Bus Tour Staples

August 26 and 28, 2016

dsc_0239

Hoovar Dam from the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

There are certain staple items that every Chinese bus tour thinks it needs to cover – a university, a chocolate factory and a shopping outlet mall. I am not being racist, it’s a genuine observation based on my experience.

dsc_0082

I understand the shopping bit. Most people love shopping. People want to buy stuff they may not be able to buy back home. People want to buy gifts to take back. Shopping, I get. What’s with the other two. Why do people need to be bused to a university they don’t go to? I know I’m supposed to be all awed and inspired at these great centres of learning, but one part of me just doesn’t get it. Why exactly am I walking through this campus? What am I supposed to be doing? I find the mandatory chocolate factory tour even more baffling. I like chocolate, but what’s with the tours? This is not Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and they don’t even let you into where plain ‘ole chocolate is really made; that would be a quality control issue.

summer-20168This tour took us U.C. Berkley, a chocolate factory that was shut and to an outlet mall that barely had any shops. There was a cactus garden next to the chocolate factory, but it was quite pointless driving all the way for that. At 9 a.m. they took us to an Asian buffet, with instructions to eat enough to last till the end of the day. This was brunch. There would be no lunch. We decided to take our chances and skipped it, breaking our fast instead on some bakery items we had stashed away. We reached the shopping outlet around lunch time. We were given around two hours to get back to the bus. What are buying, groceries? To be fair, there wasn’t really much to shop there. We spent our time grabbing pizzas at the cubicle sized food court.

Advertisements

Grand Canyon

August 27, 2016,

Grand Canyon – West Rim

summer-20167

Last time we went to the South Rim. This time, for logistical reasons, we opted to go to the West Rim. The West Rim is privately held by the Hualapai Reservation. Though not as vast as the South Rim, I was more impressed. The shuttle bus makes three stops. The famous glass Skywalk (or infamous toilet seat) over the Canyon is at the second stop. There are no railings or barriers at the West Rim. It is a safety concern, but it also gives you a feel for the unfettered beauty and grandeur of the canyon. The rush you get when you stand on the edge and look down is incomparable. Be careful, for here you can hear l’appel du vide* and it will have you believe that you can soar like the eagle.

* l’appel du vide – call of the void, the crazy urge to jump from a great height

What Happened TO Vegas?

August 26-27, 2016, 

Las Vegas

We are traveling with the family and are on the bus tour that just doesn’t get the whole Vegas nights things, but even if I take those externalities out – what happened to Vegas?

The streets are less loud and the crowds are thinner; the drunk groups of young adults staggering around with oversized drinks have been replaced by families and hand holding couples. Is Vegas getting gentrified? Or is it just a reflection of how the economy is doing?

I vividly remember my first time here. It was electrifying. The strip was buzzing and bursting – jazzy lights, dancing fountains, fake monuments! Colorful characters jostled about, laughing and chattering loudly. It was like stepping into a decadent fantasy fiction.

The glamour seems to be wearing off. What happened?

Monterey Bay

August 25, 2016,

Monterey Bay

summer-20166While we did not go whale watching in Monterey Bay, the when-will-this-end bus tour took us to the aquarium.  We were given instructions on which exhibits to check out, in what order and how to get there.  The best part of this excursion was the feeding. Unlike Seaworld, you don’t get to feed the animals, you instead get to watch them feed. The big guys first, then the little ones. If you are wondering why the big fish don’t just eat the little fish, after all this is no Zootopia – the aquarium throws in lots of feed and fed food is easier to get than chasing after prey. The small fry stays out of the way till the big fry is done eating. Then comes the sardine tornado.   Hundreds of sardine swarm towards the food, like a mini silver tornado moving under water. This is the coolest part of this exhibit.

summer-20165The tour then took us along the scenic 17 mile drive, much of which hugs the gorgeous Pacific coastline.  It’s incredible, when you contrast this with the man-made and manicured beauty of the fabulous houses that line it. The bus took us to Bird Rock and allowed us savour its wild beauty for a few moments.

Should we make that desperate bid for freedom?  Before you know it, it’s too late and we are again trapped in the metal cage and shunted away.