still undergoing a few
finishing touches, with smoking workmen leaning against giant cannisters of
anhydrous milk fat imported from New Zealand.
Fortunately, things improve once you’re inside the
various exhibition halls. We start at the ‘Children’s Fairytale Land’,
which features chocolate characters from such classic fairy tales as
Garfield, Hello Kitty and Transformers. In the middle of it all, stand a group
of small children dressed as hamburgers, doughnuts and cupcakes who pose Choc
party for photos with visitors. Despite their smiles and waves, they seem
somewhat perplexed as to why they’re there and the spectacle is oddly
Next door, the ‘Fashion Theme Pavilion’ hall opens
with mannequins wearing chocolate underwear and bikinis overlooking a large
chocolate sofa. Behind this is a life-size replica of a classic car and a
chocolate Manneken Pis, about the closest Belgium gets to any involvement
here. These models are surrounded by dozens of glass cases on two floors
featuring enough shoes, bags and watches to make the hawkers on Huaihai Lu
Chocolate terracotta warriors and a model of the
Forbidden City are the highlights at the ‘5,000 Years of China’ hall,
whose two small TV screens are the only place in the park to show the
actual process behind constructing the cacao collections. The glow-in-the-dark
‘Sweet Garden of Eden’, meanwhile, features a winding path through
chocolate rabbits and mushrooms to oddly amusing models of Adam and Eve.
Happy Chocolate Land
Finally, the ‘Chocolate Kingdom of Fairytales’ has
a giant chocolate castle as its centrepiece (the smell is overwhelming), with
imitation sculptures such as of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ and the ‘Venus de Milo’
flanking it on either side. Behind the castle, pastry models of the Eiffel Tower
and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are joined by giant portraits of Marilyn Monroe
and the Mona Lisa made from creatively toasted squares of bread.
Highlight The most likely
highlight is the DIY Classic
– the only area intended to provide any hands-on experience – but
unfortunately, it’s closed on our visit.
Lowlight The ‘Bread Music Theatre’ features a series of
half-baked culinary-themed musical shows where ‘chefs’ play tunes with their
utensils. Sounds okay on paper, but doesn’t really come off in practice.
Verdict There are some
interesting moments here, some of them from unintentionally bizarre exhibits,
but the prevailing hands-off approach – signs everywhere plead with you
not to touch anything and most pieces are behind glass cases – is a let-down
and soon becomes dully repetitive.
Entry 120RMB (though touts outside will get you in for less).
there Located in Expo Zone C, the park is about a 15-minute walk
from the China Art Museum metro station along the long,
deserted streets of Expo land.
, Zone C, Shanghai Expo Site, 100 Bocheng Lu, near Houtan Lu. See full address details
What’s it like
After last year’s stint at the Himalayas Centre in Pudong, World Chocolate Wonderland is back in Shanghai with a new location in Shanghai Indoor Stadium. Organisers China Art Source have rebooted last year’s largely static exhibition with an all-singing, all-dancing carnival affair complete with Teletubby-esque mascots, a low-rent Willy Wonka character, fashion shows and even a chocolate-themed musical.
Loosely based around a dubious re-telling of the creation story (when God created the world, He apparently also reserved ‘a wonderland stored in an ancient book’), the exhibition is split into eight sections which you pass through one-way, IKEA-style. After entering through the ‘spellbook of chocolate’, whizz through the first two areas – the ‘Fantastic Forest of Chocolate’, populated by oversized doughnuts and macarons, and the ‘Giant’s Home’– which are a naff, confusing medley of Disney fairytales, made worse by poor production values.
Instead, make a beeline for the chocolate volcano (actually a giant chocolate fountain), which is your first chance to sample some of the wares. Offset your gluttony with some relative culture by checking out the Mayan temple and ‘Coco Exchange’, which does a decent job of explaining the history of chocolate (the English captions are generally good throughout the exhibition). Plus, there’s a fun activity zone where you can weigh yourself on a giant pair of scales and barter with the English-speaking curators for some tasty chocolate coins.
Of the chocolate replicas, which include outsize Doc Martens, porcelain tea-sets, handbags, Easter scenes and toy cars, there’s nothing to top last year’s enormous dragon, but a life-size rendering of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage and some vertiginous studded heels come close. Sadly, though, as with Chocolate Happy Land, most of the models are behind glass – presumably to preserve them from wandering grubby little fingers – which takes away from the experience.Highlight
While Happy Chocolate Land has a couple of lacklustre screens explaining the production process, at World Chocolate Wonderland you can check out how the creations are made at the ‘Chocolate Masters’ Palace’, where virtuosos from Belgium and Mexico craft galleons and Venetian masks with exciting-looking sculpting tools, or do it yourself at a chocolate lollipop-making tutorial (68RMB/child; 88RMB/adult for 20 minutes; classes every hour). If you’re not all cocoa-ed out, stop by the gift shop for Al Nassma’s intriguing camel-milk chocolate (158RMB/chocolate camel) or more mainstream offerings from Guylian, Lindt and Reber (of Mozart Kugeln fame).Lowlight
Some of the weaker links include the fashion show, as the creations we see are inspired by, rather than made with, chocolate, and the much-hyped musical – we were promised the cast of Cirque du Soleil but got clumsily dancing, budget Teletubbies instead. Verdict On the whole, World Chocolate Wonderland is an entertaining, if somewhat eccentric afternoon out, especially given its convenient location.Entry
Until Sunday 24 February.Getting there
World Chocolate Wonderland is right on top of Shanghai Indoor Stadium station.World Chocolate Wonderland
, East Asia Exhibition Hall, Shanghai Indoor Stadium, 666 Tianyaoqiao Lu. See full address details