2008 Trip Report
by Thomas Wollwo

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Part One - Half A Day in Paradise So here I was again, smack over the Atlantic, drinking a Bombay Sapphire and Tonic provided free by the airline that had promised to deliver me to Las Vegas in 12 hours and 15 minutes. Things were looking up.

The beginning of the trip had not been all that promising. Some trouble in the extended family had made my actual depart doubtful. But I had been able to make it, with the blessing of my wife and kids to boot, mollified by the promise of vast quantities of presents.

I was to meet my buddy Wolfgang at the gate. I take not missing a plane pretty seriously, especially if it is supposed to take me to Vegas. He has a more relaxed approach, arguing that as long as you get a boarding pass at some point, the airline will wait for you (a philosophy that has left him stranded in Mexico a few years ago, but that wasn't his fault, obviously). So I had arrived at the airport at 7 a.m., having gotten up at 4.30. He hadn't bothered to set his alarm clock, figuring that "the birds would wake him". Obviously, they hadn't and he woke up at 7.15, cabbed it to the airport (fortunately, he lives a lot closer to it than me), had skipped an alarmingly long line at check-in by rushing the counter ("there was some confusion", he reported happily), had taken some time to get some dollars and to buy himself a refreshment or two, and arrived just as the last bus to the plane was supposed to leave looking thoroughly amused about the two minor strokes I had suffered while waiting for him. "Told you - right on time!" he said. "No need to hurry at all".

It was too late to get seats next to each other, so he got placed right beside a charming brunette, while I got a choice seat beside a 60 year old 260 lb male who was very nice. Except that he spilled over into my seat and started snoring loudly even before the plane had started moving at all. The snores were astounding - not only were they just a bit louder than the engines once they had started, they also were completely unsynchronized, meaning there were pauses of 10 seconds where you got your hopes up he might be awake (or dead), but then he started again, with three quick grunts, than again a pause - you get the idea. He told his somewhat embarrassed wife that he didn't snore. Period. She just looked on, fearfully.

Finally, I started lecturing him about the mortal danger of sleep apnea syndrome. That woke him up, all right, and he spent the rest of the flight wide awake, looking panic-stricken. Sweating profusely, I might add.

The main tower of Mandalay Bay.

Wolfgang hadn't had time to prepare the trip much, and lingering by the restrooms, I was finally able to fill him in about all the Vegassy goodness I had planned for us. After having listened to my ramblings for about 10 minutes, he asked the stewardess working nearby overhearing our conversation whether it wouldn't be better if we returned to our seats now. "Yes", she said hastily, "later you can continue your fascinating conversation". Wolfgang winked at her and told me "I'll pick you up at your seat when the timing is better. I'm dying to hear all about your Vegas info". Mysteriously, he didn't make it back to my seat for the entire flight. Maybe there was turbulence at his side of the plane.

So it was a good thing we arrived only 45 minutes late (apparently, there had been some hold-up with the luggage of some late arriving passenger).

Next thing I knew, I was sipping a Bourbon Sour at the Mandalay Bay pool. Two cocktails at $11 were included in our $109 room rate, also $10 free play and a bunch of coupons. After a classy display of world-class banter with an unamused check-in clerk to secure a high-floor Strip view I scored one of the coveted 11th floor pool view rooms. Wolfgang asked politely whether my plan had worked. I nodded glumly and kicked him.

The room 11311 was nice and spacious, though, and contained the precious "M" line of shampoo and conditioner. A sewing kit added a touch of class. There were flat screen TVs in the main room and bathroom.

The heavenly Crispy rice and sausage at Lotus of Siam

There is no nicer pool to be found in Vegas than at Mandalay Bay - there even was good swimming in the wave pool, because everyone congregated in the front area. I learnt that my body image issues aren't exclusive to the Hard Rock Pool area. The people lounging around the pool seemed to be straight out of a pool scene from the TV show "Las Vegas". We felt pretty alone not sporting tattoos and / or piercings. But the cocktails took care of these problems rather quickly. There were a total of 3 people looking like they were over 50 in the entire pool area. I found that swimming can be pretty motivating if you keep paddling toward a long-manned blonde perched on her lifeguard float at the end of the pool, being taken back by a wave and starting to paddle towards her again. Each time I got close, she looked at me unfriendly and unleashed a new wave.

Finally, I gave up and we took a quick look at the Mix bar atop the hotel. It was still early enough not to pay a cover charge, or, for that matter, anything else. We enjoyed the view and the achingly cool restrooms.

Dinner was at Lotus of Siam. This may have been my best visit there yet, even though they somehow served my appetizer after the main courses. Crispy rice was outstanding as usual, but the fish cakes, deep fried catfish slices in curry and duck curry got equal top billing. A steal for a total of $49.60 before tip.

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