Thursday, August 30, 2012

By Ayus Wijaya

The first ever pageant I have watched in my entire life was the final of Miss World 1999, broadcasted on television by Indosiar that time. I was only 14 years old, still on the second grade of junior high school, and was totally fascinated by the show that I become an enthusiast pageant fans for the next 13 years. I love every pageant ever since, but Miss World would always have a special spot in my heart. I have followed it, year by year religiously, on newspaper, internet, and television, while dreaming that one day I could watch it live on the venue myself. Well, that dream finally comes true this year, when I got the opportunity to go to Ordos and watch Miss World 2012 final live at Dongsheng Fitness Center Stadium.It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience and I would love to share the story here. So without further ado, here is "The Story from Ordos"

Chapter 1 : The Journey

The sophisticated architecture of Beijing Capital International Airport

The journey to Ordos requires a total of 10 hours flight, which was taken by 3 different flights. I began my journey on the noon of 16 August 2012 at Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung, with an Air Asia flight that took me to Kuala Lumpur for transit. From there I took the long, grueling, and extremely tiring long-haul Air Asia X flight to the capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing, and it landed shortly after the midnight. Then I had to wait for about 7 hours at Beijing Capital International Airport before I departed to Ordos on a China Airlines flight. I arrived at Ordos on the noon of 17 August 2012, almost a day since I departed from Bandung.

Erdos 1436, official sponsor of Miss World 2012, outlet at Beijing Capital International Airport

It was by far the longest distance I have ever traveled in my life. No wonder I was totally in jet-lag mode for a while. It was exhausting but it was fun as well. I definitely get a lot of new experiences, meeting with people from all corners of the world, waiting on a very long line of queue for baggage check-ins, navigating my way from one terminal to the other, and the most memorable one - sleeping at the airport while waiting for my flight to Ordos. Yes I did sleep on a hard wooden couch at Beijing Capital International Airport, with my luggage as my pillow! Certainly not the best of accommodation and I felt totally uncomfortable at the time. But now when I take a look back at my journey, I actually feel glad for the experience as it has enriched my life even more.

Chapter 2 : The City and The People

I first heard the name of Ordos, which means "palaces" in Mongolian, in 2010 when the city became one of the location visited by Miss World contestants that time. I never imagine that 2 years later, I would eventually visit the city for Miss World 2012. As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed by a small drizzle. It was almost autumn in the northern China and the weather, while it was sunny and warm most of the times, could  suddenly drop to freezing cold, especially in the morning.

Inner Mongolia has been associated with deserts and dunes, and Ordos is no exception. There are two large deserts surrounding the city, Kubuqi in the north and Maowusu in the south. In the middle of the two deserts, the urban area of Ordos lies with its lavish alien-shaped buildings, towering skyscrapers, and ultra-modern infrastructures. Considering the fact that Ordos has one of the highest nominal per-capita GDP in China, it is totally understandable how the city has grown to become a modern and developed urban area. Right now Ordos may not be too popular internationally, but with its rapid development, as well as its strategy to host popular international event such as the Miss World competition, it could someday become a popular destination among the world travelers, just like Sanya growing popularity after hosting the Miss World in 2003.

Downtown Ordos during the night

According to the 2010 census, Ordos is a home of 1,940,653 people, with Han and Mongols as the two most prominent ethnics. That is perhaps why every signs and boards in the city, including the name of the streets, stores, and buildings, are mostly written bilingually in Chinese Mandarin and Mongolian. The people are actually very warm and welcoming to tourists and visitors. However, communication with local people could be quite a challenge as most of them do not speak English. I was lucky to have a guide who can speak English. Annie Liu, my guide, was very helpful during my stay in Ordos. She helped me to communicate with  local people, accompany me to explore the city and its interesting places, and arrange my transportation to attend the Miss World 2012 final. If only I didn't have her help, I would have definitely been "lost in translation".

Chapter 3 : The Mausoleum and The Desert

The cloudy sky above the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

The sacred colors gold, blue, and white dominating the design of the Mausoleum

There are a lot places of interest that tourists can explore and visit in Ordos. I happen to visit two of them, which were also visited by Miss World 2012 contestants. The first one was the Genghis Khan Mausoleum. Though it is a Mausoleum, do not expect to find the body of the once great Mongolian emperor there. The Mausoleum is actually a cenotaph, where the coffin contains no body, but only headdresses and accessories, because the actual Tomb of Genghis Khan has never been discovered. It was built between 1954 and 1956 by the government of the People's Republic of China in the traditional Mongolian style and dominated by the color of blue, gold, and white as they are regarded as sacred by the Mongols. The Mausoleum also houses a collection of ancient Mongolian artifacts including ancient weapons, housewares, farming tools, and jewelries. If you are interested in history, the Mausoleum is definitely a place that you have to visit.

Endless sand of Xiangshawan dunes

The fascinating sand sculptures of Xiangshawan dunes

The other location I visited was the Xiangshawan desert. At first I thought it would be very hot there. And I was completely wrong. The desert was actually very cold, especially in the morning when it was windy. I have worn my jacket and my body was still chilling from the cold. The cold weather however did not stop me from enjoying the beauty of the desert. After wearing the sand boots to protect my feet from getting stuck inside the soft surfaced sand, I was more than ready to enjoy the desert. Aside from the stunning view of the endless sands, there are a lot of activities that tourists can explore there, including desert bike, desert train, desert off-road, 5D cinema, camel riding, sand sculpting, and watching traditional Mongolian wedding. if you are interested in adventures, the Xiangshawan desert is definitely a place that you should not miss.

Chapter 4 : The Overture to The Final

Miss World 2012 Final ticket

Finally it's time to talk about the main reason why I traveled to Ordos in the first place - Miss World 2012 final. The show was started at 7.30 PM local time but guests and supporters were required to attend the venue at 7.00 PM. The stadium itself actually has enough seating place for 40,000 spectators. However being a sports stadium, the seats are positioned around the stadium and it would be difficult to watch the stage from some seating position. To solve the problem Miss World has built a large structural platform which directly face the stage in the middle of the stadium to be used as seating place instead. The seating area was then divided into several sections with different price of ticket, including some reserved VIP sections for the national directors and families of the contestants as well as honorable guests. My seat was located at section B3. Along the way, there were some local youths in blue uniform who worked as ushers and helped the guests to find their seat.

Backview of the seating platform at Miss World 2012 Final venue

When I arrived and took my seat at the stadium, most of the other seats were still empty. But it took just a few minutes before people started to flock inside the stadium and suddenly the venue was crowded by the spectators.. Most of them were of course the proud supporters of the host country China. But I also spotted a group of supporters from England, Australia, Jamaica, and my home country Indonesia waving their national flags as they cheered for their delegates. The demographics of people who came to watch the final show was surprisingly quite diverse, from kids and teens to adults and elders. Apparently the glamorous magic of a beauty pageant could allure people from all different age.

The amazing stage of Miss World 2012 moments before the final started

At 7.30 PM the show started with a 30 minutes special highlights showcasing videos of the contestants month-long activities before the big night. While most of the activities had been covered in the news outlets and thousands of photos before, it was definitely more exciting to watch the videos and see the contestants in motion. A lot of them look even more beautiful than what you see in pictures! The special highlights also showed us clips from the amazing Miss World Opening Ceremony, one of the most spectacular pageant moment I have ever seen in my entire life. It was nice for Miss World Organization to come up with the idea of having this 30 minutes extra, because now we could see more behind-the-scene clips without disrupting the duration for the actual final.

One of the most amazing moment of my life, watching the Miss World final live!

And so the actual final started at around 8.00 PM and in the next 2 hours we would watch how Wenxia Yu from China conquer the world ... but we will talk about that later in the second part of my story. Stay tuned!

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