Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Great American Adventure: An Afterword

Malaysia Again, Naturally


Heat once you descend from the plane, once you enter the airport, once you exit the airport. It suddenly feels like you're in a bloody sauna once you land. The heat just seems to envelop you and get under your clothes and your skin, making it impossible to ignore. It doesn't help that Malaysia is going through a scorching heat wave.

I forgot how humid the Malaysian weather gets, because even with hot places in the US it was all dry heat. And after two weeks of complete absence, I think me and my old buddy "sweat" is gonna get re-acquainted real soon. 

That, and the overwhelming smelliness of Malaysian public toilets, beginning with the KLIA toilets. Near all the public restrooms we used in US were clean and stench-free. So the first two things that greeted us when we touched down were completely unpleasant sensations. 

But they were familiar. And they meant we were home. After a long, hectic, exciting journey, we were finally back on native soil. 

Flying in at 4am allowed us the unprecedented ability to clear imigrations in 10 seconds flat. Which cleared our path to a slow baggage claim, and finally to the airport taxi. Who of course speeds back as the roads are all clear; something no taxi had ever done in the US.

But noone cares, because we are finally home. 

Home to a house that we've lived in for over 10 years, with a silly dog that went crazy with excitement to finally see us again. Home to amazing local food, my own bed, and people whom I've missed and can't wait to meet up with. Home to the most important device in the world: that spray thing we use to clean our asses after taking a dump; the US needs to know that mere toilet paper is NOT ENOUGH!

Seriously guys, who knew what a luxury that water hose had been all this while! All of us began longing for that seemingly insignificant contraption soon after reaching the US, and I'm so happy to literally have it within reach again!

I can't deny it. I am a Malaysian at heart. And no matter how far I travel, I will always love coming back, because there are just too many things I hold dear here.

But there is a form of sadness when coming home, because we now know that one has left it for good, to seek greener pastures on the other side of the world.

It makes me wistful to think that we're all growing up now, and we're all heading to different places, and soon enough we'll have our own families that'll make our original family less important. Everytime we meet up, years will have passed, and things just won't ever be the same again now that we're all reaching adulthood and have to enter the working world.

But fears of growing up must be faced, because time waits for no man, so I will have to man up (so to speak) and stop holding on to the past carefree life. I will miss us being a team, but I guess we'll soon have to find new ways to stay together, that can withstand time and distance.

I know I may seem like a spoilt brat from the way I complain about places we visit, and I suppose in some ways I might be, but don't make the mistake of thinking I didn't enjoy every moment of travelling the land of the free. 

I mean, experiencing living in America, even if just for under two weeks, was a really amazing adventure. Different laws and social rules, being out of place and sometimes discriminated against, is all part and parcel of the trip. Even so, I am still extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I know I will cherish it forever. 

Because as cliché as is sounds, you really do broaden your perspectives and horizons by travelling. So after gaining some much needed fresh inspiration and insight, its now back to the stark reality of the daily grind. 

...Oh wait. I'M ON A THREE MONTH BREAK BABY!! Time to sleep all day and party all night!

Or more likely, read books and catch up on my soaps. Life's good for this introvert!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Great American Adventure: Part Five

(Note: I've now realised that the pictures in my previous posts were extremely blurry, which I guess is a result of drafting all my blog posts in offline mode. I've re-uploaded all of them to original iPhone 4 quality, which isn't high res but still better than before. Happy reading!)

Los Angeles: Ain't no City of Angels!

Day One:

I'll just start out with saying day one was a bust, as we wasted the entire day travelling. From Vegas, we took a bus at 11+am, which was scheduled to only reach our stop in Downtown LA after 4.45pm.

The bus was noisy and smelly and so were the passengers. It was just so unpleasant and felt like it was taking forever. I mean everyone hates taking the bus, so having to take a crap bus for 5 hours was pure torture. To add insult to the injury, where we were dropped off was practically deserted, and it was too far to walk there with our many luggage bags.

And let me tell you, the streets of LA are scary. I'm talking completely deserted pavements because absolutely noone ever walks anywhere, except crazy people that look like hobos and flashers. A lot of times in LA, we were the only folks on the streets, and every single time I feared for my life. Things were just that scary, and I'm not exaggerating at all when I say noone else is ever seen walking, so you already stick out, and in addition to being an Asian family, we were freaking moving targets. 

So anyway, after waiting for the longest and scariest 20 minutes ever on a street corner, the taxi we called finally showed up. Our hotel was The Ramada, located on the edge of Korea Street. You'd be surprised at how many buildings with Korean signboards we saw all throughout LA!

After settling in, we decided we would check out the standard of LA's Korea town. So we hopped over to Seoul Garden, which was literally right beside our hotel, for a Korean dinner. We had chicken and beef steamboat, BBQ beef, and jap chae, which is clearly yet again another example of daddy's tendency to over-order, because just look at the giant portions!

But the food was really good! I've never tried any of the Malaysian branches so I can't compare, but this branch was fully run by Koreans who don't speak good English, which is enough to convince me of authenticity!

The time after dinner was spent trying to figure out how to spend time the next day, which we had no plans for. The initial idea was to go to Universal Studios, but in the end everyone decided we'd rather do some sightseeing than waste time in queues at a theme park during summer break. To which I am really grateful, because cowardly me is a huge wet blanket at theme parks; I don't mind going and sitting out half the time, but I can't stand the inevitable disappointment/annoyance of my companions who attempt to get me to join them on more exhilarating rides.

Day Two:

First order of business was to rent a car for the day. And hey yo, we got (were swindled into getting) a Chrysler 300!

How sexy is that baby! It was such a badass (nigga) car, that made you think of driving with the windows down and blasting old skool hip hop beats. 

I absolutely loved it! Guess there's a part in all of us that loves Need for Speed.

Breakfast was another dim sum meal at Golden Dragon Seafood Restaurant (another absolutely creatively-named American Chinese restaurant).

Food was all right I guess. It was really cheap, so I suppose it was worth the money. I have now come to the conclusion that you really shouldn't bother having Asian food in America, because it will not be satisfying at all. Eat like the Americans do, eat a cheeseburger!

First tourist stop of the day: the Getty Center! It's on top of a hill, so you actually have to take a tram from the carpark to reach the museum, which I thought was pretty cool.

This would turn out to be my absolute FAVOURITE museum we visited throughout our whole trip! The collection of artwork on display is supposedly founder J. Paul Getty's personal amassed collection, and I was pretty impressed with his taste. Every piece had its own story to tell, and I was particularly moved by the Christian-themed paintings from previous centuries.

The artwork was all amazing, and the museum also had other artifacts, such as old books and exhibitions of old interior design in foreign mansions.

This was one of the many bible stories books on display from long long ago, and I was just so impressed with the workmanship at the time! Shiny gold leaf edges looked much prettier in real life!

I was probably supposed to be more focused on the full sets of furniture displays they had instead. But settees and abattoirs can't hold a candle to a gorgeous ornate golden mantelpiece clock! Like seriously, I was obsessed with that thing and just stood there staring at it for the longest time. 

I want something like that for my future house too! Better than those noisy yokes that annoy you at the beginning of every hour.

The Getty Center has a gorgeous panoramic view of the LA valley! They had a full wall of windows and even a seating area to enjoy this view! 

From one of the wings, we managed to snap a picture of the centre court, which is just a gigantic courtyard with lotsa tables and chairs, and also one of the other wings on the left. 

There were four wings in total, and at least two floors of displays per wing. Suffice to say there was a lot of things to see! 

A bird's eye view of the outdoor garden. All gorgeous and lush and trimmed to perfection! Spot the not-so-hidden Mickey!

The Getty Center, if you can't already tell, is in itself a really beautiful place, and it's so huge that you never feel claustrophobic because of accessibility to all its wide open spaces. Add to that the most interesting collection of artwork I've ever seen, as well as its spectacular views, and it becomes no wonder that this place is #1 on TripAdvisor. I absolutely enjoyed my visit, and I cannot stress how much I loved this museum!

After spending a good amount of hours immersing ourselves in culture, it was time to feed our tummies at the Farmers Market! It's supposedly a historic location, but don't be alarmed if you don't see any farm produce being sold at all! 

Instead, the place was mostly food stalls, peppered with some souvenir shops. Think of it as one big food court. 

After looking at everything the market had to offer, the sister and I decided to get a crêpe with fruits from The French Crépe Company, because it looked extremely promising and it had a lot of customers. 

I didn't end up liking it though. The fruits and crêpe did not taste nice together at all. However, the brother got a beef stroganoff crêpe, and I really enjoyed that one! Guess crêpes should be eaten with savoury fillings for maximum enjoyment!

Spotted about 20 different types of candy apples! Was so tempted to get a caramel apple for the first time, but apparently it's just a gimmicky thing because its merely a regular apple coated with a layer of caramel? Pity though because it looks so mouthwatering!

Also saw a crazy variety of giant cookies, about 20cm in diameter! Now obviously these proved irresistible, so we got a few kinds to try, and they were delicious! My favourite one was the red velvet soft cookie with white chocolate chips, which is the most sugar rush-inducing thing ever!

For dinner, we hopped over the The Cheesecake Factory at The Grove! The Grove is an outdoor-concept shopping mall, right beside the Farmer's Market, which was really pleasant to window shop at because the weather was lovely and cool in the evening. The Cheesecake Factory is a huge chain restaurant in America that I've always wanted to try, because who doesn't love cheesecake?

They have a really wide variety of food, but we decided to ditch the usual ribs/hamburger/pasta, and go for Mexican food in true Downtown LA spirit! In the picture above, from left, we had eggrolls, tacos, and chicken quesadillas. It was a much lighter dinner than our regular fare, which was greatly welcomed, and the food was also really tasty! In particular, I loved the guacamole dip, which puts my normal Chilli's guacamole to high shame. 

And of course, who comes to The Cheesecake Factory and leaves without eating cheesecake? We had the "Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake" and the "Chris' Outrageous Cheesecake". 

We initially hadn't wanted the red velvet, but the brother insisted it was a must-try, so we did, and we turned out really liking it! Could've done without the cream on top though, because there was plenty of cream cheese already sandwiched between the cake layers. 

The "outrageous" cake which we'd been looking more forward to ended up being the downer. It supposedly had contained brownies and chocolate chips, but all we got was an overwhelming coconut taste. The whole cake basically tasted like a Bounty bar in cake form. Which is all fine and dandy if you like Bounty bars (I don't), but it just wasn't cheesecake.

Nonetheless, there were still over 20 other cheesecakes to try, and maybe we'll have better luck on our next visit. I really did enjoy dinner, and this place did live up to all expectations!

The sun had obviously set after dinner, and The Grove was all lit up with pretty twinkling fairy lights!

There was even a fountain show! Obviously on a much smaller scale compared to The Bellagio, but I ended up actually liking this one better!

The Bellagio's was very grand, and focused on showing elegance and power to classical music. The Grove on the other hand, had a playful, cheeky and more engaging fountain show to "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. You know, the song everyone knows that goes "Celebrate good times, come on!"

Overall, the Farmers Market/The Grove duo was also really fun to explore, and definitely not to be missed by LA tourists!

The last stop of the day was the Griffith Observatory, where you could supposedly use this tank-sized telescope to see sky and space. Unfortunately though, it closes at 10pm, and we had reached close to 10pm, when visitors were seen being ushered out of the building. 

But even if it was closed, the observatory was still on a hill, and offered us amazing night views of LA! I don't know how well you can tell from the picture above, but LA buildings are extremely segregated, which I thought was really impressive. Towards the left were sparse lights from residential homes, towards the right were all lit up buildings in the commercial district, and only in the middle-ish could you see skyscrapers in the financial district!

You can see the famous giant Hollywood sign from the observatory. Curiously though, it wasn't lit up at night, so there was no photo-op, which was kinda disappointing. 

Anyway at this point, we were cold and tired, so it was back to the hotel for some yearned-for shuteye. 

Day Three:

For today, we had signed up for an LA tour with So we boarded a Rastabus, which is a van filled with all kinds of hippie slogans and posters, pretended we were Jamaican weed smokers, and headed off to explore LA! 

First stop: the Malibu Sport Fishing Pier!

...Which is quite literally, a pier. A big wooden platform over the ocean, that some people were (sport) fishing on. There weren't even any big waves to see, because apparently there's this concrete wall built on the ocean bed which prevents strong waves from reaching anywhere close.

And it smelt like a fish market. Like seriously, I have no idea why we had to stop here for 15 minutes. 

I suppose you manage to get a faraway view of all the beachfront property. Which by the way, according to our guide, costs upwards of 10 million dollars each! Lots of celebrity owned homes, because obviously noone else could afford it.

But the pier itself was nothing memorable at all. And when we re-boarded the Rastabus, our tour guide said that was "one out of two of my favourite locations", which I hope is sufficient to give you a sense of foreboding about how thrilling the tour would turn out to be.

We were later driven slowly around Beverly Hills, with our tour guide pointing out houses that celebrities supposedly live in, from Brangelina to Matt Damon to Whoopi Goldberg.

Ok, I don't know how fun this was supposed to be. Literally, we were looking at a whole bunch of walls and foliage, and sprawling mansion after sprawling mansion. They were all beautiful houses, but not too different from beautiful houses we saw at Washington. Also, I'm pretty sure the actors do not stay there full time, if at all, so I'm sorry if I'm not particularly susceptible to breathless excitement from discovering a celebrity home.

I was pretty happy to finally be done with the silly celebrity homes "tour", and we were off for a brief stop at of course, Rodeo Drive!

Now Rodeo Drive is gorgeous to stroll through and window shop, but I was far too intimidated to attempt walking into any store. Not that I could afford to purchase things in those stores with names I couldn't pronounce anyway! It's not a large place, and you can be done with window shopping within 20 minutes. 

I would totally challenge someone to dress up, put on a posh accent, and just stride into stores like they own the place. Totally wanna see how sales assistants fawn over customers in such high end stores!

After that short stopover, we were taken to the Farmers Market for lunch. And I know we've already been here, but we had somehow managed to miss one of the rows, which included this adorable dog bakery!

Check out the actual baked goods made specially for dogs! They look exactly like regular baked goods!

Too bad I couldn't buy one back for my furry pal back home. But he eats everything anyway so he couldn't be a good connoisseur of taste. 

We then realised we hadn't had fish and chips (but onion rings are better) yet! How could we not have our most typical Western fare the first time we visit a Western country?

So we did, along with some clam chowder. It was decent food for its price, but honestly, with our experience I wouldn't go to the farmers market expecting a good hot meal.

Another familiar face after lunch: we were again brought to the Griffith Observatory. So we were able to enjoy both day and night views!

And of course, the obligatory picture of the Hollywood sign. It's pretty far away though, so it doesn't look very impressive in pictures that aren't zoomed in, which doesn't really bode well for people attempting to take pictures with it. 

But fret not, you still get a pretty city view! Not to mention, you get a lovely hilltop breeze that makes the hot LA summer a lot easier to bear. 

Other than seeing the Hollywood sign though, I don't think there's anything worth a daytime visit, and its far more interesting at night. The building itself is filled with all sorts of displays on earth and space, but all of them are dreadfully boring. 

Up next was the Hollywood Walk of Fame! After all, you haven't visited LA if you haven't been to Hollywood Boulevard!

Ok this place was insane. There were scores of foreign tourists, scam artists trying to give you a free cd, people in costumes trying to get you to take a picture with them (then pay up), and of course souvenir store touts that kept yelling about their discounts. 

Anyway, the walk of fame is obviously super long, and we didn't go out of our way trying to finish walking through it, but we still managed to spot many familiar names, like Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee, and even Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Shrek. Seriously, how did animated fictional characters manage to get a star?

But this was my absolute favourite. Muhammad Ali apparently paid extra to have his star mounted at the entrance of the Dolby Theatre, instead of placed on the ground, because he didn't like the idea of his name being stepped on by everyone. And I thought that was the most brilliant idea ever! To think that it came from a guy that took so many hits to the head! I mean, after the first fifty stars, you don't even bother checking who you're stepping on anymore. 

Along the walk of fame was also the Grauman Chinese Theatre, where things were much more exclusive. It was a fairly small courtyard filled with celebrity handprints and shoeprints.

And looky what I found! A huge slab dedicated to the three main characters in Harry Potter! I mean, I loved the books but hated the dreary movies, but it was still so exciting! Interestingly, Daniel Radcliffe had the smallest hands of the lot, which was pretty funny.

Ongoing filming of a gladiator with Adidas footwear! 

Surprisingly, there were quite a few cameramen around, just filming tourists walking around and crossing the street. I might be on screen for a split second one day and not even know it! 

So anyway, that concludes our LA tour. We actually were meant to end at the next stop, the Santa Monica pier, which I was really looking forward to, but the parents decided they didn't want to waste an hour getting back from Santa Monica when we were much closer to Downtown LA here, so that was a bummer. 

Dinner was at Unique Thai Restaurant, this nondescript place at a shophouse block opposite the hotel, which I was actually really sceptical about going to because it looked so shady. 

But the place turned out to be run by an actual Thai woman, and the food was actually pretty decent, and I ended up really enjoying my last meal in America.

LA a tourist trap. The people seem menacing and plasticky, which I guess suits a state famously populated by scores of plasticky celebrities. I just didn't feel particularly safe or comfortable here, I couldn't get past all the deserted sidewalks, and this is probably last on my list of American states visited. After being done with the Getty Center, I honestly don't think any other points of interest are worth revisiting. 

And with that, I conclude my great American adventure. Now time to bear with the 14 hour flight back home!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Great American Adventure: Part Four

Las Vegas: Sober in Sin City (What?!)

Day One:

To get to Sin City from New York, we were catching a 5 hour flight at 9.50am. It would be my virgin flight with Virgin America.

I was pretty impressed at first, because the personal computer thingy in front of you had a chat feature!! You could chat with anyone on the plane during the flight! Which was pretty awesome because the whole family was scattered throughout the plane, so at least we could have someone to talk to.

Was seated in between a black woman and relatively good looking guy, that both didn't hog the arm rests or cross my personal space, so that was good enough for me. Sucks that the plane wifi didn't work though.

Didn't watch any movies or tv shows, because I productively used the time to blog instead. You are welcome!

The people on the plane were all pretty rowdy, and the flight announcements by both the captain and crew sounded like they were addressing a party crowd. Excitement abounded in the air, and before you knew it, we were landing in Viva Las Vigas!

Vegas is exactly like how you would imagine it. It's like walking in a living MTV music video, where no regular law applies.

Boom! Girls in bikinis laying at the pool sipping cocktails. Boom! Guys in suits strutting out. Boom! Close up slowmo on a black girl coming out of the pool. Boom! Screaming party scene commences.

It's a party everywhere you turn! Even at the airport, almost all the girls at the taxi stand were in bikinis and heels. When you reach the hotel, almost everyone that walks past you is half naked; guys shirtless and girls in bikinis, usually holding a 50cm tall, skinny glass filled with booze. Most are insanely good looking, like they walked straight out of a fashion shoot, but even those who do not have ripped bodies are not the slightest bit shy about showing some serious skin.

There is no question about it: we have arrived in the party capital of the world. Everyone here is serious about partying till they drop or go broke.

Or gamble. Every hotel has a hugeass casino with hundreds of slot machines, roulette and poker/blackjack tables, and even a station for sports betting with at least 20 screens showing every kind of game you can imagine. The casinos are strongly scented with the most sickeningly sweet vanilla smell, to cover the cigarette smoke from the many people freely smoking.

We had arrived on Memorial Day weekend, which means a long weekend for Americans, hence there were probably more people than there would have been in other circumstances. Great for party animals, but not so much for our little Asian nerdy, geeky, party-phobe family.

I know I know, why go to Vegas if not to party? Well read on and find out!

We got in around at around 1pm local time, and were really hungry, so for lunch we simply headed to the hotel's buffet lunch.

Food was alright, mostly cream-filled salads and pastas, but we were hungry enough to wolf a huge amount of food down. And after stuffing ourselves silly, it was time to go walk around the many giant hotels in Vegas.

We only made it to New York, New York and MGM Grand, where the pool picture was taken (looks like Miami, no?), before getting too uncomfortable with the clear aura of sin emanating from the scantily clad partygoers surrounding us. It seemed like we were the only people not there to hook up or gamble, so we decided to hightail it out of there to go shopping at the Los Vegas Premier Outlet (South).

Shopping at Vegas premier outlets is practically dirt cheap! Everything is on at least a 50% discount, so it was the freaking perfect place to shop designer brands! Even though the selection was limited, every one of us managed to do quite a bit of damage before heading back.

This is our hotel, The Excalibur, all lit up at night. Kinda looks like a Disneyland spinoff, but I guarantee you it is not as amazing as it looks. It was one of the cheaper Vegas options, and didn't even provide wifi in hotel rooms.

Anyway, once we got back and dumped all our purchases in the hotel room, it was time to go check out The Strip! Which is basically a strip of near all the hotels in Vegas standing side by side, with everything all bright and lit up at night.

Ok this was the best picture I could take at the beginning of The Strip with my crappy iPhone 4 (sorry). We passed by over 10 hotels and admired all the bright lights; striding amidst other tourists, and partygoers heading to the next hotel club. Pimps and strip show touts were everywhere, and were not shy about handing cards to every unaccompanied male. It was a party on the streets too!

My favourite sight was The Bellagio, because it just looks so classy amongst its gimmicky neighbours, and mostly for its famous dancing fountain!

Snapshot from one of the videos I took of the fountain show which happens every 15 minutes.

Spouts of water shot at least 50 feet high, and curved and wound around, in accompaniment with classical music for about 3 minutes or so. YouTube videos make it look much more magical than it really is, but its still really pretty to watch. Definitely something not to miss on The Strip!

Had a very late dinner/supper at The Sugar Factory restaurant at The Flamingo, where the father over-ordered as usual. At this point, it was past midnight local time, but 3+am New York time, so we were beyond exhausted, and had to drag our feet back up the long Strip again on bursting stomachs. Everything looks deceivingly close by on The Strip, but in actuality is a long way off, like a bloody mirage in the desert Vegas is.

Day Two:

Ok, so I'll admit Day One was one of the most boring days so far. I am not cut out the party scene, so the only thing I can do in Vegas is go shopping!

An old car and vintage Harley; at a quick stopoff at Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, where they film the show "Pawn Stars", just to take a brief look because it was on the way. We were literally in and out within 10 minutes, because 99.9% of things there are crap. Major tourist trap everyone should avoid!

Ok now on to the serious business: shopping at Los Vegas Premier Outlet (North)! Which is a completely different place than the older south outlet, and is also a much bigger, outdoor-style mall.

Behold our giant Coach store bag, that is literally full of Coach bags/pouches! Everything was ridiculously cheap, so we kinda went a little crazy.

Midway through the shopping spree, we stopped by Makimo Seafood and Sushi Buffet, and had yet another buffet lunch. Sushi here was just average, but was very satisfying for our rumbling tummies, as the first meal of the day.

Highlight for me was having both big strawberries and a chocolate fountain! I've never had strawberries from outside of Cameron Highlands, nor have I ever tried chocolate fondue despite constantly bugging my friends to go together. So I was very excited to see both!

The chocolate was obviously not the highest quality, but I loved the strawberries! All the berries I've eaten in America so far have surpassed my expectations! All sweet and tart and juicy and yummyyyy.

Hello Consumerism!

That is almost everything we bought in the 2 days during outlet mall shopping! Though most of it isn't mine, because as usual I'm picky picky picky.

Our Asian family never spends so extravagantly, so this is considered an insane amount of shopping for us! All made possible because again, everything is dirt cheap! So if you don't mind shopping off-season items, Vegas would really be a haven of ridiculously cheap designer goods! I love Vegas shopping!

After a whole day of walking about and spending money, it was time to head back to the hotel and freshen up to catch a show. Because you cannot come to Vegas without catching a show in one of the hotels!

One of the few family-friendly performances, with the majority being strip shows, even though numerous mature jokes were still made. We had bought tickets to David Copperfield live in MGM Grand!

Err, no doubt that his tricks were very impressive, and we were all left thinking how the hell did he do all those things? But his buildup took forever, and I think in the 1 hour 45 minutes show, he only performed less than 10 illusions. Which if you break it down, is at least 9 minutes of just talking before every damn 2 minute trick, which was boring as hell. Not long after the show started, the sister and I were nudging each other and saying "why the hell is he talking so much?"

I'd rather see a barrage of card tricks than sit through the show of another cocky illusionist that never picks anyone but tall, skinny blondes wearing a skimpy minidress (he did so everytime he chose an audience member). Did not like it, would not recommend it.

You're in Vegas people. Just go for a damn strip show.

Anyway, headed back to the hotel right after the show. We had to get an early night's sleep, because it was going to be a long day tomorrow!

Day Three:

Today is tour Grand Canyon day! Yay! It was super exciting to think we were about to see one of the natural wonders of the world in person!

We were picked up from the hotel at 6+, and first headed to the Hoover Dam.

We passed far more impressive views of the dam that would show its massive size much more accurately, but our tour bus stopped us at that sad little perch for phototaking.

Nothing much to do here though. Very soon after, we were back on the road to the Grand Canyon!

These trees lining the whole drive are "Joshua trees", named so because the natives thought the tree looked like prophet Joshua waving his arms. I can also tell you that it is actually a cactus, that you count its age by counting its branches and multiplying it by 10, and that it has no economic value because it cannot be burned or used for construction, but you can't cut it down because they're protected by state ordinance due to their age.

Behold the little botany lesson by our intrepid bus driver/tour guide Thomas. He talked a lot. A lot.

Which was fine because it actually helps me sleep if someone is talking, otherwise I almost never sleep on buses. So with me happily snoozing away, before you knew it, we were finally there!

Behold the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. Which we were allowed to roam unrestricted.

Unrestricted. As in there were no harnesses or netting or security wardens or any form of safety precautions at all. You can sit and play and jump and do whatever you like, but there's a huge risk of falling into that giant hole.

Sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon!

This was the safest place we could find to do this, because obviously the other edge provided some form of security, at least in our heads. If I lose a shoe though, I'll never see it ever again. But seriously guys, it was that dangerous, and it was a little crazy to imagine we were completely free to play about on top of the Grand Canyon..

(As it would turn out, this very night my mother saw the news stating a high school student on a trip with friends had fallen to his death at the canyon. Life ain't all fun and games. Stay safe everyone.)

This is Eagle Rock. Named so because you can see the back of an eagle with its wings spread out, as if it were soaring. Cool formation huh.

Originally, the sky bridge was supposed to be built overlooking Eagle Rock, but because the rock was too unstable, it was built 100ft away instead.

Ok, I'm deathly afraid of heights, and the idea of a glass-bottomed walkway on top of the Grand Canyon had seemed like the most scary and dangerous thing ever in my head. I thought it would be like the Sky Bridge in Langkawi, which kept going on and on with no end in sight, and its constant swaying literally left me shaking the whole way.

But first of all, the bridge here was ridiculously short. It was a U-shaped bridge that would have taken me less than 20 seconds to walk through. The glass bottom was also too thick for there to be any fear of falling, because there were 5 layers of glass in total.

And then there was the issue of the photographer than accompanies you for all your 5 minutes. All your time is spent taking professional pictures. And laughing at other people when the photographer makes them do funny poses. You don't really have the time to feel frightened by being perched over a cavernous hole.

At any rate, the view from the short bridge does not differ at all from that you would get from just standing on the edge of the cliff. So, the bridge is completely a tourist trap, because you can't bring any personal belongings at all on it, including your phone and camera (they make you go through a metal scanner), so you have no choice but to buy their pictures.

My least favourite bit of Grand Canyon was the sky bridge, no doubt.

Inserting random picture of a cacti in bloom! I've never seen one before, and its so prettyyyyy.

After a quick lunch, which was provided by the tour, it was time for a short little hike up Guano Point, to see 360 degree views of the Grand Canyon.

I thought the hike would be a breeze because it was such a short vertical height, but the "path" up there is actually really treacherous. There was no steps or hewn walkway, and you really just have to climb over or weave through the rocks. Some more daring guys were parkouring their way up, which was pretty cool to watch.

We were walking really close to the edge of the cliff, and I was so scared of falling off my legs started shaking. One little slip would mean certain death, and I was far from ready to meet my maker. I literally froze in place and couldn't take another step for a few minutes because I was just so damn scared of slipping. Bloody morbid imagination took hold of me entirely.

But it was impossible to turn back, because I'd have to climb down the same dangerous path I came from, which I couldn't bear to face again. So I decided to climb on, and finally managed to reach the top of the rock formation! You have no idea how proud I was of myself that day!

Yayyy there's me sitting in the middle! Didn't dare to stand because the winds were blowing and it would've increased my fear of falling off. I'd conquered my fear of heights enough for the day!

Grand Canyon is definitely a beautiful place. And I'd love to come back next time, and take the other tour package that offers horseback riding along the cliff. Or the expensive ($200 per person) helicopter ride that descends into the canyon and flies around, which is sooo freaking cool!

Definitely a pretty darn amazing place, and a gorgeous natural wonder. Well worth the entire day spent!

We were dead tired after getting back, but the brother insisted on having yet another buffet on our last night in Vegas. So we headed over to the Mandalay Bay, and we reached little over an hour before the buffet closes.

The star of the buffet was definitely the steamed crab legs, which were about 20cm long at least!

I only managed one, because it was too difficult for me to have to use my hands to snap the shell. I'm too used to the smaller varieties we normally eat in Malaysia that either come with broken shells or a hammer. But my father and brother ate like 20 each, so I'm assuming its really good for the more seasoned travellers' perspective.

And so concludes my time in Vegas! Honestly, I think that once you visit the Grand Canyon and shop both outlet malls, there's nothing else for the non-partier to do. So luckily we left when we did, lest we be bored to death.

There's no good food in Vegas, though you end up eating a lot. We had a buffet meal every single day, and I know for sure that we're going to regret it after the holiday. It was just to easy to justify eating another dessert by saying there was no such thing as calories during holiday o'clock.

So that folks, is how you still manage to have an enjoyable time in Vegas without a drop of alcohol or casino token!

...Yikes. I know right I'm so lifeless it's pathetic sometimes.

Next stop: Los Angeles! More palm trees and sunny skies, disgustingly health-conscious people, and Universal Studios! Yayyyy!

P/s: I found Sunway Pyramid in Vegas! Not that it's the Luxor Hotel or anything!

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