Las Vegas & Grand Canyon Trip (last updated on 2009/07/08)


Since I came to the U.S., I have never been to Las Vegas. Due to the downturn of the economy, the volume of sightseers dropped and business there is struggling. Very much anything I can get is bargains; airfares, hotels and entertainments. The airfare to Las Vegas from Detroit was $99, flying back was $147, and hotel was only $50 a night. Bus tours are about the half the price. Best deal ever!

2009/6/4: Night flight to Las Vegas

Going to the Airport from office

At 5:00pm, I started to shutting my PC down at work. Left the office and started to drive down the freeway to the airport. The commuting traffic was not that busy yet so I was cruising down well but some people were hurrying back to their houses. I had to be careful on those folks but that was it. I arrived at the parking around 5:30pm and waited for about ten minutes before I can get picked up. Day time shuttle service is not that frequent. Passing the security around 6:00pm, stopped by at a store to get magazine, water and a salad for my dinner. I was just relaxing and waiting for the boarding by 6:30pm. It should be alright... They have made some changes on the TVs at the lobby so suddenly they took interest away.

To Dallas: AA1069 DTW(7:20 EDT) - DFW(9:20pm CDT)

The boarding started around 6:50pm, I got on the plane, it departed on time and took off at 7:35pm to north then turning to south. The air was pretty moist and I could not see much of the the view. The plane had to fly at 25,000 to 30,000ft since strong south wind present at high altitude. Due to the weather condition, I did not get to see much of the places. The moon was coming up as the plane head to south. It was quite a view. The plane started its descend at 8:20pm. It flew east of the airport, passing by Dallas Love Field airport and downtown. The plane landed at 9:00pm, getting off the plane at 9:10pm. Because the connecting flight is leaving at 10:05pm so I don't have much time. Walk to the Skyline station, and transferred to the terminal D.

AA1069 at Detroit Metro Airport Dallas Love Field

To Las Vegas: AA1953 DFW(10:05pm CDT) - LAS(10:55pm PDT)

I walked to the gate at 9:25pm CDT. There are some passengers on standby list but does not affect me. I was able to get in the cabin for first class seating, and then waited for a while until the plane is ready for departure. The plane left the gate at 10:05pm on time, and taxied down the runway. It was already dark outside so I could not see much. Took off in the air at 10:15pm, flying toward north then turn to west. On the way to the Las Vegas was quite boring. I was reading magazines, looking outside but not much to see. For the later part of the flight, the plane had to maneuver around the cloud, that the time when I started to see some lights. After passing a couple of cities, I could see the Lake Mean in the dark. It was a bit hard to see but I could tell from the geographical features. Soon I start to see a huge blanket of lights to the northwest, The plane flow along the south side of it, passing a mountain range then turned to the north. The plane adjusted the course once more to west for the landing. I started to see the casinos and other buildings. At 10:42pm, the plane landed at Las Vegas airport. The plane taxied toward the gate but stopped before arriving to the gate. The plane currently at the gate was delayed so nothing I can do about it. I was tired so every minute I wait is a pain. After waiting for 30 minutes, we finally get to the gate.

Vegas Strip in sight AA1953 finally at the gate

Arriving at hotel

After getting off the plane, the first scene I saw was people waiting to board, some sleeping on the floor, and rows of gaming machines at the terminal lobby, very much at everywhere. The stores there were all closed, so I was just following the ground transportation sign. The guide book suggested that I should take a taxi to the hotel from the airport for $20, but when I asked a person at the information desk, he told me to take a shuttle, which is only $6.50 a way.

Already gaming machines right off the gates Shuttle Van I used to go to the hotel

I bought the ticket for the shuttle, waited, waited as the clock ticking, it waited until the bus gets almost full, then left the airport at 0:05am. The good thing was the first stop was at the Las Vegas Hilton, so I was at check in line at 0:20am, and got in my room at 0:30am. The hotel room was pretty nice, except that I cannot  get a good view of the strip. Unpacked, took a quick shower, and went to bed around 2:00am.

2009/6/5: A day at Las Vegas Strip, Night Tour

Sleep In

Woke up around 4:00am once since I got thirsty. I already know that it will cost me $4, which is too much, for a bottle placed in the room. So I got up and found a vending machine selling water for $2.50. It accepted a credit card so no need for cash. I was able to hydrate myself, then went back to the bed. I could not sleep much but stayed in the bed for a couple more hours anyway. I finally got up at 8:00am, called a tour company to confirmed the tour for tomorrow. A Japanese person answered. I guess there are some demands in Japanese there. The Hilton hotel provides a morning buffet but it costs me a lot so I went to a gift shop to grab cookies and orange juice. I guess this is good enough. I also bought some cards and wrote them to my friends..

My breakfast...

Walking on Las Vegas Strip

As I walked out from the hotel, I found a vending machine for the Monorail. It costs me $13 for one-day pass. I wanted to pick up a ticket to the tour tonight, so I entered the station around 10:40am and headed to the north to Sahara station. From the station, I can also see the Stratosphere's tower. I am looking forward to visit there tonight. After walking into the casino, I located a information desk and the person there exchanged my print out with a ticket. I head out from the building at 11:00am, and start heading down south.

Monorail System

Stratosphere Wynn and Encore

On the way, I get to see the all kinds of the casinos, ()

Once at the south end of the monorail. I stepped outside through MGM, then New York New York, Excalibur, Tropicana, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and so on. I could not locate the famous sign so I went back to get something to eat since it was already around noon. Stopped at Wendy's and checked the direction for the sign while I eat. Finished eating and left at 12:30pm. Walking about half mile down to see the sign. I saw visitor's center was burnt down, I am not sure what happened. There are many people gathering around the sign, at least I got a good look at it. Walking back and start heading to north this time, so I could check out the ones like Paris, Flamingo,

The famous Las Vegas sign  
Burnt down visitor's center??? Food Court where I had my lunch


Luxor Mandalay Bay Paris New York




New York and MGM



Caesar's Palace     Trump Hotel  


Deuce City Center under construction (to be completed by before 2010)

As I was walking passed the Bellagio, I was guessing that maybe there will be a 2:00pm show. They were preparing it but they announced that the show was cancelled due to maintenance, so I started to walk away but seen they were doing the show. Because the wind was pretty gusty, they did not shoot the water very high, but it was fun. I hope to see it again in the night. I was quite thirsty so I bought a drink, which I felt very expensive, but kinda understand how important the water in the desert.

While walking down the street I can find folks distributing cards with phone number and naked chicks, you can even find a moving billboard so it was quite tough when you try to snap a picture but there is a one like that. Hmmm maybe I should get those cards or take a picture of truck.

Walking toward the Caesar's palace, then finally stopped by Harrah's and played the penny slot machines for a while. Played for a while then decided to come back before losing all the money. So I was back in the hotel by 3:30pm. I relaxed and typed up a part of journal. Went downstairs to Pizza Hut inside of the hotel. I grabbed a supreme and went back to my room. I could eat out but the tour starts from 5:30pm until 11:00pm.


Night Tour 5:30pm-11:30pm

When I was reserving the hotel on Yahoo, this thing popped out so I decided to give it a try. For $55, this one was pretty good.

I have been told that shuttle pick up should be around 5:30pm. I was at outside feeling the breezy air. The bus came at 5:45pm, drove to north to pick up a few more people before going to the terminal at 6:20pm. I went to a ticketing window, they gave me a sticker which I attach to my shirt  We had a bit of break before heading out with about 10 people...

[Stratosphere] 6:45pm - 7:15pm

The first stop was the Stratosphere, famous for having a 350m tall tower. We used a group pass and went up to the observation tower. It was a quite a view. Only hoped that the casino is closer to the strip so I could have a better view. No time for the ride but I managed to take pictures. After getting back on the bus, we drove down on the strip. The guide showed us the world's largest gift shop (according to the sign).

Las Vegas Strip Close up view Las Vegas Airport

To east

To south

Looking at the Casino Strip

[Rio] 7:35pm-8:20pm

While driving down the street, I get a good view of Bellagio, Caesar's, Monte Carlo, Wynn, Encore and others. We turned to west, the guide took us to one of off strip casino. They have a free show starting from 8:00pm called Masquerade Show in the Sky. After getting into the building, we walked toward a stage, and the show started at 8:00pm. The first half was dance at the stage then gondolas hanging from the ceiling was dropping the beads. Guide knew the path so everybody in the tour get their share. We started to walking toward the exit and got out from the building, still pretty windy so the guide told us that we may see the water show. It's a bit disappointing but we will see then. We got on the bus again.

Rio At the casino floor
Masquerade Show in the Sky  

[Bellagio] 8:40pm-9:10pm

Arriving at underground bus stops for the building. The floor was beautifully decorated. We took a tour inside of the casino, and get to see the flowers made with glasses, a chocolate fountain and a scaled model of city center which is currently under construction and scheduled to be finishing up within this year.

We watched the 9:00pm water show. The day time's show was pretty neat, but in the night time, it was much cooler because the shiny water shoots up in the air looked so pretty. Going back to the bus, and it left around 9:10pm.

Bus parking City Center's model
    Fountain of cholorate Paris at night
Water show at night    


Las Vegas at night

[Las Vegas Sign] 9:30pm

Going down to the south to check out the famous Las Vegas sign (for the second time today since I have been there during the day). So many people waiting to get the picture and some are totally drunk, I have seen a couple of people dropping their digital cameras... After the short stop, we head to downtown Las Vegas to check out the Fremont Street Experience, where the entire arcade is like a big screen TV. The bus took a freeway up to north, and arrived at the downtown area.


[Fremont Street Experience] 9:50pm-10:45pm

While approaching the Fremont Street, we have been warned to not to go out from the street since the surrounding is industrial area and not safe. The bus parked nearby on Casino Center Rd. We walked out from the bus and enjoyed the street view. Famous casinos like 4 Queens and Golden Nugget are located here. I guess downtown part is packed and easy to stop by casinos one after another. We waited until 10:00pm, when the show starts. Once when they turned off the lights, police officers on bikes stopped the traffic and here we go. When I checked the They were playing Queen's songs. The show was pretty nice, with the sound, and the visual effect.

Arriving at Fremont Street  
Golden Nugget Visa Vision


[Coming back to the hotel]

After finishing it, the bus drove through the street, passing by the old signs, drive through chapel, and other stuffs. The first stop after the tour was at Hilton, so I am glad that I am the first one to get off and can go bed. For $55 (+ tip) it was worth tagging along with a guide, a driver, and other tourists.

2009/6/6: A bus trip to Grand Canyon

Check out from the hotel, heading for the tour

I wanted to check out Grand Canyon for such a long time now. I found this bus tour was almost half the price so I decided to snatch it. The scary part of a long bus tour, which you should consider as a big risk, is that the timing cannot be guarantee. Since my flight is leaving at midnight, I have to be back in the airport by 10:00pm, that means that I should be back in the town by 9:00pm, which is something they are describing at the brochure. A person I walked yesterday told me that her tour finished with 5 hours delay. 6:00pm return turned to be 11:00pm. Oh, man. That sounds like a nightmare. I personally think that I should take this kind of trip during the weekend, because there is no concern over the construction. I don't know what you think about that...

Got up a couple of times over the night. It's pretty tough to be in a different time zone. I woke up at 5:00am, the outside was just about to get brighter. I stretched, took shower, finished packing and left the room to take an elevator down. Checked out from the hotel at 5:30am, and walked toward the east entrance. While I was waiting, I have met with 5, 6 different people, and they come and go. They are all for Grand Canyon tour so I could tell there are many different companies. While I wait, I was talking to a guy from Germany. I guess many from European countries come to the U.S. to visit New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I get picked up at 6:25am, and the bus kept going up north and picked up few more folks after stopping at Stratosphere, and Golden Nuggets. Arrived at the Vision Center at 7:00am and proceeded to check in.

In the morning Vision Air has some planes

Grand Canyon Bus Tour

After check in at a counter, they gave me a blue sticker. waited in a lobby for a while. At the airport, I could see some planes with Vision logos on it. I guess the company is not that small. Within few minutes, we got called and went outside. We lined up and get on board a bus. Each passenger received a breakfast box containing an apple, muffin and a cup of orange juice. I was able to take a window seat (on left hand side, which was a right decision) The bus left the parking lot at 7:25am, heading to a nearby freeway. Let the tour start!

Getting on the bus breakfast (orange juice, banana muffin and apple)

The bus took I-515 to the south, heading toward Boulder City. The interstate was over and now it's state road 93. Soon after Lake Mead is appearing to the left, the bus stopped nearby Hoover Dam for security screening around 8:00am. They have implemented this process after 9-11. We were asked to open all cabinets and inspector came in, checking the restroom and cleared us. While passing the dam, the guide told us that when a new bridge being built is finished, we don't have to do this anymore. Also they had a overflow water way which is pretty huge. Making a short stop at 8:15am after passing the dam. I took some pictures. Left at 8:30am

The bus continued going to east, switching to I-40 at 9:55am, stopped for groceries at a gas station. Also made another stop at McDonald's for 10 minutes and departed at 10:10am. The bus kept going. Arriving in a town called Williams, where you can take a train up to the canyon, at 11:50am, took an exit at 165 to 64. From here on, the bus will head to north to the park. Passing the Grand Canyon airport, where I see a couple of old planes like a Constellation, and many helipads for the tour. Arriving at Quality Inn at 12:40pm. Too bad that I have to pay for water and other drinks. Finished my lunch in 20 minutes then waited outside which was quite breezy and colder than at Las Vegas, due to the altitude.


Lake Mead

a new bridge being build Lake Mead from the dam. This used to be full but not declining

Overview of the dam


My lunch...

We are only a mile away from the park. The bus left the location at 1:25pm

At Grand Canyon (Bright Angel Lodge, and Mather Point)

The bus finally arrived to the park. The first stop was Bright Angle Lodge. There is a railway station nearby

[Bright Angel Lodge] 1:40pm-2:20pm

Walking through the lodge and get to see the canyon from the first time. The view of red stones with several thousand feet of depth, the rims extending far, far away, it was an awesome view. Just standing by the rim make me feel how small a human is. I am glad today is not rainy or cloudy. The stop at this location was between 1:40pm and 2:20pm. The bus driver warned that she WILL leave the place even if anyone missed the time. So I must be back here. (She also told me that the bus will make a stop to pick up someone on the way back, if she has to...)

Once I am done looking at the place, I stopped by at a gift shop to buy some postcards. I also walked near the train parked and took a picture of it. While I was walking around, I see the bus keeps driving around and wondering what the driver was doing. Later I found out that the place where we got off was for un/loading only so it cannot park there. After people getting on board, the driver count the passenger to make sure there is no missing person before departure. Some, almost missed the bus so I see them running back to the bus. They should know. (Sigh...)



[Mather Point] 2:35pm - 3:15pm

After a short hop on the bus toward east, we arrived at a parking lot. I had to cross a road to get to the rim but the view from here was much better than the previous one. I could just stay there, looking at the clouds projecting the shadows on the complex contours of the canyon. We arrived around 2:35pm and stayed until 3:15pm. This time, everybody coming back here on time.


Coming back to Las Vegas

After counting that all the people are in the bus, we departed to Las Vegas around 3:15pm. We got to a gas station near by Bed Rock city sign for snack and souvenirs at 3:50pm for 20 minutes, then kept going south, getting on I-40W at 4:40pm. We made stops at the same places on the way; at McDonald's between 6:15pm for 15 minutes, and at a gas station for subs between 6:35-6:50pm. The bus kept going west, and I can see the outside getting darker. At 7:45pm passed security before crossing the Hoover Dam again. When the inspector came in, I guess he was more alerted then the guy in the morning. He was checking stuffs around but all cleared. The bus arrived to Hoover Dam at 8:00pm. The driver told us that there will be another person taking over the driver's seat since the regulation preventing her to drive anymore further. I asked the new drive if I could get off the bus at the airport (which is not on the schedule).   talked to the driver to see if I can get dropped off at the airport. Final photo opportunity, I took another picture of the dam, then the bus left at 8:10pm. Passing by the bridge under construction under bright lights.

Heading south Heading West
Evening Sunset

Security check near the dam

Hoover Dam in the evening Moon is coming up from behind

Move to the airport, waiting for the flight back to Detroit

Crossing back to Nevada and took less than one hour before arriving to the airport terminal at 8:55pm. I wanted to buy my dinner but the restaurants inside of the airport were mostly closed already. So after I check in and passing the screening, I bought a sub nearby the gate. It took a while so it was already 9:30pm. I wanted to charge batteries of my iPhone and netbook so I was trying out a few places and finally found a working one. I updated my journal but at the same time, I was so sleepy so had really hard time keeping my eyes open. I am pretty much fatigued. I cannot wait to take a seat in the plane.

Inside of the airport Tram approaching to the terminal, the moon is in the sky

2009/6/7: Red Eye Flight back to Detroit

To Dallas: AA1160 LAS(0:35am PDT) - DFW(5:00am CDT)

The boarding to the plane started around midnight. Since I get a first class seat, I can just walk in and relax. I pulled out a blanket and wrapped myself. I thought about just going to sleep immediately but also wanted to give a good look of Las Vegas for the last time. The plane departed on time, and took off at 0:40am to west, and then turned around to head to east. I fell sleep right after the lights of the city get far away. I must have had a enough sleep for now. I woke up before the plane goes into to the final approach. I was watching outside as the plane flew to east then turned to south. The plane landed at 4:40am. I got off from the plane but I had hard time walking out of the gate.

Plane getting ready for departure Arrived at Dallas Fort Worth

Good bye Las Vegas!

To Detroit: AA1322 DFW(7:30am CDT) - DTW(11:05am EDT)

The airport lobby was actually cold while I was waiting. It was still 5:00am and I have two more hours before I can get on the plane and relax. I was so sleepy but I cannot fall sleep, and there is no place opened yet so it's boring just sitting there. I made a call to my home to talk with my dad around 5:30am. A cafe in front of me finally opened at 6:00am, so I walked in and got a cup of coffee with an apple croissant for breakfast. The sun was coming up around the same time and I just cannot wait to get in the plane. I want to come home!

The boarding started at 7:00am, the plane took off at 7:35am and headed to east for a while then soon start heading to Detroit. I could not see much on the ground and the flight was mentally long for me. I guess I was fatigued. The plane passed by Evansville, IN around 9:50am, and  then slowing down around 10:00am, passing Indianapolis around 10:10am. I could see the new terminal building of the airport. At 10:25am, the captain announced that the plane will be landing in 25 minutes so the cabin started the preparations. I could see the plane flew by the Detroit Metro Airport at 10:35pm, and kept going north, turning around near Southfield, approached to the airport and landed at 10:50am. Arrived at the gate at 11:00am. I am back...

I never expected that I will be on the same plane... Came back to Detroit

Coming back to home

Left parking at 11:20am, arrived home around noon. Took a quick shower while I was cooking a meal in microwave. Had a lunch, then took a nap until 3:00pm. I had to check emails and other stuffs so I went to the office and stayed until 7:00pm. Finally I drove home, had dinner, unpacking the items and went to bed at 11:00pm. Tomorrow is a Monday.



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