By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN • Published 19th May 2014
Qingdao, famously known as the home of Tsingtao Beer and fine beaches, has found another way to attract tourists -- plants.
The Expo, which opened on April 25, is expected to attract 12 million visitors before it closes on October 25.
With the theme "From the Earth, For the Earth," it features gardens and pavilions specially constructed on one end of the Laoshan Mountain, one of the most sacred Taoist destinations in China.
"This event is an opportunity to promote the image of our city, exchange experiences on horticultural techniques and products across the globe and raise public awareness on ecological and environmental protection," said Expo organizer Zhu Yuetao.
Once a mining region, the Expo area has been transformed into a 241-hectare Disneyland-style complex featuring exhibits, water parks, rides and live performances.
"People from all over the world will come to Qingdao, and when they see what I have seen, they will be delighted," said Tim Briercliffe, secretary general of the International Association of Horticultural Producers.
"Millions of people will be inspired and the benefits will be enjoyed today and by future generations."
Rare plants on display
Botanical Pavilion, Qingdao Horticultural Expo
Qingdao has invited plant lovers and garden experts from 37 countries and regions, as well as Chinese provinces and cities, which have set up various pavilions.
It's even attracted the participation of the North Koreans, who have brought samples of Kimilsunglia and Kimjongilia orchids, named after late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Another pavilion displays nearly 2,000 rare or new strains of plants, including specimens from tropical and temperate zones.
Another special attraction is the Swedish pavilion, which highlights the life of Swedish scientist Carl von Linne, father of modern botany and taxonomy.
Visitors can hit up the Ice Bar, which recreates a visit to Sweden's famed Ice Hotel.
"The whole bar is made of ice and inside you will be given provisional parkas and gloves so you can lift a nonalcoholic drink from a glass also made of ice," said Lars Freden, Sweden's ambassador to China.
"The Expo is one of the biggest exhibitions in China now, and I personally love Qingdao."
Freden first visited the city in 1980.
From 'shabby' mines to ecological wonders
Organizers say the Expo is meant to promote innovation in city planning and popularize a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle.
A section of the Expo is dedicated to eco-friendly technologies, such as an energy-saving water recycling system and waste-processing technologies.
A botanical garden was designed to operate with a low carbon climate control system to regulate temperature for various plant-growing climates.
The Expo is credited with transforming the site, which used to be dotted with mining pits notorious for degrading land and vegetation.
"By turning this shabby mining zone into an ecological city, we hope that both the city and the public will be more aware of how to maintain the balance between people and nature," said Jiang Zehui, a Beijing-based official who attended the opening ceremony.
Organizers say events such as the Expo benefit tourists and local residents alike.
"As you can see, the trash is gone, the road is clean," said Wu Zhiqiang, an urban planning professor of Shanghai's Tongji University and the chief Expo designer.
Wu was one of the main designers of the Shanghai Expo in 2008.
Tickets to the Expo range from 60 yuan (about $10) for evening admission to 120 yuan for single-day admission.
Tourists can also get group and student passes.
Cable cars and electric golf carts are available for a fee.