Dali, China: Beautiful Scenery, Dead Butterflies and I Get Lost and Hitchhike

I woke up in Kunming this morning and had a fight with my VPN for way too long to actually admit to, so let’s just say it was a long time.

Took my hotel’s airport shuttle to the airport and checked into my flight to Dali.  The flight was a short 57 minutes but I screwed up everything about it.   I thought it was leaving at 9:35, but that was the time it was arriving.  I also at some point thought we were leaving an hour late because it was 8:30, but that is the time my flight was supposed to leave (and I thought it was 9:35 so wouldn’t 8:30 be an hour early and not late?)  Yeah.

We land in Dali and I am picked up by a prearranged driver for my hostel.  This is a luxury I love affording myself because it sure beats figuring out where I have to go.  Which as you read on, you will see why it is probably best I am not left to fend for myself.

I checked into my room at the Dragonfly Guesthouse.  There are so many places to stay in Dali, all with amazing reviews.  How do you choose?  Easy.  Pick the one with the Gilmore Girls related name. Easy, peasy.  Lorelai would be proud.

dragonfly

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I guess I should also show you my journal for this trip.  Isn’t it beautiful?

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Now back to Dali.

Today’s plan was to go to Butterfly Spring and Er Hai Lake.  Both of these things are near each other.  Actually Er Hai lake is near everything, it is so HUGE.  But I wanted to visit up top and Dali is at the bottom.  My hostel was super helpful with telling me how to get there.  What they did not account for was me being an idiot.

I got totally lost looking for the bus I needed to take.  Dali is small.  OH YEAH AND – Dali is known as the begninng of the banana pancake trail, which means it is a regular stopover for backpackers.  So it should have lots of English, but does not.  It is also supposed to be a lovely place to get lost in. Maybe it would be if I had gotten lost on an interesting street, rather than in what appeared to be military housing.  I am not kidding.

Unlike most of China, no one is yelling “HELLO” at me and I cannot find anyone who speaks English.  Finally I find where I need to be.  Or so I thought. But once I am there, I don’t see the bus I need.  Every person I show the Chinese writing my hostel wrote out for me, doesn’t seem to know anything other than a random direction to point.  I don’t know how the hell I ever found this bus.  It was down some street and up some road and honestly, I was really just following the dude in the pink shirt that said “U WILL NEVER WALK ALONE’ because he had a guitar and leather boots in 80 degree weather.   At this point, I figured he would lead me to a more interesting place than Butterfly Spring.  But I found the bus!  And I went.

When you walk into Butterfly Spring, there is a whole park in front of you and an exit to the left.  When you walk towards the exit, you walk through a basic outdoor shopping mall of so much flea market type crap, hello typical China.  But the thing is, I did not realize this was the exit until I walked through all of it.  Up and down aisles, looking for the lake.  In and out and around and then back to the entrance where now of course, I see the exit sign.  Sigh.

I made my way up to the lake.  I caught a live show going on.

butterfly spring dali chinaHere is a walkway of wishes:

wishI went to “Butterfly World’ which is where all the butterflies live. When you walk in, there are tons of glass mounted dead butterflies and some freshly dead ones on the walking path.  If you know anyone who loves butterflies, do not take them here.

My very first photo using my wide angle lens:
butterfly spring lake dali china

Now the true clusterfuck begins.  Er Hai lake.  Okay this is my fault. Because I kept trying to say “lake” and no one knew what I was talking about.   I should have been saying “Er Hai.”

Pointing on a map got me nothing, which was really just COME ON NOW because this lake is so huge.  But I think the problem was that I kept pointing to a specific spot on the map while saying “lake” and no one would drive me.  Except for one taxi driver.  Who drove me to somewhere, with a ticket booth, that was not the lake.  He then took off and left me there.  I don’t even know what this ticket booth was for.  I kept saying “lake” and the response I got was “no English.”

So I began walking for about half an hour before asking someone “Er Hai?”   From what I could gather, the lake was nowhere near where I was and no one would tell me where it was.  Everyone kept saying “taxi” which would have been fine at this point except that these were really tiny streets and the “taxi” was actually a horse carriage. And being China, the carriage was actually a flimsy metal cage.  Mother fucker.

I am opposed to horse drawn things.  It is okay if you want to do this, but I do not.  But I did not have a choice at this point.  I am in the middle of nowhere, getting eaten alive by flies, with no way to get where I am going and no way to get back to where I came from. So horse cage it is.  This was brutal.  I was in that thing for at least 45 minutes until we finally saw the lake.  I jump out and try and pay the guy.  He does not understand that I am getting out and staying out.  He thinks that we are stopping for photos.  I cannot pay him because I don’t know how much to pay him, because he doesn’t understand me.  Finally some girl comes out of nowhere and translates.  Then she asked me how I am getting back to Dali and saying “I don’t know, can you help me” would have worked better than what I actually said, which was “I don’t fucking care, I am not getting back in that thing.”

I would venture a guess that maybe after half an hour of walking, I find some guy on a bicycle who is very concerned when I tell him I need to get back to Dali.  He names a town that is nearby but tells me that it will take me at least an hour, if not longer, to walk there.  I don’t have a choice so I am kind of okay with this.  But not really. I have no water, I am burning, I am starving and I am sweating.  The entire time I am walking, all I can think of is that poor horse and how I deserve to live though this for making him live through that.

I keep going.  It gets hotter, I get sweatier and more dehydrated.  I don’t know how much further this town is, or what is going to happen when I get there.  Do they have taxis?  Will I find anyone who understands the word “bus”?

I then start doing the opposite of what a 40-something should do in this situation and I begin telling myself that I need to quit my job and travel full time.  Stay with me here:  The reason I am busting my ass to get back to Dali is that I need to get up tomorrow and go see Cangshan Mountain.  If I did not have a job, I could stay here an extra day.  Then I could be free right now, take this walk leisurely, soak in the sights and whenever I found a town, I could figure out my options.  Or fucking hell, I could fucking walk all the way back to Dali and sleep all day tomorrow and then go to Cangshan the day after.

But I do have a job, which means my time is limited.  So I have to plan my trips rather than just go about it day by day.  And since this trip is planned, I have to go to Cangshan Mountain tomorrow because I have to leave Dali the day after, to stick to my “I am too much of a pussy to quit my job” schedule.

As I am getting madder at me, I decide that fuck it, let’s start hitch hiking.  AND IT WORKED.   A tuk tuk driver pulls over with a full tuk tuk.  I try to wave him off because the back is overflowing with Chinese girls and they all move to sit on each other’s laps to make room for me.  Oh China, I love you so much.

He drives me to the Dali bus.  This was such a long drive.  I never, in a million years, would have found that bus.

Then it is back to Dali where I do not technically get lost, but I have to keep stopping for directions to make sure I am walking the correct way and I can find no one who speaks English.  But luckily for me, my room key has directions on the back so I just hand people that and they point me in the direction I need to go.

My Fitbit registered seven miles today.  About 6.5 of those were me being lost.  Sigh.

I got back to my hotel and typed this up while sitting on the roof, with this as my view.

Dragonfly roof

Life is the coolest thing ever.

OH AND:  Er Hai Lake erhai lake dali erhai lake dali china er hai lake dali

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And the area I was lost in.  Not too shabby, eh?

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31 Hours from My Apartment to Kunming Via Kong Kong: Then Not Finding an ATM That Takes My Debit Card.

After taking an hour long subway ride (that includes taking three trains to avoid having to carry my bags up several flights of steps,) I missed my airport train by about two seconds.  I wait half an hour for the next one, and then finally arrive at the airport.  Of course I was excited to see my flight was delayed.  Oh wait, no I wasn’t.  Sigh.

I was a combination of exhausted and hyper and I didn’t even realize I was making some sort of scene by stamping my feet singing outloud and talking to my cute little stuffed dog.  Then an airport employee came over to ask me if I was okay and then I realized I looked like a crack head.

My first flight was seventeen hours.  I always read about how Cathay Pacific is a great airline so I was excited to be flying them.  They do not have individual air vents at your seats, or at least they did not on this flight.  I did not like that.  They also didn’t do regular beverage service on this flight.  I am not sure if it was because it was an overnight flight or if that is normal.  Yes, you can hit the call button and someone will come, but I felt weird after eight hours of nothing, asking for a snack.  I don’t even know what kind of snacks they had.  It was weird.

My row only had two seats.  I was in the window and my seat mate had a seat’s worth of empty space next to her, until some woman decided to start jogging in place in it. I could not stop laughing.  I understand the reasoning for the jogging in place on a plane.  I do not understand why you would  think it was okay to do so, so close to another person.

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Descent into Hong Kong:
plane landing in Hong Kong

I need to start bringing a phone charger with me.  Oh and a toothbrush.  I would have loved to have brushed my teeth at the airport.  Or killed time on my phone. But the battery was dead, so I could not take a picture of the guy who was using plastic bags as socks, underneath his sneakers.

I wanted to go to Ngong Ping during my layover to see the Tian Tan Buddha when his head is not completely enveloped in a rain storm like last year, but wouldn’t ya know it.  It is storming outside again today. I am sorry Tian Tan Buddha, I am trying here.

Killed the 4.5 hour layover by walking around the airport and using every free internet terminal they have.  My Fitbit told me I walked seven miles in the airport!  Then it was time to fly to Kunming.

Although this flight is only two hours, I just about lost my mind on it.  I handled the seventeen hour flight with grace, I handled this one by having a mental meltdown and GET ME OFF THIS FREAKING PLANE ALREADY.

Descent into Kunming.  Look at that blue sky.

Blue sky plane

I am staying at a hotel that is meant for people with a long overnight layover between flights. I had the idea that I could make my way back to the airport to catch the subway to get to the East Bus Station to go to the Stone Forest tomorrow.  I ask a woman at the information desk to call my hotel for me to let them know I am here. She does and I ask where the ATM is.  She points me and it will not give me money.  It keeps asking me to enter the correct pin.  Um, I am?  I give up because it clearly hates me.  I try another card, nothing.  I try an actual credit card, nothing.

It is amusing to me that before I traveled, it took me so long to finally go overseas alone because I was scared of exactly this: not being able to get cash out of an ATM and having no one back home to call for help.  Now that it appears this is happening, I really don’t care.  I know that I was able to get cash last year, I am sure this is just a dick ATM machine.

When the shuttle driver comes, I follow him.  One thing I have noticed about China is that no one will help you with your bags.  This is fine because drivers also do not accept tips so it evens out.

I know from reading  hotel reviews that mine is very close to the airport, under a ten minute drive. So obviously five minutes in, my driver’s friend gets a text and they  have to go back to the airport to pick up more people.  So many more people.  When we get to the hotel, they all get out before me and now the line to check in is very long.

I tried to pay with a credit card but they do not take them, which is fine, I knew this.  The woman walks me outside to an ATM…that will not take my card.  I don’t know what to do.  I go back and SUPER NICE – the woman asks me what I am doing tomorrow.  Stone Forest. She gets excited and tells me that they will drive me back to the airport tomorrow so I can get cash.  Then I can go to the Stone Forest and come back at night and pay.  So we are basically operating on the honor system here that I am going to pay for my room.  Can you imagine trying this in America?  HAH.

I had some RMB leftover from last year’s trip, thankfully.  I offered to pay for one night.  The super nice woman pointed to where there was a store and offered that I want to order food, to be delivered to come downstairs and they will call for me.  Also notable:  She apologized to me for not speaking English too well.  Um, I am the idiot who flew here without speaking Chinese.  The last thing on Earth you owe me is an apology.

I head out and basically run to the store to get some iced milk tea. I got so addicted to this last year and the only place I have seen it in NYC was in the hand of a guy on the subway and rather than asking him where he got it, I opted to drool instead.

milk tea

I went to my room and went online to ask my friend Google where I could find an ATM in the airport that works.  This is when I find out my VPN is not working.  Oh not today VPN. I had to reinstall it and whew, works.  Google tells me that Kunming is a major airport and all ATM’s should take foreign cards.  BUT IT WON’T.  I find a message board where someone tells the tale of how China ATM’s have six digit pins and if you put in two zeros before your pin, it should work.  Although I did not have this problem last year, I am willing to try the zeros thing this year.

This morning I got up and took the free shuttle to the airport.  The driver did not speak English, I do not speak Chinese.  She tried to ask me something, it did not work. Someone else in the car used her phone translator and I figured out she was asking what terminal.  I don’t care, I just need cash.  So I just said 1 because it was easier than trying to translate that.

Back at an ATM that actually accepts my card with the double zeros but will not give me cash.  The only options if offers is a transfer.  I don’t really know what that means, is in bad English for withdrawal?  I don’t want to take the chance.  So again, I am in China walking all over the airport trying ATM’s that will not take my card.  I start getting paranoid because Google told me last night that if you try too many times, your bank may lock your card.  Then I spot an ATM that I know is going to work.  I just know it.  AND IT DID.  AND I HAVE CASH.  I blew kisses at it and waved it goodbye as I left.

I go back outside and know that there is no way in hell I am going to the Stone Forest now.  I am so mentally drained from walking all over the airport and the idea of getting to the Stone Forest at around noon and walking with dense crowds that I would have missed had I been able to go early like I wanted, sounded more like the opposite of what I wanted to do today.

I am sure I could have called my hotel to come pick me up for free but i just wanted to get away from the airport right now.   I took a cab back to my hotel, fully knowing I would be ripped off.   And I was.  He charged me 100 RMB = $16.  In the US, this would have been a $20-25 cab ride.  So on the one hand, not so bad.  But to consider that my hotel is only 156 RMB and comes with free round trip airport transport AND A ROOM, then know I was ripped off.  Also the driver tried to drop me at many different places that were not my hotel.  Luckily, I had already done the drive and knew where my hotel was.  I don’t necessarily think he was deliberately trying to take me to the wrong place.  We were on the correct street.  But still.

At my hotel, the nice woman who speaks broken English was not there.  So it took a bit to explain to a new person that I am checked in, no I am not going to the airport today, I am going tomorrow, etc.  But I got my key renewed and I am right now in my room, drinking iced milk tea and preparing for a nap.

This means my trip actually starts tomorrow.  Even though I did not make my way to the Stone Forest, I am happy that I had plans to do that or else I would have been leaving Kunming today.  I am so glad I didn’t have to deal with the cash thing on a day where I had to catch a bus or plane or train.

Itinerary for Traveling 7000+ Miles to China to Take One Photograph

Okay that title is unfair. I am not going to take ONE photograph.  I am going to take eleventy billion photographs.

I always have my future travel plans mapped out in my head.  Once per year I take a BIG trip.  I knew last year that my BIG trip for 2015 was going to be India.  But then as always, my plans changed.

Last year, I spent a month in China.  This includes me going to Tibet and spending a night at Mount Everest Base Camp.  I really should get my posts about that up on my blog, eh?  Most exciting thing I have ever done and I have yet to post about it a year later.  Worst blogger ever.

But anyway, back to THIS post.   When I left Tibet and flew to Chengdu, I was crippled with depression because I wanted to still be in Tibet.  It was the most beautiful place I have ever been.  Sometimes I look at the photos and I cannot believe that I ever stood here:

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So I sat and began Googling for other trips to Tibet.  I can picture me sitting at the desk in the apartment I rented in Chengdu and the exact moment when I found this photo that made my jaw drop:

[Photo credit: www.thelandofsnows.com]
larung gar

Wait, what?  Is that real?  It IS real?  This exists?  On Earth?  And I can go there?  Here is the post that started it all.

As soon as I got home, I began my plans of traveling 7000+ miles just to see this incredible place.  Although getting there requires me to first get to Chengdu, before spending eight days traveling on buses through small towns on the Tibetan Plateau, it doesn’t seem all that complicated.   The route is clearly laid out here, all I have to do is follow it.   How awesome is that?

I spent months working on an itinerary.  I was determined to see all the things in China that I had to pass over in 2014 due to time.  I booked my flights based on this itinerary.  Then of course, I got totally sidetracked and veered way off course.

Here we go:

Kunming: I am flying here to see the Stone Forest in Shilin.  I booked a flight to Kunming specifically to do this.  As time went on, I wish I hadn’t because there were now places I wanted to see more.  Note to self:  Once you book a flight, stop Googling for places to see in China.  It just complicates EVERYTHING for  you.

Dali: The next obvious stop from Kunming.  The iconic image of Dali’s three pagodas that are highlighted in every China guide book.  Cangshan Mountain.  Blue skies, fresh air…yes I did just use “blue skies” and “fresh air” to describe my upcoming trip to China.  It isn’t all Beijing ya know.

Lijiang:  There is a mountain.  There is an impressions show.  There is a “must take” photo of a beautiful bridge being reflected in the water below, with a view of the mountains in the background.  Um, sign me up please?

Shangrila:  I kind of almost did not go this far.  Because once you go this far, you have to go to Tiger Leaping Gorge, right?  I mean it is RIGHT THERE.  But adding on Tiger Leaping Gorge took up too much time.   But I did want to see the Baishu water terraces.  Oh and the second largest prayer wheel in the world.  So I’m going.  And skipping Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Because it is my trip and I can do whatever I want.

Mount Emei:  This was on my itinerary last year but I never left Chengdu because I was too busy having a mental break in my room while furiously reading about traveling to Tibet.  I am correcting this mistake this year.

Kangding:  OH KANGDING.  I AM SO EXCITED TO MEET YOU!  You are the start of me making my way to Larung Gar!  The whole purpose of my trip!  You offer a hostel run by an American couple who now live in Tibet, a mountain with a cable car (I LOVE CABLE CARS), a river…cool, crisp air and an overwhelming sense of LOOK AT ME!  I AM IN TIBET AND I GOT MYSELF HERE BY MYSELF AND I AM GOING TO LIVE FOREVER!

Tagong / Ganzi:  These two small towns are basically stops en route to Larung Gar.  Both look really picturesque, and I am excited to see them.

Sertar / Larung Gar: FINALLY!  This is the peak point of my trip.  The reason I am in China at all.  The holy grail of photographs.  The reason I bought a wide angle lens.  The reason for everything.  I am going to see LARUNG GAR.  I am going to cry I am sure.

Manigango / Jyekundo:  I am continuing on this route, as at some point I had planned to turn around in Xining and follow this route back.

Xining:   I went to Xining last year on my way to Lhasa.  I had plans of things to see and when I got there, decided I would rather just alternate between napping and editing photos in the beautiful common area of my hostel.

courtyard of Quinghai Heng Yu International Youth Hostel in Xining ChinaI would not be going back to Xining, except that you kind of have to once you leave Jyekundo.  It is a turn around point.  Your only other options are to go back the way you came, or fly to Xi’an.  My original plans were to go to Xining, take a slight loop through Xinjiang, return to Xining and head back to Chengdu with a final stop being Jiuzhaigou.  But nope.  I totally bungled those plans and forgot that a loop includes looping back. So now I continue:

Dunhuang:  A lake in the middle of a desert?  That everyone swears is Photoshopped?  Well aren’t you all going to be red faced when I prove you wrong.

Zhangye:  If you have ever read any of those viral “Top Places You Won’t Believe Exist!” stories, you have seen Zhangye.  The rainbow mountains.  That unlike Crescent Lake, actually ARE Photoshopped.  But they are beautiful even when they are not, and I am going to see them!

This was where I started to veer off course. I was going to return to Xining from Zhangye.  There was my loop.  But then I decided to go to Yining.  Why?  Because simply put, it is beautiful.  Then realizing I was going to be so close to Kazakhstan during the last couple of weeks of the trial period for US citizens to enter with no visa, well I have to go there right?

Zhangye to Yining is a 24 hour train ride and I vowed to never again.  But a twelve hour train ride, I can handle that.  So I am going to Turpan in the middle.  I am spending one day with a guide who will take me to see everything I want to see, then I will fly the rest of the way to Yining.

Yining: Dear Yining, You are going to be worth traveling to because you have Sayram Lake AND you have yurts I can sleep in at Sayram Lake.  Need I say anymore?  Yeah I didn’t think so.

Almaty:  Crossing over to Kazakhstan.   I have never seen Borat but I could probably quote many lines of it via people quoting it to me when I say I am going to Kazakhstan.  Almaty looks like a dream.  I am most excited to see Big Almaty Lake.  It will be the biggest splurge of this entire trip as I hired a guide to make it easy.

Astana:  I wasn’t going to go here at all, but it only a one hour flight from Almaty.  Plus that whole “no visa” thing may end in July.   So I may as well go and spend a day.

Then it is back to China.  I had already booked my flight home before going this far away from that flight.  I have a two day layover in Urumqi, which allows me to visit Heavenly Lake.  Then I return to Chengdu and spend a night before flying home.

I can no longer make changes to my itinerary because I am locked in with domestic flights and prepaid train tickets.  But if I could, I would cut out Yining and go to Jiuzhaigou.  Which was the actual reason why I was flying home from Chengdu to begin with.  Now to visit Jiuzhaigou, I have to make a third trip to China and…a third trip to Chengdu.  Fourth if you count that I am going to be in Chengdu passing through from Shangrila to Emei.  It is a good thing that I am going to live forever.

Stopover in Xining, China and Getting Knocked Down a Stairway. Oh China.

I took my first overnight train from Xi’an to Xining.  It was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I was fortunate to have a bottom bed in a soft sleeper car.  My cabin-mates were nice, did not try to speak to me, but did try to give me cookies.  It appeared they were all together.  The (one I assumed was the) father had the bottom bunk opposite me.  He coughed nonstop all night which kept waking me up.  But other than that, not bad at all.

I make it out of the train station. I attempt to walk down the steps.  There is a ramp on the right side of the steps, intending for you to roll your luggage down it as  you walk down the steps.  I could not figure out how to use it.  Neither could the woman in front of me.  Unlike me though, she kept trying.  This was holding up everyone.  Except that this is China so by “holding up everyone” I mean “making everyone smash into me to get me to go, but I couldn’t because she wasn’t.”  Next thing I know, I am pushed really hard, I still don’t want to knock the woman in front of me down, so I try to steady myself and end up falling backwards.  No one stops, they all keep continuing down the steps.  Sigh.

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It is only 8:00 am and I have planned to store my luggage, pick up my train ticket for tomorrow and go to the Ta’er Monastery.  To get here, you need to take a local bus from the train station, to a shuttle bus to the monastery.  Well I am outside and I do not see an actual station. Before I could even get my bearings, I am immediately bum rushed by a bunch of taxi drivers offering me rides. I say “no” about fifty times, this does not stop them from being in my face.  It is very difficult to deal with this.   I had a full wall of men in front of me yelling “TAXI” in my face.  So many, I could not see past them.  I cannot look to the right because when I try to, they all follow my head and stand and block me this way.  I look to the left, same thing.  It is overwhelming and makes it impossible to actually SEE ANYTHING or to get  your bearings.

One of them tells me that I am at the West train station and that I cannot get to my hotel cheaply from here, no buses go near there, etc.  I consider what he is saying and once again, second guess myself and once again, fall victim to someone taking advantage of me because I am a foreigner.  I consider that maybe those “bus to the shuttle” directions are from the wrong train station and I am screwed.  FINE.  I take a car to my hostel.  It was $50 yuan = $8.10 USD.

As we are driving forever, I think maybe I was too harsh and maybe the guy was not ripping me off.  This was indeed a long drive and the ride was pretty cheap.

Then we get to my hostel and there are buses EVERYHWHERE so I now know he lied to me.  Bonus:  taking a cab back cost me $25 Yuan – half the price.  I keep trying to console myself with “it is not a big deal, it’s only $8.10” but I have been doing that way too much on this trip and I vow to be a victim no more.

I stayed at Qinghai Heng Yu International Youth Hostel.  Booked via Agoda, it cost me $31.79 for a private room.  I was able to check in even though it was only 9:00 am.   I don’ t know if they wanted to, but they did not speak English at all and I don’t speak (I am not even sure what language is spoken in Xining – Mandarin or Tibetan?) so after looking a bit perplexed by my arrival, they gave me a room key.

I was so excited when I saw the courtyard:

courtyard of Quinghai Heng Yu International Youth Hostel in Xining China

WOW!  What a beautiful hang out area.  This place rules!

Then I get to my room.   It was bi-polar.  Enormous television, my own private water cooler.  But the room was gross and very stained.  The bathroom had that awful smell as if seven elephants were allowed to poop under the drain in floor.   The bed was just a box spring with a mattress pad.  But who cares?  I am in China!

Quinghai-Heng-Yu-International-Youth-Hostel-in-Xining-China

My hotel offers tours to see golden rape flowers.  I originally thought this was horribly translated English but it turns out that Canola flowers are called “rape flowers’ in China.   I am not sure why I think this makes it not horribly translated English.  Hmm.

rape flowers
My plans were to shower, take a nap and go see Xining.  That did not quite work out. Showering I thought was going to be a real treat since there was an actual shower curtain and for once, I would not soak the entire bathroom when taking a shower.   But the bar for the curtain curved up many inches so the curtain would not stay closed, because it couldn’t, because gravity kept pulling it down into a wad in the center of the bar.

Nap time.  I set my alarm and it went off for an hour and a half before I actually woke up.

I went out to get some food and discovered that there is no place at all near my hotel with cold drinks.  Everything is sold on the counter, warm.  Even milk tea and milk coffee.  This is weird.

I spot an ATM and make what I hope is my last withdrawl and then ended up really hoping it was not my last one since I forgot to get a receipt.  You need the ATM receipt to show when you change your Yuan back into USD before leaving China.  So hopefully I end up spending it all organically and don’t find myeself shopping in an overpriced (for China, underpriced for United States) airport just to get rid of it.

I get back to my room with some bread and warm drinks.  Then I decide I don’t want to go out and see Xining. I really wanted to go to the Ta’er Monastery and it is now too late. The rest of the things to see here were just things I was going to see since I was already here.  So I spent the late afternoon sorting pictures as much as I could with my netbook constantly malfunctioning.  I tried to download some podcasts to listen to on my 24 hour train ride tomorrow, fail all over the place.  All three USB ports do not register anything inserted to them any longer, this is new.  They all worked yesterday.  I have never in my life owned any electronic item that did not malfunction.  I am clearly cursed.

It is also worth noting that every time I tried to leave my room, it took me about ten minutes to get the door unlocked.  Same with getting back into my room.  They key was an actual metal key and kept turning but the lock would stay locked.  It got to the point that when I would go between my room and the courtyard, I would just leave it unlocked.

Outside my room is a swing that people like to sit on.  It squeaks so bad and it is a few inches from my window.  Of course it is.  I finally went out to glare at the couple who had been swinging on it for a good half hour and that actually worked.  They got up and went inside.  I was again woken up by it at 6:30 am.

Check out is at 11:00, my train is at 3:00.  I wanted to hang out in the pretty courtyard and use the internet but the whole “You don’t speak English and I only speak English” thing got in the way of me asking if this was okay, so off to the train I go!

I got to the train station no problem, thanks to having my destination printed out in (again, I have no idea what language.  The nice lady who was my train ticket broker sent me the print out to hand to a cab driver.)

From there, my story continues here.  Read all about my mental meltdown while surrounded by stunning scenery, aboard the train to Lhasa.

Sometimes As a Solo Traveler, I Want to Travel Solo

Once upon a time, I was in Chengdu, China.   I was going to visit the Grand Leshan Buddha.   I get on the bus and it is hot and smells like a homeless person.  Shortly after, it begins.  I hear some girl talking loudly on a cell phone.  “There are no backpackers on here, only Chinese people and they all smell bad.”  I shrink down in my seat a bit.  It is one thing to not wish for human companionship ever, it is another to hide from someone who is rude enough to have said this aloud.  Don’t assume that no one on the bus can understand you.  I’m betting a bunch of them could.

We get to the town of Leshan and I make the mistake of not immediately running off the bus.  I get caught.  “Hi!  Do you want to share a cab?”  No thank you, I am taking the bus. “I will take it with you!”  Argh, fine.  We walk to the bus and she is joyously telling me how happy she is to have found me.  Me?  I don’t want to be found.

There is a thing about meeting people while traveling.  That thing is that I don’t want to.  Let me make this clear: I know I am the odd one here.  People who want to meet other people?  They are normal.   YOU are normal.  You should be glad I don’t want to spend time with people.  Who wants to spend time with a weirdo?  Go on, run off and be free!

Whenever I do meet someone, the internal dialogue starts.

Me: Ughhhhhhhhh

Me: Would it kill you to just be nice to this person?

Me: No, but I just don’t want to talk to anyone

Me: But would it kill you to just be nice to this person?

Me: But a huge part of this trip was to escape the real world and BE ALONE

Me: BUT WOULD IT KILL YOU TO BE NICE TO THIS PERSON?

Me: I DON’T WANNNNNNNAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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If this conversation took place with a participant other than myself, I would undoubtedly be told I am rude, conceited, think I am better than everyone, I am a bitch and so on.  I know this because I have been called all these things by people that I did not know, who somehow felt I was obligated to accept their offers of companionship.

Do I think I am better than anyone?  Of course not.  Why does it always have to be me thinking I am better than anyone?  Why is this always the label I receive for wanting to be alone?

Has it ever occurred to you, imaginary social person that I am having a conversation with, that maybe I prefer to be alone because I enjoy the evenness of solitude?   No ups, no downs, just simplicity.  I like being alone.  Maybe I don’t want to talk.  Maybe I don’t want to sit here and answer questions about “what do you do for a living?”, when I don’t like my job and the last thing I want to do is talk about it when I am 7000 miles away from it?

Maybe I don’t want to explain my entire life story to a stranger, in order for you to understand why I prefer solitude.

Q: Well if you weren’t so full of yourself, you might enjoy other people’s company.

A: Let me ask YOU imaginary person I am having a conversation with:  Do YOU think YOU are so much better than everyone that there must be something wrong with me if I don’t want to hang out with you?  Are YOU so full of  YOURSELF that it never occurred to you that maybe my thoughts at this exact moment are more important to me than answering questions about how many countries I have been to?  See?  It works both ways.

So anyway, back to my story.

Here I am in China.  With a person who is super excited to see another Westerner.   The internal dialogue is flowing like a mother fucker.  No it will not kill me to spend a few hours with this person.  Even though it is not going to be a few hours.  It is going to be however many hours we are at Leshan, then waiting for the bus back, then two and a half hours on the bus back ACK.  No, this will still not kill me.  But I came to China alone, to be alone.  This trip is a huge deal for me.  I daydreamed about it for months.  I counted down the days.  I am finally here.  Now my daydreams are being infiltrated by the “get to know  you” questions that I just don’t want to answer right now.

We get on the local bus.  I don’t know where exactly we are going, I assume we will see the Buddha – this thing is ginormous.  It seems like we are on there for a long time.   The entire time, she is asking me about where we are getting off.  I don’t know.  She is now mentioning that it was stupid to take the bus if I didn’t know where to get off, and we should have taken a cab.  No, YOU should have taken a cab.

We see something that looks like SOMETHING so we get off the bus.  However, once we are off the bus, we are clearly not where we are supposed to be. We ascertain from some people who can speak very little English (which is a billion times more Mandarin than I can speak) which way to walk.  We begin.  My buddy now starts talking about how Chinese men are really ugly. Aloud this is happening.  In China.  I am crawling inside my skin.

We have to cross over a bridge and this is when my buddy starts getting visibly annoyed with me.  I am in China.  I am very excited to be here, I want to take pictures of everything.  So I cross the bridge to the other side and take a picture.   My buddy has had enough of my picture taking and is encouraging me “come on, let’s go!”   I am not here with you.  I am not here with anyone.  I can do whatever I want.

So we get to the beginning of the Buddha site.  My buddy wants to hire a guide.  I do not want to hire a guide.  If I were going to ever hire a guide, it would be like a city guide, not an attraction guide. It is this ridiculously huge Buddha, what do you need a guide for?  But if YOU want a guide, you should totally get one.  You are in China!  Do whatever you want!  I try to sound enthusiastic and encouraging.

But me not wanting a guide = she does not get a guide.

We stop at the bathroom and this is the soap container:

flies in the ointment

Next we begin the super long walk to the Buddha. We would not be taking this long walk if we had stayed on the bus.  The bus does go straight to the Buddha entrance.  This is my fault because I didn’t know where to get off so we got off too early.  I don’t care all that much.  Part of being solo in China is getting lost.  My buddy however, she cares.  She is mad, we should have taken a cab.   No YOU should have taken a cab.  I don’t even know you.

She is growing more and more annoyed with me.  This walk is so long, should have stayed on the bus, should have taken a cab.  I stop for too many photos, “What are you going to do with all these photos anyway?!?”   Post them on my blog of course!  Which I do not tell her about because I already know I am going to be writing negatively about her on it.

And of course, if this woman has a blog, she would be writing just as negatively about me.  But the difference here is that I am aware we are not compatible and I want her to GO AWAY.  She is aware (?) we are not compatible and she feels we should compromise to get along.

I keep politely letting her know “You can go off ahead of me, I don’t mind.  I know I take a long time and I don’t want to hold you up.”  And she does not go.  Yet she keeps getting more annoyed with how slow I am going.   In the interest of honesty, I was moving even slower than I normally would have been, in hopes that she would go on without me.

Finally we get to the entrance.   Finally.   Instead of going to the entrance though, I walk to the side of the park outside to take pictures.  At this point my buddy has had it with me and goes in without me.  Finally she is free, finally I am free.  In reality we both should have always been free.  Even if only one of us wanted to be free.

If you  have read this entire thing, I will reward you with a pretty picture of the Grand Leshan Buddha.

Grand Leshan Buddha China

My Last Stay at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City

I made two trips to Atlantic City this past summer.   I never posted about either of them because I am the world’s worst blogger.  I am now going to post some pictures from this trip before I get to posting about a third trip last weekend.

For both summer trips, I stayed at Trump Plaza and both times were my last times staying here as this hotel and casino closed soon after.

Trump Plaza Atlantic City New Jersey

You know what else closed too?  These guys, Showboat and Revel:

Showboat casino Atlantic City Showboat House of Blues Atlantic City Continue reading

Revel Atlantic City

Taj Majal will likely be next.   This is my choice for prettiest Atlantic City casino.

Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City New Jersey Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal casino Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino Atlantic City New JerseyHilton closed earlier this year.  Caesars Entertainment managed to close the casino at Claridge without much news about it.  It is now used as just a hotel for Ballys and Caesars guests.  I have stayed in this tower, it is horrible.  Mind you, I am not a cul de sac namby pamby who requires a fancy hotel.   But the lighting in my room was horrible.  I was trying to write in my diary and it was too dark with all the lights on to see what I was trying to write.  That kind of horrible.

Sands used to be next door to the Claridge.  It was demolished to make way for a new property that was never even started.  Somewhere along the way, it was made into a fenced in park with positive words scattered around it.  I personally think it is stupid.

weirdo park

When I checked into Trump on one of my trips, the line was not moving at all.  I stood there forever wondering what is it that people do when they are checking into hotels at casinos that they stand there for 238743 hours talking to the desk clerk.   I mean seriously, every freaking time I check into a hotel attached to a casino, it takes every person in front of me a ridiculously long time.  Yet it only takes me about three minutes.

Finally it is my turn to check in.  I say “I don’t care about anything except that it is a smoking room.”  He says back to me “you are the easiest person I have had in…” and completely drifts off to the point I think he is never going to finish the sentence.  Then he snaps back to reality and continues with “ever.”

He gives me my keys and off I go.  OH HEY.  I got a suite!  How exciting!

Trump Plaza SuiteTump Plaza suite living room Tump Plaza living room suiteRoom view:
Trump Plaza viewAnd a filthy telephone:
Trump Plaza dusty phoneI guess if I needed to call someone and did not want to use that phone, I could just use the house phone by the elevator.  Oh wait…

WP_20140811_001[1]Here is Bally’s Wild Wild West.  This will be the new prettiest place once Trump Taj Mahal closes.

Ballys Wild Wild West Atlantic City boardwalk Atlantic City Boardalk Caesars Wild Wild WestBallys Wild Wild West Atlantic CityBally’s casino:
Ballys casino Atlantic City New JerseyBallys Wild Wild West Casino Atlantic CityAnd back outside we go…

Caesars Ballys Claridge Atlantic City New Jersey

Atlantic City sand sculptingSteel Pier amusement park Atlantic CityAtlantic City beachAtlantic City beach at sunsetAtlantic City Beach New JerseyI would tell you more about the gambling portion of this trip except that it was so long ago I don’t remember any specifics.  I know I lost both times, which may be the real reason why I don’t remember.  Sorry guys.

Happy Second Birthday to My Blog!

My blog turned two last weekend!  I probably should have posted this on it’s birthday, but I was too busy being a delinquent mother and gambling away in Atlantic City.

Last year, I did a post about things I learned in my first year of blogging.  This year, I learned one huge thing and that is I am cursed.

Some things that have happened to me in the past year:

I lost all my non-published content.  I work on four computers.   One is my PC at home, my preferred computer to work on.   One is my work computer.   One is my netbook that goes everywhere with me because it is small, but it also sucks and is frozen all the time.  The fourth is my actual laptop, which works wonderfully but is too big to travel with.

Going back and forth between all these computers should not be a problem.  But for me, it is.  Why?  Because the internet will not work on my home PC.  That leads to this:

Everyone:  If your wifi works in your apartment, you should be able to connect a cable from the modem into your PC

Me: Yes, I know.  I used to do this.  But one night I defragmented my computer and for some reason, it lost a lot of abilities, including going online.  I also lost the ability to choose 256 colors, or change my theme, and everything now defaults to Times New Roman, which I hate.

Everyone: But if the wifi works, the internet should work

Me: It does, but the COMPUTER IS BROKEN.

Everyone: Maybe you just need a new cable

Me: (smashes head into keyboard)

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So I would do tons of work on my PC and save it onto a flash drive and bring it with me that way.  Then one day, my flash drive vanished out of my bag.  I don’t have any idea where it went.  I tore up my apartment, it is not there.  I had nothing saved on the actual computer (YES I KNOW) so tons of blog posts I never uploaded to the internet are gone.

Everyone: You should save stuff to a cloud

Me: I know, but my PC won’t connect to the internet

Everyone: If you can get wifi, your PC should connect

Me: GAH MAKE IT STOP

I managed to fix my computer about a month ago.  This took me five hours.  My internet provider was of no help.  They kept telling me to call Dell.  Dell told me that my warranty ended seven years ago and that I could pay for service…no.   So now I do have internet functioning on it, I do use the cloud.   I just cannot do other things on my PC like post on Twitter or use Hootsuite because the security patch was erased when I defragmented and the new one will not load.   I tried every single thing Google told me to do.  I can’t do it anymore.  I just can’t.

I lost every single backlink and Facebook like on my blog.  Sigh.  I wanted to make the URLs of my posts, post without the date automatically in them.  So I switched to this.  One day before leaving for Las Vegas.  Then I realized that this changed every URL on my blog (duh) and that any link to my blog, was now dead.  This includes not only every Twitter post, every Facebook post, every shared URL by someone else, every blog I have ever posted on that allows you to do “last post by…”, every link in my own blog, on the “Where I’ve Been” pages, the Las Vegas Trip Reports section (which I had just heavily promoted using my current Vegas trip as the bait) and finally, every single Facebook like on every post I have ever made.   Do you have any idea how depressing it is to click on a post and see the bottom, the little Facebook like button and “0″ next to it?   There used to be triple digits there!

fblike

Since I was leaving for Las Vegas, and since I travel with an always frozen netbook, this was not something I could deal with.  So I did not deal with it.  It was killing me to see people retweet old tweets, with links that were now dead.  I have since redone my Twitter account and have scheduled the bulk of my blog up so that people searching for certain hashtags will see the newer tweets, with links that actually work.

The last technological meltdown that I am not yet dealing with, is that I am missing some photos from China.  See this beautiful photo of Tibet?

Tibet ChinaI saved it from my Facebook page.  Which I had to do because I cannot find it on a computer.  Which means that at some point between uploading it to Facebook, and today, it has gone missing off a computer.  Is it possible that it was saved ONLY on a flashdrive?  Of course it is.  Does that mean that there may be tons more photos from this adventure missing?  OF COURSE it does.  I did not have internet during a large part of my trip to Mount Everest.  Thereby, I had no cloud.  It is entirely possible I saved the pictures on a disk.  That is now gone.

The final straw for me was my netbook.   It kept whining “wah, Microsoft update, wah install now, wah pay attention to me” so I finally installed it.  Do you know what happened next?  I can no longer open Word.  This obviously happened during a trip to Las Vegas where I had been saving daily trip reports in Word.  I can (and did) open them in notepad on another computer.  But while this one was a simple solve, it was the final straw and I found myself hating my blog.

All of these things are my fault and I have solved all my problems.   I fixed the internet on my PC, I upload to the cloud regularly, I am purchasing a brand new Mac Air so I no longer use that shitty netbook.  I am not looking for advice.  I am just venting my frustration.

What is up next for year three?   Well I am going to rewrite and post all the China posts I never got up on my blog.  I have already started working on it.

I am going to GET OVER IT and stop sitting on my couch completely defeated by technology.  I am going to get up and kick technology’s ass back.  I have had enough of you screwing with me, now I am here to knock you the fuck out of my way.  BRING ME MY BLOG JEEVES.

I am also going to go back to China so I will have tons of brand new content, full of gorgeous pictures (that will also be saved in my cloud.  I promise.)

Christmas Trip to Las Vegas: Last Day and the Final Wrap Up

December 28, 2014: Day Thirteen of Thirteen

I woke up very early to try and get the most out of my last day.   Here is a picture of my last view of the sunrise over Las Vegas:
sunriseSo pretty.

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I counted my money.  I put $1070 aside.  This is $1062 for my flight to China, $5 tip for housekeeping and $3 for a Diet Pepsi at the airport.

Then the rest was MINE ALL MINE.   To be fair, there was only about $250 left.  OH and to be honest, I spend $70-ish on a carton of cigarettes.  Even though I swear this time I am going to quit, why not purchase my last carton when they are $7/pack rather than $12 in New York?

I ate a last breakfast at California’s coffee shop.  Then it was time to gamble.  I went to visit all my favorite machines to say good bye to them.  First up, obviously, nickel SuperTimes Pay at Fremont.  There are four machines in this bank.  My preferred one is on the left end.   Some woman was sitting next to it.   I sat down at my machine and it was stealing all my money.  This machine has been so nice to me this entire trip and now it is going to steal my money?  Now?  As I am playing it for the last time maybe even ever?   I get mad.  I kick it.  Then I yell at it.   I even punched the buttons at some point.  I was being a weirdo maniac and I don’t even care.  Finally I was down $100 on NICKELS and I had no choice but to give it the finger while storming off.

Next up: Four card Cleopatra Keno at Downtown Grand, where I was winning just a few hours ago.  I never should have left because now I am losing.   This place is so empty in the morning.  Not that it was really packed the night before.  But it felt like it was closed there were so few people in there.

Next stop: The D for quarter Double Double Bonus video poker.   Not even one four of a kind.

Last stop: Dumping all my quarters into Sigma Derby.   Some man asked me for a cigarette, hate.  Then he hands me a quarter HATE.  Cigarettes cost more than a quarter.

sigma derby the d las vegasFrom here, it was off to the airport for me.  No last day win.  I hate when that happens

I took the bus and then left my pass (I had a monthly pass good for a few more days) in the bill acceptor for the bus ticket machine, and off to home I went.

My Diet Pepsi at the airport was paid for with two singles and change, so I had one extra dollar bill to try one more hand of Keno.  I was so excited to think about how cool it would be to tell you guys I won eleventy billion dollars at the airport on my way home.  But it did not happen.

Final numbers for thirteen days:

Total budget is $200/day = $2600 for the trip.  I left $480 in my bank account so I could do the El Cortez promotion where you get 5% of your ATM withdrawals back in free play.  My bank’s ATM limit is $500 and with the ATM fee, I can only take out $480.   I did not need to ever take this out of the ATM but I did take $100 out of the ATM at Walgreens so there is only $380 in my account.

I brought home $1065 + that $380 = $1155 lost.   So sad and so stupid, the majority of my damage was done on my first full day.  I went so degenerate at Palace Station and then continued at Aria.  If I had not done that, my trip would have been so much different as I would have had a full budget every day.   Then I may have very well lost as much, or even more.  Or I may not have been so frugal that I would put $2 into a Keno machine and then would not have won $900.  Or I may have been playing quarters and won $4700.   That is why it is called gambling.  You never know what you are going to end up with.

Normally here I would tell you how many days there are until my next trip.   However, I vowed to not return to Vegas in 2015.   I am so sick and tired of coming home and doing the math and thinking about how far $1100 could go in another country.  And that in that other country, my experiences would be so much more exciting.

I mean, look at the many days I had where I was post degenerate.  I could not go nutso and grind away on video poker like I wanted to.   I could not play quarter Keno.   I could not play my nickel SuperTimes Pay on my first night downtown because I was not gambling.  I was happy to have sat on a bench with two homeless alcoholics because without them, my blog would have no content because I am a literal loser.

There was a huge change in me this trip because normally I would just say screw it, and do whatever I want.  If I have to go to the ATM, who cares.  It is my money, I will do what I want.  But on this trip, I didn’t even want to do that.  This shows how over Las Vegas I am.

But flights for Thanksgiving were only $330 for some reason.  So I booked one and I leave in 295 days.  I truly am a fucking asshole.

Christmas Trip to Las Vegas: Last Full Day Featuring a Run in with the Worst RTC Employee Ever.

I woke up at Four Queens very early this morning.   I had originally planned to go to Sunset Station for breakfast since I have a free buffet from MyVegas.  But I kind of didn’t want to go.   But I kind of felt like I should go.  I have not left downtown since arriving here Thursday.  Today is Saturday.  I do need to go to the Strip and take photos.  I sit around trying to decide what to do and my final decision is to go outside and take pictures of Fremont Street before all of downtown wakes up.  Then I will figure out what I want to do after.
california hotel las vegas

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Las Vegas Club has their back entrance (across the street from California) sealed off:

las vegas club back entrance closed offThey have given up some casino floor space for a touristy souvenir shop:

Las Vegas Club merch storeThen there is this stupid stage thing that blocks you from taking photos of Las Vegas Club:
Las Vegas ClubI end up playing some nickel Keno in California and win $70.   I am now starving so this solves the “Do I leave and go to Sunset Station” dilemma.  I have breakfast at California’s coffee shop, paying with comps.

I play some more Keno afterwards.  Some guy starts yelling “YEAH BABY!”  Much like me at the Orleans the other day, he has hit 8/9 and has won $900.  I don’t know why, but I offer that I hit that the other day.  He tells me “I hit it two hours ago.”  He pulls out his wallet and shows me the $900 TITO he has in there.  So just in case you were wondering if it is actually possible to  hit $900 on a twenty cent bet, it happened three times on my trip.  Only one was mine WAH.

I go back to my room to situate myself.   I am now finally heading to the Strip to take photos.  I cannot believe I have not done this yet this entire trip.  Not even on the days I stayed on the Strip.

I go outside and wait for the bus. I am going to take the SDX to SLS and walk to the Riviera.  After 45 minutes of no buses, I decide this is ridiculous and I will just take the 108.  Big mistake.  I ask the RTC employee there where the nearest 108 stop is.  He tells me it is at the Stratosphere, which confuses me.  I tell him that no, there is one closer.  He insists there isn’t.  I think maybe he is misunderstanding me. So I say “I know it stops at Bonneville Transit Center, and it turns around a bit past there, I am wondering what street that turn is on?”

Next thing I know, this guy and I are in a screaming match.   He is such a fucking douchebag and he is so MAD that I dare to suggest he is wrong.  I still want to know where the hell the bus stops so I don’t yell back at first.   I explain that all I want to know is where it stops since there is no bus stopping here (where we are standing.)  He then FLIPS OUT on me insisting that the bus does stop here.   “Yes, but I have been waiting 45 minutes so I would rather take the 108.”  He is FLIPPING OUT on me, so defensive “it isn’t my fault that you didn’t see the bus when it came.”  Right now I am so confused.  This guy is insisting the bus has come when I was standing there?  It hasn’t.  There are a million people waiting for it.  They didn’t see it either?  So now I start to get mad and I tell him the bus most certainly did not come and I yell to all the people that are now staring at us since he is screaming at me, “Did any of YOU see the bus stop here?” and no one answers.

Now because I am screaming back at this asshole, he then changes his mind and decides that the bus has not come because it is delayed.  I am still mad and I am yelling at him “I DON’T FUCKING CARE.  I WANT TO TAKE THE 108.  YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE IT STOPS, WHICH IS FINE, BUT YOU ARE YELLING AT ME BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT TO ADMIT YOU DON’T KNOW AND THAT IS NOT OKAY.”

Then he tells me I can take the SDX to Bonneville Transit Center to catch the 108.  As I have already stated, I don’t want to wait any longer for the SDX.  Now I am flipping out on him.  I tell him I am walking to Bonneville, when I get there, I will ask them where the 108 stops and while I am inside asking, I am going to report his horrible attitude.

I storm off, he is yelling “Miss, Miss, MISS” and I do not turn around. I give him the finger behind my back and kept walking.

I am now so fucking livid.   The entire walk to Bonneville, I was so angry and fantasized about clocking him in his face.   I did not go inside and report him because I was never really going to.   Who the hell has time for that when you are on your last full day in Las Vegas?

ANYWAY.

I get to Bonneville and the 108 is pulling in behind me, coming from a street that is closer to where I started.  I don’t even ask the driver what street it stops on because I was already never coming back to Vegas after this, and now this asshole RTC employee made me change my mind to never EVER.  Seriously, fuck that guy.

I take the 108 to the Riviera.   I get myself a large Diet Pepsi at AM/PM and take some photos.

Westgate:
Westgate Las VegasFontainebleau, the only thing in all of Las Vegas that is a bigger piece of waste than that stupid RTC employee. It looks to me like it is missing a lot more windows than before:

fontainebleau las vegas back fontainebleau las vegas incomplete fontainebleau las vegas never finished fontainebleau las vegas sideEveryone’s favorite, Circus Circus:

Circus Circus Las VegasThen I go inside the Riviera.   I love this casino so much.  It is always dead, which bodes well for me because I hate people.  I sit down at a progressive quarter Double Double Bonus video poker machine.  I start talking to it, telling it about that asshole RTC guy.  I am still so mad.

My baby takes pity on me and starts giving me lots of money.   I got so many four of a kinds.  At one point I got dealt tens and the next hand was dealt sixes.  I kept hurrying the wins off my screen because for some reason, they scared me.   I was not right in the head I don’t think.

After turning $100 into $350, I play some Family Guy.  I won and won and won and won and won.  Once my $20 was $150, it was time to leave.  But wait!  Just one more $20 in video poker.   Okay one more $20 in Family Guy.  But wait!  One more $20 in video poker.  Okay how about Cleopatra Keno?   Okay that sucked, but one more $20 in video poker.  This my friends, is how you lose your winnings.

I went outside and it is already dark.   I hate that.  I was up at like 5:00 am with intentions of hitting the Strip and now that I have finally made it here, it is dark already?

My beloved Riviera:

riviera las vegas

I walk to Encore.   They have signage up across the street for Resorts World.  I hope this opens.  I would totally go back to Vegas to see a China themed casino.

Resorts World Las Vegas

Encore:

Encore Las VegasEncore ButterfliesEncore tile butterfliesInside there is the usual flower display, and a flower carousel and hot air balloon:

Encore entranceEncore Las Vegas merry go roundEncore Las Vegas hot air balloonWaterfall outside:

Encore las Vegas waterfallI play around Encore, mostly Cleopatra Keno.  I keep doubling $20 bills.  Finally I find a nickel Ultimate X and it steals all my money, so I decide to leave.

By now it is completely dark outside.  So much for taking photos of the Strip. I have failed as a blogger.

I go back downtown.  I get some more pictures:

Binions Las VegasFour Queens Las Vegas The D Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience las vegas 1Here are some zip liners going during the Fremont Street light show:
Slotzilla zip lineDinner is a Binions burger, this is always my favorite meal of any trip.

I went to my room to situate myself and decide what my budget is for tonight.   I then brought that budget with me to Downtown Grand to play four card Cleopatra Keno.   I played forfreakingever.  Despite there being a penny on tails on the floor behind me, I doubled so many 20′s.   I had to keep cashing out my TITO tickets because I would run out of cash.  I finally left only  because I could not keep my eyes open any longer.

I stopped at Walgreens for a Diet Pepsi.   I had to stop at Fitzgeralds and try to win a quarter Royal.  No dice.

Then finally bed at the wee hours of the morning.   Las Vegas is so weird.  I feel like I was only out for a couple of hours.  Yet I had left my room by 6:00 am and came back at 3:00 am.  I got nothing done today.  Yet I had such a great day.

Christmas Day in Las Vegas!

This morning I wake up at Orleans.  I have a little bit of time to go gambling between Starbucks and checking out.

Orleans now has one HUGE Ultimate X video poker machine.  It is enormous.  I have wanted to play it the entire time I have been here, but it was always taken.  Not today!  I played a bit and doubled $40.  Then I went off to play the nickel Keno game that gave me $942 yesterday.  Some girl was sitting at it, on her cell phone, talking to whoever about “I am already in the casino, hurry up and come meet me!”  Yes please.  Hurry up so youse guys can take off and do whatever and I can have my machine.   I eventually grew tired of losing money while waiting so back to my room I went.

I packed up and got ready to move.  Today’s hotel is my last one of my stay.  Four Queens.  I booked this through Priceline Express Deals.  It is easy to pick out the downtown hotels on here based on resort fees.  Or lack of, like the Four Queens.  So you can pretty much figure out what you are getting.   Three nights, which include Christmas and a weekend came to $180 with tax included.

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Not paying for this room means I do not have to gamble to earn my keep.  In theory, you just about never have to gamble to earn your keep.  Your current stay is based on your past play.  But in every gambler’s mind, there is the whole thing with future offers.  People will happily lose hundreds of dollars to get a comp in a room that is $40/night.  This sounds insane to non-gamblers.  I know.  But what if on that second $100 bill  you win eleventy billion dollars?  That is why gamblers are gamblers.

I decided to take a cab even though I do not like taking cabs.  Mine almost killed me veering across several lanes of traffic when he almost missed the turn to get onto the highway.  Then he told me this was his first week of being a cab driver.  He was really nice and seemed genuinely sorry he almost ended my life.

The cab came to $38 with tip.  I could have taken the bus for free.

I went to check in and for some reason, in my mind it was very early in the morning so I was super grateful to be given a room so early.  I had Strip view, which of course doesn’t change the distance of the Strip:

Four Queens Las Vegas room view

I am raring and ready to go.  I was downtown for one night last weekend and I was not gambling so all my favorite machines are still waiting to be played for the first time on this trip.

First stop: Fremont for Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and SuperTimes Pay video poker!   I love this game and my specific machine so much.   She kept doubling $20 bills.   Then she gave me this:

7s x 8

I normally do not play quarters but since I was doing so well, why not?
quarter 4sI played forEVER here.  Hours and hours and hours.  I made way more than enough to cash in the American Casino Guide coupon that gets you a free buffet for 250 points.  I had no intention of using it for dinner, I don’t particularly want to eat at a buffet on Christmas by myself.   The boothling offered that it was good for dinner tonight though, which was a surprise to me.   That is also good to know since most coupons are not good on holidays.  It was also good she mentioned that it is “good for dinner right now if you hurry” because I had no idea it was dinner time.  I thought it was around 2:00 and it was actually 9:30.

Since I am exhausted, I decide to take advantage of this and go to my room when I am up.  I grab dinner to go from The D’s coffee shop, to use up the last of my comps here and retreat to my room and was asleep by 10:30.

Here was my itinerary that I basically did almost nothing on:

Thursday, December 25, 2014: Merry Christmas!
Breakfast: Orleans coffee shop
Check into Four Queens: 
Lunch:
Dinner: Binions Burger

El Cortez $10 ACG
250 points free buffet Fremont ACG
Plaza 2x points
Gold Coast 15X pennies / 11-7 100 points $5-100
Orleans 15X pennies
Suncoast (swipe) 15X pennies / 11X slots / 6X VP