Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My Trip To The United States (Updated Version)

This post is an updated post from a previous post. Actually I wrote this essay in January 2009, when I was in Form 5 and I was lucky enough to have my essay published in the 2009 edition of Bestari, SMK Hillcrest's official school magazine. Thanks SMK Hillcrest.
Long haul flight.
                I live and love to travel. For me, travelling means a lot more than just about having a holiday, it’s actually a cultural study. In the end of November 2008, I got the opportunity to visit Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It’s actually my third time visiting the United States. My first visit is to Walt Disney World, Florida on December 2005 and my second trip is to San Diego in August 2008.  Nevertheless, every trip is a great trip!

The moment you land, you can gamble. Seriously, this is an airport.
               It took us almost 25 hours just to get to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport from Kuala Lumpur. It’s quite a long flight but the excitement of going there fills me with anxiety. I only managed to sleep for 4 hours during the flight. I spend most of my time on board watching movies, listening to songs and admiring the beautiful night sky above. I also saw a shooting star! I reached Las Vegas a few minutes past midnight. At the airport, I am greeted by the colourful neon glows from rows of gambling slot machines. Gambling is the main attraction of Las Vegas. The local temperature is a chilly 15 degrees Celsius. Upon reaching the MGM Grand Hotel, I wander about the massive lobby. There is a huge casino, bar, dance club, and a shopping complex. I thought that after midnight there are going to be drunken people mingling on the sidewalk, wild west cowboy gunfights and illegal street racing like in the movies but I could not find one. At 2 am, I went to bed to get some rest.
The night view from the penthouse's balcony.
                The hotel I stayed is situated beside the main road, Las Vegas Boulevard. Along this road, the group of mega resorts, massive hotels and shopping malls are dubbed "The Strip". Here, the hotels are built to replicate famous places around the world. Luxor is build to look like a pyramid, while Caesar’s Palace replicates ancient Roman architecture. The Venetian is build to replicate Florence and Venice. The most interesting about The Venetian is The Grand Canal Shops, a massive shopping arcade that have canals flow though the shopping area. There are also gondolas browsing through the canals just like the ones in Venice and the gondoliers are amazing sopranos. The ceiling is also painted like the sky adding the illusion of walking along the canals of Venice. Talking about shopping, Las Vegas has two Factory Outlet Malls. Las Vegas Premium Outlets is situated at the north of The Strip while Las Vegas Outlet Centre is situated south of The Strip. Here, original goods can be bought at factory price. I bought an original Nike backpack for just $10 or RM36. I also find branded watches such as Timex and Guess sold at prices as low as $9.99. There is also a wax museum in the Venetian. Here, I met the wax figures of Elvis, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Beyonce, Tiger Woods and many more famous people in the American entertainment industry. I also got the chance to 'meet' and take pictures with United States 43rd president, George W. Bush.

Lets throw some shoes!
Sang some songs with Stevie Wonder
                At the north of The Strip, there is an area called Glitter Gulch. Freemont Street Experience is the main thing here. It is a pedestrian street covered with a huge roof. Just like the roof that we see above Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur. But the most amazing thing is, below the roof, there are millions of colour-changing neon bulbs that form the biggest screen in the world. At one hour intervals, a music artist is featured on the screen. The artist's best music clip is displayed to the crowd below the screen-roof. It is a very interesting marketing strategy for the entertainment industry of Malaysia to follow. This street has a big crowd every night. Interestingly, people walked to the right and let people going the opposite way to go through at the left, just like cars in the streets. This way, accidental collisions between two bodies travelling at different directions can be avoided. It is also easier to walk in the flow of people because we do not have to avoid people going the opposite way. This example is great for “pasar malams” in Malaysia.

People admiring the song on the world biggest screen, its what they say
Although its not in The Strip, its still in Las Vegas, Casinos are as far as the eye can see
                Now it’s time to go to another city. In the morning of my fifth day in the United States, I went on a flight from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. The flight only took 50 minutes. The airport is quite far from the city. Instead of hiring a cab, I hop on the public transport to save some money. From the airport I took Flyaway bus to Union Station, the public transport hub of Los Angeles. The station is best described, just like KL Sentral! Then I hop on the Metro Subway to my hotel, Days Inn Hollywood, situated on Hollywood Boulevard and just beside Hollywood/Western Metro Subway Station. It also situated beside Los Angeles Thai town, home to many Thai food restaurants. To Asian travelers, Thai food means RICE! The pineapple prawn fried rice makes me feel right at home. The best part is, I arranged my own lodging and researched about the public transport from the comfort of my home. Maybe someday I can work as a tour guide when I grow up.

Graumann's Chinese Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater whatever they call it.
               As you just read, I stayed at Hollywood Boulevard. At the sidewalk pavements, there are thousands of star shaped tiles with names of well known people in the entertainment business. The "Avenue of Stars" stretches quite far, more than a mile I think. The starred sidewalk starts from the Graumann's Chinese Theatre. The concrete pavement in front of the building is filled with handprints and shoeprints of well known stars. Behind the Graumann's Chinese Theatre is the Kodak Theatre, the venue of various entertainment awards such as The Oscars and The Academy Awards. North of the area is the Hollywood sign. The sign are quite hard to see from Hollywood Boulevard because the view is blocked by buildings. It can be seen clearly from afar. Behind the hill that nestled the Hollywood sign is Universal Studios. It functions as both a theme park and a filming studio. War of The Worlds, Jaws, King Kong, The Fast and Furious, Ghost Whisperer, and the hit television series, Desperate Housewives was shot at the Universal Studios Los Angeles. Sadly some of the "houses" of Wisteria Lane was caught on fire a few months earlier and was rebuilt on the same spot. So the houses that I visited probably are not the original homes used by Bree Van De Kamp and Gabrielle Solis. I also got the chance to chat with a cameraman of the hit-television series, CSI:MIAMI while waiting for the bus. He was quite friendly and helpful.

The famous ball in front of every Universal Studios.
The entrance to Universal Studios.
                The city of Los Angeles has tall buildings only at its city centre while the surroundings are mainly low-rise. The tall buildings in LA’s city center are actually a financial district, home to many offices and banks. Also in the city centre, there is a shopping district where we can buy toys and clothes at a relatively low price. Here, the majority of shoppers and shopkeepers is Hispanics from the South Americas. It is a very interesting place to shop as the moment you enter the area, the atmosphere is like watching Ugly Betty as the Hispanics are everywhere. There were also large fat pork sausages sold at the sidewalks, fried with herbs, spices and vegetables. The smell of grilled meat makes your taste buds go bonkers but I can't eat it because of religious reasons. Unfortunately I reached this place late in the evening and did not manage to find anything to buy. In the winter the sun sets quite early, at 4pm and by this time, most shops are closed. I also visited LA's Chinatown. In the Jackie Chan's movie, Rush Hour, he went to Foo Chow Restaurant to meet the bad guys. I visited the restaurant too but I did not manage to find the bad guy's lair. I also did some shopping in Pasadena, a quiet town famous for its Rose Parade.

LA Downtown
Massive American SUVs in Pasadena
                From Los Angeles, I took a bus ride to Santa Monica. The bus ride took 1 hour and 30 minutes because the bus was quite slow. Interestingly, I met a young man that looked like Malaysian top rocker, Amy Search on the bus. Santa Monica has a pier which is a long jetty that has many shops and surprisingly, a theme park on it. The pier has appeared in many movies such as "Forrest Gump" when Forrest ran across America and encountered seaside. Guess what, in honour of the multi-award winning film, a "Bubba Gump Shrimping Company" restaurant is opened on the pier. The movie is not totally fiction though. The shrimps are gigantic and there is surely a lot of ways to cook the delicious crustaceans. The waves from The Pacific Ocean are gigantic when the tide is high, perfectly like what we saw in surfing movies. Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian street and it is the main shopping area of Santa Monica. There are also departmental stores such as Macy and Sears. I bought an American Muscle car, Dodge Challenger 6.1L V8 HEMI SRT 8 here. It’s not an actual car but it is actually just a 1:24 scale collectible toy car. I took a bus ride home. At 3pm that day, the bus I rode picked up students from Fairfax High School. They did not wear uniforms and brings with them lightly filled backpacks because most books is left at the school's locker. It must be great if students in Malaysia can do the same. Some even say that light backpacks are the reason behind Americans that grow tall like trees.

Santa Monica Pier. Featured in many movies. Forrest Gump ran across America, met with the ocean here
                After 14 days in the United States, it’s time to leave for home. From Los Angeles International Airport I flew to Kuala Lumpur. Bad weather was expected above the Pacific Ocean, so the pilot took a longer course to avoid it thus taking an additional three hours time. Because of tiredness, I fell asleep for nine hours straight, which is a record for an insomniac person like myself, and woke up when the plane is above Tokyo. We safely landed in Kuala Lumpur, greeted by the tropical sun and the nasi lemak sold in Kuala Lumpur International Airport's food court. It was a really a memorable trip and I learned a lot about the American's lifestyle from this trip. I hope I can visit The United States again soon and hopefully my dream of visiting the Big Apple might come true one day.

1 comment:

Rayven said...

I still find the pic of u n the Stevie Wonders wax figurine funny. Same je muke hahaha. Same US trip right?

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