May 23, 2017

What to do in Houston, Texas?

When I first found out that I will be going to the United States, I was superr excited. I have always thought of visiting US or Europe one day but never thought the day would come so soon!

I will be breaking down this blog post into 2 parts because I was in Houston, Texas and thereafter flew to Los Angeles, California plus managed to sneak in time to visit London city during transit. If I were to write it all in one blog post it would be super long and boring haha

First thing first, when the other half said Houston(for his work), my mind was wandering...what is there to do in Houston? From movies, I know that it's a cowboy town, quiet place, nothing much to do. Hmm..and then it didn't help that from Google I saw it's famous for NASA, museum district...*yawns*

But then...further research found that there's a premium outlet and the biggest mall nearby. Ah-ha! Now, we're talking hahaha That totally got me very excited. 

So I did all the planning for a good 2 months before flying. First thing first, as a Malaysian, you will need a US visa before going. The visa itself took quite awhile because it was very tedious. Further, we would need to confirm the accommodation before you can apply for the visa. It's like chicken and egg. How to confirm for accommodation when visa is not even granted Lol. You can apply for the visa HERE *you're welcome*

The DS-160 form that needed to be filled in was a pain. I mean, there were so many questions, my eyes were seeing @.@ Further, payment itself was not straightforward. I had some hiccup, had to call the embassy, no one picked up, follow up again the next day, yada yada yada and finally managed to schedule my appointment for the interview. Yes, there is an interview in the US embassy.

I actually thought it would be some sort of a formal interview and I prepared documents all but meh, I think they saw that I do not have a terrorist face so it took like 2 minutes and it was approved immediately haha. The whole online thing, tedious preparation just for a 2 minute interview and finally my visa was granted. I basically went through few rounds of security inspection, phones were left at the guard house (yeap, no phones in the embassy seriously) got my number called, went into a counter booth and the person just asked me simple questions like, 'Why are you going to the US?', 'Who you're going with?' 'What are you working as?' and 'What countries have you visited previously?' And then, 'Alright, visa granted'! ^_^

Took about a week for them to courier my passport and we were set to fly. There were a lot of planning in between. Because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail haha. I do believe in spontaneity but not when it comes to long travel because you have to plan properly and we are in a foreign country so there's a lot of research to be done.

Now flying is another tricky part. There were many airways to choose from. Also, the transit times must be carefully decided otherwise if it's a long transit time, be prepared to even sleep in the airport. We initially wanted to take Emirates and transit in Dubai. Don't mind transitting there because I heard the airport in Dubai is a must-see. Another option was British Airways but British Airways stops in London Heathrow which we thought was crazy because we are going to 2 different continents.

Finally, after deciding on the price plus I have not been to London before, we thought best of both worlds if we fly with British Airways! We get to see UK and US! How about that? Hehe The transit time was also only 4 hours on our journey to Houston so we thought it's alright.

Hence, we took British Airways. That meant three time zones, three countries and 28 hours in total. Imagine, flying for 24 hours and transitting for 4 hours? My longest flight was to Australia and that experience was not even close to this.

A cuppa before flying off to brace the long haul flight.

In flight meals:

Satay chicken with rice. Yummy.

English breakfast

Sneaked a wine bottle out hehe
The flight serves full bar drinks and it was awesome. They even have gin & tonic!

The first flight to London which took 13 hours, I basically slept most of it because it was a workday and my flight was at night so it was sleeping time.

But the journey was smooth. The service was tip top, friendly stewardess, served well with two main meals and drinks in between and leg space wise, it was okay and suffice to say I was comfortable. The takeoff and the landing was great and it was all on time.

We stopped in London Heathrow airport, Terminal 5 where people said is a shopping heaven. Well, there's Harrods, a lot of branded stuffs and for our RM to British Pound, hmmm not so cheap lah to say the least. Didn't exactly shopped there though. But wait for my story for the journey back in the next post on London hehe

Harrods famous teddy

In the airport washroom you can buy pad, condom etc haha

Had some brunch at London Heathrow at The Windsor Bar

Hot Chocolate Marshmallow was so good that on our way back, I had it again hehe

Bread with bacon...meh typical British food

So we added some sauce brought all the way from Malaysia HAHA

So after having some breakfast, we boarded our next flight to Houston.

More wineee

Chicken with sweet potato mash.

Thai green curry rice. The chocolate ganache dessert(the purple box) was to die for. Finished til the last bit of it hehe Never thought plane food was this good =p

 10 hours later, we survived!! Touched down in George Bush International Airport, Houston and the first thing I wanted to go was the hotel and rest from all the jet lag.

Straight after receiving our luggage, we took an uber to JW Marriott Houston Downtown.

The first thing when we almost reached the hotel, I saw a person carrying a gun. I'm like whoaa, culture shock much! Just a young guy, with a gun in his bag jutting out and walking along the streets. And then, there was a beggar who kept knocking on our car for money. First impression was a bit hmmm...

But it's okay, entered the lobby and it felt posh! Entered the room and the journey was all worth it haha 5 star hotel with bathtub and huge room *first dream come true* hehe

An ipad to use the internet, navigate services, message request etc

Huge comfy bed and sofa

Most importantly there's bathtub haha

Yes, it's very important

Finally got to use my Lush bathbomb!

Resulting in pink colour water no pweettyy!

After a nice bath and a good rest, it's time to explore Houston.
Houston Downtown is a commercial area. They pretty much close early and are rather quiet on weekends because people don't work on weekends. It's not very happening although it's a city area.

Thank goodness for JW Marriott's luxury car shuttle. You can use the shuttle to anywhere within the 5 mile radius. We kinda saved a lot using the shuttle so that we don't have to spend much on Uber. I mean for around 5 mile radius, Uber costs 6-10 USD which is also around RM30 so we definitely saved on that (and don't convert, don't convert, don't convert haha)

And we were ferried in a Porsche, no less ^_^

We stopped by Target for awhile to get our simcard sorted.
Managed to buy one from AT&T with a top up which costed us almost 44USD which is equivalent to almost RM200!! No choice what to do and that was the cheapest okay (and don't convert, don't convert, don't convert)

After that, from some recommendations, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for their famous wings (what else) for dinner.

Ooohh yummy. We combined 2 sauces. Asian Zing sauce was good.

Plus Taco's as sides.

After that, we were so full we couldn't move. And by the way, chips is like their staple food (french fries here) which is quite unhealthy to be honest.

Back to the hotel and can't sleep much #jetlag
Timing all went haywire.

Woke up for brekkie..

And it was so sadd ='(
Fruits, ham, cheese,..

Scrambled eggs..

Free flow of canned drinks, coffee, tea and mineral water.

Errr...30USD for that? OMG breakfast was baddd. (But scroll down to see what I had for the rest of the days).

Then, we took an Uber to Houston Premium Outlet which was a bit in the outskirts.
I didn't really have much expectation of the place because c'mon it's Houston, it's quiet, people don't exactly come here to shop....

Lo and behold! Within a few hours, suddenly bags after bags were piling LOL
The sale was crazyy

I know Coach brand is cheaper because it is made in US but...

You get 50% off somemore.
What else? Buy lah!

I don't know whether is it on that day only or every other day has 50% off but at this outlet, China people were buying in bulks >.< So much so there is even a Chinese saleswoman employed by Coach to serve these people. These people were crazy rich, buying bags like free and fitting them inside their suitcases -.- Yes, they brought suitcases to fit their purchases. I thought it only happened in Bangkok. Apparently not.

So ended up, it is obviously so much cheaper buying bags at the Premium Outlet than the warehouse sale in Malaysia because the bags were new arrivals and it's brand new. Totally worth the trip here haha

There were so many brands here but really didn't take much pictures because was very busy shopping haha

Another one to look out for was Kate Spade. At first I thought only Coach had the discount, but Kate Spade had 50% off as well and I really went cray cray HAHAHA Michael Kors had a lot of people as well and Fossil. These are some brands which had good promotions and were worth it.

After that took a break for lunch at the food court.

Philly's cheese steak with cheesy curly fries.
Food was good too.

Continued another round of shopping and then queued up for tax refund LOL

You see the amount of China people here!
Their receipts were so long I can't even.

Had Starbucks while waiting in line to cool down from all the 'hardwork' haha

After that went back to the hotel and was too tired to go out to get dinner

So, room service it is! Pesto pasta delivered to our doorstep.

See these cute tabasco sauces and salt and pepper haha

Next morning, usual routine of having breakfast.

Time time around, went straight for healthy.

After that, it was a one day adventure by myself.

Ready to go out!

Of course, got driven in the Porsche hotel shuttle hehehe

Went to The Galleria, dubbed the biggest shopping mall in Houston.
According to google, you gotta check this mall out if you're in Houston.

However, of course there was no sale. It was like Pavillion in KL. All high end brands there. The Houston Premium Outlet was much much better.

But managed to grab some NYX cosmetics.

So happy with my matte lip cream because it's the perfect colour and long lasting matte texture =)

Had McD for lunch. USD 2 for lunch

Even got all adventurous and tried the public transport there. Took the bus back to the hotel

At night, we were too lazy to go out, so we ordered in Taco Bell's, one of their famous fast food chains there.

Really yummy and erm...unhealthy also lol

Jetlag againnn....couldn't sleep -__-
Always around 4-5am we will be wide awake already.

So, what else? Go and have breakfast


And only found out, we could order from the kitchen *facepalms*
All these while we thought whatever that's on the spread are just that but we could order pancakes and french toast as well
So pancakes it is and it's super fluffy!

Visited the biggest oil and gas conference held in Houston. 

Took the tram there and it was really convenient and cheap. Only USD 1.25 to and fro.

You know I was saying so many China people were at the Houston Premium Outlet? You must be wondering why would these people go to Houston? Tour? Vacation? Doesn't make sense.

Ended up, they were there because of this conference
Really H-U-G-E and there were a sea of people in this conference. So, on normal days, Houston is definitely quieter and less people without the conference

Held at the NRG stadium

So many foodtrucks were there and really good business.
Grabbed a hotdog and continued collecting free goodies from the conference LOL!!

Stopped by Walmart to buy snacks.

Beef Jerky

Chewey Lemonhead. This was really good.

Breakfast again the next day.

This time French toast. Clever to order already hahaha
Btw, wayy too much for a single person.

Needed to check in for flight for the next day so used Marriott's computer room

They only use Macbook. Soo 'atas'

After that, went to this very famous brunch cafe for lunch.

The Breakfast Klub

Had their wings and waffle.
People were queuing okay!
The wings were good but the waffle was a bit bland to me.

Had so much of fun shopping and eating in Houston. Treated like a princess in a 5 star hotel and totally enjoyed my stay in Houston. The people were friendly and nice and if I were to come back, I would come back for the sale at the premium outlet HAHAHA >.<
It was rather sad to bid goodbye but we had a flight to catch to LA.

Woo-hoo! Til the next post =)

Part 2 is HERE

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