Saturday, October 8, 2022

One Night in Vegas ✈ Overnight Layover

Bora Bora has been a bucket list destination that I never thought we'd be able to afford to travel to. This was a destination we planned to save for the future when we are older (and have less energy) and have more money. However, events over the past 3 years have been a good reminder to do the things we want while we can.

Since all flights departing from our city require an overnight layover, we intentionally chose to route through Las Vegas. It's been 16 years since my last visit to Las Vegas, and hubby hasn't been to Vegas before so this was a good opportunity to see Vegas for almost free. What better city to spend an overnight layover than Vegas, the city that never sleeps right? =)


Read on to find out what we did on our 9-hours overnight layover in Las Vegas. I've also dug out some old photos from my last visit to Las Vegas with the family in 2006. I wasn't blogging yet at that time so this is a good time to share some photos from that trip.

Our trip was only for a week so we packed fairly light and only needed 2 cabin-sized luggage + backpack for my laptop and camera stuffs. Eating in Bora Bora is expensive so we packed some 'camping' food. This is how we splurge and save at the same!

Aug 31 (Wed): Huntsville - Denver - Las Vegas

Thanks FIL for dropping us off at the airport for our 3.50pm flight to Denver. Now that most countries have dropped their Covid restrictions, traveling is much easier and all we needed to travel to Bora Bora was our Covid vaccine certificate. The best thing about departing from this small airport is that it's never crowded and takes less than 15min to check-in, go through security, and get to our boarding gate. 

Our long 45-hours journey to get to Bora Bora...4 flights on United + 1 flight on Air Tahiti. Huntsville - Denver - Las Vegas - San Francisco - Tahiti - Bora Bora. Our 4 flights on United costs 35,000 United miles + $11.20 per person. Not the best value but still much better than paying $700 one way out of pocket. We printed all our documents and put them in our itinerary 'booklet' just in case our phones don't work. 

Flight #1: 3 hours from Huntsville - Denver. Mask is  no longer required in the US so most people are not wearing masks anymore. Both of us and our neighbor to the left were the only people wearing masks.

Flight #2: 2 hours from Denver - Las Vegas. The flight was pretty full but we managed to secure a row of 3 to ourselves. Travel tip: If you're traveling with your partner, choose the aisle and window seat for each of you and pray that the middle seat remains empty. Worse case, one of you swap seat with the middle person so you can still sit together. =P

We landed at Las Vegas 30min ahead of schedule around 8.00pm. Las Vegas welcomed us with an excessive heat warning of 44°C (111°F)...felt like we walked into an oven. Fortunately, we were doing our sightseeing at night. Couldn't imagine walking around during the day under this heat.

It took about 15 min after getting off the plane to walk to the rideshare pickup area. From the baggage claim area, we took an elevator up to level two, cross a skybridge to the parking lot, and took another elevator down to Level 1. Upon reaching the pickup area, our driver pull into a numbered parking spot and alerted us where to find him. We timed our request perfectly and the driver pulled in just as we arrived at the pickup area. =) Everything went smoothly and we were on our Uber getting out of the airport by 8.35pm.

We decided to start our sightseeing at The Mirage and make our way down along the Strip through the night. Our ride from the airport to The Mirage took only 12 minutes and cost $23.72 due to higher demand at that time. However, I had a $20 voucher from work so the ride only cost us $3.72. Thanks Rubi for letting me know about this perk! =) 

We arrived at The Mirage around 8.50pm, just in time for the 9pm Mirage Volcano Show that runs every hour from 8pm - 11pm. We didn't realize we were waiting at the wrong spot until the show started so we only saw the show from the side. Oh well, it was already hot enough that day and we didn't need to be close to the fire to feel more heat...haha!

Throwback to much have changed, so much have remained the same.

The Venetian was located right across the street from The Mirage.

Exterior of the Venetian is a replica of Venice. For those who've been to the Venice, you'll recognize Piazza San Marco, St Mark's Campanile, and Rialto Bridge here.

Interior of The Venetian hotel is grand and lavish.

This indoor canal, fake sky, and gondola ride at Grand Canal Shoppes are definitely the highlight of The Venetian resort. The gondoliers were signing as well.

Throwback to quality is soooo much better now.

Tried our luck at the slot cash deposit machines in The Venetian's!

Our next stop was In-N-Out Burger at the Linq for late (10pm) dinner. We don't have In-N-Out in Alabama so this was a good opportunity to try it.

After filling our stomach and resting some (it was 12am Alabama time already), we walked through Caesars Palace casino and tried out luck again at the slot machines. Still no luck, so we 'paid' for the air-con and chair to!

Throwback to 2006....couple photos for the 'sponsors' of our trip back then. <3

The quickest way to 'travel' from Venice to Paris is to visit Las! Our next stop was 'Paris'...Eiffel Tower and  Arc de Triomphe. 

Throwback to 2006....the Eiffel Tower lights are so much fancier and nicer now.

The Bellagio was located right across 'Paris'. We arrived just in time to catch the 11.15pm fountain show. The Bellagio Fountain display is every 15 min from 8pm to midnight. The songs used in each show is different and the one we saw was Uptown Funk. 

Throwback to 2006...I was obviously not ready for photo at that time...haha!

Final stop for the night...Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. This place was still pretty crowded at 11.30pm. Our original plan was to keep walking until MGM but we were both feeling tired at this point (it was already 1.30am in Alabama) so we decided to call it a night and took an Uber back to the airport. 

We waited for our Uber at the Rideshare pick up area at the Bellagio. There is designated rideshare pickup and drop-off area in every hotel in Las Vegas so you can't simply hop on/off an Uber on the street. The ride back to the airport took 11 min and cost $14.11.

We made it back to the airport at 12am and was glad the security checkpoint was still open. We found a quiet spot near our boarding gate to get some rest for the night. Unfortunately, all the chairs had arm rests so we couldn't lay down. There is free wifi in the airport so I spent most of the night browsing the internet.

That's it for our quick 3-hour tour of Las Vegas. Next stop...Bora Bora!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Gulf Shores Family Vacation

MIL had planned for a family trip to Colorado back in 2020, but obviously that trip was cancelled. Then in 2021, SIL and BIL had a baby so we didn't go on any trips together. To make up for the family trip we missed in 2020, and considering the toddler in tow, MIL booked a week-long vacation for us to travel to Gulf Shores together this year. 

P.S. Jumping the queue to blog about this trip first before Bora Bora as there are too many photos and videos from Bora Bora and it's gonna take longer to sort through those.


Sept 9 - 17 (Fri - Sat): Family Vacation at the Beach Club, Gulf Shores Alabama
This trip was right after our Bora Bora trip. We returned from Bora Bora on Wednesday night, I worked on Thursday, then drove 6-hours to Gulf Shores with MIL on Friday. Amazing race!!

Hubby had to go to work on Friday so MIL and I started our drive earlier at 8am, and hubby joined us later that evening. I had a few packages to pick up from my office so we took a detour to Birmingham along the way. It has been almost 3 years since I last went to the office but everything remained almost the same, just much emptier. After picking up my packages (thanks MIL for helping to carry the boxes), and a quick toilet break, we continue our drive down south. We made a stop at the Publix at Gulf Shores around 3.30pm to shop for some a lot of groceries and finally arrived the condo at 4.20pm. We had so much stuffs it took us 2 trip with the trolley to move all our things!

    Our 3 bed 2 bath beachfront condo for the week at the Beach Club. The place was pretty nice and well-equipped. There was also a balcony overlooking the pool and beach. 

Surrounding of the Beach Club after sunset.

Hubby arrived about 2 hours after us, and SIL's family arrived the next afternoon. Even though hubby stayed only for the weekend (as he had to return to work), we managed to meet up with 2 relatives who lived close by over the weekend. It was great to catch-up with Aunt Cathy and Luke, as it's been awhile since we last met them. 

I don't really need more tan as I'm already 'Khai the Thai' after Bora Bora, as you can see from my tan line, but I could use some sun to even out my tan!

This was Cooper's first time at the beach, first time stepping on sand, and first time dipping his toe in the sea. He did great and really enjoyed himself. =)

4 of us 'big kids' went to The Track and had fun playing go-kart, mini golf, and arcade games.

As mentioned earlier, hubby had to return to work so he left on Monday. I'm able to work remotely so I stayed on for the week, and enjoyed working with a view. 

This was a chillaxing vacation so we didn't have much planned for the week, just a lot of family time, especially for Nonna and Cooper. =)

MIL also prepared yummy dinners for us in the condo. Thanks mom!!

We went to Lulu's for seafood dinner the day before SIL's family went home.

One last outing at the beach before the crew went home. 

Sunset was stunning that evening so I turned our beach outing into a photoshoot session.


Family & couple shots

MIL + Me + Sunset <3

Nonna + Cooper

Time to head home after a chillaxing vacation with the family. Big thank you to MIL for organizing this family trip! <3 

Even though this wasn't an 'action-packed' vacation (MIL has had plenty of those every time she traveled with us), it was a well-paced vacation which allowed us to spend quality time with the family, hangout with the nephew, make memories, and capture precious moments with our loved ones. <3

Sunday, August 14, 2022

COVID... After 2.5 Years

After 2.5 years, multiple overseas trips, 3 doses of vaccines, and masking in public, Covid finally made it into our house 2 weeks ago. Given how people don't wear mask anymore in the US these days, and the fact that hubby has to go to work every day (and work around others), we knew this day would come at some point. 

The blessing in disguise...hubby was out of town when he tested positive so we were able to take precautionary measures to keep me away from Covid. We turned our house into a 'quarantine station' and I was able to put my past quarantine experiences into good use.

Thankfully, hubby's symptoms were pretty mild and had a speedy recovery. I made this vlog to keep a record of our 13-day Covid quarantine experience. =)

1. How did he get COVID?
There's no way we could confirm or verify exactly how and where he got COVID from but our guess is he got it from work. Several people at his work had COVID 1-2 weeks before and his company doesn't require masking or negative test for people to return to work. Besides, another co-worker also got COVID at the same time.

2. How did he find out that he got COVID?
He was out of town for the weekend and I asked him to pack a test kit (that was expiring soon). The plan was for him to do a self-test before he came home just in case. However, he wasn't feeling well the day before returning so he did the test and saw the two lines. 

3. Has he gotten COVID before?
No, this was his first time getting COVID since the pandemic started.

4. Was he vaccinated?
Yes, he had both doses of Pfizer vaccines and was also boosted with Pfizer. His had his booster shot in October 2021.

5. What were his symptoms?
His symptoms were body ache, fever, sore throat, and slight runny nose. Overall, his symptoms were pretty mild.

6. How long did his symptoms last?
His symptoms lasted for about 4-5 days in total. He was fully recovered by Day 5, but continued to test positive for a few more days.

7. How long did it take for him to test negative?
He tested negative on day 10 after the first day of symptoms.

8. What are the COVID quarantine rules in the US / Alabama?
There are no quarantine rules in the US / Alabama. Masks are also no longer required. Basically, COVID is treated just like a normal flu here. It's entirely up to individuals to self-quarantine if we want.

9. Are we required to report to the authorities that he tested positive for Covid?
No. There has never been a requirement to report positive cases here in the US. There has been no contact-tracing in the US since the beginning of the pandemic. Self-test is also completely optional.

10. Did he quarantine? If so, how long did he quarantine?
Yes, he quarantined for a total of 12 days (3 extra days after he tested negative).

11. Was it necessary to quarantine?
Since he tested positive while he was away, we were able to take precautionary measures to avoid me from getting COVID. As such, we decided to go all out with the quarantine measures to keep me safe and healthy as long as possible. We don't know how COVID impacts each individual so it's better to be safe than sorry. 

12. How did we quarantine in the house?
He quarantined upstairs with doors closed at all times, and I moved downstairs. We both wore mask in the house at all times, including bed time. I prepared all his meals and placed them outside his room. We used separate dishes, cutleries, dish wash sponge, and soap. I also wore gloves when handling his food and cleaned his dishes.

13. What type of medicines did he take?
Only Acetaminophen for the first few days to reduce fever and relief sore throat.

14. What type of food/drinks did he eat/drink to help with recovery?
I made potato and meatball soup with vegetables, salad, honey drink, vitamin C, etc.

15. Does he have any post-COVID side effects?
No. His symptoms were completely gone by day 5.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Spring/Summer 2022

Finally completed blogging all about my 2-month trip and it's time for a quick post-trip quarterly update. 

May 30 (Mon): Went for a walk around downtown Huntsville with mom on Memorial Day.

June 4 (Sat): Family time after being away for 2 months. 15 mths old nephew starting his baby steps!

July 4 (Mon): Belated birthday celebration for MIL during July 4th holiday.

July 23 (Sat): Another family birthday meet up, more pool time!

June 11 (Sat): Top Gun movie at Dennis and Lisa's awesome movie room. Dennis was in the Navy and used to work at Top Gun so it was cool to hear some of his stories. =)

Sept 24 (Sat): Visited Dennis and Lisa again for a dinner gathering.

Time for annual and bi-annual 'maintenance'. Traveled to Birmingham for my annual health exam, and went to the dentist for my bi-annual cleaning and check-up. Had to get a filling and a crown...whoopsie. =P

After returning from our Bora Bora trip, I got the updated booster for Covid 19 on Sept 9 and multiple vaccinations in preparation for my upcoming trip. Hubby also had a minor surgery on Sept 20.

This is totally random but my Maldives vlog hit 30K views after one year...still don't make any money though...haha!

Received a new luggage from United to replace my damaged luggage. I now have a full 'collection' of free luggages from airports / airlines. =P

Got this new sunglasses for free with my eye insurance. =)

New gadgets from work

Some of our recent purchases for our and video games. 

Activities with co-workers from US and India

Fall is coming!

And as usual, my weekly meal prep photo collection...

May 22 & 29 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, bbq potato with sausage and meatball, stir-fry veggies, noodles with veggies and mussels, cilantro lime rice with pork, black beans, and tomatoes.

June 5 & 12 (Sun): Bakuteh with pork ribs, bbq potatoes with sausage, egg rolls,  stir-fry veggies, tomyum noodle soup with mussels, yellow rice with seasoned pork, and salad.

June 19 & 26 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, pasta with baked chicken, stir-fry veggies, braised pork rice (lu rou fan), bbq potatoes with seasoned pork, and salad.

July 3 & 10 (Sun): Baked pork with rice, potato salad, stir-fry veggies, bakuteh with pork ribs, bbq potatoes with sausage, and salad.

July 17 & 24 (Sun): Tomyum noodle soup with mussels and veggies, pasta with meatballs, stir-fry veggies, pork porridge, rice and pork with bbq sauce, and salad.

July 31 & Aug 7 (Sun): Pork gumbo, potato soup with meatball and vegetables, tomyum soup with mussels and vegetables, salad, rice with baked pork. 

Aug 14 & Aug 21 (Sun): Bakuteh, pasta with sausage and meatball, stir-fry vegetables, braised pork rice, salad. 

Aug 28 & Sept 18 (Sun): Eggroll, mash potatoes, gumbo with sausage, salad, Bakuteh, yellow rice with chili bacon and minced meat, stir-fry vegetables. 

Sept 25 & Oct 2 (Sun): Gumbo with sausage and mussels, salad, yellow rice with pork loin in bbq sauce, tomyum with mussels and veggies.