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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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