It was already late in the afternoon when we left Los Angeles for Las Vegas. I felt confident in doing this, road trip from LA to IA. We have everything ready for the kids in terms of the car ride: booster seats, something to keep them busy (Nintendo DS with bunch of games, books, an instant digital camera that can also take video, and games), and some snacks. By the time we’re on Interstate 15, the sun was starting to set. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery through the Mojave Desert. The transition between the mountainous area to the desert area were amazing, galloping next to us. I glanced to my side view mirror, there’s this amazing sight of the big orange sun surrounded by silhouettes of the mountain and the clouds, perfectly framed in the mirror. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a picture of it. Carte Blanche thought this picture is sentimental. Awww

 

leaving sunset behind

 

It was already pushing nine o’clock at night when we entered Vegas. After we check in to our hotel, we went out to the Strip. It was Friday night and the Strip was packed. The kids were wowed by the sea of people, the lights, the gigantic stuctures such as Luxor’s pyramid and the tall Statue of Liberty lady, and the cool cars roaming around especially the Hummer limo. It was hard to find parking in Vegas, the easiest way would be to go to hotels or shopping malls; in one of their ramps.

And so we did, after almost 45 minutes trapped in traffic and driving around the Strip, we ended up at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino’s parking ramp. We had to walk through the Miracle Mile Shops (inside PH’s Resort & Casino) in order to get out to the Strip. We walked around the Strip a bit, sightseeing, then stumbled upon Dante’s question, “I’m starving. Can we go eat?” Great. Late at night. At the Strip. Car’s parked few blocks away. Where to find a good place to eat? We were standing by the Harley Davidson Cafe at that time and could easily go in to eat like the other tourists do. But our family is pretty adventurous so when I saw the sign for Tamba Lounge for Indian cuisine, wesaid, “Heck yeah, that’s better.”

We were in luck that night since they’re doing ‘one night only’ buffet-style dinner. The restaurant was full with Indian families, which was a good sign. The room was warm and smelled so good, I was almost drooling. After we paid at the cashier, we were seated at a booth. The waiter took our drinks’ order, and then we’re off to attack the buffet. So much food, so many choices, and so hard to put everything I like into one plate. The kids’ favorite, of course, was the chicken tandoori; although they did try other vegetarian dish as well with no complain.

yummie chicken tandoori

Clearly satisfied with Tamba, we also experienced Lotus of Siam which was claimed as the best Thai restaurant in North America. Don’t judge a book by its cover is definitely applied to this restaurant. Located at an unassuming strip mall just east of the Strip (feels like in the middle of nowhere), the restaurant itself is just plain simple. Tons of reviews from any kind of magazines were posted on the wall, all praising the chef and owner, Saipin Chutima. Do order from the a la carte menu, skip the buffet, to see why this restaurant is the best there is.

 

    

 

When you’re in Vegas, you must see some shows. My only recommendation  would be to watch any Cirque du Soleil’s shows. This time, we went to see ‘KA‘. I fell in love with this entertainment company ever since I watched ‘Mystere’ (Treasure Island hotel, Vegas) almost 5 years ago, Saltimbanco (Paris) a year after that, then one of their smaller scale of musical shows when they were in Des Moines, IA, just six months after that. The show KA is housed at the MGM Grand, with magnificent stage and settings. The shop next to it was a fun place to look around. They have cool collection of hats and masks, beside other stuff. Walking in to the theatre was like entering a different world. Too bad that picture taking has always been forbidden in their main shows like this one, but I did sneakily took a couple of pics using my iPhone. The show was awesome, from the beginning to the end, with a spectacular ending that still gives me goose bumps everytime I think about it.

hats silliness

The next night, we went to see Nathan Burton Comedy Magic at the Flamingo. The kids seemed to like it, especially our son. I personally think it was kind of lame and pretty boring. I wouldn’t go back for a second time. After watching the show, we walked to the Bellagio to watch the water dance. Now that was cool!

At this time, hubby’s cold and sinus had went down into his lungs and he was suffering from the upper respiratory infection. He had fever on/off and started to cough. We were beginning to get skeptical about our long road trip plan. He’s not feeling well enough to drive, and my name wasn’t on the rental contract so if something bad might happen when I drive, we wouldn’t be covered.

‘Wasted’ 2 full days to wait for him to feel better. Ate out a lot, then went to see ‘Balto’ in 3D. In preparation for the trip to much colder place, we need to get some more warm clothing. Thanks to iPhone, we were able to pinpoint the nearest Target store from our hotel. Surprisingly, they don’t sell anything warmer than a wind breaker. We were planning to go up north to Salt Lake City and were looking for winter coats, mittens, and hats. They don’t have it, probably because they rarely have snow. So we ended up buying layered-clothing; sweaters and lightweight jackets.

Unfortunately, hubby’s not getting any better. From the sound of it, he’s either had bronchitis or pneumonia. He was coughing so hard, he hurt his back. He felt like shit. Impossible to drive long distance. He asked if we’d be upset to cancel the trip and just fly back home from Vegas after we go to see the Grand Canyon. The kids were kind of bummed, but I guess they’re used to it by now. So we booked yet another plane tickets from Vegas to Des Moines. Hubby was doing the bookings late at night again, coughing, and feeling feverish. Later on, this very moment will play a crucial part for yet another near-disaster experience.

On our way to Williams, AZ, we planned to make a stop at the Hoover Dam. What we didn’t plan was to stop at a hotel/casino in Boulder City for a heli ride! Hubby saw a sign for one and decided to ‘what-the-hell-never-done-it-why-not’ .  So we parked our car, register at the booth, hopped on a scale to be weigh, sign a consent form, then wait about 15-20 minutes. A minivan came by to pick us up to the heli pad, which is on top of a hill. Once we’re there, we waited for the pilot sign that it’s safe to approach and board the heli. Then I started to feel like backing up. Stomach felt knotted, legs were heavy. Silly old me agreed to be seated at the front, with Mr. Pilot, while hubby and the kids seat at the back.

davis hanging on tight to dad

davi's hanging on tight to dad

The heli started to leave the ground, then I noticed that I was surrounded by clear glass for the windows and the door. Felt like nothing was holding me but my seat. I found myself holding on so tight to the seat, especially when the heli started to fly up. My heart was pounding so fast, freaking out. The heli went up and down, sideways, and U-turn; it felt like being on a roller coaster on it’s waaay high up in the sky. We flew over the Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, also above the roads. It was so cool to see this little cars underneath us, also the swirly roads. Despite the fact that I was freaking out, I was managed to take some pictures and videos.

I passed the heli ride without peeing my pants. We then drove to the Hoover Dam to check it out. The four of us did the tour, which was very interesting and informative. We even took the elevator to go underneath the earth, exploring the tunnels and check out the cofferdam and the power plant. Done with the touring, we went outside to see the dam and oh my… the concrete work was impressive. To avoid cracking and crumbling, the dam was built in a series of interlocking trapezoidal columns. We also noticed that there was a construction going on over the dam, to built the Hoover Dam Bypass to provide much more highway capasity. See the pics here.

Done with the dam, we continued our journey to Williams, AZ to pay a visit to the Grand Canyon.

{To avoid a long and boring post, I decided to break this last part in half: Part 4 a for Vegas’ story and Part 4 b for Grand Canyon and closings}