The “Non-Vegas” Person’s Guide to Las Vegas

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I hate how so many people love Vegas. It’s a superficial oasis. Nothing natural about it.¬†Going to there¬†was never on my list until earlier this year…my two cousins, Maria & Belle, suggested that we all see Mariah Carey’s concert at Caesar’s Palace in August. I’ve only been there as a kid and I didn’t think much of it.

Oh whale. Why knot. It’s another opportunity to hang out with them and that was worth the alcohol I’d have to consume to feel part of the group.

I booked my ticket and the boyfriend and his roomie joined us. Fast forward to two weekends ago, I was nervous about going and being a party pooper. I secretly strategized my getaway plan for when we go to a bar and shots magically show up in front of me, eyes staring me down to tank my drink and down the shot. Ugh. I’m too old for this, I told myself.

We arrived at the Bellagio and the first thing I smelled was smoke. Cigarette smoke. Ugh. Disgusting. I couldn’t handle how strong it was (I’m probably spoiled by Hawaii’s no-smoking within 50 feet of a building law). I’m so sensitive to smell, guys. I can’t stand it and it makes me feel nauseous. I’d say it’s the number one reason why I would never stay at the Strip again. Aside from going out with my cousins, boyfriend, and his roommate, I avoided Las Vegas Boulevard¬†at all costs. I didn’t care how glamorous people dressed¬†or how grandiose the hotel displays were…I wanted to get out of there. The whole experience was a bit impersonal, to be honest, which is why I forced my cousins and bf to¬†join me in my search for real experiences.

I’ve compiled a list of places and eateries that I did enjoy. This list is for anyone who dares venture off the infamous Strip. Thanks to Yelp for saving me money and my sanity.

Chinatown, Las Vegas

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Chinatown in Las Vegas? Yeah, I never heard of it before. But it’s like brand spanking new. This is the first clean and oddly spaced out Chinatown I’ve ever been to. It¬†looks like everything was built a couple of years ago. Most of the shops and eateries are located on Spring Mountain Road, a convenient three minute ride from the swanky Strip.

We walked around and ate at Magal BBQ, which was obviously not Chinese, but they had great Korean bbq¬†and our server so happened to be from Saipan. Score! He treated us to a bottle of soju, which he happily drank with us. We walked our full bellies off across the street to J’s Karaoke Bar, a Korean (there’s a pattern here, we go to Chinatown for Korean food and soju, obviously) hiphop themed bar. My cousins and boyfriend had a great time singing and taking shots in the dimly lit room we reserved for ourselves.

On another night, we went to Sushi Kaya, where you can eat unlimited sushi for $28. Let’s just say they lost money with us. I never order sushi inland, but this place obviously flew in their fish and uni. I was peer pressured to try¬†uni for the first time here and it wasn’t bad.

I promised myself I’d try a good Chinese restaurant, the Pho Kim Long pho restaurant, and the tea shops next time I visit.

Seven Magic Mountains

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Prior to arriving in Vegas, I noticed at least four people that have been here in the last few months. I read up on it here. You can see the colorful rocks from the freeway and it’s only fifteen minutes away from the Strip (without traffic). It’s really in the middle of nowhere and that’s the beautiful part. The art installation will be up for the next two years. I highly suggest visiting this if you need a break from the casino.

The bf rented a car specifically to drive me out here because it’d be ridiculous to Uber it and have our driver wait until we were done taking photos. We spent about 45 minutes here taking photos, touching the rocks and talking to a few locals.

Downtown Las Vegas – Arts District

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I learned that Downtown Las Vegas was the “old Vegas.” The bf took me through Fremont Street, which was a tackier-but-cheaper version of Vegas. It still wasn’t for me. We then rolled through the arts district and saw lots of murals and hipster-esque eateries with no lines (yay! no waiting!) and free parking. This is where the locals are. I was sold. This is my kinda place.

Viva Las Arepas

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Venezuelan food was not on my list when planning our weekend getaway to Vegas. By the third day, I was over the endless lines at eateries on the Strip and I wanted food that was authentic and an atmosphere that was less chaotic. I quickly Yelped “best¬†cheap lunch” and came across Viva Las Arepas, a Venezuelan eatery that had five star reviews and it was just a five minute Uber ride away from the Bellagio.

Can I just say arepas top burgers any day?! I loved it. Everything was cheap too. We saved a lot of money on this trip and still ate to our hearts content. We ordered the roasted pork butt, reina pepiada, and the wood fire beef arepas with an empanada. I can’t even describe how satisfying it was after a night of peer pressured drinking and debauchery. It definitely beat long lines and mass-cooked dishes.

Neon Boneyard Museum

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I know this section merits more than what I’ve experienced, which was just a side tour of the museum, but it’s really worth checking out if you’re exploring Downtown. We pulled up to the half empty parking lot at the Neon Museum and walked into the main lobby. The girl at the counter told us that they are booked for tours for the day (really….the parking lot was barely filled). Apparently, they try to take care of the old neon signs by limiting the amount of visitors. The only section that was open was a small section of their property that had the old Golden Nugget sign and a bunch of others that were neat to see (touching is prohibited).

That’s my list of non-traditional Vegas things to see and eat. If I was given a ticket to Vegas, I’d definitely stay at a smaller hotel and eat at Chinatown and Downtown daily. I’m sure there’s lots more Vegas can offer to those weary of large crowds and glam lifestyle.

Note: All photos taken with my iPhone 6+. Not bad, Apple. Not bad at all. 

Thirty

THIRTYREASONS3Today is the day I make my 30th circle around the sun.

Welcome to IslandBohemian.com v.2! I’m going to be posting A LOT MORE on what I wear, create, and obsess over. I’m taking more time to write, design, photograph, and share whatever makes me smile.

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  I love anything lacy, boho, big jewels or stones, and colorful.

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Lace, lace, and more lace!

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Black midi skirt, Costco, lace tank + camisole, Ross, lace kimono and necklace, Forever21, purple ring, Nordstrom Rack, gold chain bracelet, my own.

Today’s going to be a great day!

Seattle, Washington

My godsister, Maria, had graduated from the University of Washington and I made a little trip up there to help her celebrate and visit the rest of my cousins in Seattle. Small kine family reunion turned into a fun trip around the city! Here are some snapshots from my trip.

Seattle Art Museum

I arrived a day before the graduation festivities started so that I can fit in some culture and sight-seeing. I went to SAM alone to get familiar with the local culture and history. My fave exhibit was the Pacific Northwestern American tribal art.

 

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

I can’t even figure out how to describe how excited I get when it comes to ice cream shops that make their own unique flavors. Don’t even try to come here and order a vanilla cone because there’s no point in living if you don’t try their earl grey or sasquatch flavors. Mis primas definitely know their desserts.

Let’s EAT

My family is all about eating. Like…we eat when we’re happy, sad, angry and bored. There’s no way around it. That’s how islanders live and enjoy life. I busted out the GoPro for a groupie shot for this one.

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Another shot with my not-so-little cousins. ‚̧

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

I’m pretty sure that glass artist Dale Chihuly had an exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art a few years ago. I swear I’ve seen his work before. In searching for attractions in Seattle, I came across the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition, which is located right next to the Space Needle. Each room features a theme of various glass art. My favorite part of the exhibit is the garden and greenhouse. The garden features glass art that looks like real plants along with some interesting plants and flowers. If you were to visit Chihuly and the Space Needle, best deal is if you buy your tickets online.

I spent my last days enjoying pauhana happy hour sessions with my cousins and catching up with them.

Aside from the traffic, Seattle is a wonderful place where I could see myself living for a few years. The city is beautiful, ethnically diverse and it seems a lot more laid back than how I perceived it to be.

I finally got my weekends back!

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Here’s a healthy toast to free weekends!

My bestie and Aunty went to the swap meet yesterday. Nothing but overpriced touristy goodness. All I got was some fresh coconut juice. Photo taken with my crappy iPhone. ūüôā

Mi abuelita

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Visiting my grandmother last week was emotional and heart-warming. I was so lucky to visit her and see my family back home in Saipan. She’s a bit stronger (physically) now and still full of jokes and laughs. She taught me a lot in the very few days I spent with her. She spoke about how she used to travel and attend various schools across Micronesia and in American Samoa. The U.S. used to provide the children of Saipan and Guam with scholarships and travel opportunities so she and her many siblings traveled all over the Pacific. We share some similarities. She believes in learning about other cultures and traveling abroad when the opportunities arise. She says that you should travel as much as you can when you are young and strong. I completely agree.

She’s a smart lil’ cookie.

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It was fun to catch up and joke around with her. She’s so tiny but she has the biggest heart. I miss you already abuelita! I’ll try my best to see you again this year. ‚̧

Studs for days

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My good friend Healani gave me this red leather clutch for Christmas. I think I’m obsessed with it. Thanks Lan, for such a useful and chic gift. Love you!

Now that Christmas is over, I can finally relax! Well, on a smaller scale. I’ve been trying to work as much as I can to prepare for my trip. I still haven’t bought things for my family back in Saipan. They usually don’t like the local stuff here. No surprise, they have all these Japanese products available back home, why would you want something from Hawaii when you already live on a beautiful island?

On another note, the holidays have inspired me to glam up a bit. Just because I knowingly  slack in the makeup department, I decided to try something new.

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Here’s one from Instagram showcasing just how “daring” I can be with makeup. I swear some girls can pull off the bright lips but I feel kind of funny so I wiped it off before Christmas dinner with my family. It is a pretty color though, it’s Make Up For Ever in 36 and the coverage is awesome. Everything else I use is from the drugstore, I used L’oreal liquid foundation, NYX eyeliner and Maybelline mascara.

A “gypster” and her bold prints

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Last night my friends and I planned to attend Art & Flea at Fresh Cafe. The theme was an “Ugly Sweater Christmas Party” so we tried to find ugly sweaters and anything “Christmasy.” I only had a funky old sweater from Ross and a scarf so I threw that on and left the house looking like a gypsy. Hipster. Gypster. Anyway, it was freezing (yes, freezing for an island girl!) and rainy, we only made it to the entrance and decided to have dinner instead.

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Earlier that day, I posted a top I found on eBay for $4. Not bad for #thriftythursday, huh?