Posted by: TomA | 10 May 2007

Days 9 & 10 – Las Vegas

Las Vegas. It wasn’t somewhere on our initial list of places to go, but due to it’s close proximity to Death Valley (2 and a bit hours in the car) and the unique nature of the place, a visit was due.

We stayed at the Imperial Palace, one of the older mega-resort-casino-hotels. They managed to bugger up our booking; we managed to wangle it around and keep it cheap. The culture shock on entering was somewhat overwhelming. I knew it’d be a bit like Great Yarmouth on a busy day, but wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer number of OAPs chain-smoking and pumping dimes into slot machines. Or at least, I hadn’t expected them right next to the check in counter. It was odd being inside with people smoking – I’d become used to BC and California’s smoking ban.

Strangely, the attractions themselves are the hotels. Our was poor in this sense compared to the others having only a car musuem (featuring Marilyn Monroe’s, Liberace’s and Hitler’s vehicles amongst others) and dodgy 70s Asian decor to go with it’s gloriously shabby casino area. It did make it more fun though; watching people pump coins into machines in here felt more fulfilling than in the posher, glitzier casinos. That said, people weren’t shy with money – Becky and I both splashed out a dollar (both promptly lost); the guy next to us showed no emotion as he topped up his slot machine with another $100. We called it quits there; I suspect very few others did the same.

The Venetian hotel (two photos above), one of the newer ones I believe, had a ridiculously extravagant indoor and outdoor series of canals through its shopping centre, complete with gondolas for which you could pay through the teeth for a ride (it was more expensive to have a purely indoor, air-conditioned ride, than venture into the great unknown of outside-the-hotel).

Another of the hotels, Circus Circus, as naff and tacky as you could wish for, had an indoor themepark. This sounded good in theory. A long, sweaty walk there revealed it was in fact rubbish with small, tame rides. Creepier was the quietness of the place, with just a few screaming children and the distant jangling from the slot machines echoing down the eerie corridors. We headed next door to the sticky-floored Slots A Fun, home of a 75c half pound hot dog (and I expect the subsequent round of dodgy guts). We played it slightly safer, buying $1 frozen cocktails. Very little alcohol, huge amounts of sugar. Unpleasant.

New York New York features an almost convincing Manhattan skyline and a rather good rollercoaster. Once was enough for me…

All the hotels featured huge shopping malls, strangely with nearly all the same designer shops. Yet the malls themselves were full of people in grubby baseball caps and fanny packs, obviously unable to afford the $30,000 designer clothes everywhere, having a quick fast food break before heading back to the casino with their tub of change and wallets bulging with notes.

Having said all of the above, creepy as the place was, Vegas is hugely fun. The sheer tackiness of the themed hotels, the abundant water features (in the middle of a desert; at a time when Southern California is having it’s driest spell for ages and water shortages are rife), the Hispanic’s handing out flyers for strippers on every corner of every street (24 hours a day it seemed), the huge number of men with curly mullets; all make it gross but thoroughly entertaining. Not sure I could have coped with it for another 2 days though. Not sure how the average Vegas visitor manages to spend 5 hours gambling $200 a day though…


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