Techies in Vegas

I must say, the title of my previous post was kind of perfect:

Deuces, #bunsces.

As of writing, I have yet to think of an equally clever title. And it most definitely is partly due to the fact that I’m running on almost no sleep, thanks to the red eye from Vegas to Miami, waiting to head to Nassau. #travelbug

Given the insane number of photos I’ve taken over these past five days, I’ve decided to spare you the ridiculousness of having to both read and browse through hundreds of photos in one post.

But man, where do I even begin? (I also kind of want to just sleep at this point. I could get some coffee, but I’ve already settled down in this corner of a well-lit, pretty, and clean dining area in the ginormous Miami airport.) If you couldn’t already tell by my rambling, my mind is all over the place.

Day One — Saturday, January 3

I’ll start with landing in Vegas at noon on the Saturday before any of the CES stuff began. My taxi driver was fantastic—or creepy, depending on how you look at it. Among the first few things he said to me as he stepped out to greet me at the McCarran airport taxi line: “You look a lot like my wife. She’s Asian, too. But also a lot younger, of course.”

Hah. Okay. Cool.

Soon enough, he finds out I’m in town for CES, with which he apparently was familiar enough to know about a secret that he told me not to forget: Ask for the hospitality suites.

“What’s your name? Yes, don’t you forget about the hospitality suites, Sonia,” he said, as he reached back to mute the TV and turn his rearview mirror so that he could look directly at me while talking.

According to this taxi driver, whose name for which I hadn’t bothered to ask, companies have their own “hospitality suites” where there is a bunch of free food. None of that dreaded boxed lunch fluff.

“You see that tall tower over there? Avoid it. Crack city over there. If I had a daughter, she would look like you, and that’s what I would tell her,” he said, as I just laughed and accepted his odd inclinations to refer to my heritage.

Anyway, I apparently ended up tipping him well, because, well, he pointed it out when he saw. Little did I know, 20-percent tip + $3 credit/debit card fee certainly adds up. I’ve learned my lesson.

I really had no plans when I first booked this flight to arrive so early. If it weren’t for the last-minute realization that a former BU roommate of mine would also be in Vegas that weekend, I don’t know what I would’ve done with so much time before the 3 p.m. meeting on Sunday.

I ended up getting a very late but very delicious lunch with them at Shake Shack at the New York New York Hotel. We walked around the Strip afterward and then got drinks at Fat Tuesday, because Vegas. We gambled. We walked some more. And soon enough, we were back to eating, this time at the pizza shop next to Fat Tuesday in MGM before preparing for the night out at Drai Nightclub. Just think—what the heck would I have done all day and night by myself in Vegas? GAMBLE?! (I’m cheap, remember?)

And it’s worth noting that spending any more time than necessary at the dump of a hotel Circus Circus was not an option. My first night ended up being pretty terrible, thanks to a kid who kept crying and yelling, “Noooo!” to his mom and dad at 4:30 in the morning. Who knows what could have transpired to have such a kid cry so tragically at an equally tragic hour at the most tragic hotel?

Day Two — Sunday, January 4

The first day of CES activities included something called CES Unveiled, a showcase for companies who pay to give press a preview of their products before the opening to general attendees starting Tuesday. Before diving into this chaos, we had a brief meeting at the press room at the Mandalay Bay convention center. It was easy to immediately feel adrenaline, not only with seeing respectable news organizations have their own rooms inside the press room, but also with knowing that the best tech reporters were among us. Oh, and the giant cookies were nice, too 🙂

As for CES Unveiled, what a rush! So many reporters and photographers vying for their own chance to get to the wide range of products. The food also looked amazing (macarons, arancinis, spring rolls?!, other yumminess), but my CES roommate only enjoyed a blueberry vodka drink at the open bar (yes, open bar!). It was just hilarious to see how so many people just seemed to go to chill and eat among the chaos. Managed to snag a few freebies, too.

Thankfully, I had a much better night’s sleep this night, though it felt hilariously terrible that after such long days, we would have the joy of returning to—shudder—Circus Circus.

Day Three — Monday, January 5

If I thought Sunday was exciting, CES Press Day was the best day of CES for me, although Tuesday comes in a very close second. Heck, I loved every day. But I owe it to covering my first CES press conferences for making this day particularly amazing for me.

I kicked off the morning with the LG press conference at 8 a.m. After I filed that story with pictures of my first look at the new G Flex2 phone, I experienced another first—the CES boxed lunch. We all were told not to expect much, so with such low expectations, these lunches REALLY were not bad. I was a fan.

Later in the day, I covered both the Samsung press conference and keynote. SURREAL.

Again, after such a long day, my roommate and I treated ourselves to a delicious dinner, this time at Serendipity3 (did you know all Serendipity locations are named Serendipity3? None of us did, either.) We enjoyed THE BEST nachos and a peanut butter frozen hot chocolate for two. I don’t remember the Sunset nachos I had more than two years ago, but I’m pretty confident these reign supreme.

After stopping by the Dump and resting for only what was a sane amount of time allowed, we made our way to the Cosmopolitan for the CES Opening Party at the famous Marquee Nightclub. HILARIOUS observation? We had to bring our CES badges for entry, and immediately after showing them, the bouncers kept repeating to hide them and make sure not to take them out—implying that they were entirely too geeky for a club of such high-class, celebrity caliber.

With some exceptions—including the VC who gave us his business card, another who literally demo’d his app, and some creepy guy who got us shots but wouldn’t leave us alone until we announced we were leaving, the crowd was surprisingly better than expected. Not all were the nerdy, geeky type, and the club atmosphere and environment was just incredible.

Day Four — Tuesday, January 6

As the official start of CES 2015, this day was like unleashing a kid in a candy store—with that kid being me and the candy being everything I saw and interacted with. I didn’t end up producing an article for BU News Service, but I sure did tweet and take a bunch of Instagram videos.

It was a day that was mostly left to myself, and I loved independently exploring the wonders of #CES2015.

My favorite part was definitely the introduction to the Intel keynote, with a cellist rocking to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and a group of male singers covering Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.” I felt that I couldn’t even stay still in my seat, because I loved it that much. The live demos with the enthusiasm and well-versed speech of the keynote speaker (huge difference from Samsung’s BK Yoon) made the Intel keynote my favorite event to attend within CES—the Las Vegas Convention Center showroom being the next best thing, of course.

Day Five — Wednesday, January 7

Given how much fun I had yesterday, I couldn’t even imagine what was in store for me today. At the same time, I felt sad just thinking about how this was the last day for us BU students at CES.

I mean, I still had a whole other building at the Sands Expo to explore! I spent the morning covering as much ground as I could at the Las Vegas Convention Center before heading to Sands. My roommate and I had planned to check out Ryan Seacrest talk about humanizing tech at ARIA. Unfortunately, shuttles weren’t running to ARIA at that time, and we were too cheap to waste more money on taxis. In the end, I got more time to check out the other half of the CES madness.

Again, with no huge press conferences or events (that I could make, anyway), I didn’t end up writing a story today. Still, I made up for it by documenting everything I found interesting on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (though much less Snapchat after realizing my snaps would probably never be chosen for the public “Techies in Vegas” story, with all this competition from TechCrunch, The Verge, and Mashable. Speaking of which, I found it hilarious that so many people on Twitter found CES to seem “surprisingly interesting and fun.” Yep, feeling extra special for being there. That’s it—I’m stealing Snapchat’s title for this blog post.).

BU treated us to drinks and appetizers at Todd English Pub at ARIA, mainly as a networking event with IDG, but with three of us leaving this night and the rest the next day, it was also a farewell/congratulatory gathering.

The night with the remaining crew ended with a snapshot (or a few, taken by a pushy photographer looking to make a few bucks) in front of the “Welcome to the Famous Las Vegas” sign—which amusingly fell short (pun intended) of our expectations. For some reason, we thought it would be a lot taller. But I suppose at this height, it is perfect for pictures.

Soon, one of the BU professors helped shuttle me and my roommate to the airport, where we parted ways after a crazy yet absolutely amazing experience.

It wasn’t until I was left alone at the empty airport at night that I realized how much I would miss CES.

Until next time.

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