Aug 18, 2014

Las Vegas, USA

17 (Sun) - 18 (Mon) Aug 2014

Lodging: El Cortez Hotel and Casino

2 of 7, fortnight USA trip
ArizonaLas VegasMammoth LakesYosemiteSan FranciscoCoastal CaliforniaLos Angeles

Day 1

Las Vegas North Premium Outlet
Back to civilization from Grand Canyon, we're now in Las Vegas. Well back in Singapore when I mentioned Las Vegas is gonna be one of our destinations, with a sneaky grin I was questioned by a few, "Go Las Vegas do what ah???" It seemed to be abrupt, as I didn't visualize Las Vegas as an impure place, you know what I mean.

I learnt the fact that almost every (can I just say all?) hotel in Las Vegas has a casino at ground level. Instead of 'G' or '1', you'll find the button 'C' instead ('C' for casino).

Our hotel room at El Cortez Hotel & Casino was quite decent. After unpacking and chilling for a while, we drove to Las Vegas North Premium Outlet before moving southwards to the Las Vegas Strip.

Unlike Texas, premium outlets in most other states don't really offer tax refund on any single brand.

Las Vegas Strip

Fountains of Bellagio

Fountains of Bellagio
This is definitely one of the must-visit attractions of Las Vegas.

There will be fountain show every 15 or 30 minutes depending on the time you visit. Check out their website for the show times.

The music gives you the senses of oldies romance, immersing yourself in the choreography and music will get you enamored of the show. I think it's more glamorous to watch during or after dusk.

New York-New York Hotel and Casino

New York-New York Hotel and Casino
New York-New York Hotel and Casino is easily recognized by its Statue of Liberty. But that's not the origin of its name though, it's named by the deliberate fact that the architecture brings to mind the skyline of New York City.

We're here to visit its signature attraction - The Roller Coaster. Ya, it is the name given to the roller coaster, constructed above the building. One is able to enjoy the view of Las Vegas from a higher altitude but I doubt most people will do so as they might be thrilled by the ride itself.

Well, I was pretty inclined towards taking the ride, because, this is a preparation for me to go skydiving the next day.

The Roller Coaster

Day 2

Skydive Las Vegas

Skydive Las Vegas
Alright, a long story starts here.

I wasn't sure if I was looking forward to this day or not. Either Boon Kiat or Choon Yuan initiated that we should skydive here, and both of them would like to, and the decision was made like a month before we came to the states.

Peer pressure, indecisiveness and the YOLO philosophy were responsible for my partial willingness, and I nodded to adding skydiving into our Las Vegas itinerary.

Two years ago, my exchange buddies and I were discussing about doing skydiving in Switzerland during my exchange back in Sweden, which in the end was opted out for, we did paragliding instead. Ever since then, I asserted that my age and my heart were no longer able to take skydiving.

My subconscious worries have reached level 'insanity'. I started to do some research about skydiving. Unlike others, neither am I fear of parachute deployment failure or landing accident, my major one, is that bloody 12 SECONDS OF GRAVITATIONAL PULL. Most websites tell us about the 60 seconds of free fall, well, they certainly didn't mention the difference between free falling with acceleration and free falling at a constant terminal velocity of about 190 km/h (≈50 m/s). My worry was about getting through the first 12 seconds of acceleration where I was afraid that my heart would fail me due to the continuous pull, after that it's nothing to me because that's when the air drag is equal to the gravitational force.

I started to find facts to convince myself that skydiving isn't that deadly.
I thought about my body going through a projectile motion instead of a straight downward displacement, because the aircraft I'm jumping off from is moving forward, I was thinking that, hopefully, the air resistance from the front and from the bottom would resolve into a greater one and act towards my projectile.

I also thought about the stomach sensation that we usually go through during a roller coaster ride, when it's going downhill. Unlike others, again, I'm not afraid of the roller coaster going through a spiral or corkscrew track because centripetal force is paired with centrifugal force, and our ass is feeling so much reaction force, seriously, what's so scary about that? The scary thing is when our butt is hanging and touching nothing. And so I told myself, perhaps the skydiving posture is meant for reducing the stomach sensation, which I believe that's the thing that made our mind go 'omg... omg... OMG!!!!'

I also thought, what if I treat gravity as something acting horizontally instead of vertically downwards, it'll be the same as standing in front of a black hole and get sucked and accelerated towards its core (but what was I thinking... how can I compare black hole's gravity with earth's *laughing at myself*).

I also thought, hopefully, the gravitational acceleration in Las Vegas is smaller, and when I go up to 15,000 feet above sea level, the gravitational force is much lenient, and better still, some planets happen to be near that place at that point of time so the gravitational force towards the center of the earth would net off to be lesser. Certainly, the gravitational force acting on my body decreases as I travel upwards, despite that, Singapore and Malaysia have the lowest gravitational acceleration of 9.776 m/s² compared to the rest of the world. Oh gosh...

Trying very hard not to give any damn to the bloody scientific facts to comfort or discomfort myself, we're here at Skydive Las Vegas. Why Skydive Las Vegas? Google search ranking.

We're picked up from Las Vegas to an outskirt of it called Boulder City. It costs $298 ($199 for skydiving & $99 for video). We know that with video it's expensive but for first timers, I don't think you want to skydive while having no pictorial proof that you've done so.

I couldn't be more unfortunate. I was the first one that entered the aircraft, meaning that I would be the last one who jumps off.

The pilot asked us to look outside the aircraft when we're at a high altitude. When everyone's terrified, he added, 'we're only half way there'. I KNEW HE'S GONNA SAY THAT!

Right at the exit when we're about to jump, my instructor noticed that my goggles weren't put on. Thank goodness he noticed that, else I would be seeing nothing during the diving. And oops, he must be cursing me. Haha...

Well, in less than 2 seconds upon leaving the aircraft, I felt cradled by the forceful drag, but if I put t = 2 seconds and a = 9.8 m/s² into v = u + at, there's no way v can be 50 m/s. Maybe, before terminal velocity is even reached, air drag can cause distraction to the extent where the pull or whatever sensation is less felt, my assumption. And the parachute was deployed in merely 30 seconds instead of a minute ... hmmm... can I get a 50% refund?

Skydive Las Vegas
Enough said, skydiving which was never something in my bucket list, was at that instance created and ticked at the same time.

Talking about the view, Skydive Las Vegas claimed that 'during the airplane ride and skydive you can see: Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, Colorado River, Lake Mohave, Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston and the entire Las Vegas Strip. The view is unbelievable.'. Wow, I basically saw deserts and a lake, and that's all, though I wished I could have spent more time enjoying the view than camwhoring. :)

Thank God I survived that pretty well and am still alive else you won't be reading this. But to be honest, if you wish to have the best from skydiving, for sure there are other better places. I believe doing it anywhere in Australia or New Zealand is already more than satisfactory.

Fremont Street Experience

Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall which is walking distance from our hotel.

It's well known for its LED display barrel vault canopy, called Viva Vision Light Show. The show runs every hour between 6pm to 8pm and each show lasts 6 minutes. Find out more on their website. I thought it would be ordinary, but it turned out to be pretty astounding and colorful to me.

So in the meantime before 6pm, we walked along the street and enjoyed some exotic street performances, and also had some nice and cheap prime ribs @ $8.99 at Tony Roma's Ribs, Seafood & Steak.

Those random performers are really talented. They always make me wonder why they're here and not scouted, although some street performers in the end did become famous and successful.

Viva Vision

We played a few rounds of blackjack in our casino. The smallest amount a chip is interchangeable for is $1. So if you place a bet of $5 and you get a blackjack, you're paid $7.50 (1 to 1.5) and the $0.50 is paid with a half dollar coin, which I've never seen transacted elsewhere.

I've watched numerous magic performance video on YouTube and a Taiwanese magician claimed that the half dollar coin has stopped its minting production. And half dollar coin is often used in magic performance owing to its relative size to palm. Knowing so, I tried hard to get as many blackjacks as I could, in the end found out that I can exchange my chips (or cash, I can't remember) for that. *Face palm*

But well, after all I still netted a positive amount on the table.

I was here, in the famous Las Vegas one always heard or watched on TV. And I recalled that my parents were here too 15 years ago, when I was still a young mischievous elementary school kid who just started learning piano. At least there are topics which we can chat about when I'm back.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

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