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Las Vegas December 21, 2010

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Las Vegas” complete with photos. http://wp.me/p2liAm-wL 

Sin City, Vegas, Disneyland for adults, these are all names and slogans that I have heard for Las Vegas before I ventured there this year.  I had a short vacation to visit Las Vegas for 3 nights in October.  For most tourists, Las Vegas consists of just the strip, with little side adventures on the side.  It’s a city that really never sleeps, and it’s a place where your senses will be overloaded.  My flight into Vegas was at night and I landed around 11pm.  It was a nice flight and I flew over the strip on the way in, providing me with a good view of the strip, albeit from an aisle seat.  My expectations of Las Vegas was a city that never sleeps, has lots of entertainment, and a place that will suck up all of my money as fast as possible.  It didn’t disappoint.

I didn’t get a chance to see all of Las Vegas as it was my first time, and I didn’t bother to rent a car.  I stayed at the Luxor hotel.  It’s a hotel that is connected to the Excalibur and Mandalay Bay, and part of the MGM group.  The Luxor is the hotel that is in the shape of a big black pyramid with a light on top.  The theme is Egyptian, and overall, I’d say it’s a small hotel.  The Mandalay Bay is a bigger and classier, while I found the Excalibur to be kitschy with its medieval theme.  When gambling, I found the Excalibur to be better as they had some cheap tables that I preferred, and the Luxor was good as the casino area was small, making it easy to find tables I liked.  Unlike some of the bigger casinos, the atmosphere was very different.  The service in the Luxor was good overall, but I was disappointed to see that many regular shops closed at night, and only the bars and clubs were open.  I wanted to be able to get a nice meal late at night, but I was surprised to see so many places closed around 10:30pm.  Like most hotels, the Luxor has its fair share of shows, but I won’t go into detail here.

The location of the Luxor, unfortunately, wasn’t good.  It was a great point for me to walk over to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, which was a good kilometre of so.  It is located across from the airport and all of the big hotels are located in the centre of the strip, about 30 minutes north of the Luxor, on foot.  The good thing was that being in the southern end of the strip it wasn’t too busy, unlike the portion between New York New York and the Bellagio.  If I had to choose another hotel next time, I’d probably stay somewhere more central so that I didn’t have to walk too much.  Walking is a great way to see the strip, but I can’t imagine doing it in the middle of summer where I hear temperatures reach 40C.  I would definitely recommend getting some lip balm as you are in the desert.  I had a tough time keeping hydrated and I damaged my lips pretty bad.  The walking didn’t help either.

One of the bigger annoyances on the strip was the peddlers.  In the day, you will see a bunch of people just standing with big chests of ice and water.  It’s essential and I’m sure they get a lot of money selling water between the hotels.  Their prices are very reasonable when comparing it to the hotel prices.  The other is the stripper peddlers.  Up and down the strip, particularly between the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood, there are dozens of people trying to give you small cards with phone numbers and pictures of strippers.  If you are looking for that sort of thing, that’s fine, but if you aren’t, it can be a big annoyance as they never give up.  The constant flicking of the cards to get your attention is mind numbing.

If you plan to watch some shows, there are plenty of places to visit.  I’d recommend visiting Tix4Less, which has many shop locations along the strip.  I ended up paying for VIP service as I didn’t want to wait an hour for discount tickets and it was well worth it.  You don’t have to buy tickets in advance, and you don’t have to buy tickets at the box office either.  Often, you can get shows at a discount, at least $20 off, and up to 50%.  Some shows do sell out, so it’s best to be there early, say 9am when they open.  If you go there that early, you probably don’t even have to line up.  Just buy your vouchers at the discount shop and convert them into real tickets at the box office.  It takes a bit of time to do things that way, but the savings can be worth it.

One of the main things to enjoy on the strip is to visit the Bellagio hotel and watch the water show.  It was made famous by Ocean’s 11, and it’s still a very popular show.  When watching the show on Ocean’s 11, you can’t fully appreciate the power of the show itself.  The noise of the jets and the sound of music is amazing.  I would recommend watching it, especially on your first visit.  I also recommend heading into the Wynn as it was one of the most elegant hotels I visited on the strip.  Many, such as Paris/Bally’s were old and the theme was interesting, but depending on what you want to see and do, sometimes that’s not a good thing.

For those going to Las Vegas, you have to plan a little on what you want to do and what you want to see.  A few days are generally more than enough when you are there. I’d suggest wearing good shoes and prepare to party.  Going with the right group will make a huge difference.  A fat wallet also helps.  I highly recommend trying to stay somewhere between New York New York and the Wynn as everything else tends to be a bit far.  After a few days, I started to get sick of Las Vegas and needed to find a place to hide out.  It’s difficult to find a quiet sanctuary along the strip, and I’m sure that if you are out in the suburbs, it’s very different.  Even though I’m living in Tokyo, the strip is very different.  It’s closer to being in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho all the time, but without the “danger”.  There is such a thing as too much.  I’d love to visit Vegas again someday, but it definitely won’t be anytime soon.  Living in Tokyo, Vegas is too far to visit easily, and it’s too busy.  When travelling, I have come to enjoy getting out of the city and into the countryside.  Isolated areas where few people go are more interesting for me.  Maybe you’ll see that more often in my near future travels.

Las Vegas Information:

Las Vegas (Official Travel Site):  http://www.vegas.com/

Las Vegas (Simple, but useful site):  http://www.goingtovegas.com/

Tix 4 Tonight:  http://www.tix4tonight.com/index.html


Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II) December 30, 2008

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-5e

This is Part II of a two part series.  Please see Part I for the beginning of this post.

The next day, I had to attend my friend’s wedding.  It was an all day affair.  I did wake up early and had a nice run along the beach.  Waikiki’s beach is very nice, but the path for runners is very short.  You are better to go elsewhere, but I wanted a beach that was close to my hotel.  The morning is also a nice time to visit as there aren’t too many people there.  By the afternoon, I’m sure it was busy.  The beach itself is also nice, but a little rocky compared to other natural beaches on Oahu.  I saw many people swimming and surfing in the area.  The wedding I attended was a beach wedding.  The wedding party was about 20 people and we all sat on the beach.  We went to Waimanalo Bay, which is about 1 hour from Waikiki.  It’s a wonderful place with very few people.  There were a few people who looked at us in envy, but it was generally our own private beach.  The women had a lot of problems as they wore heels.  Heels and sand do not mix.  Most of them changed to flip flops or just went barefoot.  The beach was beautiful with nearly white sand and a turquoise surf.  It wasn’t too windy either.  Just perfect.  We got lucky.  After the ceremony, we had a break time to relax before we had dinner.  Dinner that night was at Roy’s.  A very nice upscale restaurant, but not as good as Orchids.  The food wasn’t as good either, but there was a lot of choice.  We were all stuffed.

On my third day in Honolulu, I headed to the Premium Outlets.  It’s a major chain of outlet shops that has several outlets in Japan as well.  The only difference is that Honolulu’s Premium Outlets is very small, but they have better discounts.  Most shops had 20-50% off the lowest ticketed price.  Very good deals to be had.  I do recommend heading to this outlet shop if you have a car and the time.  For lunch, I headed to a famous Cheeseburger restaurant.  Cheeseburger in Paradise is relatively famous and they offer HUGE burgers.  They are so huge, that you don’t need fries.  However, who can eat a burger without fries?

The fourth, and essentially last, day in Honolulu, was not so fun.  I woke up to rain.  It was pouring out.  I cancelled my morning plans.  I was going to enjoy the beach, but obviously that was out of the question now.  Instead,  I headed to Wallmart with some friends and found some cheap things.  Nothing too special.  If you have time, it’s nice to go there.  After that, I headed to Ala Moana again for a final round of shopping.  Nothing bought, but I enjoyed browsing all of the shops.  After shopping, I headed back to the hotel to pack as I would have a very eventful evening.  After packing all of my things, I headed back to meet my friends for drinks.  We met up and started drinking in one of the rooms.  After, we headed out to a bar for more.  We ate and drank and had a great time.  By the end of it, we were kicked out as they place had closed and we moved the party to the beach.  In our drunken state, many people started to jump into the ocean for a night swim.  Nothing too dangerous.  Just up to the chest.  I might have gone in if asked, but I had no option.  My friends picked me up and tossed me into the ocean.  I was soaked from head to toe.  I jumped out of the water, stripped down to my jeans and jumped back in.  It was a fun night of swimming that lasted about an hour or so.  I couldn’t quite remember as I was quite drunk.

The next morning, I was awoken to the sound of a phone.  I had missed my first bus to the airport.  i had only 5 hours of sleep, my alarm was broken by the sea, and I had about 30 minutes to change, pack, and go.  I didn’t even have time to shower.  Thankfully, I finished packing the night before, so all I had to do was put a few things away and off I was to get picked up.  Needless to say, the flight back wasn’t so good, but I did make my flight and I did arrive in Tokyo as expected.  However, when rushing, it’s best to take a quick breather before heading through security.  I spent a lot of time there as I made mistake after mistake.


Honolulu, Hawaii (Part I) December 23, 2008

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Honolulu, Hawaii (Part I)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-4J

This is Part I of a two part series.  Part II will be posted next week.

On November 19th, I headed out to Hawaii for my first trip as an adult.  I had previously visited Hawaii as a child, so I couldn’t really remember anything.  As many of you know, Hawaii is a set of islands in the Pacific that is part of America.  The most popular Island to visit is Oahu.  It’s not the biggest, but the most tourist friendly.  All of the hotels are located in Waikiki, with lots of shopping available and a large calm beach.  Generally, I wouldn’t think about going to Hawaii as it’s a typical “tourist trap” that’s a little far from Tokyo.  However, a friend of mine was getting married, so I seized the opportunity to have a nice adventure to Hawaii.

When I first arrived in Honolulu, I was greeted by a severe lack of sleep.  The flight from Tokyo to Honolulu leaves at night and arrives in the morning.  A typical red-eye flight, with one major difference.  You relive the same day.  Surprisingly, entering the US was relatively easy.  Just a quick hello to the immigration inspector and a little run around for my luggage and I was off.  Do note that for some strange reason, they had 2 carousels for our luggage which made things extremely confusing.  Upon my exit, I had to wait for about 1 hour before my “tour group” was assembled and we could head to Waikiki.  There was about 10 of us in a huge tour bus.  Destination?  The Duty Free Store (DFS).  We had to attend an orientation talking about various optional tours we could arrange, free cell phones we could rent (note that the talk time rates were ridiculous), and tipping courtesy.  Needless to say, once that was over (I couldn’t sleep as I was at the very front), I tried to make my way out of the shop.  If you ever go there, note that it’s a complete maze meant to keep you in.  You must tour every floor if you start at the top.  Even when you get to the main floor, you can’t get out.  I felt like I was in a prison.

Once out of prison, I took a while to get my bearings.  I grabbed a map and headed out to Ala Moana Shopping Centre.  My goal of the trip was just shopping.  America is well known for their bargains and sales, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to see what they had available.  Ala Moana is the most famous place to visit as it’s the biggest shopping complex near Waikiki.  I spent the better part of the day there before heading back to Waikiki.  I did have a little trouble finding the right bus route to get to my hotel.  Do note that I had to wait until 3pm to check in, so I was carrying a lot of stuff during the day.  After checking in, I still had a little time to myself to just relax and enjoy the hotel/apartment.  It was a huge place.  A small, but decent sized, balcony, a nice bedroom, and a large living room and kitchen.  I didn’t have to cook, but I did enjoy everything.  I spent some time out on the balcony and at the beach as well.  At night, I met up with my friends from Vancouver.  We were going to a restaurant called Orchids.  It’s a lovely restaurant that is right on the beach.  I do recommend it for a nice romantic dinner, but the price might be a little much.  Service was excellent as well.   The only down side was that I was still extremely tired and in need of sleep.


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