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 unsettling.
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 drool. 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.