Don Rickles give Las Vegas the thumbs up – and so do I!

Made it back late last night. Still in a bit of a whirl from the whole experience!

After my last post I went shopping up to the top of the Strip to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. Getting there took nearly one and a half hours since it was Sunday, there weren’t many buses so I tried walking for a while, then caught the bus that goes up and down the Strip, then had to change to the public bus which took 20 minutes to turn up. Wasn’t feeling too chipper by that point; fairly frustrated at how long things were taking after everything had gone so swimmingly well up to then.

At the shops I bought up some shoes and t-shirts at the Nike shop, then went for a wander. I bought a top at Eddie Bauer, some work clothes at the Van Heusen shop and had lunch. I had a Chinese variety of things from the Food Court including Sweet and Sour Chicken the way we used to have it back in Oz with the luminous red sauce. MSG, I love you.

I took a taxi to the huge Bonanza souvenir shops which I’d seen from the bus. True to the title, it was truly a bonanza of kitchy goods for everyone and anyone. I picked up a couple of things including a Poker set for about $20. The staff were all so very nice to talk to – actually nearly everyone I talked to while in Vegas was lovely except for one taxi driver who refused to take me and Mr. Nishikawa from Fremont Street to the Stratosphere. Apart from that one dork, the taxi drivers of Vegas are all fine ambassadors for that city.

After that I took the bus which (slowly) made its way back to the Bellagio. I got changed and (mostly) packed so I had about an hour or so to hit the tables.

Turned out to be a pretty good session. I went to three casinos, played nothing but roulette and
ended up +$100. Happy! So happy I ordered a vodka martini at dinner – I’m such a class act… at least I felt like one afterwards!

Dinner was at the Bellagio’s signature restaurant, Picasso. It was a bit Nouveau Cuisine, but the food was magnificent. I haven’t had beef that literally fell apart like that for such a long time – so amazingly tender. I wish I could’ve had a bottle of the sauce they served with it to bring home as a souvenir as well. Afterwards, we enjoyed wonderful coffee as the fountains danced through the windows.

Back up to the room, changed, packed, down and on the bus. The check-in process at the airport was smooth, I got an aisle seat and we had to just hang out at the airport for a couple of hours.

I must say that for all my worries about U.S. ©’War On Terror’ style security, they were much like any other immigration service I’d come across, except for the laid-back staff at the Seychelles International Steel Shed. They were more thorough perhaps (shoes and belts off) but not Gestapo-like or anything like that.

I didn’t sleep at all on the plane even though I tried my best. I was lucky enough to be seated next to a tiny Japanese woman so that meant I didn’t have to compete for space. I had three drinks, no coffee and did my stretches, but all to no avail.

The best thing about not sleeping turned out to be that the cabin crew on the return flight were the same ones that brought us over, so I had a long chat with one of the flight attendants, Jung, before she had to go make breakfast for us. She recognised me as I got on board and was assigned to my area, so I got a big, friendly smile, a quick chat to catch up and awesome service for the whole flight. When I asked for a vodka with orange juice she turned the plane upside-down trying to find the vodka and mixed up a mightily strong one which was a bit like the Fatima-style ones I’m used to having on Saturday nights! It certainly pays to be nice to the cabin crew. I’ve learned a lot from ‘Air Babylon’!

Korean Air put them all up in a small hotel off the Strip which didn’t have a casino (so they wouldn’t gamble – like that stopped them!) and they spent most of their time in Las Vegas hitting the sights along the Strip and shopping. I got a few pointers for my time in Seoul (if we were going to have any free time) which was nice too. She was off to L.A. next, which she said was one of the worst routes for them as most of the passengers were Korean-Americans and were always very demanding. She said they all loved working on routes with lots of Japanese since Japanese customers were always easy to please. True though – a couple of drinks and a feed and nearly everyone was asleep!

We arrived early at Inchon Airport so it was into the centre of Seoul for fun and games. We went to one market (Namdaemun) that opened early. It was sprightly and energetic for so early in the morning with motorbikes and mini-trucks flying along the narrow lanes, closely avoiding the growing crowds of locals and tourists. There were lots of food, cheap clothes, accessories and what-nots but not for me. We were given four hours to wander around there as well as another market area (Myeong-dong, which had lots of designer clothes shops… yawn!) so I did precisely that, but had a long breakfast and leisurely lunch. Kimchi, kimchi and more kimchi! Yum! (K says I still smell like kimchi now, but hey – it was soooo good!) I found a nice little restaurant in the basement of one building and had lunch there for an hour while surrounded by Korean business-people and groups of ladies out shopping. Another out-of-this-world experience.

After a tourist-trap stop at a Korean food shop, it was time to catch the plane for the final leg of the trip, get on the bus and finally stagger through the door clutching my Duty Free and dragging my bulging suitcase of plunder into the silent apartment.

Viva Las Vegas! (with Seoul a close runner-up)

Next trip? Not overseas for a while, but I and some workmates are planning a day-trip to the Giant Penis Festival near Nagoya next month. Stay tuned for that one!

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