|Visiting friends John and Monique in Shanghai|
In online conversations, Caroline had threatened a Brooks visit years ago, and now we were making good on that threat.We had vaguely talked about working in this visit while planning the rest of our Southeast Asia itinerary, but never solidified anything, such as obtaining visas while still in New York. Through a series of WeChat sessions with John and Monique, however, we learned that we could visit Shanghai visa-free, for up to 144 hours, as long as we were in transit from one region to a different region. The wheels started turning, and suddenly we found ourselves booking a flight to Shanghai, with an onward ticket to nearby Osaka, Japan, adding two more countries to our trip.
John and Monique had generously offered to host us in their Shanghai apartment, where we would be displacing their daughter Sophie so we could sleep in her room (thanks Sophie!). Our flight from Chiang Mai wouldn't be arriving until quite late so we booked ourselves into the Grand Central Hotel Shanghai for our first night in China. We arrived at the hotel at around 11:30pm, after breezing through immigration with the help of three friendly Chinese immigration officers, all figuring out this new 144-hour policy together. The cab driver wasn’t so helpful, bamboozling us out of 300 yuan for a ride that should been 70. We felt (a little) better about that incident after discovering we'd been upgraded to a massive suite at the hotel. A room so big that Caroline ended up texting me to try to figure out where I was, thinking I was no longer on the premises.
|View through the rain-streaked window from the Grand Central Hotel|
|Active pandas entertaining the few visitors heading to the zoo in the rain|
|Waiting for John to meet us outside of Yu Gardens|
|Scott hanging with his new pal Barry Allen|
|Antics before heading over to the Bund|
|What, we're not the only ones who want to see the lights switch on?|
|Pre-7pm - the Pearl and "Bottle Opener" not yet switched on|
|and... the lights are on! Get that boat out of our shot!|
|Everyone's got their photos, the crowds disperse|
|Jeez guys... couldn't get us a better view?|
|One more perspective of the Shanghai skyline. Bund-worthy.|
|Following John through Tian Zi Fang. Where did the girls go?|
|Tian Zi Fang|
We had a nice time strolling the narrow pedestrian streets, but quickly found ourselves seated for Bloody Mary's and lunch (theme!).
Walked for nearly 10 minutes - time to sit for drinks and food!
Unfortunately, Caroline's back had started bothering her, an old and recurring injury. It has been years since it acted up, but apparently decided this was the time. So the agenda was quickly changed, as Monique - hostess supreme - got on the phone with a doctor's office that was both open on Saturday, and had chiropractic services. The ladies left John and me at a restaurant/beer pub at the Kerry Center, a shopping mall/convention center near their apartment, and set off for Caroline's appointment together. We had a couple more rounds before the ladies returned, followed by a couple more, along with some plates of pub food later (pizza, wings, burger and fries). After a long day of eating and drinking, along with Caroline's back pain, we called it an early night, going to hang out back at the apartment.
|Disclaimer - not all John's beers. Scott gets to order IPAs - a change from the light pilsners of Southeast Asia he's been drinking|
|Selfie with drinks - how novel!|
|Tree-lined street in Former French Concession|
|Tomfoolery in Former French Concession - did not result in any time served|
|Selfie with cocktails!|
|Mmm - that fish!|
|On the hunt for more cocktails after lunch & drinks|
|Found them (more cocktails, that is), at the Docklands|
Photo shoot at the DocklandsWe ended up at a restaurant called the Blue Frog, right across the street from their apartment complex. After a bit of persuading, John and Monique got the kids (and Barry Allen) to come meet us, with promises of happy hour mocktails. Monique, Caroline and I enjoyed our happy hour drinks while John went on missions, first to buy a jar of pickles to add to the ladies' bloody Mary's, then to the apartment to grab jackets as the evening started getting pretty chilly.
It was really great to have this time together with the whole family, and feeling like we were just starting to get to know the kids. They're really sweet, and seem like lots of fun. All four of them, really.
Later, "our" trusty driver Leon dropped us at Lost Heaven for our reservation before getting the rest of the night off. More delicious cocktails and food, this time Yunan style, with a decidedly Burmese feel.
After dinner, we thought it would be a good idea to find a fifth place for a Sunday cocktail, so went up to the rooftop bar above Lost Heaven. My scotch-based "Bobby Burns" with giant ice sphere was terrific. We enjoyed having one more chance to talk about all of the common friends and acquaintances we seem to have - including my cousin Geoff, who John apparently worked with for years but never thought to ask if he knew or was possibly related to anyone named Scott with the same last name.
|One last cocktail with a view, on the rooftop of Lost Heaven|
It was a really wonderful visit! We got to see a big Chinese city, got to sample plenty of food and drink, and had a really great time catching up with really a couple of fun-loving and just plain fun(!), long-time friends. Thanks again to John, Monique, Simon, and Sophie for being outstanding hosts, flexible tour guides, and great friends. We’re already looking forward to our next reunion, wherever it may be!