30 June 2017

The Grand Canyon






Our third official day in Vegas, my family got out of bed at four in the morning. The weariness of eight hours hustling in between airport terminals accompanied with two whole days basking in the heating sun held present in our eyes as we gathered our belongings and with the sense of sun protection holding us and headed out to meet the tour guide leading us to the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon! Snippets of The Homework Machine Strikes Back by Dan Gutman rattled my mind as three traveling groups, consisting a large party of twelve, packed ourselves into a van and drowsily kept falling in and out of sleep to the chatter of the tour guide discussing the geography and the history of the national park and the two states, Nevada and Arizona. The history of exploration of the national park, the types of wildlife visible and the little fight about an abandoned iron mine we saw driving past were some of the things we learned about within four hours driving one way. Even during the drive, the terrain was so starkly different to wear I lived that I couldn't help but watch the cacti, the farmlands, the tiny communities with their perfect grass lawns in the middle of a desert.

All I could think while looking at the window were the descriptions from the book about the importance of filling up water and various signs about dying from dehydration, which was something that didn't come into vision when we took our hike. We didn't come across ancient Native treasure, like the book from my elementary years said, but we did see amazing sights.








There are several areas of the trip one can visit when heading towards the Grand Canyon, and we decided to visit the South Rim because of its known to have the best sights in terms of viewing the canyon without necessarily hiking inside.

The first thought I saw the moment we arrived was, "Wow." We were in the central gathering hub and to our right showed the canyon going miles and miles. In this area, there were bars outlining the edges to keep people from falling. We hadn't even entered into depths of the park yet the view just took our breaths away! The different layers and colors of the canyon acts as a time marker, as a way to detect when the rock formed. It was so hard to take photos of the canyon because taking photos doesn't do it justice; you'd have to be there with a full presence of mind to even comprehend this wonderful monument by nature.







In order to get to the various aspects of the park, our group had to take the bus. Sitting under a rest stop with numerous people and listening to several people in our group murmur how no cell phone reception entered the park just cemented even more this moment was happening. This was real, this was happening-- why anyone would like to get on there phone in a national park is beyond me, because hello, why would anyone want to look into a phone screen where there's something more exclusive in the moment that should be appreciated? Come on!











Our group started our trip at Hopi Point and started walking back to the Village, a feat that took over four hours! We ate our cold, Reuben sandwiches under the heat and kept under the trees for shade. While everyone watched the main road during the lunch break, I observed the strange contour of the trees while fading in and out of my parents' conversation with the tour guide about the contrast in lifestyles our home state and Nevada had with one another. Ants crawled out of tree cavities and holes, presumably made from woodpeckers. We kept our eyes peeled for California condors and relaxed back into our seats when we realized it was a hawk bird.






Our trip commenced, and we began trailing along the rim. Various rock structures held different nicknames: Crocodile. Battleship. The shades of the rock turned from a light tan down to a rich, earthy red. Besides looking into the canyon, we looked at the vegetation sprouting on the sidelines. Pines dripped from various trees. Cacti stood in solitude. We went around and smelled the sweet aromas and made sure not to prick ourselves from various edges.







Towards the end of our venture in the park, we walked along The Trail of Time, which pays tribute to the various layers of the canyon. The rock was underwater 10,000 years ago. Ten thousand years ago. I still can't wrap my mind around it. All I wanted to do was just stop and stare with my own two eyes and not through my camera, and this feeling drove with me all the way back to the city. I liked watching the sun dip and even enjoyed for once, seeing the smog disperse the light everywhere. Talks about the desert, the Joshua tree, sights to visit in Ottawa and New York City (two other places that my family's been to before), and the history of how Las Vegas turned into an entertainment city within a century filled the road back. I'm grateful that we live in a time where we can take take photos and record the things we see, but sometimes, it's better to just not record things and just to take everything in as it is in the moment.

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? Would you like to visit it? What's one thing you'd like to learn about the history of the area? What was your favorite photo?

p.s. Go and check out this blog post by my friend Jo who speaks truth.

27 June 2017

The City of Lights (Where I Screamed Multiple Times)










Hi, everyone! After a week’s worth of being down in the dry, desert heat, I’ve returned to my safe humble abode and have been catching up with all the cool air the town has been experiencing. My family adores traveling, but this year’s trip was planned rather last minute (last minute = two months) for numerous reasons, and when my brother and I initially heard where we were going, both of us grumbled.

“Las Vegas!” Also known as the City of Lights. I held reasons for my initial detestation, and the images associated with the city sprung to life: casinos, gambling drinking, and smoking within the hotel’s interior, and I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it, but those things do happen although my family avoided a ton of it by weaving through the fastest and safest routes possible. All my family’s activities were honestly quite clean. After arriving at the airport at eight in the morning and a pancake breakfast later, we went off to explore The Strip—the concentration of resorts smack dab of the city.


(Yes, I know all the waffle lovers are glaring, but I’m telling the truth when I say there were no waffles within any of the hotels and its respective restaurants. Believe me, I’ve tried hunting them down. Probably for the best, as pancakes are notable cuisine renowned in the city.)

Waiting for the show to start.

One of the people we’ve encountered discussed that Las Vegas is actually more known for its entertainment than anything else, which is actually true because over ten shows were watched in a span of a week! From magic shows like Mac King and David Copperfield all the way down to animal shows like Poppovich's Pet Show, there was so much crammed in to the days!

The only photo from O-- their stunts were so difficult that no photos were allowed to be taken until curtain call.

 BABY!

Way to go!


Two shows that I immensely enjoyed were O and Mystere, both a part of Cirque du Solei. If you haven't seen any of their shows yet, you have to because their shows are seriously mesmerizing. From the way the curtains fall to the actors moving across the stage, with their perfect comedic timing all while grounded with a sense of sophisticated artistry... just wait until you see how their curtains rise and fall. While I was exhausted from not sleeping on the plane while watching O, I couldn't fall asleep because the show was just that good to watch. The stage for O becomes water one moment and solid ground the next! Mystere was also pretty good, with acrobats high in the sky and the baby character popping up and squirting out milk from his baby bottle. The character that takes the cream of the crop for me though was the sailor guy who made saying, "Aye yai yai," over and over again comedic because of his timing.

Our medieval dinner featuring no utensils. Yum!


 "Norway! Norway!"

The King of Norway, if you're looking from left to right, is the third man on the horse.

Another show we watched was Tournament of the Kings, which is a dinner show based upon the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. My 2014 self was squealing too hard because it was bringing back so many good memories from doing a Merlin-themed show. The dinner was just enjoyable, with the food based on the dining experiences in medieval times, which meant we had to eat our food without any utensils and only with hands, warding against infection thanks to the invention of moist towelettes. The best part wasn't even the dinner, but the show itself. What happens is there are assigned seats in the room with the names of different countries, and wherever you choose to sit becomes the person you cheer for as the kings compete in the eponymous event. They had an actual stadium in the middle of the room just for the knights to joust! My family was seated in Norway, and we kept cheering so hard that my brother lost his voice for a good two hours. He was also the one that said, "Our side's going to win because Norway is the best looking out of all of them. I mean, look at them!"


ALL THE COLORS. 

 Do not be fooled by the size of these Kisses-- these, my friends, are HUGE.

This Statue of Liberty model (made because the Hershey Store is located in a resort called New York, New York) is entirely made of chocolate. 

 SO MANY KISSES.

Believe it or not, but this is Rocky Road ice cream.


Mango + halo halo (it's a Filipino food) flavors are so good.

Yes, this is the world's largest chocolate fountain. Cheers.

Both of these were really delicious, although I preferred cherry sorbet if there was a standoff between the two flavors.

Something that the city has, food wise? Sweets. I visited an M&M's, Hershey's and Ghirardelli store, all which gave out free samples and have a ridiculous amount of candy with them. The two latter stores have little bakery shops within the store where they make desserts. It's important, if one gets the samples, to eat them right away, or else the chocolate will melt in your bag or pocket due to the heat and it will be an ugly mess to clean up, something learned the hard way. With the heat, eating a ton of ice cream is justifiable. Trying new flavors is also justifiable-- mango, green tea, and cherry sorbet.

Flowers. Flowers EVERYWHERE.

Look up to the skies and see! (If you get the reference.)

Mini village in the middle of the garden.

Aren't all of these notebooks so aesthetic?

My favorite store out of all the stores-- garden themed!

These flowers are just EEEEPPP!

I love the elegance of this hotel, truly.



I love the ambiance of this restaurant! It's so bright and cheery.

Flower lanterns are so great!

No, this hot air balloon does not fly. Sigh. If only it could...

In order to get from place to place to escape the heat and avoid taking a taxi, we spent our time walking through the hotels as much as possible. Each hotel had its own style, but they all carried a minimalist, classy feel featuring a lot of flowers.

View from the hotel.

Zip lining! Ahhh!

This zip line goes by so fast.

Downtown Las Vegas, also known as Fremont.

There were so many adventures taken while we were there! Visiting stores and watching shows weren't the only things we did. My family went down to Fremont Street, which is the city's downtown area, and decided to ride the zip line. When we first arrived, we encountered zip liners in an upright sitting position, moving along slowly and pumping their fists in the air. It looked fun, so we went to go look for the ticket office-- and then a group of zip liners on their stomachs, arms outstretched, run through, and it was clear which one of the two we wanted to do.

The Dauntless part of me was rejoycing so much, but once we got to the top and started to get strapped onto the cable, all of the laughing dropped. My mouth was soon to follow once their foldable gate, signaling the riders ready to zip down at thirty-five miles an hour, opened, and the moment the announcer on the speaker discussed safety and said, "Go," all screaming went loose. Later, after getting off the ride and buying photos, my dad showed a video. He said that he had no idea how long we were up there, but once my parents heard the high pitched screaming of, "Oh my gosh! SHISH KEBABS," they were like, yup, that's Abby. A video cementing the moment remains on my dad's phone to this day.

View of Mandalay Bay at six in the morning.

Virtual reality is weird, but it's interesting.

Someone else who was doing VR-- although they were doing a tour around the world environment.

Another venture experienced was virtual reality. Virtual reality is such a weird concept because why would you want something virtual if you have the ability to experience the real thing? The place we wanted to visit was closed, so after walking on the street and watching a video about some people with the glasses screaming as they were going through a haunted house walk through, we decided to walk in. I dislike a lot of horror, so I settled for doing the zip lining one despite zip lining a couple days before.

Virtual reality did its job. As I glanced down the environment as its elevator launched up, I was scared over the height I was getting at-- and I was hardly moving! I had to walk around and climb up ladders. The zip line handles in the environment were difficult to reach, and although multiple attempts were taken to jump and reach (while also trying not to step too close to the edge of the environment), the employee walking me through had to help by grabbing my controllers and reaching within the environment because I was too short. I did end up screaming more than once.

I also encountered virtual reality right before we left-- the Cirque du Solei show Ka had a snippet of the show presented via virtual reality, and it was super creepy. The characters are on a rotating platform off the ground. There are people dressed in dark clothing trying to go after you while the people dressed in red try to protect you. The darkly dressed people kept crawling up to you and snarling, sometimes even jumping at you, and yes, like the previous time using virtual reality, I screamed.

In line before heading up the escalators!

About only a fourth of the way through the revolution! 

Looking out to the city.

At the point of this photo, we were around the top!

View at the peak of the hotel.

The last adventure I want to share with you during my time in Las Vegas is visiting the High Roller. The High Roller is this huge Ferris Wheel that gives views the entire city and took roughly three years for construction completion. It's not like other Ferris Wheel city rides, where the cabins will rock back and forth-- the ground on these were solid and stationary. Our initial plan was to arrive during the evening, but since so many people arrive during then and there were schedule conflicts, we rode during the day instead. Thirty minutes of glancing outside through the city-- with information about Las Vegas and the wheel blaring from the TV screens alongside air condition-- was just wow. It just gives the feel of city life and just shows how many people and how many lives are out doing their own thing. And the realization of that still boggles my mind.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Las Vegas. Do I want to visit this again any time soon? Probably not. It was super cool to visit and break down the stereotypes associated with the city. I actually picked up some things that would work into my novel writing! Las Vegas held a ton of options for entertainment that I enjoyed. When I'm much older than I am now, it would be fun to visit again.

Which aspect of Las Vegas mentioned do you feel like you'd enjoy the most? What was your favorite photo? What's the highest temperature you could stand?