Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Trip to Seattle, WA And the Adventure That Was Had - PAX PRIME 2013!

Hello! This is going to be more of a life post than anything else, since I want to kind of do a summary of my and my husband's trip to Seattle, WA for PAX Prime 2013!

My husband and I went to PAX Prime last year. We stayed in Portland, OR with one of our friends for a few days, then drove to Seattle, WA for the convention. We had so much fun that we decided to try to go again this year. Unfortunately, our friends weren't able to attend so we had to go it alone. Last year, my husband was able to snag badges for Friday and Saturday. He was pretty lucky since they sold out ridiculously fast and we figured we'd be happy with just the two days since Sunday was the last day of the convention and was a short day anyways. This year, they extended PAX to four days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (which was also Labor Day). Again, my husband was only able to get badges for two days, Saturday and Sunday, and while it would have been fun to go for another day, I think the two days were enough. Unless there's something specific that you really want to do, and would have to stand in line forever for, I think two days is more than enough time to get to about 90% of what you want to. As always, there were people buying and selling badges outside of the convention center. I think scalping is pretty awful (I had a friend who would help his friend scalp tickets for concerts in order to make money and it really made me lose respect for him) so I found them pretty irritating.

Since we only had tickets for Saturday and Sunday, we decided to fly in on Friday, get settled in our hotel, and maybe do a trial run of Seattle's light rail system. We would go to the convention on Saturday and Sunday, and then, since it was cheaper to fly home on Tuesday (even after paying for an extra night at the hotel. We had a very cheap hotel...more on that later) we would just wander around Seattle on Labor Day.
To keep this post organized, I'm going to try and go day-by-day. I don't think it will be too difficult for Friday and Monday, but Saturday and Sunday kind of blur together, so I might mix a few things up. Picture-wise, I also grouped a lot of things together since I didn't take pictures with how I was going to blog about them in mind, so I'm going to try and spread them out, but there may be overlap. Without further blathering, I'll start with:

Friday: The first day!
This day was mostly travel. Our flight was in the afternoon, but we live kind of far from our airport so we left pretty early. We ended up taking the bus and lightrail to the airport since we didn't have any friends or family who would be available to drive us (my brother-in-law drove us to the airport last year and my husband's boss picked us up, which was nice), and since it was a lot cheaper to take public transportation than to use a shuttle or taxi (or even just park at the airport) we figured why not. We were running a little late and thought for sure we had missed out bus, but it turns out that our bus was running late, too. We were really nervous it wasn't the right one until we got to the lightrail station since it was running so late, even though it was the right number/letter (the bus we needed to catch goes to a couple different places, even though it's the same number, and the way to tell the difference is by the letter. We needed to be on the "H" bus, but they run less frequently than the unlettered and "D" buses that wouldn't take us to the station. The bus was about 10 minutes late and it was an "H" bus, but it came at the same time a "D" bus was supposed to. Luckily, it ended up being right!). After getting to the lightrail station, it was a straight shot to our terminal. We checked in, checked our luggage, and then waited. I actually don't mind the wait at airports; it's kind of fun, actually, to shop and people watch. It's like a little tiny indoor city. Where everything is very expensive, at least foodwise. From the moment we got to the airport to the moment we got home, I don't think I spent less than $2.00 for a bottle of water or a can of pop.

The flight there was alright; it took a little longer than they estimated it would and we had a bit of a rough landing, but there weren't any screaming babies and we got there safe and sound. After picking up our bags, we went off in search of our hotel. We got a hotel right outside of the Sea-Tac airport since it was super close to the lightrail which would take us right to downtown Seattle. It actually turned out to be a really great location; being so close to the lightrail made getting into the city super easy. We also ended up being really close to a 7-11, which was nice since our hotel was kind of lacking in the food department (it had the saddest continental breakfast I had ever seen. It was a bunch of tiny little blueberry and banana nut muffins, a loaf of white bread, some butter and jelly, two plastic cereal containers with Cheerios and Frosted Flakes, orange juice in a generic and well-worn pitcher, and a similar old and beat up pitcher full of milk in the fridge. I ended up going down there only to grab bowls and spoons). Luckily, we had a fridge in our room so we could get staples like milk, fruit, and veggies. We ended up eating cereal for breakfast, lunch at PAX or downtown Seattle, and dinner was purchased from the 7-11 (my husband got their chicken tenders, I got a Lunchable. I forgot how tasty those simple cracker, meat, and cheese ones are).

We also wanted to get a dry run in of the lightrail before we tried to make our way to the convention on Saturday so we decided to go to Kinokuniya. One of the lightrail stops was for Chinatown and the International District, very close to where Kinokuniya is located. Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore; they have a lot of imported magazines, books, and goods, as well some books and manga in English. There's one in L.A. and another in New York and I think there are a couple in Japan. I was really excited to go to Kinokuniya since it's much cheaper for me to buy my magazines there than it is for me to import them myself. I also wanted to go to Daiso, which is like a Japanese dollar store, but we didn't get a chance to until Monday. Kinokuniya is also attached to an Asian grocery store called Uwajimaya, which is where we got our fresh produce, as well as a ridiculous amount of Asian snacks and candy.
This is the collective haul of our Asian snacks and candy (we had a lot more food, like a huge box Applejacks that I had to pay $6 for, but it wasn't anything special). Some of it made it home with us and some of it didn't, either because it got eaten or because we couldn't take it on the plane. I was surprisingly fond of the Tako Chips and since I'm pretty sure our big Asian grocer here carries them, I'm excited to get more.

The lightrail in Seattle worked very differently from the lightrail we have here, so I'm glad we did a dry run. You can purchase either a one-way ticket that will, presumably, only take you one-way, or you can purchase a day pass that will let you ride the lightrail for the entire duration of the day. You also had to pick which stop you were getting off at, but we always just selected downtown since it was about the same price anyways. I don't believe you could use the lightrail passes to ride the bus like you can here, but it wasn't an issue since everywhere we wanted to go was right off the lightrail. After our trip to Kinokuniya, it was getting late and we wanted to make sure we got up bright and early for PAX (the convention hall opened at 10:00am and it was about a 35 minute lightrail ride from the airport to downtown).

Saturday: PAX Day 1! 
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early, eager to get our PAX on! My husband slept very well, but I, unfortunately, did not. I'm one of those people who takes some time to acclimate to a new bed, so when I travel, rarely sleep well my first night or two (which is even more unfortunate since I'm usually only traveling for a day or two). Since our hotel was rather...inexpensive, to put it nicely (I think it had like one and a half-two stars out of five for reviews and most people, if they aren't bashing it completely, said it was a good place to sleep), we only had three rather lumpy pillows and a somewhat dubious comforter. Surprisingly, the walls were pretty thick and we rarely heard anyone around us, even though we were right next to the ice machine.

The lightrail was packed. It looked like a lot of people got a hotel near the lightrail (since it's also attached to the airport, there were a ton of different hotels. Our hotel was tucked between a Holiday Inn and a Clarion? Inn, with a...Hilton I believe right across the street). There were even cosplayers on the train! My husband and I were going to cosplay, but I ended up not being able to finish mine on time, and he didn't want to cosplay by himself, so we didn't. After we got off the lightrail at the very last stop, we basically just followed the sea of geeks to the convention hall. First stop was to get our swag bags.

Last year, they system they had set up for getting your swag bag was awful; the lines were huge and took forever. At least on Friday. When we went back on Saturday, there weren't any lines for swag bags, which was lame. This year they were very intent on getting everyone through the line as quickly as possible, so it we were in and out in less than five minutes. The highlights of the swag bag this year were a deck of Magic cards in a random color, two free skins for League of Legends, and a tiny pack of PAX/videogame/nerd themed Cards Against Humanity! What was really cool about the CAH was that all the packs were random, so there were 44 cards to collect. My favorites were a Dr. Who card and a Cooking Mama one (because Cooking Mama doesn't get as much respect as it deserves!)
I also really like the picture on the program this year:
After getting our bags, our second first stop was the official PAX merch table. At PAX they have this...program? called Pinny Arcade where various booths and people would sell/trade for various metal pins. The pins are actually really nice and high quality, and I'm sad I didn't end up with more. There were a few I wanted to get, but we either couldn't find them, or you had to play a demo or pre-order a game. Most of the pins you wouldn't be able to get anywhere else except at PAX, which makes them highly collectable. I knew I had to get the PAX Prime set because, not only was it only available at PAX Prime, but one of the pins was a kitty!
Here's my lanyard with my badges and my pins, with a close-up of the pins on the right. The bottom four; baby Tycho and Gabe, the PAX logo, and the kitty are the ones I bought at the PAX merch table. The viking was one I got from the Behemoth booth (they had a whole bunch of different pins you could "buy". You bought $5 worth of yen and then tried your luck in their gashapon machines, so whatever pin you'd get would be random. I was sad I got the viking at first because I wanted the cat, but he's grown on me) and the Fantasia one is from the Fantasia/Harmonix booth.

Most of the day is a blur; my husband played a few demos, while I ended up only playing one: the Project Diva demo. I was surprised they even had a demo there since the game had already came out. The only reason why I played was because I wanted what they were giving away:
A light up Miku stick! It flashes a bunch of different colors and it has different settings for how quickly it flashes. One of the demos my husband played was for the Wonderful 101, because he really wanted to get one of the masks they were giving away. Being small and fast, I managed to grab one for myself without having to play the game. Not that it matter because they were giving them out like candy and my husband ended up with like six of them for him and his friends.
The game wasn't due out for a couple weeks, but Nintendo was doing a promotion where they would sell 101 copies early each day of PAX, which is a smart way to build hype. It's actually a pretty good game, my husband describes it as basically being like Bayonetta (which makes sense since it's made by the same person, Hideki Kamiya who incidentally also made one of my favorite games of all time: Okami).

My husband and I spent most of the day apart, since standing in line for a demo that you don't want to play can be a little dull, but we met up every couple hours and for lunch (we went to Jimmy John's). I found it amusing that, every time I met up with him, I would be wearing a new piece of swag. It was much easier to get free things than it was to actually play any games. I picked up a Fennekin hat from the Pokemon area
because he is clearly going to be my starter Pokemon when X&Y come out. I thought about starting with Froakie since he evolves into a gentleman, but Fennekin reminds me a lot of Vulpix, one of my favorites from the original 151 (Vaporeon is my favorite if you're wondering).

Like last year, the League of Legends championships were going on at PAX. Unlike last year, they didn't have a merch booth and they made their venue smaller, making it harder to get in. Last year I never got a seat, but I was able to stand in the balcony and watch a match here and there. My husband and I decided to try and get into the LoL arena and. Wow. We ended up standing in line for about 2 hours. It was ridiculous. There were enforcers directing traffic and they could only let people in if other people left (like a popular club, except you couldn't get in faster by being a hot chick). We got to the very front of the line pretty quickly, but then the match got intense so people stopped leaving. There were some people from Riot working the crowd and passing out swag, so it wasn't a total loss. We got a couple lanyards and some bracelets that say "Tons of Damage", which are amusing. The match ended and we were finally allowed in so we grabbed some seats as fast as possible and settled in. We ended up watching the first match of the semi-finals between Cloud9 and Dignitas.
This is between matches, but it shows where we were sitting and how totally rad the set-up was. Lots of bright flashing colors and all that jazz. We wanted to stay and watch some more, especially since we had waited so long in line, but we had to leave. Where we went, however, ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, but we got to go to a really nice party at a really nice hotel and meet a lot of really cool people that we look up to and are inspired by. It was pretty awesome and totally worth leaving the LoL championships for. We stayed at the party for a while and we finally made it home around 11pm. We were both exhausted so falling asleep was pretty easy, though we did watch some TV since we don't have it at home and it was nice to see something so mind-numbing again.

Sunday: More Videogames!
To be honest, Sunday was pretty much the same as Saturday, except my husband and I spent more time together. I think Saturday really tired us both out, so we took things a little easier. The highlight of this day came pretty early on. My husband decided that he wanted to try and get one of the early copies of Wonderful 101, so we made sure we got to the convention right when it opened at 10am. While we were in line for the Nintendo shop, there were workers walked around asking people which line they were in and directing them where to stand. It turned out that Hideki Kamiya was there that morning, signing things and taking photos with people with the Wonderful 101 mascot cosplayer. We didn't even know he'd be there, and I'm not sure it was even announced (my husband would have been all over that had it been). What's more, he was only going to be there for an hour, from 10:30am to 11:30am, so it was really lucky that we got there when we did. My husband really wanted to get a copy of Wonderful 101 signed, so we split up, me in the shop line, and him in the line to see Hideki Kamiya.

It ended up taking me longer to get through the line for the game than it did for my husband to get through the line to meet Hideki Kamiya, so he just let one or two people go ahead of him until I was able to get him a copy of the game.
He was pretty pumped. about it (it's hard to see, but the signature is in gold on the fist).

I picked up some more random swag this day:
Someone just shoved this in my hand as I was walking past and I put it in my bag without thinking, but I was really upset I didn't pay attention to it more. I don't know if they actually had a demo of the game or not, but I really want to try Mew-Genics! It's a game where you're basically a crazy cat lady and you try and breed different types of cats. Right up my alley.
 They had this sweet baseball hat at the Fantasia/Harmonix booth, though I had to trade my e-mail for it. I also got my pin and these weird glasses at the same time:
They had a special "paint-and-take" room where you could paint a miniature, but I ended up not having enough time to paint mine.
I got a button and a special skin from the Smite booth:
 And I bought an animal orb cell phone charm from Behemoth (this was the same time I bought the yen for the pin).
 I also checked out this interesting indie game called Armello.
I guess it's like a strategy/RPG/conquest type of game. The guy who explained it to me and really nice English accent. It sounded pretty cool, but I think it's only for tablets and smart phones which sucks because I have neither.

Before we left for the day (and before we headed to Kinokuniya for the second time), we ran across a booth that was offering free zombie make-up. I thought it was a pretty cool way to promote a game, and there was no line, so I decided to get my zombie on! It wasn't until it was my turn that I realized I would be riding the lightrail and going to Kinokuniya looking like a zombie, so I was hesitant, but I went for it. My husband got his face painted, too, so I wouldn't feel so self-conscious. I went with a shot in the head type of zombie.
Here is a rare photo of me! For only taking about 10 minutes, the lady who did my make-up did a pretty good job! Please excuse my hair and how tired I look; this was after another full day at the convention and some intense shopping.

Monday: The Final Day
Monday we got started pretty late. We were both very tired and worn out from all the walking and partying and game playing so we hung around our hotel room watching TV until about noon. It's been a long time since I've watched TV, and since I have Ad Block on my computer, it's also been a pretty long time since I'd been exposed to commercials. I ended up buying myself some Herbal Essences shampoo after we got home because there was a commercial for it that reminded me how much I used to want to use it when I was younger. My family was pretty poor when I was little (though I didn't know it) and I had a very well-off friend who's house I would stay at all the time. She used Herbal Essences and I was always excited to take a shower there because I got to use her shampoo. I loved how it smelt and it made me feel fancy since my parents said we couldn't afford it. Since I'm older now and in charge of my own money, I can buy it for myself, which I did.
For some reason, I always thought it was super expensive, but this bottle only cost me like $5. Either my family was a lot poorer than I thought, or my idea of an expensive shampoo/conditioner has been skewed (which it has since now I drop $16 on a conditioner without batting an eye). It smells just like I remember it and it actually makes my hair feel nice. Yay!

Since it was Labor Day, we weren't sure what would be open and how long, but it turns out most things were open. Not only were most places open regular business hours, some places like the aquarium had extended hours! It was crazy. We thought about going to the zoo or the aquarium or the Space Needle, but we decided to do something free and go to the Pike Place Market.

We spent about an hour there, but it was so crowded that it was hard to really see anything and enjoy ourselves. My husband bought a dozen mini doughnuts (the lady liked my Adventure Time shirt so she gave us a few extras) so we snacked on those while we wandered about. To be honest, I wasn't really impressed with the Market. It's cool that there's an indie marketplace where people can sell stuff like fresh flowers, fish, and produce, but like I said, it was ridiculously crowded. I think on a weekday, it might be more interesting. There were a few things I thought about buying, like some organic body products and these sweet prints of cats doing yoga, but I was pretty grumpy because of the crowds so I didn't hang around any one stall for too long.

After we left the Market, we were starting to feel hungry so we decided to find someplace interesting to eat lunch at. Since this was kind of our last hurrah in Seattle, we wanted to do something a little fancy. We ended up going to this place called Etta's. I ordered their signature salmon with cornbread pudding and green beans and my husband had a plate of fried cod and shrimp with fries. I also got a dry cucumber soda because I've always wanted to try a dry soda and figured then was a good time. The salmon was absolutely amazing. Granted, I haven't eaten a lot of salmon in my life, and most of it has been smoked salmon that one of my parents' friends would bring back for us from Alaska, but. Oh man. It was incredibly tasty. The cornbread pudding was really good, too. Totally worth the $23 price tag. My husband's fish and shrimp were also super tasty, and the dry soda was definitely an experience (a good one!). Since we still had some mini doughnuts, we debated about getting dessert and decided that we would walk some more around Seattle to see if anything caught our eye. We did go into the Dahlia Bakery, and they had some tasty looking macrons and lavender honey cheesecake, but we ended up not getting anything. It was probably for the best since we did load up on the delicious, but very sugary and greasy, mini doughnuts.

After walking around for a while (we were going to meet up with our friend, but he was busy), I decided that I wanted to get a manicure at a Julep nail parlor. Julep is based in Seattle, WA and I thought it would be really cool to actually get my nails done in one of their salons. There was one really close to the convention center, so I walked in and made an appointment. The lady who did my nails was very friendly and she did an amazing job!
I had a hard time decided what polish color I wanted, but I went with "Suzie". It lasted for over a week, but I eventually got bored (this is why I can't do gel polish...I get bored with my nails after a few days) and took it off, though I was loath to waste it. I even got 20% since I was a Maven! Pretty awesome.

After my manicure we went back to the convention hall to say goodbye to our friend and then we started to make our way home. We couldn't resist one last stop at Kinokuniya and I still really wanted to go to Daiso. Daiso ended up being a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still really fun. Since everything is imported, it was all $1.50 instead of $1, but it was still worth it. There were a lot of different things ranging from beauty products to bento accessories, to even headphones. I thought about picking up some of the nail polish, but it looked a little old and separated. I ended up buying a bag of strawberry shortcake flavored candy, a pair of shoelaces, and some earbuds for my husband.

Finally, we made our last visit to Kinokuniya. I wish I would have bought more than I did. I was trying to be conservative and spend a ton of money, especially since my paychecks were going to be a little lighter the next few weeks due to the time I took off, but looking back I really regret not buying more Japanese manga and little kid magazines. I thought about getting one that had Hello Kitty and the Jewel Pets in it and stuff, but it was about $11 and I figured I could spend that on "better" magazine. I was wrong. My husband bought a magazine for little boys, which had stuff like Pokemon and Power Rangers in it, and it ended up being really interesting and fun to read. Since I took two years of Japanese in college, I can read/write/speak a little, and trying to read the little kid magazine was really good practice. Since it was for little kids, it had easier to understand words and sentences than my fashion magazines. They also printed the hiragana next to the kanji, which made it way easier to read. I was pretty good at Japanese, until we started to get serious with kanji...

In the end, I picked up a bunch of magazines (some regular ones like Kera and the GLB and some new ones like Nail Max which is really awesome if you're into nail art!) and two manga. I got the first and last volume of the Japanese 20th anniversary edition. I debated getting all 12 volumes since I love Sailor Moon and already own it all in English (in the super old school "Chix Comix" format), but figured I'd save myself $90.
 Kinokuniya also had a special 50% off bin, which is where I got my June issue of Nail Max. I loved it so much I bought the August issue at full price next time we went. I also picked up an older issue of Seventeen from the 50% bin, but only for the bag that came with it.
It's that neon yellow and pink thing in the upper right hand corner. My husband insisted I get it because it has some pretty amusing Engrish on it. I didn't really like the magazine, though. It's really geared towards younger girls, and it kind of felt like a bland, mainstream Zipper. It also had a ton of advertisements. One of the reasons why I love Japanese magazines so much is that they tend to have fewer advertisements than American magazines. They also tend to be higher quality, and a lot of them include extras like bags and make-up compacts from popular brands.
Here's my manga. It looks pretty much like the 20th Anniversary books that were released in English, but they're Japanese which makes them cooler (...not really, but yeah). One interesting thing I noticed about Japanese manga versus manga printed in English is that it has a...softer feel. I think it has to do with the different types of paper and binding techniques.

Our flight home was super early Tuesday morning, so we had to drag ourselves out of bed, get everything packed, eat breakfast, and get on our airport shuttle as quickly as we could. The flight home was much better than the flight there; it was faster by about 30 minutes and the take-off and landing went much more smoothly. The only hitch was that we were sitting next to a family of four that had two young boys. One was very well behaved and slept the whole time, while the other was pretty fidgety. He kept quiet throughout the flight by playing on an iPad, but when we had to turn off our electronics, he freaked out and spent the next 20 minutes just screaming "iPad!" over and over again.

Because we were coming from the west coast to the midwest, we gained two hours, which made us get home pretty late in the afternoon, even though our flight was early in the morning. Because I can be a little OCD, I insisted we go get groceries immediately (we ate through all our extremely perishable food before we left, which was good since apparently our power had gone out at some point while we were gone) and then had to do laundry right away. After everything was purchased, unpacked, and clean, I finally relaxed and was able to recuperate from our trip.

Overall it was super fun, and while it was tiring and stressful at times, I would gladly go again. I'm one of those people who would love to travel, but actually hates the process of it all. Once I'm settled someplace, I've very loath to have to move again. I also don't like to be away from home for a very long time; I don't know why, I think I just feel safer there. We spent a lot of money, got a lot of really cool things, and made a ton of great memories!

Thanks for reading! <3!

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