A US$2.6 million project aiming to introduce Vietnamese culture to the world at the ongoing Expo Milano 2015 in Italy has failed to generate any buzz.
Despite being named among the most impressive designs at the prestigious event, the Vietnamese pavilion is only a beautiful structure on the outside but has nothing more to offer.
Cultural objects on display inside the house appeared to have been selected "carelessly," many visitors said.
"It was a shame on the country's reputation," a Vietnamese who visited the event launched on May 1 with the participation of 145 countries described the pavilion in a letter to Thanh Nien.
It was almost empty inside with two old statues of qilin noted as the country's sacred object, while props were scattered around the main stage, he wrote, attaching photos of the pavilion in his email.
He went on describing mannequins which were supposedly displaying Vietnamese clothes as having "very offensive" looks with no arms, no hair and no shoes.
"The Vietnamese pavilion has attracted many visitors, but all left shaking their heads as 'there was nothing to see,"" he said.
In a comment on the photos of the pavilion, Dinh Cong Dat, an installation artist, also said they were "too ugly" and did not fit in such a beautiful building.
In fact, since its design by world famous architect Vo Trong Nghia was first revealed last year, the pavilion has created much hype among Vietnamese public and the global architecture industry, continuously being hailed by international media.
The pavilion was expected to present Vietnam as "the world's rice bowl" and a place of "an endless beauty" at the six-month world exhibition themed on food security, nutrition and sustainability, according to the tourism ministry's plan approved by the Prime Minister.
The project, which cost VND57 billion ($2.6 million), was aimed to attract foreign investors and tourists to Vietnam.
It was supposed to host a variety of sections related to tourism, cuisine, handicrafts and promote diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Italy within an area of more than 882 square meters.
But so far both the cuisine and tourism promotion sections have been unavailable.
"There are too many requirements for food hygiene and safety," Nguyen Thuan, vice director of Giang Vo Exhibition Center, which was in charge of interior displays, said in an explanation for the absence of the food and drink section.
A plan to introduce Vietnamese coffee products also had to be canceled, because the chosen presenter could not pass relevant legal procedures, he said.
He also lamented over the failure to bring lotus seeds to the exhibition so they could offer visitors them with tea for free, and help highlight the pavilion's theme design.
"Thousands of people visit the house every day, the cost of lotus seeds will be definitely big over six months of exhibition," Thuan said.
He also attributed the lack of catalogs and brochures about Vietnam to the possibly high costs of printing, considering that they too would be distributed to many people over a long time.
Speaking to Thanh Nien, Nguyen Trung Khanh, chief of the department of international cooperation under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, agreed that the pavilion's "general view" was good, but some of interior displays were "unsuitable" and "unacceptable."
He said his agency was collaborating with Hanoi-based Giang Vo Exhibition Center in reviewing the whole pavilion and fixing problems.
The Expo Milano 2015 will close on October 31.