LAS VEGAS - The Sin City
In my review of SFO city, I had mentioned that my wife and I stayed in that city for only 2 days as we were on an epic road trip starting from San Francisco and ending at Grand Canyon while touching Los Angeles, Hoover Dam and the Neon City – Las Vegas.
This is a review of Las Vegas, which is a city that technically should not exist as it is built right in the middle of the Nevada desert. The two most important requirements for any modern city – water and electricity are made available in Las Vegas thanks to the Colorado River and the brilliantly engineered Hoover dam, which made electricity abundant for the city.
Vegas in the early part of 1900s was a small town which developed around the railway tracks and it wasn’t until 1935 with the completion of the Hoover dam that Vegas took off in a different direction. The city was notorious in its first few decades into existence for gambling, mafia and brothels, which led to many catch phrases, like “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and “The Sin City”. Our drive from Los Angeles was an easy one; we started in the morning and made only one pit stop to fill gas. The highway from LA to Vegas had considerable traffic and somehow we didn’t feel intimidated by the desert that lay on both sides of the highway, it all looked like gods beautiful handiwork. After about 4 hours of driving, the most anticipated sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” came into view and after a mile or so we could see the skyline with what looked like LEGO bricks. The only casino I could identify was Pyramid because it looked like a…… pyramid. My wife had of course planned out the day in advance, we parked at the hotel, had something munch and then set off by late afternoon to Ethel Chocolate factory.
This factory is famous for making the M&M chocolate (it looks like the Cadbury Gems we get in India). We took snaps of the factory, the machinery and also bought some chocolates. Day light was getting dim and although most cities consider this as the sign of wrapping up business, Las Vegas waits for this moment as eagerly as a Heron waits for its favorite fish. With the evening sun sinking into the horizon, our next stop was Fremont Street. I parked my car at the Golden Nugget Casino, we entered the casino from the parking lot and I do not have words to explain what my wife and I saw. It was a completely different world, well dressed bell boys and managers were walking here and there, beautiful girls dressed like billiards players were dealing cards, from the carpet to the ceiling not a single inch of the floor was left without decoration, the lights inside would make even the sun raise an eyebrow and of course the people, where on earth did they come from? No one knows anyone here and yet everyone knows one another. The slot machines filled the grand room with only enough room for two men to walk in between them. Lights from every known color in the universe and every known visible wavelength appeared to be here and this is only the beginning. Being in a casino for the first time, the two of us spent a lot of time watching others play, there were loud shouts and claps when someone hit a jackpot and there was some display of bad temper when someone lost a fortune, rich old men could be seen with beautiful women and almost everyone on the gambling table appears to be a cool gangster right from the movies.
All of this is OK because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. We stepped out of the Golden Nugget casino into Fremont Street, the street can only be used for walking as vehicles are not allowed in it. The street is covered with an arched roof, I thought it was for protection from rain but I was wrong. The roof was in fact a giant TV screen and every 30 minutes there came a spectacular audiovisual show. We were spellbound to witness this. We spent a couple of hours or so hopping from one casino to another and also trying our luck with the slot machines and when a jackpot seemed to be a distant dream, we decided to beat a retreat. The next stop was the famous Las Vegas strip. The drive along the Las Vegas Strip is a lifetime experience; the casinos here were much bigger and newer. I parked at one of the smaller casinos I do not remember the name and we decided to walk. First stop – Bellagio, this casino is famous for the world’s biggest fountain and also for its role in the movie Ocean’s Eleven. The fountain indeed was big and the casino was grand. Facing the Bellagio is the Eiffel Tower, now I know what you are thinking; Eiffel Tower is in Paris and I have gone bonkers, but I’ll tell you what, Las Vegas has – a Pyramid, a Mirage, an Empire State building and the New York Skyline through which a roller coaster runs, Venice and Creasers Palace.
After seeing the Eiffel Tower from the Paris Paris casino we walked all the way to the Venetian Casino. Friends had told me about this casino for it did not have a regular ceiling; instead it had a fake sky. Venetian is a huge casino with a shopping mall, a 5 star hotel and a grand canal that runs through it with gondolas. As we walked in, we could see the blue sky ceiling and it did look quite real although we knew it was a fake. But that is not the point, after walking around and window shopping we got used to the sky and never really paid attention to it, actually we forgot about it and only when we stepped out into the dark night that we realized the effect of the fake sky. This was absolutely mind-blowing stuff. By now we were bone tired as we had walked a lot, we decided to see one last Casino and call it a day. The last casino we saw was the MGM casino, it was not as spectacular as the Bellagio or the Venetian or even golden nugget but it had one of the grandest lobbies of all, inside the casino were lions in glass enclosures which attract a lot of attention.
Next morning we went to the Madame Tussauds wax museum where we met President Obama, President Lincoln, Michael Jackson and many other celebrities who allowed us to take pictures with them. The only other thing left on the list was the Gold and Silver Pawn shop from the popular TV series “Pawn Stars”. The shop was crowded and there was a huge queue to get in. We only had enough time to take a peek inside where my wife saw Chumlee although I was looking at the motorcycles outside. We had a huge drive ahead to the Grand Canyon, so we bid goodbye to Las Vegas, a city that is a modern marvel and testament to the genius of Americans, if you ever come to the US, it will be a Sin not the visit The Sin City.
Las Vegas is well connected by road and air. Check out websites like hotwire.com or priceline.com to get deals on flights and stay. Major attractions: Fremont Street, Golden Nugget Casino, Bellagio, Venetian, MGM, Paris Paris, Cesar’s Palace, Mirage, Ethel Chocolate Factory, Pyramid, Stratosphere. Best time: Avoid summers.