Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stuff I learned and observed on my USA road trip - Las Vegas

Two months ago, I went for my longest vacation on my own. I spent seventeen days in Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco, with part of the journey driving on the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm not going to write a typical holiday blog, showing where I've been and sharing photos. Ever the practical person, I'm going to write about what I've learned and observed on this trip. In this entry, I'll be talking mainly about Las Vegas.

If you think you can gamble yourself a fortune in Vegas - think again
The whole of Las Vegas casinos are designed for you to stay in the casinos and lose money. There are no exit signs in the casino floors and there are no windows so you don't realize how long you've been gambling. I remember reading a statistic that the odds of you winning are stacked against your by about 2.5 to 3.0 to 1.

I gambled away about US$50 while I was in Vegas, mainly playing video poker and blackjack. Your most probably way of winning in the casinos is to play blackjack at the tables. Even with that, you need a good memory to count the cards, a stack of cash and a lot of time on your hands.

If you want to visit Las Vegas but don't like gambling, a good choice is the Vdara Hotel and Resort
There are a few hotels on the Las Vegas Strip that don't have casinos: Mandarin Oriental, Trump International, The Signature at MGM Grand and Vdara. If you don't gamble or fancy a more quieter hotel, you should pick these a hotel without a casino

I picked Vdara for a variety of reasons. It was about HK$700-800 per night cheaper than Mandarin Oriental, despite the latter having better reviews. Also the floor space of the Vdara hotel room was larger than the Mandarin Oriental. The most important thing was the location. The Signature at MGM Grand is at the southern point of The Strip while Trump International is a little bit off The Strip at the northern point. Vdara was right in the middle of The Strip, so it was convenient to walk to any other hotels/casinos for food or gambling. The service and facilities were very good at Vdara, so I highly recommend it. Also they have a few cute ladies at reception / concierge and also one good looking bloke, so that's always an incentive to annoy the staff.

If you are going to visit the Grand Canyon, splash out and pay for a helicopter/plane ride
The cost of a road trip to the Grand Canyon is certainly cheaper by half. Yet the whole trip will take about 14 hours, most of which will be spent in the vehicle, and you only get the view from the ground.

A helicopter ride will cost about HK$3700, depending on which package you pick. It only takes about 4 hours, from pick up from your hotel to drop off at your hotel. The view is great from the air, as you can also see other places such as Henderson, Boulder, Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and Meadville.

I haven't been on a road trip to the Grand Canyon but other people on my helicopter trip have been on both and they have said that the helicopter trip is worth the money.

Good shows to see in Vegas are Penn & Teller and Terry Fator
Everybody knows Penn & Teller for their magic tricks. They swap things around so the show is fresh. Unfortunately they don't allow videos/photos to be taken during the show. This is made up by the performers as they stay in the lobby after each show to take photos with the audience and sign stuff.

Terry Fator was the first winner of "America's Got Talent". He's a ventriloquist, comedian, songwriter and singer. The range of voices and dummies he has performing is quite impressive. It's a good show for the family as well. He's also a very lucky guy since his gorgeous looking on-stage assistant Taylor Makakoa is also his wife.

I have more respect for people who use guns in their jobs
I did got to a shooting range while I was in Vegas. Firing guns takes a lot of upper body strength. I think the most surprising thing about shooting guns is the recoil, which can be very significant. The range master said I was OK since I got my shots on the target (not on target) since some people will miss the target completely.

I think movies and media make it seem so easy to fire guns and get them on target. Now I know better. Still it is still no justification for carrying machine guns for leisure (Yeah, I have a gripe with the Second Amendment).

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