Rogue's Gallery

Posted: Aug 1, 2005 11:53:21 PM

There are a few places in the world that are areas of pure luxury and excess. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is covered in billion-dollar developments such as five-star Burj al-Arab (the tallest hotel in the world) and The World, a huge series of about 250 artificial islands arranged in the shape of the world, with each island costing US$25 million or more. Macau, next to Hong Kong and officially part of China, is less ostentatious and its mega-casinos are more serious, but there is still the occasional architectural glut, such as the huge underwater casino known as the City of Dreams. More money is gambled in Macau, mostly on the tile betting game known as Pai Gow, than in any other place on Earth.Las Vegas sign The grandfather of all of these places, however, is in Nevada, USA, and it is to this place that Siobhan and I went. We went there to experience the extravagance that is Las Vegas.

When you drive towards Las Vegas you are in a desert like the one described in the Grand Canyon report, desolate aside from the band of colour that is the perpetual stream of cars, SUVs, and trucks heading to the city. The air is so clear and the distances so great that when you crest a mountain and look down onto the wide valley that contains the city it is like some kind of crazy mirage in the desert, an impossible complex in the most outlandish of areas. That air of impossibility carries over into the city itself.

Volcano eruptingVegas is all about the tourists. Along the central road of the tourist area the hotel casinos are designed for just one purpose: to get people inside. Millions of light-bulbs and enormous neon displays are just the start. They specialize in individualized exteriors: giant fountains, erupting volcanoes, pirate battles, and more. Glitz is everything. They offer the possibility of exciting performances: everyone from the white tigers of Siegfried and Roy to the Cirque Du Soleil to Tom Jones to Jay Leno appear here. There's the gambling, of course: the poker tournaments are huge, but there are more unusual competitions too, such as rodeo contests and professional eating matches. It really is all about making the casinos as memorable and distinctive as possible, so here's a rogue's gallery of the famous casino-hotels of Vegas.

Many of the casinos are location places, that is, they try to capitalize on the mystique of another area of the world, usually by tacky reproductions of said area. Three of the best:

New York

New York, New York

Eiffel Tower

Paris, Las Vegas


The Venetian - yes, they have gondolas and singing gondoliers

Amusingly, there are places themed towards families:


Excalibur - a haven of medieval jousts and much quaffing

There are some places that may be themed a particular way, but are really famous in their own right, usually thanks to being the locations of famous films:

Caesar's Palace

Caesar's Palace - they shot 'Intolerable Cruelty' right here

The Luxor

The Luxor

The Luxor - a giant black pyramid with a spotlight shooting out the top; it has the largest atrium in the world inside, but is still indescribably tacky

And then there are the seedy places:


The Frontier - yes, you read correctly. "Bikini Bull Riding" / "Cold Beer, Dirty Girls" Oh dear.

So, this is the Strip. We spent a night walking up and down this crazy road (oh yes, all of those casinos are on a single road right in the middle of Las Vegas). Because we were there for Vegas's centennial celebrations weekend the crowds were enormous, and because we were in the desert in the middle of summer the heat was incredible: 35 celsius (95 fahrenheit), at 10 in the evening. The Strip is also covered in pushers with advertisements for prostitutes on little cards that they flicked for attention (one for $49, or two for $99!).

We stayed in the Mirage - until recently home of Siegfried and Roy. It's a huge three-winged hotel with corridors stretching into the horizon. We didn't actually explore the hotel much, but we did try some gambling in the form of the huge rows of slot machines. We would have stayed longer but for two points: 1. we ran out of money very quickly, and 2. for some freakish reason we never properly established the machines gave us a shock of static electricity whenever we touched them.

For dinner, we went to the Bellagio's famous buffet. They had jacked prices up $20 extra for the weekend, a fact that we didn't find out until we had waited in a queue for half an hour and become desperately hungry. Circus circus Fortunately, the buffet was pure decadence, and we helped ourselves to delicacies such as prime rib, creme brulee, sushi, lotus root, white truffle souflee, beef wellington, wild boar ribs, king crab legs... lovely.

When walking the Strip and gawking at the sights became too tiring, we stopped for a drink in Circus Circus. Like Excalibur, this is supposed to be child-friendly, but here this means that the upper floor contains the child equivalent of gambling in the form of ring-toss games and other carnivalesque attractions while their parents game below. We stepped into a merry-go-round bar to have some martinis and watch the acrobats perform in the main ring.

And that was it. We only spent one night in the city, and in case you were wondering we did not get married. The biggest surprise for me came as we were leaving: outside of the Strip, Las Vegas is a completely normal, pleasant city. It's as if the centre is another world, and beyond there are people just living a completely normal life. I doubt many tourists get beyond the Strip, however. Maybe next time...


David   Aug 2, 2005 1:04:34 AM

Wahoo! I'm first! IF only I had something to say...

Charlotte   Aug 2, 2005 1:43:01 AM

*laughs* Someone didn't do their homework when they built the Luxor, cause there aren't any pyramids in that part of Egypt!

FraZ   Aug 2, 2005 1:47:33 AM

lets hope you didnt do anythign rash in the city of lights

fangler   Aug 2, 2005 6:53:23 AM

awwww. only one night and you didn't even get hitched. That barely even counts as a trip to Vegas. Everyone gets married in Vegas. Matter of fact i think that recently became law in the town. If a tourist sleeps on the strip, a marriage must ensue. yup. Well, at least tell me you guys visited a strip club, or saw some elvis impersonators. If not, y'all have to go again, and this time I'll show you the real sights. ;)

Michael   Aug 2, 2005 10:55:42 PM

Or just find an Elvis impersonators strip club and get it all done in one go :) If you get close enough you might be able to catch some blue suede shoes

strangeshe   Aug 3, 2005 2:06:50 AM

*L* We were there on Halloween 2 years ago. Completely insane fun and weirdness. Stayed at Treasure Island -- they had just revamped their Pirate Act some few weeks before we arrived. OMG. There are no words.

Did the Strip & tourist thing of the new hotels. Kitschy but fun! On Halloween night went downtown on Fremont street to see the old (real ;) casinos and the overhead light show thingy (the "Fremont Experience." Ooo.) Now *that* was some interesting people watching.

Harley   Aug 3, 2005 2:14:35 AM


Binky   Aug 3, 2005 2:31:51 AM

I'd like to admonish you in the same vein as those above - you're in _Vegas_ and you _didn't_ get married? Wasted opportunity.

Hope you at least got a great big fake paste ring to fool people with.

MumE & DadE   Aug 3, 2005 9:14:57 AM

Sounds awesome Damon & Siobhan, Dad & I have just read this report and we're saving our dollars. But I suspect like you the entertainment for us will be looking at everthing.
Dad says "Siobhan you're to stop leading our son astray!" I think he's jealous. So where next?

Damon   Aug 3, 2005 4:06:22 PM

Um... strip club? I don't think so. Elvis impersonators we should have tracked down, but we only had a night. *grin*

Next location will be south of San Fran - coming soon!

Also: Ma, could you reply to the e-mail regarding red hat stuff? I need to know soon so I can order it in time to bring it home with me.

MumE & DadE   Aug 7, 2005 8:38:38 AM

Did U get my e-mail? Don't sweat it Damon. I'll live if you don't find any red hattage.Dad wants to know where are you going next? Will you 2 get 2 New York New York this month?
I want to know, have you considered announcing your engagement in the Evening Standard (Manawatu) and is there a local newspaper in your home town Siobhan? I've told everyone I know but we want everyone to hear the great news.
Arohanui Mum

MumE & DadE   Aug 7, 2005 8:41:32 AM

Forgot to ask did you see the NZ Maori waka in San Francisco harbour? Apparently there is a NZ art exhibition launched by a kapa haka group in San Francisco this week. Did you know about it? see it?

Damon   Aug 7, 2005 10:36:09 PM

We won't get to go to NY this trip, but we are planning on going to check out that exhibition next weekend (my last in America! for this trip at least). We may get an announcement ... we'll see *grin*

FraZ   Aug 8, 2005 9:36:59 PM

An "announcement" aye?

Jon Hills   Mar 5, 2008 9:25:48 PM

yes i was here, looking at great stuff time take me too.....

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