New Vegas – Las Vegas

After playing Fallout New Vegas, an xbox game based in post nuclear fallout during the 1950s, I wanted to experience the real Vegas. This summer provided a perfect opportunity!

We set out around 9 in the morning on an 8 hours drive to Vegas through the Mojave Desert. In the game I spent a lot of time exploring the desert thus it was intriguing to see the actual landscape. Although to be honest there was not much to observe except a vast expanse of barren land and brown mountains in the background. During our journey we came across some of the little towns which I thought were invented for the purpose of the game only. After an easy drive and a few stops on the way, I could finally see Vegas on the horizon. It was hard to miss in the desert with its glittering lights and flashy colourful billboards. The closer we got the more it seemed like we had driven into an eruption of gigantic advertisements, shops and hotels. There were hoards of people walking in opposite directions on both sides of the road, in and out of the casinos and their hotels.

Caesars Palace

While making our way to the hotel room we passed some of the famous hotels in Vegas like Caesars Palace. I couldn’t help but think of the scene from the Hangover when Alan asked “This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace is it?”

View from top of the Palms

After a quick pizza dinner at the New York New York we made our way on top of the Palms. I heard that one could get a spectacular view of the Vegas strip from above 55 floors on the roof of the Palms hotel. The setting was indeed superb; the outdoor sky deck offered a remarkable 360-degree view and parts of the floor were glass which also provided a glimpse all the way down. From up above it was obvious why people referred to the Vegas Boulevard as the strip, it did appear to be a shiny strip of glittering lights surrounded on all sides by the darkness of the desert.

The Venetian

The next day we decided to walk down and explore  Vegas. Most of the hotels were interconnected so it was easy to move around. Each hotel tried to outdo the other and seemed grander than the previous. The ceilings in the Bellagio were painted to look like the blue sky with white puffy clouds. There were beautiful gardens inside along with a butterfly house. The Venetian looked like an Italian village inside with water canals, boats, bridges and all. The strip was longer than we had thought and we only managed to walk down half off it before we realized we barely had enough time to make it to our dinner reservation. After reading a lot of reviews online I picked the Mon Ami Gabi restaurant for dinner and it certainly lived up to its reputation. A charming classic French bistro located right across the Bellagio. We were seated in outdoor patio area which provided us with an excellent view of the fountains. Our meal was delicious and the ambiance was great. Too bad we had to rush through dinner in order to make it to the Crazy Horse Paris burlesque show at the MGM.

Bellagio fountains

The following morning we finished discovering the rest of Vegas. We walked around the latest addition on the strip, the City Center. Its ultra-modern building with a shiny smooth surface stood out next to the older hotels surrounding it. However things hardly remain new in Vegas for long, trends are always changing and everyone is competing to be the next best thing. Time flies in Vegas and before we knew it, we had to run to the Stratosphere for dinner. I was looking forward to dining at the top of the 1,149 ft high Stratosphere tower, the tallest structure in Vegas. This restaurant provides an infinite view because it slowly rotates 360 degrees during the entire length of the meal. The Stratosphere also offers dare devils the opportunity to jump from the top! It looked almost like bungee jumping but jumpers didn’t bounce back instead they were attached to a descent cable. So every now and then during our meal we saw a person  falling down outside our window. I don’t think I will ever work up the courage to attempt such an insane act.

While peeking outside I saw a strip of lights far off in the distance, it appeared to be the Nellis Air force base. Apparently drones being flown over Pakistan and Afghanistan are controlled from this base in Las Vegas! No wonder it all seems like a video game to the operators of the Reaper and Predator drones. They are so detached from the reality on ground that any large gathering seems like an appropriate target and if innocent people die then oops!

A Cirque Du Soleil show is a must in Vegas. Out of the numerous choices available I picked KA because of its action based story line. KA which means fire, is one of the five elements philosophy in Japan. It was rated as the most lavish and technologically advanced show in Western theater. The most amazing aspect of KA were its colossal floating stages which moved in every direction possible and made the viewing experience that much more surreal. At one point the entire stage was vertical with a few warriors just barely dangling from arrows shot earlier onto the stage; while the rest seemed to have fallen down in the abyss. The battle scenes were intense with actors leaping into the audience. Another bewildering feature of the show was the indoor use of fire. I could feel the heat from the massive flames during a scene consisting of a weapons making factory.

On a historical note it is hard for me to imagine that Vegas developed as a result of an atomic bomb research project during World War 2 when scientists came to the area to test bombs in the desert. The mushroom cloud became a symbol of Vegas and generated tourism. Military personal came to Vegas which created jobs and Vegas boomed. On an average a bomb was tested every three weeks over a period of 12 years! Effects of radiation were unknown at the time and above ground testing continued till 1963 when the partial test ban treaty was signed banning testing in the atmosphere.

After three wonderful nights it was finally time to say goodbye to the entertainment capital of the world. It does have a lot to offer and it can be overwhelming but that is what makes it so marvelous, a little shiny world of its own in the middle of the desert.

My daily Vegas reminder!


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