Work commitments mean this one is a little late, but is a 3 parter. This part will cover the main trip, the other two will cover my day at the Aria tournament and the final part will be a small write up of the SLS vs the Sahara.
Flights over on Xmas day were very agreeable as BA gave us a free upgrade to business, which is always a good start to any trip. Changing at Chicago was not quite as painful as we expected and AA delivered us to Vegas early evening. We went to pick up our car and I then understood why car hire prices had gone through the roof. The car park was practically empty. Vegas was going to be busy this year. But it was cold, and for Vegas I mean cold…..
Last week (Sunday) work took me and a colleague to Canada, to undertake a business process that had to be done in person. As is normal , a suit, etc is order of the day, so even though I was only away for a few days i packed a case to put in the hold.
We were booked with Air Canada, someone who I have used on many occasions and never had an issue. I arrived at the newly opened Terminal 2 Heathrow in plenty of time, so you can imagine I was surprised when I was given a standby ticket. Turns out my colleague was as well, and she had checked in prior to me !
One of the best things to do while in Vegas is get a car to get off the strip. I know the whole point of travelling all that way is to stay on the strip, but with the amount of trips we do, sometimes is nice to have a look around at where real people live, and more importantly eat. If you take a look at the my previous posts from this city, you will find a few foodie options off the strip.
As this trip was solo, nice dinners in fancy restaurants wasn’t really on the menu (ha), but good old fashioned, start the day well, breakfast was. So I decided yelp was my friend, and I picked out 2 of the top rated off strip venues for breakfast. The only criteria for me was that they had to be local joints.
First up for me was the Black Bear Diner on Tropicana. I didn’t know until i got there this was part of a smallish chain across 8 states, so not completely local, but 5 miles off the strip meant pretty much locals only. Taking a look at the menu, a lot caught my eye, however the Hungry Man Steak and Eggs looked favourite. Steak and Eggs was a new thing for me for brekkie, but hey I like both, so why not. Let me tell you this, I should of done this years ago. The Steak was perfect, the eggs just the right side of runny, and the hash was out of this world. The coffee and water kept coming and I left a happy man. Cept no wifi, which is a pain when in a restaurant on your own with nothing to do. Service was functional but no more. No chat, no smile. Hey, I have an East London accent, at least ask me if I’m from Australia like everybody else does in Vegas ! In short 14 bucks well spent, and I didn’t go hungry all day.
Two days later, I hit the road again based on the recommendations of other good breakfast hunters like myself and hit up Mr Mamas on S.Decatur. This was the real deal local cafe. Wedged between a gun shop and an aftermarket car wheel shop on a small strip mall, this place looked for all the world like a greasy spoon from home. Good start. As soon as i went in , I got talking to the manager while they cleared me a table (this was 08.15 on a Monday and the place was packed). Turns out his mother was English. So in order to be fair I order the Steak and Eggs breakfast and coffee. They had wi-fi, and really good staff who spoke to me while I was waiting, and made me feel at home. The family next door to me had french toast, and they were never going to finish the portion that came out, even if I got stuck in as well. Things were looking good.
My plate arrived and the first thing i noticed was the steak. A little smaller the the BBD, but still juicy. The eggs however were a little too oily , but edible ( 🙂 ). The hash was very standard. All in all, it was good but i think I had been spoiled by the BBD. But the staff and the atmosphere was so much better and I really wanted the food to be better as well.
So we have to go to the judges cards for the final decision.
In the red corner we have the Black Bear Diner.
A solid 9.5 / 10
In the blue , we have Mr Mamas.
A well deserved 9/10.
So this fight is won by a .5 decision to the new Breakfast Champion of Vegas – The Black Bear Diner.
But I believe Mr Mamas deserves a rematch as a minimum and will hopefully win the title.
One more point. AMERICANS please take notice.
This is bacon.
This is overcooked and full of fat.
So if you have any comments on somewhere else I should try let me know (or if you know why you flatly refuse to serve proper bacon).
The dice of life had rolled and I (we) had some spare time on our hands, so we took ourselves off for an unscheduled trip to Vegas (not a lot of poker content, some near the end, sorry Rob !).
Getting a car on landing is the only way to do it now, makes life so easy. So I picked up my MKZ from the airport and we were on our way. By the way, for speed and ease, Avis > Hertz (based on sample of 2 !).
We were in our nice hosted room in no time and were straight back out for dinner. The venue was to be Max’s Filipino Food on Flamingo. Max’s. Fastish food, but the crispy Pata ? Well, we will be back, put it that way.
A couple of decent table wins and our beds were calling.
Day 2 started with breakfast at the world famous Peppermill. Make sure you have a large appetite before you go, you will need it. Yes its tacky and neon, with multi coloured sugar in the dispensers, but the food is just………..mmmmm. So a big breakfast needs a big walk, so it was off to the outlets for a stroll and shop. I managed to get back in time to catch West Ham Sunderland in the MGM sports book. Learned that a dollar tip doesn’t get you too far for a beer in here! SO 8 dollars down but 3 points up it was back home for a gamble up. Another decent night at the tables gave me 5 straights wins at my table visits. The weekend was going well, roll on the week. That night we ate at Rice and Co in the Luxor. This place for sushi, etc is well underrated. BUT, don’t sit at the back, the aircon will kill you. But they will prepare Cali Maki’s if asked (not on the menu) and have a foursquare special to take a little off the bill (always useful in this town !).
Then the crash happened at the tables but was controlled and I was still ahead !!
Thanks to myvegas the next days breakfast at the Mandalay Bay was free, and another large feed at the buffet We took a drive around town, bought some sneakers in Caesars and then took off to the Town Square Shops. This place is more locals based than tourists and to be fair, wasn’t really for me. Until i found the cheapest A&F in Vegas. This place was a revelation, and will be on this list now for many visits in the future (car allowing !). That afternoon, i smashed the craps table for a few hundred so was good to go for the evenings festivities in KGB Burger in Harrahs. Another freebie thanks to MrsBen and Total Rewards.
Next day was the ever impressive Aria buffet (free !) and a gamble up on the strip. The gamble up did not work out for either of us, so we scuttled off home early after taking in the Bellagio conservatory. No penguins as spring is in the air, but good all the same. When were in the Bellagio, we saw 2 girls who had, what I can only describe as Arse Implants. This was the first time I have seen this, and I was taken aback (no pun intended – no photos either. I had one but it was blurry, I will see if MrsBen has any).
Thursday was the first day without the car so it was back to me in the pit and MrsBen at the pool. I don’t know who was more surprised, when i met her out at the pool, clutching 900 in chips from a 100 buyin on a Blackjack Table. Anyway, all donations gratefully received.
Buca de Beppo for dinner, courtesy of our pit boss and a few beers in the evening was a good start to our weekend preparations. I say preparations, we actually didn’t do a lot, apart from pool and tables. I hit another heater on the craps table to ensure went went home well in profit, and MrsBen was no slouch on the slots either and made quite a few bob for herself. We had our last evening meal in Camelot Steak House, which was quality as usual (and free !).
We left on sunday, well ahead cash wise of where we were to begin with, and with full bellies ! I also got the see WHU vs Liverpool, but least said the better. Apart for the American Liverpool fan in his Gerrard shirt, who I swear had never seen a game of football (soccer) in his life. The glory hunters have started and they haven’t even won the damn league yet !
SO POKER !………….
I got to play in the 9am crapshoot at the Excal twice and the 10.30 variant at the Luxor once. I could give you tales of bad beats, etc, and you know what, I will.
1. Made the break and went out pushing A9 (the best hand in poker) into 2 random diamonds, who made the flush on a A93 flopped board.In the final table.
2. Luxor, tried a couple of moves, got no hands, and ended pushing a lucky draw to get out early, and succeeded !
3. And this annoyed me. I have made the break, just about to final table but i am low in chips and blinds are coming round fast. I have an M of about 2 (!), so i push Q3 clubs. Not a great hand but I’m in a bind. As my chips were low I get 4 callers. Great. Flop is Q35. Even better. This will put me on the final table and in about 6th place, so something to work with. One guys goes in heavy. Everyone drops out. The guy next to me offers his condolences. I say, with more than rye grin “I might be in here”. I turn over my Q3, and get to see raise guy turn over……………………..33. No Q for me so I’m out. But he was a nice guy who also had a chip and a chair earlier, and had turned it around the be chip leader. So fair play says I.
One strange thing in the last tournament was one guy I will call Texas Pete. This guy was drunk but communicative and seemed to have an understanding of life at this point in time. He re raised a pot early on to about 3K (you start with 4). He had 300 left. Another guy went all in and had him covered. He asked how many chips the guy had left. He asked about 8 times. He ummed, he arred, then folded ? LOL WAT? REALLY? You have taken 1/2 a blind interval, to Fxxxing Fold. REALLLLLLYYYY???
This is a photo heavy entry so I’ll let them do most of the talking. The trip to Manila was a long one, as i was alone (Mrs Mrben had travelled ahead) via Singapore. It was my first trip on Singapore Airlines and they were fantastic. A true 5 star airline. Once we arrived in Manila it was the usual chaos: traffic, busy, flat out all day and night. We stayed in an Air BnB apartment with a driver, and the difference that makes is phenomimal. After a few days we went to our favourite little island, Boracay and and as usual everything was fantastic. The beach is still the best. We stayed at Joneys as usual and if anything its got better (http://www.jonysbeachresortboracay.com/)
At a quid a cocktail in the happy 3 hours every evening, the nights flew by. One evening we ventured up beach to Fridays (http://www.fridaysboracay.com/), the oldest hotel on the island and had a meal on the beach to die for. Which we nearly did on the way back as we took the beach route only to find the tide coming in right up to the buildings and not abating. A bit hairy in places, but we both feel a bit wiser for the experience. The trip highlight was taking the sunset cruise on the small 2 passenger catamarans. Some amazing photo experiences, and all was good. Until on the way back to shore we caught a big wave that soaked us. No issue. Apart from I had all my photo gear in my bag on my shoulder and didn’t have the shower cover on. Oops. Anyway we got away with no damage. Thanks Lowe Pro.
Next stop via Manila was Singapore. What a place. Just WOW. So clean, so easy to get about and full of friendly people. My view may be been skewed by the fact we stayed in the Marina Bays Sands (http://www.marinabaysands.com). Probably the most amazing hotel I have stayed in on the planet. Great views from the room, great views of the botanical gardens and then the infinity pool on the 57th floor, across the width of all three towers. Just WOW.
Another highlight was a crazy evening in Clarke Quay. Always helps with costs if your friend manages 3 bars down there ! Tied up with dinner in Raffles and The Fullerton respectively brought down a graceful end to a fantastic holiday.
This was our first trip to Vegas this year and was long awaited as our first trip away since Easter. As usual we were flying Virgin, and they have reconfigured their planes a little. Due to their ultra expensive pricing for Upper Class, I imagine there has been a downturn in uptake, so they have taken Upper Class out of the top deck and replaced it with Prem Econ and Econ. However the Econ has more space than downstairs which is much appreciated by me !
So we settled down for our 10 hour flight, and it was noticeable we were being flanked by some Weekend Millionaires. This was borne out as the flight went on, as they got pissed, started arguing and if not for some very direct words from a stewardess might of got the flight prematurely landed. That aside, flight was great and we landed on time, and due to our position on the plane, were whisked through security in record time. Bags collected it was off to our usual haunt, The Excalibur, where once again we are graciously looked after by our host. We had a nice hamper of choccies etc in the room as we arrived ,which were just as graciously devoured!
Part of our deal was $100 in freeplay. Between the two of use we spun this around to nearly $200 cash, so good start to the week. Unlike previous trips, night one was a quiet one, and early bed. This is an unusual tactic for us but seem to handle the jet lag, so will be tried again.
Saturday was upon us in the morning. Quick trip to the pool for Mrs mrben09, quick trip to the poker table for me. 77 doesn’t beat jj, so that was me early doors. We retired to Tacos and Tequilas in the Luxor for lunch, and had some great Mexican grub which kept me going for the rest of the day. That afternoon , my wife’s cousin was coming in from Seattle, so we decided for evening we should go upstrip, as Floyd Mayweather was doing his thing across the road, and it was going to be crazy down our end of the strip. So for the evening we met in Javier’s for cocktails and then went to the Mandarin Oriental Sky bar just outside for some more cocktails. This bar is on the 23rd floor and has floor to ceiling windows covering the whole strip as a view. Post drinks we hit the ever favourite Lemongrass in the Aria for dinner. Fantastic as always and remarkably cheap considering the surroundings. We left just as telecasts for the fight were finishing and the casino floor was packed to the gills. I had already paid for my Poker Tournament the next day so we retreated to the Bellagio and the YellowTail restaurant for a few drinks and a catch up. Suitably refreshed we headed across the road and a bit of a gamble up in Harrahs. We have never spent a lot of time here, but will be doing in the future. It may not match Aria and Bellagio for swank but the staff more than made up for it. Quick waitress service and friendly dealers made for a top night (and winning a few quid always helps). We also took a quick trip through the Quad (previously the Imperial Palace). This is still a work in progress but definitely an improvement on the old dark IP.
Sunday was my day. I have been a member of AllVegasPoker.com for some time but due to living some distance away, I’ve never been in any of their sponsored tournaments. Today changed that and I entered into AVP XIX at the Aria Poker room. Post registration and picking up my freebie t-shirt and other goodies I met some people that i have conversed with online for some time. There are photos of me at their facebook page from here, but i wont be linking them. As usual with the Aria the tournie was well run, and I got to the first break without to many dramas. I shared my table with 2 AVP employees, and was quite amused to watch the CTO completely suck out on the Marketing Manager to much abuse and incredulity. The first price for just over 8k, so i needed to get some hands and post break the antes were biting and I needed to make a move. The move turned out to be a disaster. I was dealt 10 10 in mid position. I called a raise, and two of us saw the flop. the flop was 9 jq so i shoved with the chance of a open ended straight. My opponent tabled a jq and won the hand. So out in about 2 hours but a decent time non the less. Before i met the girls (who were in the middle of a 4hr (!) buffet in the Cosmopolitan, I hit the Blackjack table for a quick $200 win. Although everyone at the table was nice, i noticed they thought i was a little odd. Why was confirmed once I left the table and realised i still had my AVP name badge on while playing. Oops.
We ended up the evening at Harrahs again and won a few quid.
Monday was a 9.00 start at the Excal crap shoot poker tournie with Michael from Australia who i had met the day before at the Aria. He bombed early just before leaving to start his 2 day trip home and I held on, to finished 3rd and triple+ my buy in . Good start to the day. We then did our usual pilgramage ti the North Outlet stores and hit the shops. Some good golf gear was picked up a new suit amongst other things. In a non holiday move we had a Genius appointment with Apple in the Fashion show mall early evening . Using the usual “it’s only up the street” approach we set off on our walk. 1 hr 20 minutes later in 99 deg heat we were at our destination and knackered! But we got a replacement Iphone 5, so all good. Dinner was in ZoozaCrackers in the Wynn. I didn’t have the burger but it look amazing, but the nachos did well enough for me.
Tuesday we cashed in the first of our myvegas (facebook promotion) and had a free brekkie at the MGM buffet. Not as big a selection as I thought the worlds biggest hotel would have, but all good nonetheless. Being in the MGM meant I had to play the 11.00 am tournament at the MGM poker room. The current location for the room is shocking and no wonder takings are down. However the staff are professional as ever. Unlike my poker, I was out quite early, having got no hands or worth, and losing a straight on straight (10 vs J) pushed me passed caring and I shoved until i could leave ! We had a late lunch in our secret hideaway off the strip, Kapit Bahay. This simple Filipino restaurant never fails and once again the beef steak and pancit were tasty as ever. So much so we went Friday as well.
Wednesday was a long day. Lunch was in Buca di Beppo in the Excalibur. The large portions kept us going until the evening, where we used another voucher for a large saving in Plant Dailies in Plant Hollywood. This is just by the escalators up to some other restaurants and the nightclubs. This meant we were delayed by about a million people trying to get photos of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck who were there promoting their new film Runner Runner. From there we went to see Vegas the Show . This is a variety show charting the history of Vegas as a resort destination from the mobsters up to current day featuring hits from Sinatra, Tom jones, Elvis and Elton John. Well worth the price.
Post show we headed home and hit the tables. We lost a few quid but that was on the cards as we had hardly spend anything in the previous 4 days. Thats when we met Betty, Rita and Biscuit (false names, as you may of guessed). 2 50’s style ladies and one completely normal lad, all hailing from Essex. They were great fun, and we stayed at the roulette table until 6 in the morning. Everyone won and the crack was great. Biscuit could not lose and ended the evening with a $25 drop on the 00. This comes in to great cheers and $875 to Biscuit. During this early morning gambling session we also met Alan from the Hangover (maybe). I say maybe as he hardly said 2 words for the hour or two he was with us but the photos show he could of been.
Thursday was a late start as you could imagine, so we cashed in another myvegas token for the Aria Buffet. Way better than the MGM and definitely one to be done again. This led us the relaxing part of the holiday and we stayed pretty local for the rest of the week. I played the Luxor tournie Friday morning to no avail, but got a few decent runs on the craps tables to get the money flowing back my way for the trip home. We ended our trip on Friday evening in Michael Minas pub 1842 in the MGM for a really nice meal with some local beers. I lodged the Dirty Dog (not nice, had it last trip) in favour of the Anchor Steam from Cali. not bad for a American beer, and a vast improvement on the DD.
Our flight was delayed on Saturday but at least Virgin let me know via text, so fair play. We had a very late checkout from the Excal, so it was like another days holiday, and the craps table was good to me again.
All photos taken by me on this trip were with the Nokia 925, and for a mobile they came out well. The others are from a 4S.
The oldest working gaming machine in Vegas. The Sigma Derby
After the cold of Montreal, a quick 22 hr turnaround in the UK, got me to the UAE and namely Dubai. I used to work here a lot, and my wife used to live here, but this was our first “holiday” there. We stayed with some friends, and had a great time and i got some needed sun. Our main day out was a trip to the newly crowned “Worlds Tallest Building” the Burj Khalifa. This was the day to take the real camera and get some snaps. So, part 3 of the quick Mrben09 Travel series for spring 2013. Click any photo to enlarge.
I was working in Montreal late march, and managed to get a late afternoon to myself with which to take the camera out. I took a walk from my hotel down to the dockside. These docks used to be biggest grain ports in the world. Nowadays its more touristy with restaurants, museums and an all round nice walkabout. They had just had an unexpected end of winter snow dump that week, hence the nice snowy sheen to most of the photos. I imagine this place to be rammed on a summers weekend, so i actually enjoyed my walk around with limited people, mainly locals out dog walking. It was also the first on the road opportunity i had to exercise my newly (to me) bought Nikon D80 and 50mm lens.
Welcome aboard the delayed report of our recent Thailand adventure!
It all started on June 28th from London Heathrow Terminal 3. Neither of us had been in this terminal for nearly five years, so it was impressive to see the changes that it had undergone. Not quite T5, but way better all the same.
The flight to Bangkok with Thai Air was good, with great food and plenty of space. The IFA’s were friendly enough, and we had a full and varied AVOD selection, which was the one thing I was worried about.
We hung about in Bangkok for a while and then set off for Phuket. The change at Bangkok was a little disorganised but standard Asian fare.
We were picked up on our arrival by a driver, who took us straight to our home for the next 6 nights, the Diamond Cliff Resort, Phuket. After 20+ hours of travelling, I needed a shower and a rest before we went out. What I got was being told I had to wait 3 hours for a room. At this juncture my good lady wife took over, and within minutes we had a further upgrade, to a nice ocean view room, with a Jacuzzi, and more space than 2 people really need. Fantastic.
Hung around the resort for most of the day time, and then we hit Bangla Road in the evening for drinks and an eyeopener. As with most Thai tourist spots, girls are high on the agenda. Jasmine made me laugh after she pointed out that if it was her bar, then the girls would be in for dance training during the day, as they were lethargic at best. After a few drinks we slept like babies till day 2.
Day 2 was a nice relax by the pool, and not a lot else. We had identified a group of restaurants on the web, that were being rated out of this world, so being the intrepid explorers we are, we walked down to the cab rank to get to our destination…………….which was the other side of the road. Result. First off was Joes downstairs, which had an international cool vibe about it. The setting for all 3 was just amazing, opening out straight onto a rocky bay, with the crashing waves (it was monsoon season!). I introduced Jasmine to Hendricks and Tonic and cucumber. That will cost me dearly in the future.
Sunday was our wedding anniversary, and we celebrated by heading off to the Giant Buddha. This should be currently called the Giant Scaffold, as the head was incased in a rather fetching collection of 21ft pipe and badly hung monoflex. The view was amazing from the top, but a little misty (it was monsoon season !). That evening we headed back across the road to Baan Rim Pa (apparently one of the best Thai restaurants in Thailand). AMAZING. The best Thai curry I’ve ever had.
Day 3 took us on the tourist trail again to Phi Phi Island. Great journey out, but the beach was way over subscribed, and you really did feel you were on a production line. However, the views you get are incredible, and in the end that makes up for the package feel of the trip. At this juncture I should point out that every where you go there is music. Most of this is western, rock / MOR. I should also point out that you will hear Zombie by the Cranberries about 1000 times a week. Now I have no problem with Delores as a person, but she’s no SLF when it comes to songs on the troubles. And after a while, I feel like I would prefer real guns and bombs to hers. That night we hit the last of three restaurants, the Italian, De Maurizio. Carbonara was great but I’ve had better if truth be told. But the shellfish pasta I’m reliably informed was just divine.
Day 4 was a real toursita day, with shopping centres , the hard rock, and an Irish bar thrown in. Brits abroad eh ? Event of the day was going to a massage place in a shopping centre and being asked to strip to my underwear. No issue apart from the lack of underwear. I was given a towel and told to get on with it. Possibly my first and last time, I will be fully naked in a mall !
Two days later, it was lashing down in a real monsoon style, enough to put a 3 ft deep puddle across the road outside the hotel. This would have been fine if we weren’t going to the airport to get back to Bangkok. After navigating the ever forming rivers on the roads we managed to get off on time.
Bangkok. The city of contradiction. We stayed in the Dusit Thani. A hotel that is now nearly 40 years old but has lost none of its grandeur or hospitality. Across the road is Patpong market. This has lost none of its seediness or outrageous behaviour from its residents. Dinner was had that evening at the Mango Tree, off the back of Patpong. Once again another Thai success.
Then the next day was off on the tourist trail. Golden Buddha and the Grand Palace were on the agenda. The travel between the two was interesting. NO, I DO NOT WANT TO GO ANYWHERE ELSE BUT THE PALACE. THANK YOU. NO TAILORS, NO PLANTS, NO JEWELRY OR GARDENS, JUST THE PALACE. Thanks
The Golden Buddha was great, and golden, and massive (bearing in mind it’s solid gold). The grand palace delivered on the name in spades. What is funny is the guys outside telling you its closed and that you should go with them somewhere else, over the megaphone announcements of THE PALACE IS OPEN, DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE OUTSIDE !!
The Friday evening was a more non tourist affair as we met friends who lived there for drinks at some more local haunts. I saw the Thai Beatles, the Iron Fairie, and we ended up at Fat Gutz (hey don’t blame me, I don’t name them !). Drinks all round, sore heads in the morning.
The last morning for holidaying as it was took us to Chatuchak market. A bit of the beaten track and less touristy. Definitely worth a visit for some last minute bargains before you get off home (mainly clothes, accessories and house goods). More local goods rather than fake tat.
I managed to squeeze 2 massages in that day Nice.
Next day we had a 12 hour flight home, but once again Thai looked after us fantastically, and we got two seats each. Result again!
Tl:dr Went to Thailand on holibobs, and it was great. Here’s some photos.