Thursday, 7 March 2013

From Kuala Lumpur to Las Vegas

In preparation for the Blogging from A- Z Challenge 2013, and inline with our theme, I'll share this updated narration of a trip my son and I took in 2006, to the USA, to meet our friends in Las Vegas, my son's family in Phoenix and LA, and to Disneyland. This writing is only the 1st phase of the trip - from Kuala Lumpur to our 1st destination, Las Vegas.

Malaysian Airline then had a Kuala Lumpur - Los Angeles direct flight with a 45 minutes stop over in Taipei. For that flight we paid about 1700 USD for the two discounted round tickets. Once purchased you can't changed the date, nor can you get any refund. The normal price is quoted at RM 3705 ( a little over 1000 USD) for a child under 12 and RM 5180 (1430 USD) for an adult. The 700 USD saving was good, don't know if we can get any cheaper. With such special tickets we were assigned seats almost way back, to row 59. The plane was full. We shared the three seats next to the window with a pretty Indian Girl from New Delhi, who was going back to LA to continue with her study. Digital was happy. He had an attentive girl to talk with, all the way to LA.

The four hours flight to Taipei felt long, especially with the entertainment system out of order. On top of that we went through a really bad weather, in fact the weather was rough for almost the entire flight. At one point Digital asked, if the plane would hold on. I told him, "yes dear." "Allah would take care of us mummy?"  "Yes dear."

Even though it was just a stop over and that we already had a security check in KLIA, all passengers were required to disembark with all of our belongings at the Taipei Airport. We had with us two small back packs, one small shoulder bag and a cabin luggage with rollers which was quite heavy. Dutifully we took all our luggage down, circled the transit area and back to our gate, and went through security check all over again. By the time we got back into our seat I was looking forward to our 14 hours flight. Digital settled in, watched some movies, (yes, it was working fine by then) and before long he was asleep. I don't remember much about food, slept intermittently, and the rough weather that shook the plane all over, continued. It was like driving on a rough bumpy road; you got used to it though.

The strong wind carried us faster to LA and we landed at LAX half an hour early, that was about 5.30 pm local time. It was like 8.30 in the morning KL time, kind like we had just woken up. But after almost 18 hours of flight, with or without sleep, oooh what was left to say anyway. You were just grateful your body still worked, although I was kind of brain dead. It would be more apparent later how dead I felt. See, we had no place to sleep yet, the booking that was supposed to be made from KL did not go through. I missed a 70 USD deal for a night at the New Otani and I'd no other place known to head to. Brian, my son's brother was not in town to pick us up, being away at his mum in Modesto for the Easter.

I knew as much that I'd to take a Flyaway bus to get us to Los Angeles downtown. Digital, thankfully was wide awake. This was so important - I had experienced having him fast asleep as we were trying to get through custom and immigration. Then he was five years old, crying and sleep walking at Melbourne Airport at 3am. The thing I've subjected him to!!

LAX looked like an old airport to me. Reminded me of Sofia, Bulgaria of years ago. Guess I'm kind of used to KLIA or Changi (Singapore), all bright and shiny. I did what I usually do when arriving at a new place, that is to look for an Information Kiosk. I found it and asked the lady manning it, how do I get to downtown. I got a blank look, so asked again where can I find a Flyaway bus. Follow the green line, she said without stopping from what she was doing, working with some papers in her hand. I did not see any green line, but she did point to us the road running next to the airport building. We organized our luggage as such that to be manageable between the two of us and walked over with all our stuffs to what looked where the buses were stopping.

Not long after a Flyaway bus stopped by. Eureka! Well not knowing there were other destinations, we lined up and gotten our two bigger bags stored inside the bus belly. Then another Flyaway bus pulled over not far from where we were standing, announcing Union Station, Union Station. Now what the heck is going on! So we asked the oncoming bus driver, yup, that his bus was the one going to the Union Station downtown. And the bus that had our luggage were going elsewhere.

Oppss!! Here we go, we approached the very tired bus driver who had just finished loading all his passengers luggage, and told him that he got our luggage while we were actually wanted to get on the other bus. He threw his arms up! Exasperatedly, he opened his luggage compartment, and fortunately I saw our two bags not too far in and not under much. He looked at me with what gotten into your head young lady fix and retrieved our luggage for us. I apologized profusely. Sigh, with resignation but glad we did not end up at wrong destination, we went over to the other bus .. and got our bag stored again. And took our seat. Nice bus really.

I was so overly tired but my son looked fresh, feasted his eyes with the new view of Los Angeles. He was so excited when he read the Hollywood sign. I can't believe it, it is like in the movie mummy. I tried to get some pictures but all I wanted to do was nothing. I wanted to hide under a bed! Enough. Leave me alone. Did not even have any strength to say so.

Forty five minutes later we were at the Union station. We pulled our stuffs into the station without a clue what to expect. Hey this was great, smooth clean looking floors with some real art on the wall and high dome like ceiling above us. Then rows upon rows of some kinds of tunnels, that should be either other bus terminals, or train platform  I was just too fatigued to read, please someone rescue me. I wanted to plop down and cry.

This was the first time, after a long time that I traveled long distance with just Digital and no one was at the airport to pick us up. I'm not a cry baby but when you're so worn out, ooh the wishes you made was unheard of before. (If this were a romance movie, I would had collapsed and a prince charming would had appeared from nowhere to rescue me .. awww, fat chance). It was probably past 72 hours without proper sleep.

The days prior to our departure was so hectic, it was miraculous that we made it this far. I had wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted so many little things, little pretty things with me. I got it all, at the price of almost losing my mind. But I'm crazy anyway. Again I wasn't thinking straight. It must be past 8.00 pm. Exhausted, hungry, and no place to stay. I wanted to head straight to Las Vegas if I could get a night bus or something. I figured we could get a late bus, sleep on the way and be in Las Vegas early morning. When I told Digital my plan, he was horrified. What, to continue our journey without any rest in a real bed. He begged me, mummy please, I need a real bed, please mummy lets go to a hotel. I tried my best to get a bus or something. See there were many huge comfy chairs made of soft leather at the Union Station, we could had taken a long rest there before our bus ready to leave.

So I asked around again and I was told I have to go to another station, the 7th Street, Alameda Ave., to get to Las Vegas by Greyhound. Oooh sucks. Whoever has been to Union Station Los Angeles would understand that it is a long walk from one end to the other. We were both dog tired. Digital kept telling me, my legs are broken mummy, and he kept toppling down on the station floor. I finally relented - walked us both out of the station, got us a taxi and told the driver, NEW OTANI HOTEL please, instead 7th St. Alameda. As it turned out, the New Otani stay was perhaps the most pleasant of our US hotel stay. Although they charged us 140 USD for the remaining of the night, the entire night crew made their best effort to make our stay as nice as possible.

They were right with us till bed time, and then back with us the next morning. The bell man drove us to the 7th St. Alameda in a Limo, courtesy of the New Otani. We also got our internet connection, but I run out of laptop battery so they did not charge us for it. The kitchen staff cooked us a delicious pizza for a late dinner/ lunch; the night engineer moved us to a new room because the other room was not internet ready. The internet help desk man walked me step by step via phone to get connected. I fell in love with everyone. Yes it was a nice homely place. I'm glad I listened to Digital. Although it was close to 2 am when we finally went to bed; I did get some forced sleep and was feeling a little human in the morning.

The plan was to take 9 or 10 o'clock bus, but earlier buses were fully booked and we only managed to get the 11 o'clock that was scheduled to arrived at about 6.30 pm. Plenty of time to get checked in, look around Circus Circus, get something to eat, be refreshed, pretty myself and be ready for a nice dinner. The bus left LA as scheduled. But we did not arrive at Circus Circus until after 10 pm. Our bus had a three hours breakdown, before a rescue team put it back together.

We spent the last hour of our bus journey in high spirit. Digital woke up to watch the desert fading in the dusk light. He could still see the shape of rocky hills and the outline of giant cactus that is typical of California, Nevada and Arizona desert. The bright light of Primm Valley, 48 miles southwest of Las Vegas cheered us up. We knew we were getting near to our destination. As we saw Mandalay Bay, about 40 minutes later, while circling the sin city from south going north, via the west side highway (I-15), I pointed to my son all the landmarks one by one, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand and ends with the Stratosphere Tower; before we entered Greyhound Bus Station at main street, downtown. Finally,  we're in Las Vegas ooh YEAH! By now smiling, eyes awake, we took a taxi and not long after got into the bright light of Circus Circus. The road was rather quite really ... it was anyway Monday night.

We expended our last energy to pull and pushed our luggage through the long line at the Circus Circus registration, and then to our room, which that night felt like it was miles away. We got into our room at almost midnight. Digital, having slept most of the way, was wide awake, jumping all over inspecting our room. I however, known to suffer from travel insomnia, was deliriously beyond reason. Not long after that the phone rang, it was from Michael, arriving from Ohio. With Loraine already in Las Vegas, that would make four of us. But for now ... bed sweet bed ... please let me have some sleep. Las Vegas you can wait, tomorrow then.

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