Viva Las Vegas, Sin City here we come!
Oh my god, back log alert! This USA trip was taken way back in November last year and there are still thousands of photos sitting in my hard drive! It is nice browsing through them, reminiscing how awesome the trip was. Our US trip started from the west coast and made our way to the east. After a couple of quick stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, we finally touched down in the Nevada desert; where we lived it up, rolled the dice, Las Vegas style.
The main itinerary for our US trip was to visit Route 66. So we planned our trip around it and instead of driving the whole route, we actually flew in from LA to Vegas then picked up a car from there for the journey. Needless to say there is only one way to do the trip, in a Chevrolet Camaro Convertible of course! Having said that, the pimping factor trumps over practicality, we found ourselves having the roof up most of the time during winter, what a waste of hiring a convertible.
Also, I was freaking out driving on the different side of the road for the first time, and I did turn into wrong lane with oncoming traffic! Oooops! But surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and got the hang of it in no time. So, let me take you down the famous Las Vegas strip!
The main stretch is approximately 6.8km long, with many of the largest hotels and casinos lined along the Las Vegas strip. All resorts are styled in different themes, some are as kitsch and over the top as you can imagine. If bringing the whole city like New York, New York, and Paris to one spot is not gay enough, how about a gondola ride in Venice? I mean inside the Venetian resort hotel casino.
We’ve been pretty conservative with our accommodation on this trip and using AirBnB for most of our stays in various cities. But we decided to spoil ourselves a little in Vegas, and where else to stay, but Bellagio. This hotel casino is no stranger to anyone, made famous in many films including Ocean’s Eleven. But there are also many unique features in this hotel that makes it one of the must visit hotels in Vegas, and you simply can’t miss the 18-foot ceiling, adorned with Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como chandelier, constructed with a total of 2,000 pieces hand-blown glass blossoms.
I have never seen such a long corridor in a hotel before, it is so trippy with just door after door on both sides stretches as far as the eye can see. Are we in the Inception? We checked into our room and had a quick lie in before heading out in the evening to check out the nightlife. Our room was a little dated and needed some TLC, and you get what you paid for, there is no panoramic view of The Strip, instead a lousy view of the Caesar Palace next door.
When we were in US, the whole country was ready for the Thanksgiving season. The festive installation inside Bellagio was utterly breathtaking. The whole atrium had been transformed into an amazing autumn-scape, carpeted in golden orange flora and pumpkins. And these pumpkins are huge! There was also a water-wheel cottage, and an interactive tree that actually talks. Americans sure know how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Bellagio actually looked lot more majestic after dark. No matter what time it was, there’s always a crowd gathering outside admiring not only the building itself, but of course they are here for the Strip’s most famous free entertainment – the musical fountains of Bellagio.
The fountain show begins in the afternoon and run every 30 minutes, and becomes more frequent at every 15 minutes after 7pm. And each time the fountain show will be different, dancing to different songs from Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain, to Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas; somehow debussy’s Clair de Lune (featured in Ocean’s Eleven) is actually not in the music list. The fountain show was truly beautiful and mesmerising, I could have just stood there all night and watched it dance.
Las Vegas definitely came to life at night, I bet you can see the whole Strip glowing in neon lights from out of space. Oh also piece of advice, if you are going to drive from one end of the Strip to the other, I’d suggest to stay clear from driving down the Strip as it gets very congested day or night. We used the GPS on our mobile and found some back streets to cut through all the traffic jam.
“Three coins in the fountain…..”
The Cosmopolitan right next to the Bellagio is one of the newest hotels on the Strip. It is definitely a lot more modern and contemporary than others with younger demographics. The interior was stunning, especially “The Chandelier” with crystal beads draped over 3 levels of bars and lounges.
$22 for 40 minutes of flavoured oxygen? Hmm… no thanks. Give me food instead!
One of things we did in Vegas was to check out a couple of shows. Since we always had to be ready for the shows around 8pm-ish, we usually just settled at the food hall inside the casinos and they actually weren’t that shabby.
If you don’t know what to eat and still want to make sure at least is a decent meal then burgers are always your best bet. We had a meal at Broadway Burger Bar and Grill and the burger was big and juicy, served with hand cut chips in a tiny deep fryer basket already won my heart over.
And if you are wondering which shows that we went to see…. well, believe it or not, we went to check out DAVID COPPERFIELD at MGM Grand! Surprisingly it was lot more entertaining that I had anticipated. The magic tricks were little dated but a couple were pretty impressive and I was puzzled how he did it. But actually it was his humour and charm that had the audience captivated.
Another show we watched was one of Cirque du Soleil performances. There are quite a number of different shows at various hotels which are exclusive to Las Vegas and can only watch them here. ‘O’ is one of the best and longest running shows in Vegas, that runs exclusively here at The Bellagio. But if you only have time and money to check out one of the Cirque du Soleil’s shows, then I will urge you to go and check out LOVE – The Beatles show at The Mirage. The stage was simply amazing! And we simply couldn’t help ourselves but sang along the all the Beatles’ classics during the show. You won’t regret it.
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour
The 5am wake up call next morning was brutal, but the thought of flying over Grand Canyon in a chopper keeping our spirits up! There are a number of companies that run helicopter tours over Grand Canyon and we have chosen Papillon Helicopters to take us out there.
As our helicopter headed out to Grand Canyon, we also flew over Hoover Dam for a few quick photo snapshots. Funny how all I could think of is the movie Universal Soldier where they abseiling down the wall of the dam.
Even though we have a car and able to drive to Grand Canyon, but truly the only way to really experience the vast natural beauty of Grand Canyon is from the air. Our helicopter zipped through the valley and cliff faces where we admired the million years old rock formation and how grand this canyon truly is. My photos don’t do its justice at all. We flew for over an hour before touching down at the bottom of the canyon for a boat cruise.
We hopped onto a little boat and cruised up the Colorado River which took about 20 minutes. It offered a totally different point of view of the canyon but we much preferred to view it from the top, literally.
We hopped back into the chopper and the pilot took us to Eagle Point for our skywalk tour. The U-shape Grand Canyon Skywalk extends 65 ft (20 meters) over the edge of the Canyon’s West Rim, and it is 4000 ft (1200 meters) above the canyon floor. And the floor was built with six layers of thick glass which you can see right through to the bottom. It is definitely not for the faint hearted. It is quite scary to look down especially if you are afraid of height. There was this one girl she was so frightened, gripped the railing so tight and couldn’t stop crying. I also found the shoe covers we had to wear to protect the highly polished glass floor from being scratched made the walk extra slippery, which somewhat increased the fear factor of worrying that I might slipped and fell off!
Sadly no camera allowed on the Skywalk as we had to store everything away in the locker before the tour, hence no photos were taken. Instead they had their official photographers to take photos for you which you can purchase after finishing the tour.
There were a few teepees and traditional native American’s houses in the centre compound which you can visit and learn more about their history and culture.
The Grand Canyon helicopter tour wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it. Another hour flight back to Vegas and soon we landed back at our hotel just at the right time for lunch. We were well famished and I knew exactly where we should be heading for lunch.
The Buffet at Wynn
Tipped off by a friend to check out The Buffet at Wynn, which was voted the best buffet in Las Vegas. There was already a queue when we arrived, but it moved fast and we were inside the restaurant in no time. The topsy turvy whimsical food garden was simply stunning like from a set from Alice in Wonderland.
The lunch buffet will set you back at US$26 (plus tax) per person, and dinner is a little more expensive at US$32. And I bet you are wondering how much food can you devoured for $26; well, a lot!
There are a total of fifteen live-action cooking stations inside the massive dining area to satiate your gluttony. The variety of food was absolutely mind-boggling, all different types of cuisines from every corner around the world were there. Pizzas were made constantly in the wood-fired oven, noodles and omelettes were cooked to order; seriously there was enough food to feed a small country.
The fresh prawns were replenished constantly at the seafood station.
Grilled fish and sausage were sliced to however bigger portion you want.
I don’t against buffet, you can pile as much food on your plate as you like and so long you finish them all, I am okay with that. I always tried to finish whatever on my plate before I went for a second. But I found many people took the gluttony for granted, grabbed everything from the stations, had a couple of bites then pushed aside and went back for other options, because they knew they can and they paid for it. I just cannot imagine the food being dumped out every single day from every buffet at every hotel here in Vegas.
To be honest, the food was exactly what you would expect at a buffet. Something you just have to do once then forget about it and move on.
There was also a dessert station equipped with a gelati bar, cakes and and more cakes were spread out behind glass cabinets, there was enough sweets to keep you in a sugar coma for a very very long time. But if you want better dessert options, look elsewhere like what we did.
Luv-It Frozen Custard
Get out of the Strip and into the burbs a little, you will find a few places that sells frozen custard. The way I would describe frozen custard is similar to a McFlurry. It was invented by Archie and Elton Koh back in 1919 where found by adding egg yolk to ice cream created a smoother texture and also helpted the ice cream stay cold longer.
The Pom got himself a Scotch Jimmie Treat which was frozen custard covered with hot butterscotch with sliced bananas on top and a mound of Chocolate Jimmies (which is chocolate sprinkles). It sounded better than what it actually was. But my Western Special was a winner, it was frozen custard covered with hot caramel AND hot fudge, then a sprinkle of salted pecans for the crunch. My waistline said no more!
Since we were in the downtown area, we wanted to go and checkout The Neon Boneyard where they retired all the old historic neon signs. It has been a popular for many photographers especially the wedding photographers. But sadly, the place was closed and to our dismay, we drown our misery in more chocolate when we got back to the hotel.
Jean Phillippe Patisserie at Bellagio
We are back at the Bellagio, and one store you must check it out is definitely the Jean Phillippe patisserie. Join the long line and be ready to be overwhelmed by a cabinet full of golden pastries and also a whimsical range of sweet treats. And right outside the store is possibly the most photographed fountain in Vegas for a very good reason.
Behold! The largest chocolate fountain in the world as certified by Guiness World Records. There are melted white, milk and dark chocolates cascading down a mesmerising glass sculpture, from ceiling to floor.
Beautiful sweet gateaux on the display. I’ll have one of each please!
Our sweet treats haul!
We probably loved the key lime zest tart the most as it wasn’t too overly sweet like the other two. The chocolate trio was constructed with three layers of different chocolate mousse, encased inside a white chocolate skin and topped with a dark chocolate truffle, it was decadently rich. We also had a dessert trio sampler which was possibly the weakest choice.
Fremont Street – Downtown Las Vegas
Relive the 80s, and submerge yourself in the neon glowing spectacular at Fremont Street at downtown Las Vegas. Most tourists will stay in the Strip but I found the downtown was just as exciting and lot more to see and do. Now, who remember this video of Diana Ross filmed right here?
Now, all I need is a low cut silver jump suit… or maybe not.
You can get easily get a tan in this place if you stay long enough…
One of the best feature here at downtown is definitely the VIVA Vision, a high-tech overhead canopy that extends the length of five football fields, covered in 12.5 million LED lights. It was a light show on steroids with visual effects, advertisements, and special scheduled light shows at different time of the day.
We were there at the right time and got to watched the amazing “A tribute to Queen” light show at 10 pm. They actually switched off all the neon lights on Fremont Street during the light show whilst the overhead canopy flashed with lightnings and thunders were roaring through the speakers. “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We are the Champion” was blasting away whilst a series of flashback images scrolling through. Definitely a must see while in Fremont Street.
Heart Attack Grill
Our last meal in Las Vegas could easily ended up being the last meal of our lives! That’s right, we were heading to the notorious well known Heart Attack Grill for glory! Heart attack here I come!
And actually, I think this place is built to humiliate whoever walks in. First off, you have to the option to weigh yourself before walking into the restaurant. It was clearly stated that “Over 350 pounds eat free”, that is equivalent to 158.75kgs!
Let’s jump on the scale so everyone can see how much you weigh on the big LED screen. 183 pounds? *Bup bow*…. no free meal for you I am afraid.
Secondly, waitstaffs dressed as sexy nurses will come over and put a patient robe on you and cuffed you with a patient tag on the wrist. Sorry, you simply have to do it if you want to dine here, no exceptions. See how “thrilled” The Pom looked on his face…..
Give me a bypass now!
Now let’s look at the menu, oh sorry, you are not hungry? Bad luck. The 1/2 pound Single bypass burger is the smallest you can have. If you are going for the insanity, then try the 2 pounds (almost 1 kg) Quadruple bypass burger which is named the highest calorie burger on Guiness Book World Record.
Oh, and you want bacon? Sure you can, is only $0.92 for 5 slices!
We couldn’t just have burger without a drink, would you like a block of butter on top of your chocolate shake made with butterfat? Note, there was no straw given, because it was simply way too thick to be sucked on, instead it came with a spoon and eat it like ice cream. My whole mouth was greasy and lubricated with butterfat on every scoop, and chewing on a block of cold butter probably wasn’t the most pleasant experience.
We were weak and went for the smallest Single Bypass Burger with the extra 5 slices of bacon strips. It came with hand cut chips on the side.
When I looked at it, the half pound (is only 226 grams) burger was actually not that frightening and definitely doable. But we saw a man sitting at the table next to us and he was struggling with a 1 pounder, head down in cold sweat. As much as you would like to think you could conquer a big one, you better think twice because if you can’t finish it, nurse Betty will come and spank you!
Give me a bypass now!
Las Vegas is truly the wonderland for adults and who said money can buy you happiness? Well, while it lasts.
[… to be continued]