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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

Welcome to our new blog! Well, it's still the same blog - just with additional features, such as different coloured text entries for each of us. So when you see text in this colour, you'll know straightaway that it's me (YL) writing. Other perks are that it's easier for us to upload photos on this site and we will be able to include links and videos in our entries too.

We're sitting here in Provo, just south of Salt Lake City, in Utah. It's a small but pretty city surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with tulips and daffodils blooming along the road. But more about Provo later. We've got a few stories about our time in Nevada and southern Utah to catch up with.

In our last entry on http://www.blogabond.com/danyilin, we had just left Death Valley for Las Vegas. So this entry is about Vegas. We had wanted to move over to Blogger earlier but thought it was very ominous to start a new blog with Death Valley, so we thought the gleaming, glittering, sexy city of Las Vegas would be more apt (never mind that it's also known as Sin City.)

Some interesting blips of info about Las Veg
as gleamed from the Internet:

(1) It means "the meadows" in Spanish. Apparently, some Spanish explorers were crossing the desert in the 1800s when they came across a lush green area supported by artisan wells and termed it 'las vegas'.

(2) Apparently, as seen from space, the Las Vegas metropolitan area is the brightest on earth.

I can't vouch that these are absolutely true (cos I wasn't there in the 1800s nor have I ever been in space) but interesting nevertheless.

I've always known that Vegas probably wouldn't be a place I would like to be in for long. But we thought that it would still be pretty exciting to visit simply because:

(1) It was VEGAS after all - Sin City, City of Lights, The Entertainment Capital of the World, etc. And the saying "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" certainly piqued our curiousity. So what exactly does happen there?

(2) We wanted very much to catch Cirque du Soleil's "O" performance - resident at The Bellagio because the US$100 million dollar complex water stage makes it too expensive for the show to be staged anywhere else.

(3) We wanted to get married again! (to each other of course)

So we booked ourselves at The Hilton for US$60 a night on 15 & 16 April through a fantastic online deal. It definitely was beyond our budget - after all, no matter how glittering and sexy Vegas is, it still has its share of cheap budget motels. But it was a deal too good to pass. Unfortunately, all good tickets for 'O' on these nights had been sold out but tickets for 17 April at a 25% discount were available. After some considerable hemming and hawing, we extended our stay in Vegas at the Stratosphere for another US$60.

Being amongst the minority 14% of visitors to Vegas who don't gamble, and we couldn't afford to be watching shows ev
ery night, we didn't quite know what else there was to do except to explore all the hotels on the Strip - which would be pretty interesting since all of them were themed differently. Well, so we thought. After our third hotel, we decided that all hotels are the same in that:

(1) visitors are forced to walk through a maze of jingling clanging jackpot machines in order to access every single lobby, restaurant, monorail station, shopping mall, hotel room.

(2) every European-themed hotel prides itself in having a fake blue unchanging sky. Enchanting - not. If I wanted to see pretty blue skies, I would just... step outside?

The Venetian - where night never falls.

(3) they all try to create fake make-believe worlds and in order to stand out, many make use of poor animals as gimmicks to draw the crowds. We wormed our way through the gambling tables at Caesar's Palace in search of the wonderous aquarium and we deeply saddened by what we saw. Dull-spirited sea creatures, mostly fish and rays, pacing up and down the miserable length of their water prison. We didn't even bother with the poor sharks, flamingos and lions in the other hotels.

The free daily shows, mostly in the evenings were slightly better. At least the actors prancing around in wet skimpy costumes in the chilly spring weather got paid for performing. Animals don't. The volcano at The Mirage and pirate performance at Treasure Island involved fireballs and pyrotechnics, which were pretty entertaining.

Watching things go KA BOOM at The Mirage.

Ooops! Someone blew up the treasure onboard.

Pirates with pyros.

My favourite was the famous water fountain at The Bellagio. Spaced at 15-minute intervals, each 3-4 minute show is choreographed to a different tune. It was so simple - just nubile water sprays dancing to music in soothing, fluid, wavey movements. I didn't take any pictures, but here's a link to the one I watched, choreographed to 'Time To Say Goodbye'. In fact, I think the only hotel worthy of praise on the Strip is the Bellagio - for it's classiness and that it wasn't trying to recreate a place that already existed elsewhere on earth.

Besides the Bellagio, I was really keen to see was The Venetian. Firstly because practically everyone I know has seen the Macau version. Secondly, it's work-related - Sands/Venetian are the folks who are churning out the Marina Bay Sands back home by end 2009. So it was a bit like a sneak preview of what's coming up on our shores.

A taste of Europe out in the desert.

Crossing the bridge from Vegas into Venice.

Make-believe Italian art.

Summertime at St Mark's Square

Whee! Someone breaking the speed limit on the waterway!

And what do I think about it? I'm sure th
e Venetians and the Sands around the world will have their fans. And I'm glad that what's coming up back at home will be more than blue skies, fake canals, singing gondoliers and canal shoppes. I'm thankful that the casino will be housed separately from the other amenities, so that visitors in search of a meal or who simply want to enjoy the resort need not be subjected to the endless jangling of jackpot machines.

By our third day in Vegas, we were dying to get out of the city. We were tired of walking up and down the Strip (too expensive to buy monorail passes for all 3 days) and getting lost in the indoor maze of hotels. The only things we truly appreciated were 'O' (the theatrics were so wonderously spectacular that I gasped a few times) and the comfortable hotel beds. Everything else was fake and artificial. Everything stood for excess, frivolity, greed (okay, we succumbed to ONE buffet), temptation, mindless entertainment (with the exception of a few truly artistic shows) and hedonism. A place devoid of any value or heritage (an empty desert in its true nature) and built solely upon entertainment conjured for the enjoyment of humans.

Will I ever go back to Vegas? Nope. But I'm glad for the experience anyhow - even though I didn't get anything out of it.

Taken on our upteenth time walking along the Strip.

I guess Vegas can look pretty at times. A little.

Oh, we didn't get to renew our wedding vows in Vegas under the blessings of a fake Elvis Presley or space alien. It was just too expensive for our budget. But who needs a wedding in Vegas to know that you're blessed with a loving marriage?

We definitely don't.


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