Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

It's a little difficult to describe Vegas. You just have to be there to soak it all in.

Perhaps the words "decadent" and "opulent" are most appropriate. Call it "opulent decadence" or "decadent opulence". Each has a slightly different meaning, but captures the city's vibrant spirit accurately.

The Strip is completely different by day and by night. I can't really decide which version I prefer, but the temperature in the evening is definitely a lot more tolerable. They don't call it a desert for nothing!
[ There's something wonky about the Blogger software, so the pictures aren't aligned properly. Anyway, click on images for more details, and hope this doesn't make you cross-eyed. I've given up trying to fix this. ]

The Strip By Day

Well, first of all, it isn't as long as I thought it would be. If you're used to walking substantial distances in hot weather ( something I do frequently in Singapore ), this should be a cinch.

You can actually see parts of the Strip all the way from the airport ( which has its own stock of slot machines, wow! ), mainly because the hotels are huge and super-flashy.

This is merely a tiny sample of what I'm talking about.
We stayed at Caesars Palace, which is right smack in probably the best-looking stretch of the Strip.

Photo 1 depicts the gorgeous Eiffel Tower replica ( only half the original's height and already a sight! ) which sits adjacent to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

Photo 2 shows the Bellagio on the left and Caesars Palace on the right, with the turqoise blue waters of the famous artificial lake ( modelled after Italy's Lake Como, where George Clooney has a villa ) adding a cool, classy touch to the

And I literally mean "cool". This "lake" actually generates a refreshing breeze every minute of the day. I don't remember my basic science in detail, but it's got something to do with the way the cold and hot air moves, right? ( I'm so ashamed, haha. :))

This is also home to the beautiful Bellagio Fountain, which gives a musical performance every 15-30 minutes. They play different pieces as often as possible to minimize the monotony.
Songs range from American country to Italian opera. A big hit with the tourists. :)

Photo 3 gives you a broader perspective, again with Caesars Palace in the background. This thing's HUGE.

The Strip By Night

Ahh, see how the Eiffel
Tower's little sister glows! Absolutely breath-taking from afar, even more fabulous if you stand near the foot of the structure and snap a picture like this one.

This fountain ( also at the Paris Las Vegas hotel )
is gorgeous once the sun goes down and the stars come out.

The Strip was packed with people when I shot this, but luckily, I managed to find a short moment when the entire flock of pedestrians filtered to one side. It's all about patience and good timing. :)

This is actually one of my favourite pictures. Totally impromptu, taken at an interesting angle as my parents and I headed back to the hotel after an evening show ( i.e. the topless revue Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana -- really really well done; something for my dad, heh heh! ).
Caesars is monstrously big, and I'm not exaggerating here. It took us about 10 minutes to walk from our room to the main lobby ( at a fast pace some more ).
This is just one of the many towers it houses ( about 3-4 in total ).
I just enjoy the grandeur this picture oozes, with the bright spotlights framing the building. Get a load of those massive pillars!

Here's the splendid main lobby, which made my jaw drop the first time I laid eyes on it. Lots of lush carpeting, marble floors and statues, fountains, chandeliers and... slot machines! There're tonnes of them everywhere, but I purposely omitted them from the shot so you wouldn't be distracted.

Lots of tourists come here to take pictures ( even those who don't stay at Caesars ). I love it.

A fuller shot of the lobby.
We struck gold with a handsome young man who checked us in at the front desk, eventually getting a room upgrade -- for free!

He did it 'cos he likes my mom ( I'm serious! ). She comes in handy once in a while. :D

Poker Heaven
This is just a tiny section of the whole spread. The tables are scattered throughout the 1st floor, and at certain parts, pole dancers entertain the gamblers ( near the Pussycat Doll Lounge ).

They dance ON THE TABLES right in front of your face. If this doesn't make you want to buy a ticket to Vegas, I don't know what will. :)

Last but not least, the wonderful slot machines!
There aren't the ones I played though. I just thought
I'd snap something as I strolled past the Colosseum, which is situated next to this patch.
Their one-armed bandits are pretty high-tech compared to our garden variety insert-coin-and-pull contraptions. In Vegas, you use credit vouchers which are read digitally. You also use these to exchange for money at ATM-like dispensers when you're done for the day.

You can have your pick of themes ranging from the generic 777 / Bar / cherry versions, to those featuring spaceships, marine creatures, Native American motifs ( I won my dough at one of those -- the free spins are key! ), unicorns, mermaids, card games, etc.
I rarely stayed past 10pm ( we toured most days anyhow ), but learned not to estimate my parents, who returned to the room at 2am one evening, long after I'd gone to bed.
The gambling's fun, but it isn't what I enjoy about Vegas. The next time I visit, I'm seeing more of their shows ( including a return trip to the Chippendales, which may have changed some of its cast members by then :)).
And... let's not forget the bit of celebrity-spotting: Nicolas Cage at the back lot of Caesars ( where the shuttles and tour buses pick up and drop off passengers ).
He arrived in a chauffeured Rolls Royce one evening at around 7pm, and got out to retrieve something from the boot.
My mom and I were oblivious until a fellow tourist came to grab us from our seats ( an American chap travelling with his family ).
"It's Nicolas Cage!" he whispered, pointing frantically. And there he was -- as tall and slender as he appears on-screen, hair slightly longer than usual, fringe combed all the way back. He was dressed in a simple white dress shirt and black suit. No wife or son in tow.
He didn't show any interest in the small group of people gawking nearby, and re-entered the car within minutes, before I could ready my camera.
Here's a guy I've watched since primary school -- in Moonstruck, Raising Arizona ( his personal best ), The Rock, Con Air, National Treasure, Matchstick Men, Face/Off, Lord Of War, and many many others.
One word: AWESOME. :)
Next entry: the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.

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