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Saturday 24 Apr 2004
Las Vegas, USA

Hot Tamale

Yesterday I left Venice beach early in the morning and took two local buses to the Greyhound station in Downtown LA - supposedly where all the "bad stuff" happens. Sure enough we did drive through some infamous areas like Compton and Inglewood ("Inglewood always up to no good" as featured in the "California Love" rap song with Dre and 2Pac) and picked up some pretty unsavoury characters along the way! I sat up near the front to make sure I didnt miss the stop, but this was kind of a problem as person after person managed to kick into the bags (Damn I wish I didnt have so much junk with me!!). Nevertheless I made it to downtown alive and untouched (the only real weirdo that I confronted on the bus was an old white woman who had a real hate toward tourists judging by the looks she gave me the whole journey and her insane mutterings). Downtown LA is a bit of a kip, and sure enough more dodgy characters around. I was glad to be on my way on the Greyhound.

Greyhound trip was nice n spacious, despite what Id been told beforehand. I think maybe I just got a particularly good bus and it was pretty empty for the whole 6 hour trip to Las Vegas. In fact the time just flew by as I stared out at some pretty cool scenery (although it was often dull too). We passed through the Mojave desert scenery.. and driving out of LA into the hot desert, you could see snow-capped mountain peaks off in the distance which looked remarkably like New Zealand.

Arriving to Las Vegas, I couldnt find my way to the hostel, so I was forced to drag my heavy backpack and guiter down Fremont St and through Las Vegas Blvd. I had to walk about an hour in the sun in this situation.. not pleasant. Nevertheless the hostel Im staying in is situated in a great spot along the Las Vegas Blvd (also known as "The Strip" where all the main casinos are - a 10 mile stretch!!!) and I get a NORMAL bed instead of a bunk bed (which I hate because when you or the other person moves, the whole structure shakes!!)

I got my first glimpse at the mad melee of neon that is Vegas, while onlookers gawked at me carrying my backpack through the streets (most people here dont know what a backpacker is.. never mind what a hostel is! Hence the reason I got confused looks when I asked where the hostel was)

A funny thing also is how The Strip starts exactly from the border with California! They dont want people to drive an extra 100m before they can start gambling!

Las Vegas is exhausting! Not so much the heat, since everything really starts kicking in around 7pm and goes on well into the morning. It is the sheer size and culture-shock involved... I wandered down the Strip for about 4 hours (only getting halfway too!) and suddenly felt dizzy. It then occured to me that I was so busy staring at the glitz that I forgot to eat or DRINK anything! One quick detour to McDonalds fixed that (which is actually the most reserved of the strip restaurants... which is sayin something).

Everywhere you go they have free magazines full of pictures of scantily clad women offering escort services. Indeed, all along the strip theyre handing out small cards with the picture of an escort and a price for her "service". Weird. Its big business in sin city.

Wedding chapels are omnipresent too!.. even today I saw 3 couples getting married with "Elvis" acting as a minister!!

The casinos on The Strip are GIGANTIC - each one a small city in itself. They all have themes. For example Venetian is a replica of a Venetian castle and even features a gondola area out front. Very pretty. Then Luxor has a full-sized Pyramid! Paris has a full-replica of the Eiffel Tower!!

Got home at 7am this morning after a FULL NIGHT of exploring and getting wasted on the Tequila/Tobasco mixture of "Hot Tamale" with a few US lads in the hostel! I woke up at 2pm so Im still pretty wrecked today!! You can get budget food at ANYTIME of the night/day and I got a large Steak/Eggs/Potato/Toast for 3 bucks! Sweet!

Nevertheless I wanna head out and explore more of the Strip tonight and am gonna fill up on one of these all-you-can-eats for 8 dollars!!!


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