birthday / Friends / Fun / Las Vegas / Lisamaree / Los Angeles / travel / USA

Turning 21 for the 19th time…

Several friends and I have celebrated a “big one” in the world of birthdays over the last 6 months. We had been discussing how to commemorate this milestone in old age for a couple of years now. We couldn’t just let it pass us by without doing SOMETHING…

The question becomes – how do you celebrate with your nearest and dearest when we are living in all corners of the Earth? Not being ones to do anything by halves we decided a trip to Las Vegas might be the crazy thing to do.

Why not?! It is a place I have always wanted to see. Not for the casinos and gambling – after all I have Macau on my front door if I was that way inclined. No. What drew me to the idea of Vegas is the spectacle of it all. To see a city built in the middle of a dessert for no real reason other than casinos and a good time? Yeah – that’s worthy of a 40th!

One of my besties – Ange – had the same opinion so before we knew it tickets were booked and she flew to Hong Kong so we could fly to Vegas together to meet another bestie there. From Hong Kong the easiest route to Vegas took us through LAX (Los Angeles Airport).

Flying into LAX is not something I enjoy as the airport is – let’s face it – really dated. It doesn’t have a lot to offer travellers, particularly if you are in transit. I prefer to stop over in San Fran, but that would have taken us on a longer route and we’d decided to stop in LA headed back to Hong Kong anyway, so LAX became our entry point for our Naughty Forty magical fun tour.

Despite feeling like I had walked back into the ’80’s on the tarmac I can’t fault the efficiency of the ground or customs staff  at all. In fact, the immigration officer we encountered at the point of entry for US Immigration is possibly one of the friendliest encounters I have ever had with border staff anywhere in the world. Unbeknownst to me he had chatted up my friend Ange who went ahead of me in line. When he processed me I got the standard “Are you travelling with anyone?” to which I replied “Yeah – her.” pointing to my friend. He happily started talking about her in a way that prompted me to exclaim “She’s MARRIED!”

At this point he called her back and said something along the lines of “How could you let me chat to you like that when all this time you’re married?” Ange just smiled and we all ended up laughing our heads off. It was all in good fun and a nice welcome to the ‘land of the free’ – particularly for Ange who was a first timer to the USA.

Onward to the SouthWest domestic terminal we walked … and walked … no one outside the immigration area had told us there was a free shuttle between terminals, instead pointing us in the direction to walk. So we walked. I have to admit we were both a bit apprehensive about SouthWest. A friend in the US had recommended them but we had see their reality TV show and previous budget airline experience by both of us in Australia and New Zealand had left us dubious.

I needn’t have worried – in fact it was one of the most pleasant domestic checkin/boarding experiences I have had to date. I had checked us in to our SouthWest flight online before we left Hong Kong and had been allocated a boarding number. We handed our online checkin boarding pass to the SouthWest counter and we were on our way as easy as that.

As an aside the fast food Mexican in the SouthWest terminal in LAX is worlds better than anything you get in New Zealand, Australia or Hong Kong – just sayin’!

Despite not having allocated seats the boarding process for SouthWest was most civilised. Everyone lined up happily based on their number allocation. No one tried to jump the queue or push ahead or stand in front. Most refreshing when you’re coming from Asia. We boarded the plane and everyone calmly chose a seat. There were no arguments or fighting over seats and the plane took off in such an orderly manner it felt more like we were on a shuttle bus than a plane. The stewards on board were polite and their service ethic easily outshone every US carrier I have flown with and most of the International airlines too! (QANTAS, United – you could learn a LOT from this budget airline’s service ethics.)

Me n' my shadow - coming into Vegas

Having just flown 13 hours from Hong Kong, Ange and I laughed in hysterics when we were told to prepare for landing less than an hour into the flight to Vegas. It felt a lot faster because we had been in the air for so long prior I am sure. As we descended into Vegas we got our first glimpse of the city popping out of the golden red desert like a shiny bauble. Bold patches of green and a partitioned rectangular road network signified our fast approaching return to terra firma.

On the ground we were a little taken aback when we came off the plane to be greeted by … pokies? What is this place?!

Ange and I both looked at each other. “We know we’re in Vegas now BABY!”

Looking down on the Las Vegas Strip

And so the ‘rite of passage to old age’ celebration began…

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