Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Universal Studio

Last time I took you through the Hollywood, the stars & the Oscars. How about going behind the scene this week? Come…this time I’m taking you to Universal Studio.

Universal Studios Hollywood is reputedly the world’s largest film studio and theme park, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles. The park was opened to the public in 1964, allowing the public to see behind the scenes of the film world. The park features the latest in state-of-the-art video and audio technology, and uses impressive special effects and stunt shows to entertain visitors.

On a bright Sunday morning, I & Prosenjit took the Metro bus 444 to LA Downtown. On the way we were joined by Sudipto, Sita (both of them Prosenjit’s project mates) and Suchitra (Toyota Project but in different module). So after a long one hour in the bus we got down at Pershing Square (This name should sound familiar for those who read the previous posting on Hollywood).From there, the metro train flew us to Universal City. At Universal City, after waiting for a while, the Universal Studio Shuttle arrived & it took us to the Studio.

The trademark globe of Universal Studio was at the entrance of the Universal Studio. Photo sessions begun immediately there. We walked into the studio to find ourselves in front of a nice fountain with three sculptures, one of a director, a cameraman & a light boy, which truly depicted the essence of movie making. Analysis of the map & prioritizing the rides & shows was done. There were atleast 15 rides/shows in the park. The ladies with us had come without having breakfast. So we moved into a food court. After everybody’s stomach was satisfied, we rushed to the first in the list of our rides, Jurassic Park. We were literally carried to the place by long escalators.

Jurassic Park
We moved through the famous gate on which “Jurassic park” was beaming & found ourselves in a long waiting queue. But the queue was really moving fast & for company there were visuals from the “Jurassic Park” movie being played. So very soon all of us got into the ride. The ride started very smoothly through the very cool stream of water in a picturesque surrounding and herbivorous dinosaurs gazing on the stream bank. There were some small & big dinosaurs making movements all around. When everything was looking fine, suddenly a car written “Jurassic Park” started rolling towards us & fell just few inches from us splashing water all across. Then there was some red alerts everywhere telling that there was danger ahead. We entered a dark tunnel & suddenly from the top we saw Tyrannosaurs ‘Rex’ almost trying to engulf us. We picked the speed & moved across its jaws .It kept following & then there was a shout “escape”. Next few seconds we were falling freely & almost everybody’s heart stopped. The ride came to an end after that free fall.

Got out of ride & there were survivors photos to see & buy. The images of each one of us when the ride was in free fall were captured on camera. It was a hilarious photo to look at. Prosenjit was almost in coma stage, some look like that was the end of world. Suchitra was in deep penance closing tightly her eyes. Sudipto was very expressive with mouth wide-open in awe. Sita had resigned from life closing her eyes. I was laughing like a mad when the fall was happening. Thought of picking that photo, but it was very expensive (29$).We came out of the ride thrilled & kept talking about the ride for a while. Then we moved to the ride ”Revenge of Mummy”

Revenge of Mummy
We kept all the bags & cameras in the automatic locker provided & entered the tunnel. It was a typical Egyptian setting inside straight from the Mummy movies. There was a sound of the insects humming everywhere & few clips from the movie were being played. We got into the ride & the ride began with a slow journey through some amazing Egyptian gold like pharaoh statues. Then we entered a cave where suddenly lots of mummy hands came out of walls & roofs to grab us. The ride picked up the speed & started flying very furiously. Now it was moving down the slope with great speed & there was darkness everywhere. There was light at end of cave where the ride was heading towards & suddenly we saw it was dead end & we were about to hit the walls with speed. The tram stopped just few inches from hitting the wall; it went back & took another turn. Then again it sped up to reach a bright sun like object, before we realized there was a sand storm trying to engulf us, so the tram moved back in the same speed it went. The ride came to end after that. But we were expecting much more from that ride.

At each location of the park, there were sign boards showing all the rides/shows, next ride/show timing & expected wait time. That was very useful to plan our schedules.

We moved to watch the Shrek-4D show. That show had a very long queue. We patiently waited in the queue talking about the Shrek movies. Back ground story so far where Shrek & Fiona get married was told. Then we got into the theatre & wore the 3-D goggles.

The movie was simply flabbergasting. There was wonderful 3-D effects & excellent story with characters I love. If that was not enough there was this 4th dimension! Imagine a scene where there are spiders hanging around & Shrek picks these spiders & throws. You see these spiders flying at you & falling on the ground (till here 3-D effect), next moment you see spiders moving on the screen & you feel something is climbing up your legs!! You get an impression that the spiders are actually climbing up your legs!!!

One more scene, Shrek is chasing the villain in a chariot & as the chariot moves; the chairs also start moving giving the impression that you are also involved in chase. Too good!! Everybody in our gang was very happy after the show. We took some snaps wearing those 4-D green goggles.

Terminator-2 3D
We moved to the Cyberdyne Institute to see the Terminator-2 3D show. As we entered there was presentation about the fictious Cyberdyne Institute which gets interrupted by Sarah Cornors & John Cornors (All Terminator fans should be familiar with these names!).Then as we get into theatre, there was an amazing display of 3-D effects. What better combination than T2 effects & 3-D effects. It was a ‘super’ show.

Universal Studio Tour
This tour allows the public to see behind the scenes of the film world. Today, a visit to the park, which attracts around 35,000 visitors per day, begins with an exciting behind-the-scenes tram tour of famous film sets, with a simulated earthquake, a collapsing bridge, and several surprise attacks from key Hollywood film characters, such as the shark ‘Jaws’ and the famous giant gorilla ‘King Kong’.

The tour started in a tram which was equipped with audio-visual aids & a commentator explaining the history, geography & milestones of Universal Studio. We were taken to the production place where sound generation was done. We went next to few permanent sets put up in studio like the streets of England, streets for cow boy movies & Mexican street & a house setting on a snowy winter day. The metrological department of studio showed how they convert the seasons quickly when they created rain & flood in few minutes. Then a bridge which collapses & gets back to normal form was shown.

There was a patch of thick forest which was looking familiar & suddenly it became clear that where I had seen that. It was in movie “Jurassic Park” where the Tyrannosaurus “Rex” gives entry in the movie on a rainy night. Do you remember the scene where the kids are struck inside the car & they see Rex breaking the fence & plucking the wheels of car? That particular scene was shot here. I always thought that was in Costa Rica.

We came across a pond where suddenly a shark almost attacked the tram. Then we were explained that the famous scary beach scenes from “Jaws” were created in this pond. The shark which was moving was a mechanical shark called “Bruce” (Also learnt that Spielberg named the shark as “Bruce” after his attorney’s name!!)

Then it was time to see some ‘live set’ which means the shooting had happened recently in the set & they preserved the set as it was. The place where we were taken was a airplane crash site with plane pieces scattered everywhere, aeroplane seats thrown all across, a car half burnt, broken houses .We were then told that was for the latest Spielberg movie “War of the Worlds”(which gets released sometime in June end).

The tour now entered a place where there was a railway station set. Suddenly it started shaking & the station roof got collapsed & a heavy truck started rolling towards us & stopped just in front of our tram. If that was not enough, a train coming to the station started moving out of rails towards us. That was the earthquake scene. Next we moved across the tunnel & out of blue, a huge figure emerged at started shaking the tram. It was ‘King Kong”, the famous tall towering ape.

We were taken then to the place where the moon landing scene from movie Apollo-13 was created. After all the wonderful time, the studio tour came to an end.

Back to the Future
We rushed to “Back to the Future” ride. That ride was all about virtual reality & it took us smashing through the glass windows, through a boiling volcano mouth, through a valley almost hitting mountains, through dinosaur’s mouth. That was an excellent ride too.

I went & took snaps of me with Shrek & few on the “Fat Boy”. Fat Boy is the Harley-Davidson bike used by Arnold in Terminator-2.That was such a macho bike & it really looked powerful.

Evening was getting closer & we went to the Van Helsing. Unlike other rides, this one was a walk through the haunting castle. The castle was dark & walk was exciting with ghosts jumping suddenly & skeletons rolling all around.

Still there were lots to do in the park, but time was not on our side. We took leave of Universal studio. Came back to Universal city by the shuttle & caught our metro train which took us to Union Station. Ladies proceeded towards Torrance in 444 bus, while me & Prosenjit went to explore one more route to Torrance, which we did successfully!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


“Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.” -Marilyn Monroe

What do you think when you hear this word? Doesn’t the word reminds of so many things at a time – movies, stars, affairs, sex, scandals, Oscars. Last Sunday I had an opportunity to be in that place which is all about movie magic.

The day started with a bus ride from our place, Torrance to Los Angeles. As I told earlier there is a daily pass which enables for unlimited travel in Metro buses & trains. So we took this daily pass along with zone pass (total 4$ ticket). After a long drive of 1 hour in Metro bus 444, me & my friend, Samrat got down at Pershing Square in Los Angeles.This area is in Los Angeles Downtown & hosts some of the most amazing looking buildings. We decided to come back later to the square.

From Pershing square we took the underground Metro train to a station called ‘Universal City”. The Metro train service is awesome with fast moving trains and picturesque underground stations. It is a treat to watch & experience. Our journey of 15 minutes in tram was spiced up by a young couple who were sitting right in front of us. From the time the train started they got involved in passionate kissing. After witnessing this ‘kuchi-kuchi’ stuff, we got down at Universal City. The kissing-couple also got down & they were so lost in their world that they continued their passion even on the escalator.

At Universal City, my roommate Prosenjit was waiting with his friend Samdarsi. As Samdarsi (Somu) had been staying in that part of LA for a while, he was naturally our local guide for the day. From Universal City, we took a train to a station “Hollywood Highland”. These trains fly so fast that before we could figure out we were in Hollywood Highland. (Do you remember the train & bus in the movie “Speed”? These are the same metro trains & stations). We emerged out of Hollywood Highland Metro Station & found ourselves in the middle of a very busy street.

Right in front of us was the “Kodak Theatre”…
Kodak Theatre
Kodak theatre is the home of Oscars, which has been hosting Oscar award ceremonies and will be hosting atleast till 2021.Along with Oscar awards; the theatre has the distinction of hosting many grand events such as American Idol finals. The theatre has a huge shopping complex which always is crowded & some or the other musical bands keep playing there.
Inside the theatre, we walked on the famous staircase where the Oscar nominees, stars & guests arrive to the Oscar ceremony.

From balcony of this complex, we saw the famous “Hollywood” sign which was there in the distant Griffith Park.

Hollywood Sign…
The Sign measures 450 feet long, its mammoth letters are 45 feet high, and it's visible from all parts of Hollywood. Erected in 1923 as an advertising sign for a real estate development in Beachwood Canyon, the Sign originally read "Hollywoodland." The last four letters were removed in 1945, after Hollywood had become the world's movie capital, and the Sign had already become a well-known landmark. (In fact, it's been officially declared "Los Angeles Cultural-Historical Monument #111.")

In 1932, during the Great Depression, one despondent young actress, Peg Entwistle, even jumped to her death from the Sign's giant letter "H." The original sign contained thousands of light bulbs, which were changed daily by a caretaker who lived in a small house behind one of the Sign's giant "L's."

We came out of Kodak theatre into the Hollywood Boulvede Street. Suddenly I realized that I was on the “Walk of Fame”.

Walk of Fame…
Designed as a publicity stunt in the late 1950s, the Walk of Fame is now the most famous stretch of cement in the world. More than 2,500 bronze-inlaid stars commemorate some of the most famous individuals in movies, radio, TV, recording and theater. A bronze star embedded in pink and charcoal terrazzo on the pathway is dedicated to selected celebrities. 20 new celebrities are honored every year during public ceremonies. Walk of Famers are nominated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for "career achievement”.

There were sidewalk stars spread across the pathway everywhere. I was standing right on one star…I was so happy to see it was star of my favorite director Steven Spielberg. After saluting the master director, I moved across the street looking for more ‘stars’. There was Jack Nicholson, Marline Monroe, Nicole Kidman & many other celebrities all in one place that too on the street (or call it on footpath!).

On the same street was another landmark “Chinese Theatre”.
Chinese Theatre..
This theatre is the most sought after place for any movie premieres. (Do you remember the ending of “Charles Angeles-Full throttle” movie involving a premiere show in Chinese theatre?). Fans flock to these premiere events to see the celebrities arrive and walk up the red carpet into the theatre. This theatre built by Grauman in 1927 was recently renovated with several earthquake retrofits.

In the foreyard of the theatre was another piece of cement which was made famous by footprints & hand impressions of celebrities. There are foot & hand impressions of John Woo, Spielberg, Stallone & so many other entertainers.

Looks like Hollywood Blvd never lacks any action and at that moment, there was a movie promotion happening right in front of Kodak & Chinese theatres. What better place than Hollywood Blvd to get publicity for the movie? The movie being promoted was “Harbie: Fully loaded”.The whole cast & crew of the movie was present. As the movie is all about the Volkswagen car, the whole street was literally filled with those cute cars.

Volkswagen Beetle 2005 model is the latest craze which is gripping the US. Popularly known as “Beetle bug”, the car has captured imagination of millions people (I confess that I’m in love with this car :)). The car looks very cuuute.The movie is hoping to cash on this new phenomenon.

After roaming around in the walk of fame, we entered into the McDonalds for lunch.While I settled for fruit-peanut salad with French fries, my friends attacked chicken stuffs. After a quick lunch, we decided to move on. There was Guinness records museum, Ripley’s Believe it or not museum & Hollywood wax museums on the same street. But due to time constraints we proceeded to next destination, Beverly Hills.

We were back in metro & got down at Veremont/Beverly. From there we took a metro bus to Beverly Hills. As soon as we got into bus, the bus driver asked us “Kya haal hai bhai?”. We were thrilled to listen to ‘Hamara Hindi’ in Beverly hill. Now that we know the driver is from India we started chatting with him.To my friends’ surprise they came to know he was also from Bengal.S o the next conversions went in Bengali till we got down.Once we got down at Beverly Hills, we walked to the Rhodeo Drive.

Rhodeo Drive..
This is called the “Holy Grail of Shopping” and supposed to be the most recognized street in the world and has been featured in movies from "Beverly Hills Cop" to "Pretty Woman". The street is famous for latest in fashion.

With no intentions of doing shopping there, our only objective was people-watching and window-shopping. It didn’t take much time to realize that most of the people were also doing the same thing like us! The whole street was full of shops for fashion accessories, apparels. There was one F-TV anchor hosting a show in front of some fashion store. The experience of walking in the street was like our Brigade-MG Road walking experience!!

Every Father's Day, Rodeo Drive hosts a vintage car show that's free and open to public. As we happened to be there on that day we got to see some antique cars & few really rich people buying some amazing cars.

After strolling the street, we got into a juice junction. I took some juice called “Vibrant-C” which was a cocktail of banana, pineapple & lemon.

We took another metro bus from there & were back to “Western” Stop. From there we moved to Wilschire Vermont where Somu got down. We continued to 7Th street, which has some seriously tall buildings. Met few doctors who had come from India for a conference.

Then after we moved to Pershing Square, the point from where our journey had begun.As soon we got out of metro tube, we found ourselves surrounded by some gigantic buildings in all directions. Really some wonderful looking architecture stuff. This has Pershing Park adjacent to the square, named after the famous World War I general. When we went to the park, the whole area was full of beggars & homeless people.

Talking of buildings, I was reminded of one of my favorite book “The Fountainhead”. I was thinking of all the architects mentioned in the book, when I was looking at those buildings which were looking like a pack of cards. I thought of Howard Roarke, the central character of the book & what he would have said about these buildings.Not to mention that I thought of all Roarke fans whom I know!!

The day came to an end with another long ride back in metro train to Torrance. As I was travelling back , I was pondering about what Marilyn Monroe said...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Namma Bus

Bus arrives at the stop. Passengers gets into the bus through the front door. Puts the money in the ‘cash machine’. Driver issues a ticket. There are hardly 10 people in the bus. They hear a voice “Thank you for choosing Gardenia Bus Service to bus travel”.

Now a bus stop is approaching. The bus stop name flashes on the display which can be seen by all passengers. Simultaneously there is an English announcement telling “We are approaching Western Avenue….Norborne School”. This is followed by Spanish announcement “Labra sima parara…”.People who wants to get down at that stop pulls the wire which makes a sound & triggers a light in front of driver. Bus stops & passengers get down. Driver won’t forget to say ‘Have a good day!”. Passengers often say “Take Care” to driver.

This is the local transport bus here...
Efficient, relaxed & very well connected.Often I think that the government is running these buses irrespective of losses! Please bare with me for this "bus puraana" for a while:)

Lets talk of bus tickets..
Ticketing system here is extremely good with absolutely zero leakage. As soon as you board bus, you have to put the coins or the note in the machine which counts & after the amount is flashed, driver gives the ticket. If you want to get down at some stop & take another bus, there is an option of special ticket called ‘transfer’ ticket. Transfer ticket indicates the direction & time for which the ticket is valid. As usual there is a daily pass which is for unlimited travel in any direction & time. There is no concept of ‘change’ in the bus. You should have correct change. If you have put the extra amount, the machine won’t give you back any change.
Special care for handi-capped...
It is heartening to see special attention given to handi-capped. Whenever there is any wheel-chair person at the stop, the bus door which is at little height than the platform is lowered. A metal platform extends from bus , on which the wheel chair is rolled .Once the wheel chair is in, the driver puts the belt across the person. Till all this is over, everybody patiently waits.

Talking of the bus drivers..
Most of them are very courteous. They always smile, wish & sometimes even joke. They dress smartly too with all goggles, jackets & gloves. Half of the drivers are ladies. One particular lady driver (She had a very long nails & golden color hair) in our route had become very familiar that she is used to ask next day why we didn’t come one day!

While talking of buses and bus service here, suddenly namma BMTC bus comes into mind…
A typical day in BMTC bus...
BMTC bus arrives totally packed, number of people hanging out are more than the number inside. Passengers tries to get into the bus. Few lucky & strong ones get into. Few men tries to sneak through the front door of bus meant for ladies. Gets scolded by driver, conductor, ladies & other ‘true’ men. Somehow manages to be in the bus.The conductor moves like a snake making way in the forest of people. He asks in the trademark style “Yelligrii? Chilrey kodrii..illa andhre ilkollri”. He starts cursing each and everyone.Writes the change on the back of ticket which most of the time, we forget to collect. With great difficult, we get down & a breath a sigh of relief…

It took few days to digest these two ends of spectrum.

I know it is not fair to compare the two systems. BMTC is doing fair job considering all the limits.But couldn’t help dreaming when our buses will be like here & when our drivers will be courteous like this.

Having said all these things….
That bus crowd, those rude conductors, those pity fights in bus, and those adventures to get in/out the bus…. there is nothing like these things.. because after all it is “Namma Bengalru”!

Initial few days I traveled in public transport bus. Now travel by bus has reduced as commuting to office is done in my colleague’s car. But now & then I travel in bus as I simply love to travel in it in Bangalore or Torrance.

Before ending my bus episode, a thought which I always think when I see bus..

Isn’t bus similar to life….
People travelling together often become very close with each other . We get into a false impression that they will be there with us till the end of journey, only to realize that they had got down at some other stop.

Some other people gets into the bus..they get down...

But the bus journey continues just like life….

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pakoda,Redando Beach & SPA !

Two lazy days...

Saturday ,11-June-2005

After past few unusual days when the day started for me at 3:30 in the morning, Saturday appears to be such a nice thing. So got up from sleep at 10:30. Had noodles for breakfast.

Meanwhile my roommates were in full action in kitchen. They were preparing Aloo-Gobi curry & some sweet out of milk & rava (Bengalis call rava as ‘Sooji’).Once the lunch was ready, we went to swimming pool in the apartment to build up the apetite.

Though I don’t know swimming, I enjoy being in water. Tried to get some tips to learn swimming. After the attempt in pool, it was time to go to SPA. It always feels good & relaxing to be in the hot steamy SPA. Back to apartment to have lunch.

Now to spend evening we headed to Redando beach which is near Torrance.We reached the beach by Metro bus.

Redando beach has King’s Harbour, Redando Pier and Seaside Lagoon. Though the beach looked to be ordinary, the way the infrastructure is built around it to make it a visiting place is impressive. Couldn’t help thinking of some amazing beaches of India which are handled very badly.

Walked through the beach & seaside lagoon. Everywhere there was only smell..’fish’. The restaurants were cooking up marine delicies out of fishes,crabs,shrimps & what not!

After the beach, our next destination was the Indian Grocery Shop in Crenshaw Boulavde.A travel in metro & a little longer walk, we were in the shop.We had came across this Indian Grocery Shop in google when we were looking for some grocery items.

Raj,the owner of shop was more than happy to see us again in the shop.We picked up rice bags(these are imported from Bangalore & have address of Bangalore on the bag with a kannada name “Ravi”!!), dhals(My Bengali roommates picked up ‘moor dhal’,a red variety of dhal), basin, mustard oil(Bengalis use this for cooking ), pickle & butter. But the problem now was how to take all these to apartment.We were about to call a taxi,when Raj told us that he is going to drop us to our place.We for courtesy told him why he should take the trouble.He insisted & we agreed.

Raj closed his shop, took us in his car & dropped to our apartment.

We couldn't stop admiring Raj’s helping nature. Looks like Indians will be (more) good to fellow Indians (only) when they are away from India!!!

Time to cook…
I prepared Sambar & rice. While Asis, roommate was busy with the basin.I was wondering what he is upto.Slowly the intentions became clear.He was about to make ‘Onion Pakodas’(which Bengalis call “Piyabji”).Meanwhile few visitors came to our apartment to meet my other roommate, Prosnjit.For courtesy we offered the pakoda plate & those guys almost finished the plate :)

It was a nice dinner with steaming rice, sambar, pakodas & pickle. Looked like roommates liked the sambar!

Post-dinner,as usual it was time to sit & talk. As always talks went through Bangalore,Calcutta,Toyota,Honda,Torrance,Vegas,LA,Bryan Adams,football and many other things.As both my roommates have spent few months in Bangalore,they have a strong liking for Bangalore. Mention Bangalore, they will be happy to talk about it. One guy in particular is a big fan of "Corner House" icecreams.Couldn't help going for a small flashback to Corner house & time spent with friends there.


Our plan of going to LA was called off because of my lazy roommate!!

After preparing lunch,we headed to the pool. I spent some time in pool & more time in SPA.I had carried the book “Selfish Gene” given at the airport by my Bangalore gang to the SPA . So sat in the SPA reading the book.

Walked out of the SPA & spread myself beside the pool in an easy chair & continued reading the book. My roommates were still in the water.

Came back & had lunch. For lunch , again we had pakodas! Asis & Prosnjit slept after having lunch. I took the book & went back to the pool side. Sat at pool side overlooking the water & read the book. This time there was coke can to sip while reading. The reading went good may be as there was no much distractions in the pool!

It is such a nice thing to sit in a mild sun, beside green-blue water, sipping the cold drink & reading..

I forgot to tell about the refriegerator we got. After the refrigerator came, my roommates have stuffed it with coke cans, juices, butter, vegetables, fruits, puddings. So everytime we open the door, a coke can or a pudding comes out!

Pakoda seems to be the order of day! For dinner, again it made its way to the menu but this time with a variation half were onion-based & other half were brinjal-based(call them 'bajji') . As told by my Bengali roommates, Bengalis have high affinity for these fried pakodas and they live on these.
amar konu samsho nahi.ami keno kora uchith :))

Monday, June 06, 2005

Lost in Las Vegas !


Las Vegas is known as “Entertaintment Capital “of the world. Few striking features of Vegas before we go ahead

  • It has 17 of the 20 biggest hotels in the world.
  • It is the gambling capital, where gambling is legal.
  • More than 100,000 couples obtain marriage licenses in Vegas, making it the “Marriage Capital”!!

    It is the place for anything and everything in the world of pleasure.

It was almost 5:30 in evening when we arrived in Las Vegas.

The bus took us to Hotel Riviera from where people went to explore the city by themselves. Few went with the guide to see some baley. We entered the Casino to try our hand. The Casino was very huge & there were people, few sitting at the card tables, few at spinning machines, few at bar watching baseball. All varieties of people doing all sorts of things!

The Casino was glittering in all its colors. Gambled bit here. Then we decided to roam around in the street. We just strolled by the street watching the magnificent buildings. Slowly the neon lights were coming to life.

We entered one more Casino & decided to try our lucks. I needed small units to gamble, so went to break the dollar into cents. We were asked to produce the passports to check the age. Gambling is allowed only for ages 21 & above.

First few spins at the gambling machine were disastrous. I lost almost a dollar & tried last bit when I got 5$.Now I know why people go crazy in gambling. I would have walked out with 5$.I betted that & lost almost everything I won. Then again luck turned its side & regained the loss. Before I was slipping into the vicious cycle, I walked out of the Casino with no loss-no gain status!

8:15 pm
I quickly grabbed sub-way delite as I was feeling hungry & went back to Hotel Riviera. There everybody was asked to assemble back.

We moved to Ferment Street where the much acclaimed laser show happens. Just before it was about to begin, due to technical problems the show was delayed. So we thought we will go & catch some other show & come back later.

9:00 pm
Next was the light-parade in Flamingo hotel. The parade was in the air, which means balloons & chariots moved, hanging from the rails in the roof. The balloon & chariot shaped objects were highly lit; the ladies & few gentlemen in these were dancing to some upbeat music. These people were throwing some sort of bead-necklaces at spectators. I caught one thrown at me.

10:00 pm
We were in Bellagio hotel to see the amazing garden inside & the mesmerizing ceiling with colorful mushroom like structures. Truly interesting place that was. There were lots of ‘escort’ services around.

Just in front of Bellagio hotel is the Eiffel Tower hotel, which has a replica of the famed Eiffel Tower of Paris. It was looking very beautiful in glowing neon. I thought I’ll just go & capture that image in camera & come back. So I went there.

But when I came back....I couldn’t trace any of my friends or our bus. I searched around the hotel frantically. They had left me there & went….

There was no way I could reach them as nobody there as cell phone or I had no idea where they would go next. So there was no point in searching them. I resigned the job of search and instead decided to explore Vegas on my own…

11:00 pm
So after spending some good 45 minutes searching for my bus, there I was alone, lost in a totally unknown territory…all alone & ready to go on my own!

I started my exploration.

I went to Ceaser’s Palace. This palacial hotel is in Roman style. It is the place where Celion Dion performs shows regularly & Elton John performed. Asked some unknown tourists to take my photo at horse-like sculpture. It was a truly elegant structure.

11:20 pm:
Right across Ceaser’s palace is Flamingo. Bugsy Siegel named his casino the Flamingo after the long legs of his showgirl girlfriend. This is one of the Las Vegas’s oldest Casinos situated at "Four Corners," along with Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Bally's.

11:30 pm:
At a little distance from Flamingo is Aladdin hotel. This has 2567 rooms and 2093 casino machines! A very elegant looking resort-hotel.

11:40 pm:
I came across a building which had this Harley-Davidson bike was seen coming out of walls. That was “Harley-Davidson Café “.It seems to be a place where all Harley-Davidson owners who come to Vegas meet & party. To prove that there was a line of Harley’s parked, some really huge looking guys & some pretty looking babes were in that café.

11:50 pm:
Suddenly I came across this statue which is a token of USA. That is Statue of Liberty. If you are thinking that the statue is in New York, you are right & also wrong! There is a replica of the statue in Vegas in hotel “New York- New York”. I was there standing at the statue which was looking beautiful in that midnight light. There was a roller-coaster going on & I could hear the joy-fear screams.


12:00 am
Right in front of New York-New York is the “MGM Grand”. It is nicknamed “City of Entertainment”. There is huge LED screen which beams what is going on inside the hotel. The hotel hosts some prominent shows like Madonna, Rolling Stones, Championship boxing, David Copperfield magic. There seems to be 5300 rooms in this hotel spread across 30 floors.

12:30 am
We earlier talked about famous-four corner made of Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Bally's. There is one more famous-four corner made of MGM, New York-New York and Tropicana. I just walked through the casino & cruised to the hotel Excalibur.

After roaming around in the hotel & I decided to go back to hotel Riviera where our trip had begun. So I was in a taxi going towards the hotel & chatting all sorts of things with the taxi driver in the middle of night.

1:00 am:
Back in Riviera. Thought of watching some show, but the tickets were sold out. So roamed again across the hotel in lounge.

1:30 am:
Went to Balley Club & there the dress code is so strict that they didn’t allow anyone with snickers. Formal shoes were required!

1:50 am:
Felt little tired, so entered a piano bar & sat there. Piano bar is the place where there will be musicians who will be playing the songs on request. People keep drinking & keep asking for songs. It was good to hear some classic old English songs at that time. People threw dollars on the musicians.

2:30 am:
Out of that bar & enter into a dance bar. Totally wild characters in total swing. Lots of things happening on the dance floor & outside!

This city never seems like sleeping. The fun & frolic kept flowing. The city was infact, getting better & better, wilder & wilder as the night was growing. At that time, the streets were full, traffic flowing as in day & every shop was open.

I never felt I am walking alone in an unknown place at odd hours. Nothing seems to be odd in Vegas!

3:00 am:
Decided it was high time to go back to hotel & sleep. So went near New York-New York hotel & called a taxi. To my surprise most of the taxi drivers didn’t know the hotel “Howard Johnson Inn”. Walked to the MGM hotel & there was a senior tax driver who knew the place.

4:00 am:
Reach the hotel, surprised to see my friends back in hotel & woke them up. They gave the most horrifying look to me!

Then I realized there was a panic after I went ‘missing’. Due to some communication gap or mis-communication, I had got information that the rest of the gang will return to hotel only at 4 in the morning. So after getting missed, I came back at 4.Meanwhile the rest of the gang instead had gone for 4-hour trip (not till 4 trip!!) & returned at 12:30.They waited for me also to come at around same time. When I didn’t come, one of my friend had called Las Vegas Police & lodged a ‘missing’ complaint :)

They felt very relaxed & happy to see me back. I felt little bad to give them some tension. But what can I do if I had got the misleading information about the schedule. So everything got settled & slept immediately.

7:30 am:
After quick shower, started the day again. Talked with the guide about what happened previous night & the issue was settled there.

8:00 am:
We were back in New York –New York. This looks totally different in day light.

If you remember we had both Eiffel Tower & Statue of Liberty in Vegas. How about the Pyramid & Spinx?? No problem, at a distance from New York hotel we have these things also!!

Hotel Luxor houses dark bronze pyramid & brightly colored sphinx. It seems it took 18 months to complete these structures. Luxor's pyramid is held in place by 150,000 cubic yards of concrete poured around a steel skeleton. It seems the curator of the original of Giza Pyramid himself was consulted during construction of this pyramid in Vegas.

9:00 am:
We take leave of Las Vegas.

As we were returning, I was thinking to what extent the entertainment industry can go to woe the customers. They can erect Eiffel Tower, they create Liberty Statue, and they bring Pyramid & what not?

37 million visitors a year, billions of dollars exchanged, all the glamour & glitterati… it is the “World’s Entertainment Capital

The Great Canyon


The day started too early. By 4:40am we started for Grand Canyon.

It was dark yet & it was looking like light is struggling to make its way through the dark. I was feeling very sleepy, but thought will see sun rise. It was worth an effort to be awake. I saw the picture perfect sun rise. After that I fell asleep. Woke up as the bus stopped at a gas-station. Grabbed a chocolate muffin. Journey continued.

Grand Canyon, exceptionally deep, steep-walled canyon in northwestern Arizona, is created by the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon is 446 km (277 mile) long, up to 29 km (18 mile) wide, and more than 1500 m (5000 ft) deep. The entire canyon is extremely beautiful, containing towering buttes, mesas, and valleys within its main gorge.

It not only attracts tourists but also geologists & adventurers. Many adventurers tried to explore the Canyon, but in vain. Many perished in the attempt to explore the Canyon.It generated more mystery, challenge & passion about the Canyon. In 1869, after a very tough time, Major John Wesley Powell and his team successfully explored the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.

Our first plan was to see a 45-minute movie on “Grand Canyon” in I-max theatre in the Canyon national park. It also told stories of human adventure to explore the Canyon & the success story of Powell. It was worth a movie with amazing photography of the Canyon.

Outside the theatre was a replica of the boat which Powell used to explore Colorado. One thing which was highly inspiring was the fact that Powell had a single arm and inspite of many in his team deserting him, he made his destination.

Brave men never give up…

Our bus arrived to the Great Canyon. We got down & walked to the ‘South Rim’ of Canyon. Once I reached the edge of the Canyon, I started realising the magnamity of the Canyon . It is so magnificent, so huge, so awesome…no words can describe it.

It looked to me like nature was mocking the Humans; by standing in all its magnificent form & making the so-called intelligent, creative living beings appear so insignificant before it….

We spent almost one hour in the Great Canyon. It was like seeing a tip of a huge ice burg. I think ideal ways to explore the Canyon are through trekking, sailing in Colorado or by flying in the helicopter through the Canyon.

Some day hoping to do it...

Came back to bus and our journey continued...with images of Grand Canyon repeatedly playing in the mind

Next destination was Las Vegas....

Friday, June 03, 2005

London Bridge is falling....

London-Bridge is falling…

As soon we came to know that Monday is holiday due to Memorial Day, our brains started working how to make use of this long weekend. I was wondering about going for a packaged tour. My colleagues Asis (who is my roommate also) and Samrat came up with this 3-trip plan to Grand Canyon-Las Vegas. Without any hesitations, the plan took off & we booked the tickets. I also went promptly & got a new digital camera which I always wanted to have!!


I woke up to see that the time is 6:20am & remembered that the bus starts at 7am!! So rushed in a taxi to the tourist agency from where the journey was about to begin. Made it in just in time. This travel agency is totally run by Chinese. From Hathoven Blvd here in Torrance we were taken in a mini van to Lincoln Avenue, Los Angeles. Lincoln Avenue is a mini china town. There the bus was waiting for us.

Got into the bus and soon we found that the whole bus is full of Chinese. It took a while to digest the language which we were hearing. Our first place of visit for the day was London Bridge. Wondering how come London Bridge is there in US? Even I got puzzled the first time I heard about it. I’ll tell you more on this.

So finally the bus left LA around 9am.Our tour guide was a Chinese lady whose name was Hel-o-yan, which we promptly renamed as “Halloween” :)She was speaking in a strange and pathetic English.After undergoing this ‘Chinese torture’ for 1.5 hours,we stopped at a shopping mall on the way. As my bladder was full, I desperately wanted to release my tension.So rushed to the rest room to find a huge queue.Then I realized there are at least some 3-4 buses which came at the same time.So waited patiently & finally got relieved :)

As I was hungry, I grabbed a veg-sandwitch & returned to bus. The bus started again to stop at a Chinese restaurant. Me & Asis decided to check the Chinese buffet(8$).I didn’t know any of the things there.Only few things I could recognize was veg salads,fruits,pappad,coke & groundnut with small fried chillies.I took them & was about eat the groundnuts when I saw the chillies were not similar.Then I realized they are not chillies but small dried fishes!! So groundnut was discarded.

After lunch (?), the journey continued. Meanwhile the bus has entered Arizona State. Major parts of this state are covered by barren desert. Our destination as I told you earlier was a place ‘London Bridge’.London Bridge is there in Lake Havasu city.

Now some interesting trivia why it is called ‘London Bridge’..

In 1962, it was discovered that the London Bridge was falling down, sinking into the Thames because it was not adequate for the increase in traffic. Robert McCulloch,an American business man,learned that the British Government was putting the bridge up for sale.

He submitted the winning bid for $2,460,000. How was this figure arrived at? The first question was how much it would cost London to cut the granite so it could be used again. The figure McCulloch and C.V. Wood (Master planner) came up with was $1,200,000 and they doubled that since McCulloch and Wood, thought someone else might figure the same way, they added $60,000. The reason for this figure was that Mr. McCulloch would be 60 years old when the bridge was dedicated. So, McCulloch and Wood added this amount, making the total $2,460,000!!

The bridge was dismantled. Each piece was marked with four numbers: the first indicated which span; the second noted which row of stones; and the last two indicated which position in that row.

The bridge was shipped by boat 10,000 miles to Long Beach, California. From there, it was trucked to Lake Havasu City where it was stored in seven-acre fenced storage compound.

Reconstructing the Bridge in Lake Havasu City was done in the same manner as the Egyptians built pyramids. Sand mounds beneath each arch were carefully formed to the profile of the original bridge arches, serving the same function as molds. When work was completed the sand was removed. A one-mile channel was dredged and water was diverted from the lake, under the Bridge, then back into the lake.

The Bridge was completed and dedicated on October 10, 1971.

Buying a bridge from some part of world, getting it dismantled, shipping & reconstructing it as it was earlier… Sounds crazy but it is true.

Back to journey…
It was 4pm when we reached the bridge. The bridge area was full of tourists in all shades & (good) shapes ;) There were visitors sitting and boozing heavily. Few after boozing went for a ride in the water. Took a walk along the water, everywhere I went there were ladies n gentlemen in their minimum basics and highly drunk. In middle of all these boozers & lusty babes, one man was sitting under the bridge and playing saxophone not bothered about anything in the world. I heard the man comes & plays the saxophone daily there. Don’t know whose memories bring him to the same place again & again….

After these picture some views, we took a walk on the bridge. Lake Havasu is actually a Colorado River reservoir created when the Parker Dam was built. There is a statue of Robert P. McCulloch and C.V. Wood, the master planner.

After having ‘rainbow’ ice-cream, it was time to return to bus.But me, Asis & Samrat were late by 7 minutes.As a punishment for coming late, we were asked to sing some Indian song.As we knew that nobody there in the bus knew Hindi, we sung “Choli ke peche kya” song! When someone asked what the meaning of the song is, we gave an answer which nobody could ever understand!!

So the journey continued for another 45 minutes before we stopped at a motel. That was our night-stay place. It was already 6:30pm when we reached there. We quickly had shower & went out to explore the area.We were looking for some good place to eat.I settled for Pizza Hut Veg Pizza (8$), while other two went to Chinese restaurant. We slept early at 12 as next day we were supposed to leave the place by morning 4:45!!!

Next morning we were going to Grand Canyon………